EARLY — With members of the Early and Comanche softball teams standing nearby, a large group watched in front of the Early softball stadium as Clint Connelly’s wife and daughters lovingly dedicated a tree and monument in his honor.

Connelly, an Early businessman and Early Longhorn supporter, died last August in a single-vehicle accident in Gainesville. He was 38. His daughter, Shauna Kay, is a senior on the Lady Horns softball team.

The dedication happened minutes before the two teams played the final regular season game of he season, a game that was also Senior Night for the Lady Horns.

Connelly’s wife, Jennifer, and their three daughters — Shauna Kay, Emma, 14, and Guyer, 6 — stood near the tree and monument, along with Austin Simpson, who is Shauna Kay’s boyfriend. Jennifer Connelly’s parents, Guy Bob and Debbie Shults, were among the crowd.

Smiling at times and tearful at others, Jennifer Connelly read words she’d written about her husband on a single sheet of paper. “If you knew Clint, nothing was small with him,” she read. “He loved to talk, he loved his family and he loved the Lady Horn softball team.

“Every season, he called it ‘this is the year.’ … Those who knew him well knew he was a true Longhorn at heart — it was just the burnt orange Longhorn he loved.” That changed, she said, and “the orange blood became a little purple.”

Jennifer Connelly said her husband, who was from Abilene, didn’t, at first, understand his wife’s love of her community and school. “After being here just about two weeks, he loved Early and this great community just as much as we all do,” she said.

“My family can’t express the gratitude for the love we have received from this community and this school. The teachers, coaches and counselors, when the girls just couldn’t make it through the day, they held them up. All I can say is ‘thank you’ and leave you the example that Clint lived by.”

After the dedication, Jennifer Connelly said the dedication had been “very overwhelming and touching. Our community steps up.”

Debbie Shults said it was “just an honor that they would do this” in honor of her son-in-law. “He loved kids,” she said. “There wasn’t a kid that wasn’t welcome at their house. Everybody has been so kind and good and helpful.”