Connors did it all for Pepperell

2009 The Sun (Lowell, MA). All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

By Hiroko Sato

PEPPERELL -- Town workers went wireless in 2003, but only thanks to their systems administrator, Dennis Connors, who would climb atop a water tower to install cutting-edge gadgets, recalled Town Administrator Robert Hanson. Residents who needed an ambulance may feel grateful for the reverse-911 system Connors pushed for as a member of the town's Emergency Management team.

And as for the life-saving skills firefighters learned in the custom-designed training program, they owe it to Connors who took the drafted manual to his hospital bed to finish it, said Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Kinney.

Firefighers salute

Firefighters from several local towns line Park Street in Pepperell as the casket of Pepperell firefighter/EMT Dennis Connors is driven past on its way from the Community Church of Pepperell to the cemetery. Connors died Thursday after a battle with Hodgkins lymphoma.

2009 The Sun (Lowell, MA). All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc.

Connors, who died last Thursday, always knew people counted on him, Kinney said. And he would never let them down, whether they needed him to help put out a fire or communicate with people on the other side of the world through ham radio.

"How could one man know so much?" Kinney said. "But he knew." What struck nearly everyone was the constant smile on his face and the passion he showed for just about anything he did. "He always prepared himself to be the best he could be," inspiring others to do the same, fellow Scoutmaster Craig Williams said.

Dennis "Den" Connors, a Pepperell resident of 26 years, died Thursday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Nashua, after a two-year of battle against Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 58.

Before coming to work for Pepperell in 2003, Connors managed communication systems at various organizations, including the University of Arizona, Wang Laboratories, NEC Technologies and System Soft Corp. Even after working for Pepperell, Connors also ran his own company, Knuwave Design, which helped companies set up communication systems.

The hundreds of friends and co-workers who gathered at his funeral yesterday remembered Connors as a decent human being who tried to use his knowledge and skills to help others. "He always gave 300 percent effort to each (emergency call)," said Connors ' son-in-law, Chuck Bergeron, about Connors ' devotion to volunteer firefighting and EMT service.

Connors, a master ham-radio operator who built a 75-foot tower in his backyard to communicate with fellow enthusiasts from around the globe, was quick to understand technical aspects of emergency communications, said Fire Chief Toby Tyler. Connors took the initiative to update the town's emergency map and develop an in-house training program. "He never said no to anyone," Deputy Fire Chief Peter Shattuck said as he stood in front of nearly 80 firefighters who came from as far as Somerville. Town Administrator Bob Hanson said Connors also generously shared his expertise with others and would not give up until he solved complicated network problems.

Once a scientific programmer/analyst for Kitt Peak National Observatory, Connors also enjoyed flying and would passionately explain how new stars are being made, said the Rev. Priscilla Lawrence of Community Church of Pepperell, who officiated yesterday's service. Connors also spoke Japanese. "His enthusiasm was contagious," said Lawrence. "He was such a good man filled with holy spirit and faith." "I never heard Den say anything bad about anybody -- even when they deserved it," Hanson said.

Williams choked up when telling mourners how Connors recently asked him to share his experience of working as the cubmaster for Pepperell Pack 41 and Scoutmaster of Pepperell Troop 13 at his own funeral. "What separated him from us all was his love," said Bergeron, adding he loved his son's and daughter's spouses as if they were his own children. And he wants Connors to be remembered for the passion he had just about anything he did, Burgeron said.

Connors leaves his wife of 32 years, Rosemary; a son, Christopher Connors; a daughter, Amanda Bergeron; their spouses; and a brother, David Connors.