Kathleen's Story

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HAMPDEN - Kathleen Diane Connelly passed away on August 8, 2015 in the care of her loving family, Hospice, and compassionate doctors and nurses at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, Maine after many years of declining health.

Kathie was a "free spirit" and had that easy Irish way that shrugs its shoulders at the practical world and goes on down the road in the blue of the evening whistling a tune. She will be remembered for being a kind, sentimental, generous-to-a-fault person, with a quick wit and infectious smile, known for her sports commentaries and love of all modes of travel and adventure. Kathie was never happier than when behind the wheel of her car, sun roof open, radio or cd playing, diet Coke in the cup holder, dog as co-pilot - the destination Parks Pond on a summer Sunday afternoon or Gifford's for a cone and doggie sundae. She would readily admit that keeping house was not her strong suit, shopping was and she excelled at it, delighting in finding bargains and collecting all things whimsical. Going to a movie, down front seat, with drink and buttered popcorn was a necessity of life. She lived with a devil-may-care attitude which masked her share of medical conditions, disappointments and impossible dreams. Devoted and loyal to her many friends, old and new, Kathie was loving and generous towards her family. Dogs became her chosen children and she was "Mummies" to four: the twenty-four hour dog; the Australian Shepherd, Pennie Thurber; the Brittany Spaniel, Freckles Bailey; the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Willow Grace, adopted from Missouri in 2010.

Kathleen was born Sunday, November 28, 1965 in Bangor, Maine. She attended Mrs. Clukey's Nursery School on Essex Street, Fairmount School, and Fifth Street Junior High School. She roamed the Fairmount Park area on her bike selling Current products to earn spending money. In 1980 Kathie joined 32 other students to form the first Freshman Class to enroll at John Bapst Memorial High School. Kathie became an avid sports fan when her Dad taught her to score baseball games as a child. After she turned sixteen during the fall of her sophomore year, Kathie was hired by Bud Leavitt, the late sportswriter, to work part-time in the Sports Department of the Bangor Daily News, supervised by Bill Warner and mentored by Joni Averill. She worked there for three years until she left to attend the University of Maine, graduating with a BA degree in English and a minor in Journalism. During college she was an intern at WABI/Channel 5, worked the night shift at Q106.5 radio station in Brewer, and traveled to UCLA in California to attend media workshops.

Following graduation, Kathie was employed by Bangor Savings Bank at the Hammond Street location. Because she had acted in Little Theater, high school productions and Maine Mask, she enjoyed volunteering to help the directors of The Penobscot Theater in the evenings. Following her marriage to James Kopp in 1991, the couple lived at the University of Maine at Machias where she was assistant to the director of the college production of a play by Shakespeare. Hired as a reporter for the Machias Valley Times Observer, Kathie enjoyed interviewing the people of the Downeast area, and managed to get herself lost many times on the back roads while covering story assignments.

In 1992 the couple moved to Keuka Park in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Kathie was hired as a reporter for The Chronicle-Express, a weekly newspaper in Penn Yan and a free-lance journalist and photographer for the Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, worked as a secretary for the regional Chamber of Commerce in Geneva and joined the Rotary Club. Eventually she was able to return to radio both at WFLR in Dundee and WLLW in Geneva as a news reporter and anchor. In the fall of 1996, Kathie enrolled as a part-time student to study radio/tv production at St. John Fisher College in Rochester and was given an internship in the Sports Department at WORK/Channel 13.

Kathie returned to Bangor in the fall of 1997 and was hired as an associate producer in the news room of WLBZ/Channel 2, later returning to radio for a period of time at WZON. After much soul searching, she decided to make a career change and enrolled in Sports Management classes at Husson College. It was there that she was encouraged by Dr. John Winkin to pursue her dream of working for a professional baseball team by applying for an internship with the Portland Sea Dogs. In March of 2000 she was hired and began commuting to Portland to learn the various duties: ticket sales, chopping onions and green peppers, pulling the tarp to cover the field, transporting players to and from the airport and playing the Easter Bunny. Unfortunately, Kathie was struck from behind while driving through a toll booth on the New Hampshire turnpike that July and she was not able to continue her training because of her injuries.

Unable to work full time, she enjoyed taking classes in Photo Journalism at the University of Maine and wrote free-lance articles for The Weekly and special editions of the News. Eventually Kathie worked part-time for Filene's in Customer Service where she excelled at problem solving and gift wrapping. Dubbed the "TicketMaster Queen," she delighted in locating the best seating for customers at various events. At one point she was a customer service rep for AVITAT at BIA where she "excelled" at driving the passenger van. Her last occupation was working for LL Bean at the Call Center in Bangor where accommodations were made for her needs. Being the ultimate shopper, she knew the catalogs cover to cover which made her appreciated by the customers who needed assistance.

Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age eight, it was chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia that developed following the accident that caused her to suffer the most. She never regained her health and her lifestyle became altered in many ways because of it. She became disabled in 2008.

Since August of 2011 when she began having dialysis treatments at the Boyd Center in Bangor, Kathie and Willow have made their home in Hampden with her parents. The peaceful lifestyle, natural surrounding and congeniality of the residents and staff at Avalon Village created a haven for her. When her health permitted, Kathie enjoyed volunteering at Penobscot Theater productions, the American Folk Festival, and the EMMC Gift Shop.

Each year, family traditions were strictly adhered to whether ordering floral bouquets for the holidays, driving to the coast for lobster and steamed clams in the summer, or baking assorted cookies for the neighbors at Christmas. When selecting just the right gift or greeting card she was in her element. Lunch, dinner, or movies with friends always were something to look forward to, but the yearly visits with her chosen "sister" and best friend since childhood, Joan and her family, gave her the greatest pleasure.

Kathie is survived by her loving mother and father, Christine and Bill Gilfillan, who were also her caregivers; grandmother, Wanda L. Gilfillan, of Amelia Island, Florida; special aunt Barbara Coombs and husband, Ashley, of Bucksport; cousin, Bret Cyr, of Anthony, Florida; aunt, Dr. Carol Gilfillan and her husband, Dr. Joseph Simon of Amelia Island, Florida; cousin, Jennifer Simon and husband, James Shilkett of Atlanta, Georgia; cousin, Eric Simon of Solinas, California; her former husband, James Michael Kopp of Albany, New York; her Canadian family, Joan Montgomery and husband, Doug Feener and their children, Harold, Lance and Marissa of Nova Scotia, and her beloved dog, Willow, her "lady-in-waiting."

Kathie was predeceased by her grandparents, Raymond and Hilda Louise Prince; grandfather, Dr. Lewis Gilfillan; great-aunt, Louise Prince; great-uncle, Hilfred Bailey; and cousin, Alan Cyr.

Interment in the family plot at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Bangor will be private for the family. A memorial reception will be planned for a later date.

The family wishes to thank the staffs of Woodlawn Rehab and Nursing Center, Dialysis Clinic Inc., and Redington-Fairview General Hospital all in Skowhegan for the compassionate care provided to Kathie during her final months. Donations in Kathie's memory may be made to the Woodlawn Rehab and Nursing Center, 59 West Front Street, Skowhegan, ME 04976. Condolences to the family can be mailed to PO Box 38, Brewer, ME 04412. A service of Brookings-Smith, Bangor.

I'm Free

Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free.

I'm following the path God laid for me.

I took God's hand when I heard the call.

I turned my back and left it all.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow.

I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.

My life's been full, I savored much.

Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.

Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.

Lift up your heart and share with me.

God wanted me now, God set me free.

Author Unknown
Published on  August 11, 2015
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