Thomas John "Salty" McConnell Sr

  “Salty”—Tom’s preferred nickname—was born in Rochester, Minnesota to Leo Joseph McConnell and Mary Marjorie (Fitzgerald) McConnell. Like his father, he was a proud Irishman. With a wink he’d warn, “Don’t mess with the Irish!” He grew up with his two younger sisters, Jerry (Bill Simertz) and Kathy (Roger Johnson) in Currie, MN and then Minneapolis, MN. He was, also, very proud of his Minnesota roots! In 1975, on a family vacation to California, Salty first fished on the ocean—he was “hooked!” In 1976, he and his wife Verna—and their children Kathleen, Tom Jr., Teresa, and Margaret—took a family vote and moved from New Hope, MN to San Jose, CA.

     Growing up, Tom chose to enter the Dominican Order after 8th Grade to become a Catholic Brother. Upon leaving the order in 1958, he went to work training as a chef. He married Verna Kathleen Munig on April 25, 1959. His reputation as a chef became well-known in the Twin Cities, and beyond. In the 1960’s he and another area chef/celebrity had lots of fun doing live TV—weekday cooking demonstrations before the midday movie. He was a member of both, the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Geneva International Culinary Associations. In the mid-1970’s and all through the 1980’s, Tom continued as a well-appreciated chef at The Bold Knight restaurant in San Jose, CA. Salty was the Saucier there, and cooked all of the dinner specials and seafood. Then, in 1991, he got his “dream job.” He became the chef on the sport fishing boat—The Excel—owned by the long-range fishing entrepreneur, Bill Pool, in San Diego, CA. He spent the final six years of his professional career as a chef—mostly at sea—on the Pacific Ocean. Wow! Did his fishing stories ever become grand! His family, friends, and grandkids loved the constant supply of fresh fish he provided.

     In 2002, Salty and Verna became full time RV’ers and enjoyed traveling the country. Between their traveling excursions, they divided their time between Santa Cruz, CA and RV resorts in AZ. Salty had “retired,” but he was still cooking for customers on the Wild Wave during the salmon season in CA, and on weekends and holidays during the “Snow Bird” season at RV resorts in AZ.

     In 2012 he retired from cooking—at least professionally! He and Verna sold their class-A RV and became residents at the Verde Valley Manor in Cottonwood, AZ. Woodcarving took over as Salty’s passion. His niche became carving lighthouses out of Cottonwood tree bark. His friends in the Verde Valley Woodcarvers Club became his great cohorts—at weekly club meetings, at all the various fairs, farmers markets, exhibitions, etc. His personal highlight of the year was always the “Woodcarvers Ball”—held in October. He was in his element coordinating the big, annual pot luck luncheon in the professional kitchen at “The Manor” for the woodcarvers.

     It was a couple of weeks after this event, in 2019, that Salty suffered a major stroke, paralyzing his entire right side. His hearty Minnesota constitution kept him going until, Verna joined him—as his “roommate”—at The Haven of Sedona in April 2021. They celebrated their 62nd Wedding Anniversary together there.

     He made good friends with the most of the staff at The Haven, as well as his hospice nurses, and volunteers. We feel deeply grateful to each and every one of them for their attentive and compassionate care!! We, also, express our deepest gratitude to the president and members of his woodcarving club for ALL of their many cards, letters, visits, and carvings they gave Salty. These were ALWAYS the best parts of his days! He passed away peacefully the night of August 4th with his dear “co-pilot,” Verna, at his side.

     We, who appreciated Salty’s STORIES and sense of humor, say goodbye to him with HIS favorite “goodbye”—of course, it’s a fisherman’s expression—“Tight Lines, Salty!”

Out of respect for Verna’s convalescence, a memorial mass will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be sent to: Verde Valley Senior Center, 500 Cherry St., Cottonwood,AZ 86326, or online, - please note your donation with, “Salty.”

Verna continues reside at: The Haven of Sedona, 505 Jacks Canyon Rd., Sedona, AZ 86351.