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  2000 BOSTON MARATHON

Cause hits home for qualifier

Death of friend has Connolly on the run

By Gregg Krupa, Globe Staff, 4/14/2000

ae Connolly says she could never figure out what was motivating her to run.

For years, she had kept in shape by walking. One day, out of what she described as ''a maternal urge to get home quickly,'' the mother of six said, she ran the last 21/2 miles of her usual route.

''I kind of impressed myself, and I was hooked,'' Connolly said. ''So I announced to my family that I was going to run in the Boston Marathon. But one day, while I was training with my brother, Pete Cullivan, I said to him: `Why am I doing this? Why is God asking me to run?' It seemed funny that there wasn't more to it.''

Now, Connolly understands that there is a lot more to it.

A qualified runner for the Marathon, she also is running to raise money for the family of Stacey Peruzzi, a friend who died suddenly April 1, leaving six children between ages 15 and eight weeks.

Connolly is one of an increasing number of qualified entrants who also run for charity, according to Boston Marathon officials.

Peruzzi's death was a tragedy that stunned a whole neighborhood and Catholic parish in North Weymouth.

''They did a full autopsy and they assumed at first that it was either a blood clot or an aneurysm, but they still do not know what happened,'' said Connolly.

''We were both active in St. Jerome's Church,'' she said. ''She was just a wonderful mother. Her kids are awesome. They are just awesome.''

Connolly was with Peruzzi on the day she died. They were both members of a mothers group at St. Jerome's that brings preschool children together to play on Saturdays.

''That Saturday night was the first night the dads were going to meet one another,'' Connolly said. ''It was the most wonderful evening. Stacey seemed to touch everyone.''

Peruzzi died that night at home.

''She had just nursed the baby and put it in the bassinet,'' Connolly said. ''It was a last loving act.

''She got into bed with her husband, John. They told each other they loved each other. She leaned into his arms and then she gasped three deep breaths and went limp in his arms.

Weymouth police said there is no suspicion of foul play, and, as of last week, no official cause of death was listed.

''God just put all of this into my ear, and I went to my husband, Jack, and said, `I`ve got to run it for Stacey.'''

Peruzzi is survived by her husband, John, and children, Kate, 15, Jackie and Jesse, 13, Christopher, 8, Timothy, 2, and Andrew, eight weeks.

Connolly has helped set up a trust fund at the Weymouth Cooperative Bank, and she is using her inaugural run in the Boston Marathon to help spread the word about the Peruzzis' tragedy.

''Basically, I am just sort of using the Boston Marathon because it can attract attention to this, and it is timed perfectly,'' Connolly said.

''I trained my butt off for this. I did 20 miles a couple of weeks ago, and now I am tapering off,'' she said. ''I hope people send money.''

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