GriefSpeak: Beauty in the Broken Places, a COVID Love Story

By: Dr. Mari Dias

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:


  1. Mari DIas on November 22, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you for your comment Clarice- I will share it with Susan post haste. Bless you!
    Mari Dias

  2. Rene and Elaine Perreault on November 22, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Our dear Susan;
    Please know that our love and prayers are with you and your family. I can not imagine you and your family’s grief. I know the angels came to greet them and took them to paradise to that place prepared for them for all eternity.
    Ray and Joan ….pray for us living in this valley of tears.

    • Mari DIas on November 22, 2020 at 2:43 pm

      Rene and Elaine-
      On behalf of Susan we thank you for your kind words. I will forward this comment to Susan directly.
      Bless you!

  3. Clarice LaVerne Thompson on November 20, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    My heartfelt condolences to the family of dear Ray and Joan Connery. May God’s blessings be upon the family and we put an end to the COVID-19 known as the Coronavirus.