A year later, keeping Timmy’s memory alive

Georgette Connors sooths her daughters Alaina (left) and Charlotte at her late son’s tree planting ceremony at Archbishop Ryan, one year after his death. Timothy Connors died in a car accident, Thursday, Mary 17, 2012, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

The Archbishop Ryan High School community last week remembered Timothy Connors on the one-year anniversary of his passing.

Connors, a 15-year-old freshman, died on the afternoon of May 17, 2011, after being hit by a car on busy Academy Road, outside Ryan.

In his memory, an oak tree was planted on the school lawn. The tree was donated by Azalea Gardens Landscaping. The Rev. John Donia, the school minister, blessed the tree and offered a prayer.

Martin and Georgette Connors, Timothy’s parents, shoveled dirt on the base of the tree, and Mrs. Connors was given red and white roses as a bagpiper played Amazing Grace.

There were 15 red balloons in the shape of hearts and stars to mark Timothy’s age. There were also two Spiderman balloons — he was a big fan of the superhero — one from each of his younger sisters, 6-year-old Alaina and 3-year-old Charlotte.

Among those in attendance were Ryan president Mike McArdle, school principal Helen Chaykowsky and John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

“It’s been very emotional and very hard to move forward every day, but this was very nice,” Timothy’s mother said.

Timmy, as he was known to family and friends, attended Nativity of Our Lord Elementary School from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, then spent two years at Our Lady of Port Richmond after a neighborhood consolidation of Catholic schools. He loved designing comic books, writing stories, playing computer games, watching action movies and spending time with family and friends.

The Rev. Richard Connors, a parochial vicar at Nativity, remembered Timmy’s humor and talent during the tree-planting ceremony. The Rev. Connors, no relation to the family, asked the young people to follow Timmy’s example.

“Go out and do a good deed, a good action, something that improves the world,” he said.

On Saturday night, a Mass was held at Nativity to mark the anniversary of Timmy’s death and to memorialize the passing of other children.

A Ryan student, Tyler Komorowski, is planning a whiffle ball tournament to raise money for the scholarship fund.

That’s the kind of support the Connors family has received in the last year, starting with vigils on the two nights following Timmy’s death and a Mass in his memory at Ryan. The Ryan cheerleaders sent the family a fruit basket, and the softball players wore the initials “TC” on their jerseys. The family also received the support of Ryan parents and religious and lay staff and the emergency responders from the fire and police departments.

“It was a ripple effect through every community,” said Martin Connors, a police officer.

Connors, who tied a red ribbon around the tree and plans to install a plaque, has become close to some of his son’s former classmates.

“He was their friend, and they loved him,” he said. “The kids from the Class of 2014 have so much promise in them.”

Tyee Childress, one of those kids from the Ryan Class of 2014, was in Timmy’s homeroom. He felt the need to be at the tree-planting ceremony to honor the memory of someone who will always be a part of the Class of 2014.

“He was a great guy to be around,” Tyee said.

Fellow sophomore Conor McDonald, who held the school flag during the ceremony, was in Timmy’s math class.

“He was a happy kid,” Conor recalled. “He loved this school. Everybody loved him. He’ll be missed a lot.”

Martin Connors said his son wanted to be a cartoonist or a movie director, like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or Michael Crichton. The teen loved superhero movies, and he and his dad saw Thor 10 days before his death.

Mr. Connors, who writes a blog called “Forever 15” in tribute to his son, spoke of recently seeing The Avengers.

“It was a crowded theater except one seat, the seat next to me throughout the whole movie,” he said. “I felt his presence.”

Timmy’s mother has been busy raising her two young daughters, but her son is always in her thoughts.

“He’s with me even though I can’t see him,” his mother said. “I’ll always be his mom.” ••

Contributions can be made to the Timothy Connors Memorial Scholarship, 11201 Academy Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154.