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James Michael Connolly
October 8, 1943 ~ December 4, 2023 (age 80) 80 Years Old
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After almost four years of battling cancer, James Michael “Mike” Connolly, 80, of Golden Valley, North Dakota, lost the battle, at this home, surrounded by his loving family on Monday, December 4, 2023. Services will be held at 10:00 AM CST on Monday, December 11, 2023 at Beulah Congregational Church with Pastor John Fanella officiating Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at the church. A private family burial will take place at a later date.
Mike was born on October 8, 1943, at Saint John’s Orphanage in Fargo, North Dakota. He was adopted by James Louis and Mary Evelyn (Gillespie) Connolly. He began his young life on the Connolly Two Bar ranch north of Dunn Center. His first grade was spent at St. Mary’s Elementary Boarding School in New England, ND. Second through fourth, was in a country school north of Dunn center. Fifth grade, Mike attended St. Mary’s Grade School in Bismarck. Sixth grade found him back at country school north of Dunn Center. Grades 7 and 8, he attended a country school south of Golden Valley. In May of 1961, he graduated from Beulah High School.
In December of 1960, Mike enlisted in the United States Army. In the fall of 1961, Mike was stationed in Hawaii and Okinawa. He trained to be a helicopter gunner. He enjoyed his time in the Army and made many lifelong friends. He was honorably discharged in December 1964. He then returned home where he ranched with his father.
On July 22, 1966, Mike was united in marriage to Janet Lois Backfisch. Mike and Janet had three children: James Robert “Jim”, Hugh Michael, and Jessica Christine.
In December 1984, he purchased the ranch from Janet’s parents. Mike worked hard ranching and doing carpentry work when time allowed. He enjoyed working and improving his land. He planted many trees, one year planting over 1500 hand plants! Mike accomplished many things that he and his family were very proud of.
Mike was a proud member of American Legion Post 189 in Hazen, North Dakota. He served on the Mercer County Fair Board. For over thirty years, Mike served on the Mercer County Weed Board and was presented with The Weed Warrior Award in 2014. When he was no longer on the weed board, he went to work for them, spraying weeds. Mike was the person that many people called when looking for a chemical recipe for killing different types of weeds. To some he was known as the “Weed Nazi”. He was definitely “Hell on weeds”!
Mike enjoyed spending time with his family, fishing, camping, looking for artifacts and learning about their history. In his younger years, he enjoyed driving and racing snowmobiles. Mike loved working together with his family.
He was the Papa who loved to tease his granddaughters and loved pulling pranks on everybody!
We could not have found a better person to have for a husband, father, Papa, and friend! We were blessed to have him in our lives! He will be missed by all of us, his wife of 57 years, Janet; his children Jim, Hugh and Rachel, Jessica and Bill Eckroth, his granddaughters Cally Eckroth, MacKenzie and Graysen Connolly; his sister Sheila Mainous and his niece Cortney.
Preceding him in death are his parents James L. and Evelyn Connolly and Phyllis Connolly; his father-in-law and mother-in-law Robert and Ida Backfisch. Mike always said that “they were the best in-laws he could ever have had!”
We all love him and are going to miss him, but we know he’s just fine now!
Arrangements are conducted by Barbot Funeral Home, Beulah and Hazen.