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Forest Park senior has decades of recreation

By Justin Boron

Mary Ann Connelly is a perpetual engine of enthusiasm that has been charging full steam ahead since 1964.

She has spent a majority of her life working for the recreation department in Forest Park, and at 62 isn't fading.

Even after decades of coaching young people and trying to do what she calls "keeping seniors young," Connelly can still be seen at the Forest Park Senior Center lugging boxes, cooking meals, or playing shuffleboard.

"I'm not a person that can just sit around," said Connelly, who is the director of senior services for the city of Forest Park.

Barbara Murphy, 83, who works as Connelly's assistant at the senior center, said her affinity for athletics shows.

"You'll be watching something on the television, and she's going to turn it on sports," she said.

A shuffleboard medalist in senior Olympic competition, Connelly said she comes from an active family.

She said she got interested in athletics as a child growing up in New Jersey, where she would visit cousins and watch them play sports.

At 11, Connelly said she started playing softball, which is her favorite sport.

But she said she has had to switch to shuffleboard lately because of her knees. Besides, Connelly said its nice to watch her two grandchildren playing softball instead.

She moved to Forest Park because her husband Jay, 72, was stationed at Fort Gillem.

There hasn't been many slow days in Connelly's life, with her constantly trying to perk up seniors.

"It's never ever the same thing twice," she said. "Everyday is a full day."

In her almost lifetime of experience in the recreation field, Connelly said she has helped people in different ways, morphing from role to role depending on the person.

"I think I've learned that you have to treat each person differently.

"I just feel like I'm their friend," she said, or "maybe I'm their daughter that's not around."

All of the seniors at the center say Connelly has done them an invaluable service.

"She has really been a wonderful director for the seniors," said Ola Dooley, who lives next door to Connelly's parents. "She's really a been a good influence we all lover her and care for her."

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