"Happiness is about enjoying what you have. I have a great family, a very good job, and this is how I define my success." – Michael Connolly
Michael Connolly came to Shanghai with his beloved wife, Margaret, in 1999, after Margaret was offered a job. Back then, the city was still in its adolescence and finding a good loaf of bread was a lot harder than it is today. The challenges Michael faced while adjusting to his new home prompted him to start ShanghaiExpat. He wanted to make it easier for other expats learn and adjust to life in Shanghai. People started asking questions on the site, and Michael spent countless hours giving them the answers they needed. Around 2004, ShanghaiExpat started to explode with thousands of visitors every day and millions of hits every month.
ShanghaiExpat was one of the first websites in Shanghai to pioneer the business model of selling ad space online, thus paving the way for aspiring entrepreneurs in the technology industry. The site also started one of the largest English-language forums in all of China.
Today, ShanghaiExpat continues to be the preeminent source of information for people living and working in Shanghai. People have used the site to learn about trending topics in the expat community, make life-long friends, and even fall in love. The ShanghaiExpat community is still growing and has become a mainstay in Shanghai's social and business scene. Our success is due to the years of hard work and dedication of Michael Connolly.
As the CEO of our company, Michael was generous and understanding. His business sense was always tempered with compassion, and his presence brought a smile to everyone's face in the office. Michael truly cared for all of his employees, through good times and bad. The breathe of his experience and knowledge about technology was extraordinary. He knew about all the trending topics in the technology industry, figured out ways to incorporate them into the business, and saw tremendous improvements as a result.
But while ShanghaiExpat was important to Michael, his life revolved around his family. In the early years of the company, people around Shanghai saw Michael everywhere – attending events, parties, and other social gatherings. But with the birth of his first and second son, Michael traded his social life for a family, and spending time with Margaret and his two boys made him deeply happy.
Two events in Michael's life moved him toward his goals in life. One was the death of his father, when Michael was 10 years old, and the other was his experience in the Air Force. He was stationed in the Far East and wrote to his Mother, "There is incredible poverty in this part of the world." That experience called into question the value and purpose of his life. Years later he was to again write to his Mother, "I am constantly amazed at how fast the world is changing around us. We are living in the most potent moment of human history, I feel, and as a species, finally coming to grips with what it really means to live on the Earth. I have a guarded sense of optimism, realizing we have a long way to go and only a little time to do it." In January of this year, 2011, Michael started a personal blog to record his thoughts on his sons, entitled "Things My Son Should Know." One excerpt says a lot about Michael and his worldview, "….your thoughts become your words….your words become your actions…your actions become your habits…your habits become your character…your character becomes your destiny."
Michael's greatest achievement was the awareness that community is the greatest need we have. He understood that COMMUNITY is not only the place we give back to, but also where we learn to receive, learn to trust and learn that we need others. His affirmation for so many years was "Today, Expect a Miracle." He loved the Shanghai Expat community and he understood that, though we are personally responsible both for what we do and what happens to us, we need others.
A deep concern for compassion, wisdom, and responsibility in the world was Michael's greatest achievement. Hopefully, that concern will live on in his community and family.
-Mike Finstad And EL. Connolly
God breathed into me Spirit
I came into the world, unformed
to go from emptiness to fullness
From Silence to noise
From new to old
From birth to death
Finally, my Spirit, the mystery
of my spirit lives on in light and peace.
(written for Michael by his Mom)
"Rest in the arms of angels, my deal Michael. Not a day goes by that I do not miss you. We are trying to be brave although it is very hard... You brought so much joy to our lives and we are forever grateful to have had you with us for 15 years, than to not have had you at all.
Forever in our hearts..."
(From his wife Margaret Connolly)
"The last thing I want to say is something I wrote right after I heard of his passing:
'I wouldn't be where I am right now with my very strong spiritual beliefs and friendships were it not for Michael; he was very special to me! I am so glad that I had a rather serious talk with him about that on our back porch one day while he was here last May. I told him how significant he was to my life and why and how much I loved him for that. "
(From his closest firend Tom H.)
"Michael loves the family deeply. Two boys Aidan and Ian have been his joy. Despite of busy work schedule, Michael spent a lot of time with them so they can play and learn. It is heart breaking now Aidan has been asking for "Mr. Baba" every morning to dress him and every evening to play games together. Although the babies are too young to remember all the details, I will try to share these special moments as they grow up. The guest book you signed today and hunds of posts generated online will also help to show them what a great person their father was.
Your best thoughts and prayers are appreciated for his family and friends. Blessing"
(From his wife Margaret Connolly)
"Michael is always the best boss in my whole life, and he is not only a boss for me, but also a friend, a big brother, and I know he was always there whenever I needed him. We couldn't see Michael too often after many old colleagues left ShanghaiExpat, but he still cares a lot of every single of us, and always encouraged us whenever he saw us. Ed, one of his partners at ShanghaiExpat who went back to US, sent over his memory about Michael as well. He felt he was fortunate enough to help build the ShanghaiExpat community with the full support of the ShanghaiExpat.com website, and plenty of feedback and guidance from Michael. For the six years that he spent in Shanghai, Michael was always there, as a colleague, a boss, a friend, and as a contemporary, helping make living and working in Shanghai an amazing experience."
(From his firend and ex-colleague, Ocean Fu)