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Deborah S Connolly, 81, of Fair Haven New Jersey died peacefully at home on October 27, 2021 surrounded by her family.   We will remember Debby most for her sunny disposition, kind and gracious manner, and the positive influence she had on the lives of many people, young and old.  She will be missed by many. 

Nonnie, as she was known to her grandsons, was born to James A. Traver and Erma Homeyer Traver in Buffalo, New York. She and her brother Ron were raised in Tonawanda, New York.  She attended Tonawanda High School and earned a BS at Albany State Teachers College SUNY ALBANY, class of 1961, where she was a member of the Beta Zeta sorority.

Debby met Jack Connolly in Crystal Beach, Canada and they married in February of 1963.  They started their family in Kenmore, New York where they lived for 5 years.  In 1970 they moved to Fair Haven to raise their children Betsy and Susan. Debby served on many groups including Newcomers, Fair Haven PTA, volunteer teacher at Nativity Church, sang in the folk choir and was a substitute teacher.

In 1977 Debby began her teaching career at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, where she would spend the next thirty-three years of her life. During this time she was a tennis coach, cheerleading coach, established the Welcoming Committee for incoming freshman students, class advisor to the Class of 1985, and the yearbook advisor. In 1980, she created a Work Experience program where she was the coordinator and department chair of the business education department.

Her successful teaching career lead her to pursue higher goals and in 1995 she earned a Master’s of Science in Education from Monmouth University. Upon receiving her degree, Debby transitioned into the position of guidance counselor in 1988, was named the Head Guidance Counselor in 1992, and eventually the Supervisor of Guidance in 1996.

During this time, Debby worked tirelessly with hundreds of high school students, writing letters of recommendations and guiding them in the college admission process. Upon hearing the news of her passing, one former student wrote, “She was an incredible woman, who had an incredible impact on my life. She made me feel like everything was possible”. In 2002, Debby was named Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, an honor bestowed upon only 5% of teachers nationally.  Debby was a teacher, guidance counselor, community leader, and mentor to many during her thirty-three year career at Rumson Fair-Haven.

Upon her retirement in 2004, the Superintendent wrote, “through your teaching, service as a guidance counselor, and service as a supervisor, you have permanently inscribed  your influence of RFH”. Once retired, Debby worked on the Shade Tree Commission of Fair Haven, managed various projects of teaching and writing, and continued to assist high school seniors in both New Jersey and Connecticut in the college admission process.     

Debby was a devoted and doting Mother and Grandmother.  She is survived by her daughter Betsy Connolly and husband Mark Menne of Hudson, New York, and daughter Susan Graham and husband Peter Graham of Darien, Connecticut, as well as her grandchildren Timothy and Peter Graham. She was predeceased by her brother Ronald J. Traver in 1974.   

Debby truly loved singing, music, dogs and children. She especially adored her labradoodle Ollie, who was her close companion for 15 years, and would always be by her side for long walks around the neighborhood and car rides. She loved her trips to Europe, Nantucket, Turks and Caicos, California, the Pacific Northwest and Connecticut. Nonnie was a permanent fixture at her grandson’s sporting events, she especially loved watching them play football. She found much joy in cheering them and the Blue Wave onto many victories.

You would often find Debby sitting on the beaches of the Jersey Shore every summer, riding her beach bicycle early in the mornings, walking her dog and gardening in her beautiful flower gardens. She loved to sing, and would often be heard singing with Frank Sinatra, word for word.  She was happiest when surrounded by her family and great friends she met along the way, which included Emi, her at-home caregiver and dear friend for the final six years of her life.

The glass was always half-full with Debby and she always had a kind word for everyone. She was beautiful inside and out and always carried herself with beauty, grace, and elegance.

The family will be welcoming visitors at Church of the Nativity, 180 Ridge Road, Fair Haven, New Jersey at 10:00 am on November 19th, followed by the Funeral Mass at 11:00 am.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Deborah S. Connolly’s memory to support the work of Dr. Elizabeth Jewell at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Please visit Deborah’s memorial page to make a donation: Checks, made payable to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, should be mailed to:  MSKCC, Office of Development, Attn: Brooke Bifulco,  PO Box 27106, New York, NY 10087. Please indicate on the check that the gift is in memory of Deborah S. Connolly. If you would prefer to give via Donor Advised Fund, wire/stock transfer, please contact Brooke Bifulco at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 646-935-9153.

Thompson Memorial Home, Red Bank, NJ has been entrusted with the arrangements. 


Bruce S. Thompson, Owner & Manager, NJ LIC #3740