Gulf War Veterans Lose A Supporter of Gulf War Veterans

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To All Gulf War Veterans and Family Members

by Denise Nichols, Staff Writer

Today we want to honor a family member, veteran, father, supporter of Gulf War Veterans, ALS.  Captain(USMC) Thomas Donnelly.

The Donnelly Family was in deed a military family.  I met Maj Donnelly, "Falcon’s Cry", early on in 1997 through my networking on Gulf War Illness.  I met his family on the Hill in DC and shepparded them to many offices.  I took the case to Rep. Shays committee on Government Reform which resulted in Major Donnelly testifying in front of one of the many Gulf War Illness Hearings.  I met his sister, Denise, and found out she was a writer I encouraged her to write a book about her brother and wow did she and the family ended up on Larry King Show on CNN. 

The Father of Maj Mike, Capt(ret.) Thomas Donnelly, got deeply involved and used his experience as a legislator to help advance Gulf War Illness and ALS connection.  I am deeply saddened by the loss of Tom Donnelly, I knew he was sick because I periodically stayed in touch with the family after Michael’s death especially prior to the last hearing we had in the House VA Committee that brought up Gulf War Illness and ALS topics I wanted to be sure and cover whatever suggestions they had to offer in my testimony.

I want to Spotlight this Veteran-Major Michael Donnelly- and his father-Captain Thomas Donnelly- and the total Family Donnelly for their contributions to Gulf War Veterans.

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Thomas J Donnelly Jr.

DONNELLY, Thomas J, Jr. Thomas J. Donnelly, Jr. went to his eternal rest on May 13. He was 75 years old. Although he suffered from advancing emphysema for many years, his energy, brilliance and will to live remained vigorous until his last moments. He had a lifelong passion for the study of history and was also known for his wicked Irish wit and piercing intelligence. Tom Donnelly was a loving and spirited husband, father and grandfather.

Despite his illness, he traveled twice to Italy in the past few years, enjoyed attending dance recitals, concerts, soccer games, Little League games, plays and other events to watch his seven grandchildren thrive. A member of the Fairfield University Glee Club as an undergraduate in the early 1950’s, he graduated as valedictorian in 1955. He continued singing with the Fairfield Men’s Chorus until 2000, when his illness made it impossible for him to continue.

He represented the towns of South Windsor and East Windsor in the state legislature from 1968 to 1972 and was for many more years active in local and state politics. An accomplished attorney, Tom Donnelly served as counsel at Advest in Hartford, until his retirement in 2006. He rose to the rank of Captain in the United States Marine Corps, in which he served from 1954 to 1962 and during which time he became a skilled helicopter pilot. He was predeceased by his son Major Michael Donnelly, a highly decorated air force pilot who died of ALS in 2005.

In 2001, after a nine-year struggle, the family achieved its goal of winning acknowledgement of the link between service in Operation Desert Storm and service in that war. Since that time, the Department of Defense has formally recognized the connection between the incidence of ALS and military service across all classes of veterans.

He leaves his devoted wife of 54 years, Rae Donnelly of South Windsor, three surviving children, Denise, Lisa Hayes and Timothy; son-in-law, Michael Hayes and daughters-in-law, Susan Donnelly and Ana Maria Lobo; a brother, Justin Donnelly of Suffield, seven grandchildren, Erin and Sean Donnelly, Emily and Madeleine Hayes, and Olivia, Colin and Grace Donnelly, and many nephews, nieces and cousins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday (May 16) at 9:30 a.m., at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 673 Ellington Road, South Windsor. Burial will be private. Friends and family are invited to pay their respects between the hours of 4-7 p.m. on Friday (May 15) at the Samsel & Carmon Funeral Home at 419 Buckland Road, South Windsor. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Major Michael Donnelly Scholarship Fund at East Catholic High School, 115 New State Road, Manchester, CT 06042.

For online expressions of sympathy, please visit us at www.carmonfuneralhome.com

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