Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hal Connolly: The Local Angle.

Hal Connolly, the gold medal winner for the U.S. in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, died yesterday at age 79.

Connolly is famous for having met his first wife at the Games. She was a Czech track athlete (discus) and they fell in love. During the height of the Cold War, this was big. The Czech authorities made sure she couldn't defect. Connolly went to the then-Czechoslovakia in 1957 and basically made such a stink the government couldn't refuse him permission to marry her, in a small ceremony attended by 50,000 Czechs, who one suspects were making a small political gesture.

Connolly and bride went back to the States, raised children, got divorced, and Connolly got remarried. An American tale. I knew about Hal Connolly, because I'm old. But here's what I didn't know.

Connolly was born and raised in Somerville! And he went to BC. I think he was a BC student when he was an Olympian.

I learned that from reading Connolly's obituary in the Globe. Which was a reprint of an obit written by Frank Litsky, who was the track writer for the New York Times since about the time Phiddippides ran from Marathon to Athens.

When a newspaper can't summon up the collective memory to write the obit of a local hero, its social utility is plunging dangerously close to nil.


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