Funeral set for longtime industry sales rep

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Thomas Connolly, founder of manufacturer's representative Thomas H. Connolly & Sons, died June 12. He was 91.

A resident of Franklin Lakes, N.J., Connolly served in the Navy during World War II on the USS Pilot. When he returned from the war, he was invited to work at the W.E. Willis Co., a marine products distributor in New York.

When the company burned a few years later, he began his own business making stoves for boats. He had to give it up after a white gas tank exploded and badly burned his hand.

It was afterward that he began working as a manufacturer’s rep and founded his own company.

“Soon more factories learned of his growing reputation of his integrity as a quiet and honest salesman. His philosophy was telling the truth, never to sell the dealers anything they couldn’t use, or too much of what he sold,” according to his obituary.

“There were times during those early years when he slept in the car, and ate baby food out of a jar, to save on travel expenses. One night, without a single cent in his pocket, he used stamps to purchase the gas he needed to continue his work. He had it down to a science, bringing every penny home,” the obituary said. “His integrity and hard work grew that single job into Thomas H. Connolly & Sons Inc. Currently this multimillion-dollar company is owned by Paul and David Connolly and two other partners, who have grown it threefold.”

The family says it is the first and oldest marine manufacturers’ sales agency in America.

At 60, Connolly realized one of his dreams — sailing his own boat. For 10 years, he and his wife, Helen, sailed the Tiche Ma’ Croix out of Essex, Conn.

A viewing is planned for Friday at the Vander Plaat Funeral Home, 257 Godwin Ave, Wyckoff, N.J. Services are set for Saturday: Mass at Most Blessed Sacrament Church, 787 Franklin Lakes Road, Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Flowers may be sent via Wyckoff Florist, (201) 652-0052, or donations may be made to St. Peter’s College, Office of Advancement, 2641 JF Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, N.J. 07036, or to Valley Hospice, 15 Essex St., Paramus, N.J. 07652.

Click here for the full obituary.

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