GriefSpeak: A year of loss… – Dr. Mari Dias

by Dr. Mari Dias, contributing writer

Editor’s Note: As we lift ourselves up and out from this year of COVID-19, we remember those who have been lost. This week we reprint a column that ran last November, a remembrance of two Rhode Islanders lost to COVID – may we keep all those lost in our hearts as we move forward.

Beauty in the Broken Places, a COVID Love Story

Our collective hearts are broken with the loss of Ray and Joan Connery. They met on a Cape Cod beach and within a year, they married. Five children, 7 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, and sixty-six years of marriage later, they both died at the age of 93 from COVID.

Ray was a veteran of the Navy and a retired Lieutenant Rhode Island State Trooper. Following his retirement, he worked as the Chief Security Officer at Eastland Bank in Woonsocket – and served on the North Smithfield Town Council for 10 years.

Ray was equally well known for his gardens, his golf game, and his baked stuffed mushrooms. He loved to create large batches of clam chowder from quahogs he dug himself. Ray lived a full and purposeful life, replete with his love of both the Red Sox and the Patriots. Ray maintained a strong will and determination to live and serve. He lived and loved with both integrity and dignity as he sustained a deep and abiding faith. Above all, Ray was Joan’s best friend. And Joan was the love of his life.

Joan was Chief Dietician of Woonsocket Hospital before leaving to start their family. Joan then went on to purse a degree in Education and taught for 22 years as the Reading Specialist and Director of Literacy in North Smithfield.  She also taught English as a second language to Vietnamese children and established her legacy as the founder of the “Read to Me” program at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Ray and Joan lived a loving and fulfilled life as they traveled via Elderhostel. Joan loved the color purple and chocolates, and Ray taught many a grandchild the art of eating sun-warmed raspberries right off the bush.

My snapshot memories include Ray and Joan and our shared love of the ocean, the Rhode Island coastline, and making new and fast friends. We were fortunate to be included as some of their new, fast friends. Ray and Joan, along with their daughter joined us as we sailed on Narragansett Bay on blessed summer days.

Ray, with his quick wit, mischievous twinkle in his eye, and Joan, a hardy mate who fed on the history of the homes on the coast, graced the cockpit of the “Raven”. We are so grateful to Susan for sharing her parents with us.

Their last days were spent apart with Ray hospitalized in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Joan a few doors down in a room on the COVID unit. They were in contact with their family solely through the use of modern technology. Only in Joan’s last days did she reunite with family. Their final days were bittersweet: they died within 22 days of each other, and now are forever united. We are beautiful for having shared a small portion of their lives, even in our broken places.

Rest in Peace, Ray and Joan Connery


Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to:

Dr. Dias is the author of GriefSpeak – Stories of Loss