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IN MEMORIAM

Denis Geary, longtime head of JCL—The Jewish Association for Community Living, was 66

The Greater Hartford Jewish community expresses sincere condolences to the family and friends of Denis Geary for his exceptional leadership and his many years of dedicated service to JCL. May his memory be for a blessing.

Denis Patrick Geary, 66, of Bloomfield, Connecticut, formerly of Manchester and East Hartford, died Wednesday, December 13, at home surrounded by his family. He served for 30 years as  executive director of JCL-The Jewish Association for Community Living located throughout the Greater Hartford area.

Born June 5, 1957 in Danbury, Connecticut, Geary was the son of Mary Ellen Casey and James Joseph Geary. He lost his father at the age of nine. He is survived by his four siblings, Margaret, Julia, James, and Michael. He attended Immaculate High School where he was a star basketball player. (Or, according to his family, at least that’s what he told his kids.) It was there he would meet his future wife, Faith Vos Winkel, originally of the Bronx, New York, then New Fairfield, Connecticut. 

He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Southern Connecticut State University, sparking a life-long career supporting members of the Greater Hartford community who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Though Geary was himself a gentile, his life’s work for this small agency focused on providing exceptional service for JCL’s residents, many of whom live within Jewish traditions. Known throughout the Jewish community as a “mensch,” and for his devotion to JCL, Geary was awarded the Henry M. Zachs Spirit of Judaism Award in 2018. Geary lovingly referred to the residents of JCL’s group homes as “the Guys.” 

Denis was an avidly mediocre golfer throughout his years. Proving, according to his family, that “practice makes…no difference, apparently. His greatest successes while out at the course were often in the clubhouse, they wrote in his obit. His buddies fondly recall his gift of friendship.

Geary was a rare leader by example, “walking his talk.” He embodied this during his years working on weekends at St. Patrick – St. Anthony Church in Downtown Hartford. For Geary, the Franciscan Friars have always been a beacon of peace and love for others. That beacon appealed to Denis because he was already committed to practicing what it represented, for it was in giving that he received and it was in pardoning that he was pardoned. 

Some of his greatest memories were formed while he was traveling with loved ones. For years, summer vacations on Nantucket Island with his wife, Faith, and his two children, Conor and Norah, were the highlight of the year. More recently, he was fortunate to travel to Ireland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Maine, and even Wethersfield and Manchester. 

He loved music, especially when it was being played at family gatherings. His family noted in his obit that “he was the giver-outer of holiday gifts, the collector-upper of the wrapping paper, and the sender-in-chief of birthday cards for everyone in the family throughout the year. But the thing he grew to love most near the end of his life was his beautiful, vibrant, sweet granddaughter, Harper Rose, now almost a year old. Nothing gave him more comfort and joy, and no one made him smile wider. 

Though his own acting career was brief and unpaid, Denis starred in his life’s roles, as husband, father, son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, grand-uncle, godfather, father-In-law, cousin, friend, and grandfather/”Pops”. 


The family requests that contributions be made to JCL at www.jcl-ct.org/donate, 34 Jerome Avenue, Suite 109, Bloomfield, CT 06002, or to C.A.S.T, the Children’s Associated Summer Theater in Manchester, at www.casttheatre.org, P.O. Box 1268, Manchester, CT 06045-1268, where Conor and Norah spent many summers.

PHOTO: DENIS GEARY

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