In Memoriam: Dorothy “Dot” Connelly
1928 – 2012
“Sometimes you need to go out into deep water for your faith.”
After she heard these words in a homily at her parish church in 1989, Dot Connelly made a decision that would change her life and the lives of her family forever. In 1989 Dot was not a newcomer to the pro-life movement. After the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, she took her children to Sacramento to protest abortion and she taught them about the humanity of the unborn child and the evils of abortion. She inspired all four of her children, Sue, Kelly, Carolyn and Rob, to fight for life. For many years Dot and Sue spent every Saturday morning sidewalk counseling outside the Planned Parenthood facility in Daly City. Rob got involved in pro-life activities, including helping with the Walk for Life. Carolyn counseled women in crisis pregnancies. And in 1988, when Dot scooted under the police barricade on Bush Street in San Francisco to block access to an abortion mill, Kelly was close behind her mother. (I was there and I remember, even now, how fast Dot moved. In the blink of an eye she made her decision and moved before the police could stop her. I was so impressed with her speed and her resolution.) Dot was the first member, but not the last, of her family to be arrested for her defense of the unborn.
But Dot’s decision to risk arrest on Bush Street was not the decision that so changed her life. That decision came a little later. In 1989 a group of brave pro-lifers, thirteen men and six women, of whom Dot was one, were arrested for blocking access to an abortion mill in Sunnyvale. After they were arrested, they identified themselves to authorities only as Baby Jane Doe or Baby John Doe. Because they refused to reveal their legal identities, they were held in jail in Santa Clara County for weeks without bail awaiting trial. Before Dot made the decision to risk arrest as a Baby Doe, she prayed to God for guidance. And while she was considering what to do, her pastor preached in a homily the words above: “Sometimes you need to go out into deep water for your faith.” Dot took those words as the message she needed from God to risk arrest as a Baby Doe. And she was arrested. While she was in jail, Dot contracted pneumonia, for which she received little or no medical treatment. (Also while she was in jail, her pastor was turned away when he first tried to visit her. Later, when he was allowed in, he was verbally harassed by the guards.) After Dot had been in jail for 30 days, her devoted and loving husband Bob insisted on getting her out so she could receive proper medical treatment. So her identity was revealed and she went home. But that experience stayed with Dot the rest of her life. She didn’t risk arrest again but she continued her pro-life work and continued inspiring those around her to do the same.
On a personal note, Sue served on the LLDF Board for several years and Kelly does the graphic design and layout for the Lifeline newsletter and other LLDF work.) And the pneumonia Dot contracted in jail came back every year, and each time it took a little more of her physical strength. In 2004 Dot was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the doctors told her family that the likely cause was scars from the pneumonia. Dot fought off the first cancer and was in remission for several years. But the cancer came back earlier this year. On August 8, 2012, Dot Connelly, strong and brave defender of the defenseless, went home to her Lord.
LLDF is proud to have had Dot as a client and, more importantly, as a friend. Along with her devoted children and grandchildren, we will miss her and pray for the repose of her soul. We take comfort in the knowledge that such a brave defender of the unborn is praying for us and our work.
“Gentle woman, quiet light, morning star, so strong and bright,
gentle Mother, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom, teach us love.”
—Carey Landry, copyright 1975, 1978.
[This article was printed in Lifeline Vol. XXI, No. 2 (Summer 2012) Read in PDF.]