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Regatta’s ex-chief Connelly always willing to help |

Regatta’s ex-chief Connelly always willing to help

Rick Wills
| Sunday, November 22, 2009 12:00 a.m

The one-time head of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta and former manager of the Sheraton Hotel at Station Square has died at 82.

Eugene F. Connelly of Upper St. Clair, who established the regatta in 1977 and ran it for 20 years, died at home on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, said Carol Connelly, his wife of 12 years.

“We enjoyed a wonderful family life. He was a wonderful man who cared for many, many people,” she said.

Friends remember Connelly as an extroverted man whose personality was an asset for a manager of a busy hotel and director of a large civic event that became a landmark on Pittsburgh’s summer calendar. He became active in civic and charitable organizations, including the Boy Scouts, Dapper Dan Charities, the Shriners and the Salvation Army. He received an honorary doctorate from what is now Point Park University in 1994.

“He was a very outgoing guy. He was a good manager and never turned you down when you needed help,” said Sophie Masloff, mayor of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 1994.

“I used to visit the Sheraton all the time. The city would have events there, and he was always helpful. I considered myself a close friend,” she said.

In August 2000, Connelly pleaded guilty to misappropriating more than $200,000 in Regatta funds and was sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine for income tax evasion.

Connelly’s lawyer’s argued that he suffered from dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease that affected his judgment.

Masloff was a character witness at Connelly’s trial.

“I think he never got over that problem he had with the regatta. But I believed in him, and I believed he had a lot of problems, which is why I was a character witness at his trial,” Masloff said.

Connelly was born May 31, 1927, in Pittsburgh, the fourth of five children. He was the brother of the late John E. Connelly, a gaming pioneer and philanthropist who founded the Gateway Clipper line of cruise boats, owned the Sheraton Hotel at Station Square and started President Casinos, a St. Louis riverboat casino company. John Connelly died in May.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday in the Warchol Funeral home in Bridgeville. Services will be private.

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