Resident Profile: Joe McConnell
If you were to walk by the coffee shop at our home on any given morning, you would probably see Pavilion Resident Joe McConnell sipping on a cup of coffee and waving at passers-by. Joe’s signature accessory, (one he is never without), is his WWII hat, displaying the Navy ship he served on when he fought in the war. Joe served from 1943-1946 as a Quartermaster and his ship received three battle stars in the war. A living symbol of the “Greatest Generation,” Joe is an American hero whose quiet strength and easy smile immediately make one feel at ease in his presence.
Joe humbly tells his story as if it is the most ordinary story one could tell. However, the truth is far from that. He grew up in Medford, graduated from Medford High School, and immediately enlisted in the Army. In fact, his graduation date was May 28 and by June 8, he was in boot camp. Enlisting in the Navy in 1943, in the middle of a World War, he gladly and proudly served his country.
Joe’s ship, the USS PGM 25 (which stands for United States Ship Patrol Gunboat Motor Number 25), was 160 feet long and 28 feet wide. As mentioned, he was a Quartermaster, which meant he was in charge of navigation and mapping—no easy feat! During battles, of which his ship saw three, he loaded ammunition into one of the huge guns on the front of the boat. He points proudly to the gun he loaded on the model ship that sits in the café on the second floor of the Jeanne Jugan Residence. It is clear that he remembers his time on that ship as if it was yesterday. From the kamikaze attack his ship endured, to the 3 and ½ day typhoon that they survived at sea. There are few people alive these days that can recall such things!
After the war, Joe returned home and got a job at New England Telephone working high up on telephone poles and fixing lines. It was at this job that he met his beloved wife, Hilda. Together, they raised their children in Somerville and built a wonderful life.
Now, at 93 years young, Joe serves Mass every Sunday here in our Chapel and stays active. His son, Joe, lives locally, and his daughter, Barbara, lives in California. His eyes sparkle when he speaks of both his kids and his late wife, Hilda, whom he declares was the “most wonderful person who ever lived.”
Our Residence has been blessed with Joe’s presence for nearly 17 years. Joe’s favorite thing about living here at Jeanne Jugan Residence is the wonderful people and the loving atmosphere. “I’m friends with everybody! It’s great!” He says that he feels a real “peace of mind” here, and feels blessed to live at Jeanne Jugan Residence. And we are equally blessed to have him!