It has always seemed to me that the most fitting eulogy would be to say "for those of you who knew this man I need say nothing - for those who didn’t it would make no difference."
It is fitting, however, for us to gather once a year to pay tribute, as lawyers, to those of our profession who have died, not so much to remind Us of our own mortality, but to raise the toast, as it were, that we should like to have raised to him personally had it not been for his untimely death.
It is with a sense of solemn honor, duty and privilege to respectfully move the court to record among its proceedings this memorial service in honor of our colleague, John M. Conroy.
John Conroy was born on September 29, 1916 in Washington, D.C. and he died here in Montgomery County on March 19, 1986. John was raised in our sister county of Frederick and graduated from Frederick High School in 1932 at the tender age of sixteen. Upon graduation, he had to make an interesting decision, one not uncommon to talented athletes of today. John had won various awards in tennis and golf, but was offered a contract with a farm club under the auspices of the New York Giants. He decided not to try professional baseball, however, and made a decision in favor of entering the Knights of Columbus law school, which later became part of Catholic University.
By age nineteen, John Conroy had completed law school and had passed the Maryland Bar. As John told the story to me some years ago, he only had one problem. He wasn't old enough to practice law. He had to be twenty-one years old to take the oath. Therefore, John had to wait two years before he could enter the profession he would practice until his death last year at the age of sixty-nine.
At the time of his entry to the bar in 1937, John began his practice in the District of Columbia with two gentlemen who will be familiar to many, Walter Green, who was later the central figure in Metropolitan Federal S&L, and Ralph Powers, who later became Chief Judge of the Circuit Court in Prince George's County. Two years later, John left Green & Powers. The story that is told about his departure goes like this. John was making $35.00 a week working for the firm. He thought he deserved a raise and asked for $5.00 a week more. Well, Walter Green wouldn’t give it to him and that was the start of a law firm that many knew in later years as Conroy and Williams and the successor is now one of the largest firms in Montgomery County - Conroy, Fitzgerald, Ballman & Dameron.
John's practice consisted mainly of real estate and related business work. He was extraordinarily successful. I remember going into Hyattsville and Silver Spring as a youngster and seeing signs that said “The Conroy Building”. It was later my pleasure and privilege to meet the man behind those signs.
I would be remiss if I did not retell a story recently related about John. Some years ago the judges of Prince George’s County took it upon themselves to require all members of the bar to come and represent indigents charged with crimes. The token payment may have been $50.00 per day or so, I'm not certain, but sure enough the time came when John Conroy’s invitation arrived. He duly presented himself in court on the appointed day to represent these poor clients. You must remember that John had probably not really been in a courtroom since he did some small claims work before World War II. What John lacked in courtroom abilities, however, he made up for in ingenuity. He went out and hired Joe DePaul, although younger then, a very fine and skilled trial lawyer, to help him. The story goes that the judge that particular day asked John why he had Joe DePaul with him since the pay was minimal and surely Mr. DePaul would cost five times more than he was making. John Conroy’s response to that was that it would wind up costing him ten times as much if he tried those criminal cases.
While John Conroy was blessed with acumen in the law and business, he would tell you here today that his good fortune was never rivaled by the joys given to him by his family. John is survived by his wife, Anais, and his four children: Mike, a distinguished member of our association, Marie Anais, Peter and Kathleen, as well as five grandchildren.
John Conroy also served his community and his church in so many ways. John was a member of Little Flower parish from virtually its inception. He donated so much of his time, energy and funds to its well-being. We are honored today by having Monsignor Coyne, the pastor of Little Flower, here with the Conroy family.
John’s service to the community included active memberships in the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, the Catholic Youth Organization, counsel to Little Flower parish, member of various business boards and banks here in Montgomery County. John had served as an officer in the United States Navy in World War II and was present for the landings on D Day in 1944 and, in fact, went in to Utah and Omaha Beaches.
As much as John Conroy enjoyed the law and its accompanying challenges, his first love was his vacation home at Queen Anne Colony on Kent Island. Since he was fortunate to be so close to the place he enjoyed, John spent many, many long weekends for the last twenty-five years of his life there. I can recall one evening visiting there and, as so many times there, an incredible sunset appeared over the Chesapeake Bay, which John's home overlooked. I remarked to him that what we were watching was beautiful. He grew very quiet and just looked toward the setting sun. His response to me became jovial and he said that place would be the last thing to go, that all his material possessions could be taken from him except that home. But it was so very clear to me that I had shared a very private moment with him - his realization that he had been given so many things in this world and he was fortunate indeed.
May John Conroy always be remembered as a person who loved God, his family and his friends. He was not only a great man, he was a good man as well. In these times we are curiously reluctant to call a man good or noble; we feel more comfortable if we can uncover his frailties and jeer at what we consider his pretensions, particularly if he was well known.
I take this occasion to affirm that there are good men and women and that John Conroy was of that company. Though saddened by the loss of this good man loved by so many, we are grateful to him for having enriched our lives. We deeply miss him. May he rest in peace.
These remarks were given by Thomas D. Murphy at the Bar Association of Montgomery County Annual Memorial Services held on May 8, 1987 in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.