Pat Connell, a longtime San Marino resident known to many as the “Mother of Grad Night,” has passed away. She was 88 years old.
A fixture within the San Marino school system who regularly offered her artistic skills in multiple classrooms, Connell found her calling as the lead artist of San Marino High School’s much-revered Grad Night celebrations, the community’s 63-year-old tradition of transforming an aging gymnasium into a magical space for graduating seniors. Connell spent two decades twenty on this passion project, working with hundreds of parents each year to create the often colorful themed backgrounds.
Connell passed away peacefully in her sleep on July 14, 2018 at her San Diego residence.
Patricia Ann “Pat” (McKeen) Connell was born on March 8, 1930 in Boston and grew up in Dorchester and Milton, MA, alongside her beloved sister and best friend, Mary Elizabeth (McKeen) McGurrin. In school, Pat was a gifted athlete and artist, and received her BA from MassArt in 1953, majoring in fashion illustration. She worked as the in-house fashion illustrator for a Boston department store before marrying John J. “Jack” Connell, Jr. in May of 1955. Pat and Jack raised six children, spending their early years on the East Coast before moving to Lombardy Road in San Marino in 1972. Pat and Jack were passionate and talented tennis players and active members of the San Marino Tennis Foundation. Lacy Park became a second home to Pat, where she was part of a Tuesday morning tennis group for over a decade.
Pat and Jack spent 35 years in San Marino before relocating to Alhambra, where Jack later passed away. Pat lived for a short time in San Gabriel, where she embraced her life-long love of books by volunteering at the San Marino Public Library and by participating in her cherished book club, which she continued to attend even after relocating to a senior community in San Diego.
Pat was a devoted mother and grandmother. She created a home where there was always room at the table for one more setting, and her children always had permission to invite their friends to stay for dinner. A kind and gracious hostess, her home became the site of two family weddings, multiple pool parties, annual Christmas parties, a high school reunion, and Cal Marching Band tailgates. She was the life of the party, loved a good story, and filled every room with her warm smile and signature laugh.
She is celebrated by her children: Patrice Switzer and her husband, Norman, of Poway; Lee Riley and her husband, Rob, of South Bend, Indiana; Briana Connell and her wife, Jean Thompson, of Hinesburg, Vermont; John J. Connell III and his wife, Laurel, of Ventura; Kevin Connell of Los Angeles; and Darren Connell of Phoenix, as well as her grandchildren: Rick and Beth Riley; Brian and Helen Thompson; Shannon, Nate and Rebecca Switzer; and Jack and Isabel Connell, along with an array of friends and extended family members, whom she loved dearly.
A mass will be held to celebrate her life on Saturday, September 8 at 10:00 a.m., at Holy Family Church, 1527 Fremont Ave., in South Pasadena, with a reception to follow. Because Pat was an artist, please feel free to wear bright colors in her honor. – Mitch Lehman