“Writers of the world, if you’ve got a story, I want to hear it. I promise it will follow me to my last breath.”—Pat Conroy
To paraphrase Pat, we told many of our donors that if they had a story to share we want to hear it. How about you? If you are a donor TELL US YOUR STORY.
From the beginning of time stories have been created and shared as a way to make sense of our world. And we never outgrow the need to hear them.
Since starting The Pat Conroy Literary Center we have come to know many of our donors. And it is no surprise to us that they are both fascinating and diverse. While Pat liked telling stories, he most liked hearing them. There was never a more eloquent listener than Pat Conroy, a man who drew stories out of everyone he met. He collected them the way some collect stamps or gems; he hoarded them, and used them to sustain him through hard times. He taught us the profound importance of listening.
Many of our donors have shared with us meaningful and touching stories about Pat, about reading and writing, and about their lives. Some of these stories are below, in our “Donor Stories” section. For it is through listening to our donor friends — a far flung tribe of passionate readers and writers — that the Center can better define its mission, its challenges and its future.
Your story can be as long or as brief as you care to make it. We’d like to hear from you! Either click the button or send your story to the email address below.
Mihai Radulescu, founding board member.
Click a name to open their story
It is an honor to contribute to a Center that supports readers as well as writers at the start of their careers.
I met Pat when he was a young man new to publishing, I was a sales representative working for Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of The Water is Wide. We met Pat at our sales conference where they were presenting his first novel “The Great Santini”. I later escorted him when he came to Chicago on book tour, and witnessed his openness with interviewers and booksellers, watched as he took time to autograph every book within sight while chatting with the customer; even when books on hand ran out, Pat stayed on to sign book plates for later insertion. He was just learning how to act with booksellers and interviewers but he quickly became every booksellers’ favorite author
It wasn’t long before Pat and the sales reps became a sort of family, and we would “reune” at many booksellers’ annual conventions. I cherish a letter he wrote me a few years ago in which he said he still told stories about his travels with book reps in cities all over the country. We were “stunned” that he remembered so much about his time with us. “I was raised up by the great sales reps of Houghton Mifflin. You guys taught me how to act,” he wrote to me. This is how I remember Pat Conroy. He was a friend and writer who was unfailingly grateful to those who helped him along the way and the only author in my nearly 50 years in the book business who I believe remained true to himself.
Schuyler Huntoon – Fairfield, CT
Thank you for your kind note; I am sure that I couldn’t have donated to a better cause. I am not only devoted to Pat Conroy’s novels, but I had the chance to meet Pat in Chicago in 1996 at a book signing for Beach Music. He was delightful. He signed my page ‘All Love,” and he did indeed come across as a very loving man. I hope future generations will be as touched by his writing as I always was. He combined brilliant storytelling with the ability to create memorable characters and emotional impact, and his sense of humor was unparalleled. I want his memory to live on forever!
My story, briefly, is that I am an ordained Presbyterian Minister, born and raised in New York City, currently serving as a hospital chaplain in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I also do a lot of guest preaching at the local churches. Ministry is my second career: prior to this I was a lawyer in Chicago, specializing in child abuse and neglect cases. I am also a (not yet published) writer of fiction, inspired largely by Pat Conroy and especially The Great Santini. I have completed a young adult novel manuscript about the teenage daughter of a New York City firefighter missing and presumed dead after 9/11. I think of it as the story of Santini’s daughter surviving the attacks. I hope Conroy would approve.
A lot will depend on my work scheduled, but I would love to attend the next Conroy literary festival. I have never been to the Deep South, so the trip would be fascinating on many levels. I’ll let you know as soon as I am sure. It would be wonderful to meet you and see all your work in person.
Elizabeth D. – Cedar Rapids, IA
I am 62 years old, the 4th of 5 kids born and raised in CT. Of the 5, my father chose me to abuse. He beat me mercilessly. It was only when I had grown to 6’2″, at age 14 that he hit me for the last time. But not long after, I began to get high, and I eventually found myself in jail. I knew deep inside I headed for a fall, I’m just glad I didn’t hurt anyone other than myself. In jail I began counseling with a psychologist named Dr. Lathey. One day he asked me if I had ever read Pat Conroy. He told me to read Beach Music.
I was and still am a voracious reader and at the time I was the librarian at the jail. I was thrilled to find a beat up copy of Beach Music there. I wasn’t very far into the book when I knew I was reading something special. Pat’s words took me away from the horrible place I was in and gave me hours of relief and healing. Pat was an artist, and he painted with words. I couldn’t put the book down, and for the last 50 pages or so, I cried like a baby. I cried the tears of a man moved by the best book I had ever read. When I finished Beach Music I made it a point to read every word Pat had written…. It was Pat who got me through the absolute lowest, and worst time of my life, and I am just sorry I never met him to thank him in person.
When we lost him we lost one of the greatest writers of our time. When you contacted me about donating to the center I was thrilled to see that his legacy will live on in such a wonderful venture, a literary center. Somewhere Pat is smiling as he watches this fine place grow.
Edwin L. – Newport, CT
I am connected to the Conroy family in a couple ways. I had the honor of being acquainted with Pat and so appreciate the continuing gift Cassandra is to our community. Also, Pat’s sister Kathy is a friend.
Some years ago, Pat and I met when we each spoke at an event to raise money for the United Way. As we chatted prior to speaking, we realized that in addition to a sharing an appreciation for the good works of the United Way, we also shared a wonderful friend, Mina, who happened to be our trainer. Of course, and in addition to the personal connection, I love Pat’s turn of phrase, his body of work and most of all – his giving heart and his Cassandra.
I provided a small bit of labor and organizational support when he and Mina launched their fitness studio and was an early contributor to the center with a donation made through my business.
Probably more than you wanted to know but hope I shed a little light on my connection to the center and love for Pat, Cassandra, family and his legacy.
Sharon D – Beaufort, SC
It is a privilege for me to be able to contribute. If I had a million dollars to invest, it still would not equal the joy that Pat Conroy’s writing has brought to me through the years.
I heard Pat once speaking at my alma mater, University of West Georgia, as part of a Peachtree Lecture Series of Southern Writers including Olive Ann Burns and Anne Rivers Siddons. He was preparing for the launch of The Prince of Tides. I was entranced by his gift of language and as a storyteller. Later, while I lived outside the South as a corporate nomad for about 25 years, each subsequent book took me on a virtual trip back home and made me even more determined to one day return to the South to live… which I finally did last summer. I had been monitoring Pat’s website and social media outlets for news of a possible tour which would give me a chance to possibly hear him speak again when I heard the sad news of his cancer diagnosis. Like all of you, I was hopeful he would beat it. You see, I am a cancer survivor…
… Please extend my deepest sympathy to Cassandra King; I am sure his presence is deeply missed in her world.
Debbie B. – Carrollton, GA
I first met Pat when he was leaving his therapist visits, and I was getting out of class. Our paths crossed and, of course, I knew who he was. Each Monday we would meet and exchange niceties… the convention of the Deep South. But one day, he had a copy of the New Yorker article on Shannon Faulkner stuck in his book as he left. I bravely asked him what he thought. He looked at me skeptically and asked if I knew who he was? I turned the question right back to him asking him if he knew who I was? Neither answered, and both laughed and introduced ourselves.
It was the beginning of a long friendship of over 20 years. With my work, I certainly needed his help furthering the cause of education and the arts. Pat was always willing to help. We asked him to be the speaker at a fundraising event for the University’s arts center. He said yes. On his birthday, October 26, 2014, he spoke about his newly released book, “The Death of Santini.” After the talk, we had a cocktail party for donors and for the entire party, Pat signed his books… for hours… vintage Pat Conroy. Always willing to talk to his readers to hear their stories. This event led to the Pat Conroy at Seventy that ultimately has become the Pat Conroy Literary Festival, now held each fall by the Center.
When Cassandra asked me to come on the Center Board and chair the effort, of course, I said yes. I was happy to do it because Pat was such a giver. The Center’s vision that “every voice has a story that needs to be heard” says it best. As the Center continues to grow and develop, I hope the programming we present helps those who are touched find their voice to tell their story. It is a great honor to be a donor of time, talent and resources to make this vision a reality. I hope you join us
Jane U. – Bluffton, SC
Yes, there are several connections with Pat. The first one in 1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio where Pat was at a book signing for Beach Music—my favorite Conroy book. We spoke like old friends because that’s the way he was.
Fast forward to 2014 (27 years later) when my husband and I have moved to Beaufort and attended a book signing reception that Pat was hosting. I introduced myself and told him about our encounter in 1987—and like the true Southern gentleman he was, he said, of course, he remembered me and we chatted again like old friends.
I was there to celebrate his 70th as he and I are the same age and I purchased tickets to most of the events. I made a stock donation to the center and I was also at the recent unveiling of his portrait and spoke briefly to the artist and to Will as I would like to be a volunteer when my schedule allows.
Oh, I’m also a writer and Pat’s love of words—the music he infused them with—has always given me courage to keep writing.
Thank you for contacting me with such a personal ‘thank you’. That’s a rare thing these days and exactly what Pat would have done.
Donna A. – Beaufort, SC
… We are retirees living on Hilton Head. I was an educator in Fairfax County, VA. My husband worked for the City of Falls Church, VA. We moved into The Seabrook retirement community on Hilton Head almost four years ago. My love for Pat Conroy began when I saw the movie Conrack and it has continued since. I have visited the Center and appreciate the work that is being done there.
Nancy B. – Hilton Head, SC
I’ll never forget the summer I read my first Pat Conroy book. I was sixteen and living in Murrells Inlet, SC. Due to an unfortunate incident with my car and a mailbox, I took my first job booking parasail trips out of a local marina to help pay for damages. This was a glorious summer before social media, electronic reading devices and text messages. I spent it water skiing, mudding, fishing, night-swimming and reading books while waiting on the phone to ring at work. Beach Music had me captivated from the minute I opened it and I’m pretty sure I neglected some of my duties at work to finish it. In fact, I had tears streaming down my face when I closed the book and looked up to a not so pleased customer tapping their foot. I mourned finishing the book because I knew I wouldn’t find anything else to compare. I often go back to Beach Music and will always consider to be the first book I ever read.
When I first heard of Pat Conroy’s death, I picked it up and read it again, each time relating to another part of the story. Pat captured the Lowcountry like no other and I think of his prose more than any other when I find myself lost in its beauty.
I donated to this foundation in memory of my son, Thomas Slade Dozier, Jr. who unexpectedly left us in April 2015 at the age of 18 months. His twin sister is smart, sassy, obsessed with “Lowcountry water” and I have a sneaking suspicion will grow to love Conroy’s works. Having Slade’s name on the donation is my way of keeping him an ever-present part of those things I hold near and dear to me.
My donation comes with the hope that future generations of kids can appreciate all that Pat Conroy embodied and I look forward to supporting the literary center for many years to come.
In Faith, Hope and Love
Laura Sanders Dozier, wife, mother, CRNA, co-founder and vice-chairman of Slade Dozier Foundation, and devoted Pat Conroy reader.
Laura Sanders Dozier – Mount Pleasant, SC
I cannot find the words to explain my connection to Pat Conroy, his writing, his love of words, his love of the lowcountry, and his love of people; there is something beyond me that draws me in.
On my first trip to Beaufort years ago, I bought his entire library from “Bay Street Trading” and waited months to have the copies delivered to my home in Nevada; all personally signed to me. I returned to Beaufort for the release of South of Broad and had my copy as well as cookbooks signed to me. These are my treasured keepsake!
My husband and I came to Beaufort again and had a beautiful visit to the Pat Conroy Literary Center, I waited the longest time to sit in Pat Conroy’s chair and run my hand along the desk because I knew I would cry; It was truly an honor to be there and I appreciate all the hard work and dedication everyone involved has put into the creation and vision for the center. It will prosper; it will mold and guide writers; it will be a place for family, friends and fans to gather and remember; and it will be a place to make new memories.
I have a home in Beaufort now and am committed to help in any way I can. I look forward to being part of the legacy that is Pat Conroy.
Caren W. – Beaufort, SC
My story with Pat started in college. I grew up in Morgantown West Virginia, most people haven’t been there but it is – like many other small cities with large land grant universities – a haven of academics and culture in an otherwise fairly conservative and religious state. I grew up in an academic family because my Grandfather moved to Morgantown in 1958 to be a professor of Physics and ended up being Chairman of the department. Two of my closest friends were twins from Nitro, WV. The girls were horrified when parents from their high school and a few others in the area started a movement to have Prince of Tides banned from the school literature. When they heard about this they were furious and said Prince of Tides was one of the most real, riveting and raw books that they were able to read in their AP English class. So, they wanted to do something on behalf of the cause and they asked for my help. I hadn’t read Pat’s books at the time but I was opposed to banning any book of course! So I helped them write a letter. Like Pat, I have a tendency towards super overblown humor and eccentricity but it was a fun project and I felt that it was really important. This letter and others, as you might remember, spurred Pat writing this letter: http://www.patconroy.com/articles_cg-10-07.php
God, it felt like an honor, like one small victory to all of us who got involved in this cause and who wanted to live in and be a part of a bigger life than the ones allowed by our high schools and communities. I am moved every time I read his letter.
Anyway, shortly after his letter appeared I read everything written by Pat Conroy that I could get my hands on. When My Reading Life came out, I wished that I could be lucky enough to have someone like Pat in my life to draw me into the tomes of literature I hadn’t yet explored. I felt inspired by him. When the Cookbook came out I worshipped it for two years. I can’t explain the connection but it was strong, I’m sure you’ve read a thousand stories like mine.
I planned to attend his Birthday Party but a family thing with my Grandmother came up that prevented my attendance. I never dreamed he would be dead so soon after. It broke my heart that I missed a chance to meet him. It is one of my great regrets, really.
I live in Boston now at a demanding job and don’t get to write as much as I’d like to but I would love to find ways to connect with the creative side of me! I donate to the center as a conduit to do something good and to continue Pat’s influence.
Anastasia Pavlovic – Boston, MA
I will never forget the experience of reading my first Pat Conroy book. It was THE PRINCE OF TIDES and I was in my early twenties by the time I got a hold of my mom’s paperback. I was an avid reader with dreams of someday becoming a writer, but as I read the first few pages of Conroy’s book, I knew I held something very special in my hands. I raced through the pages (as much as one can race through a 500+ page book!), and when I reached the end, I needed a few moments of breathless silence in which to recover, before I turned back to page one and started all over again. The second reading was for savoring, and the pure poetry of his words and his message have stayed with me for all of these years.
Fast forward to a few decades later, and I’m a #1 NYT bestselling author, with 21 published novels and millions of copies in print, and I’m hosting a dinner party where two of the invited guests- Mary Elizabeth Sherbert and Theresa Jackson – turn out to be friends of Pat Conroy’s. I was overcome with excitement that they knew one of my literary heroes, and Mary Elizabeth was kind enough to offer to bring back a signed copy of one of my books for Pat. It was a great feeling to be connected to him, even in a remote way, and when I received news of his passing a short while later, like the rest of his readers and fans, I grieved for the loss of such a great man.
Then I saw a post about the Literary Center and wanted to contribute. I hope to add to that donation in the future. Thanks for reaching out and for all of your hard work!
Alyson Noel – Dana Point, CA
Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors. I truly appreciate a great story; I loved the way he told us people’s stories. He was “The Best”.
I have been a fan for years and I was so fortunate to exchange a few words with him at his Birthday Celebration in 2015. I live in Ohio approximately 7 months of the year and Callawassie Island, SC 5 months of the year. My husband and I love Beaufort and all of the Low Country.
I belong to a Book Group at Callawassie…
Andrea A. – Mansfield, OH & Callawassie Island, SC
I can’t tell you how much your lovely email means to me. It touched me way down in my soul. Words placed together in a beautifully written sentence are worth more than gold.
I fell in love with Pat Conroy in the 70’s when I read The Water Is Wide. In 1980 I became an elementary school teacher in the Atlanta area. My hope was to be the kind of teacher Pat was. I wanted to educate children, but I also wanted to touch their lives in so many more ways. In the middle 80’s I moved to Rabun County, GA. This is very rural area with a low socio-economic population. Many children will never leave this area because their parents have never left. It was very important to me that they learn about the world through words. Emily Dickinson wrote “There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away”. That became my philosophy in teaching. You can travel the world and never leave your living room.
I devoured Pat’s books like a hearty meal. I stood in long lines to get his signature on my books, and share a word or two. I attended his readings and lectures. His characters became my friends. At the end of every book it was as if my new friends had moved away. While his books were filling, there was always a small emptiness after completing one, because I had lost those friends. His death has now made that permanent. My heart was broken selfishly for myself, but also for his family and millions of “Book Friends”.
My husband, David and I will be at the “soft” opening on Oct. 21st. I look forward to meeting you and shaking your hand. I wish we lived closer to Beaufort, I would love to be able to volunteer at the Center. My hope is that the Center will be a raging success; I know it will be.
Stephanie D. – Clayton, GA
I am someone who fell in love with Pat Conroy more than 30 years ago. It started with the Prince of Tides, and the love affair continued, as it does to this day. I deeply understood his descriptions of betrayal and abuse, followed by love and troubled acceptance. Reading his novels was like coming home, conversing with a loved one who lived my life, and knew.
I visited Beaufort the year before his death, walked where he walked, felt his stories of the marshes, shrimp boats, and beauty of the south come alive before my eyes. I felt a longing for home, that sense of wishing that you really belonged somewhere. I placed flowers on his father’s grave, and said a prayer for a family that I never knew, and yet, somehow I did…
I miss him greatly, think of him often, and pray that his family is doing ok. I want them to know how many lives he touched, how many people he saved through his words, so achingly sad, but somehow so healing for our souls.
I have a journal from my childhood, one of the entries says “Some memories harbor deep within your soul, where sunlight never touches, and tears flow continuously… like a waterfall for no one to see, except your heart for it understands a sorrow so deep that only you know the depth of its meaning…” Somehow, I feel Pat would have understood that perfectly.
While walking on the beach I hear the song “Save the last dance for me” and images of “Beach Music” dance through my mind. I call to my dog Savannah and thoughts of “the great poet Savannah Wingo” bring a smile to my heart. I could go on but the greatest emotion I feel at times is just overwhelming loss. To accept that we will never again embrace and love a Pat Conroy character is at times unimaginable. Looking forward to the next wonderful, sad, complex, tragic, joyful story was always such a delicious anticipation.
And this is from someone who only knew him through the characters he made come to life in the pages of a book. I can only imagine what it is like for you.
Thank you for keeping his memory alive.
Julie B. – Pacific Palisades, CA
My husband and I have been supporters of the center ever since you all announced the idea. We live on Dataw, moving here in 2001 after 30 years in Honolulu. I co-wrote a book called Flying, a novel that was published about five years ago. It’s about the flight crews for Pan American in the Pacific during the 1970s. Nobody understands Pat’s phrase, “Geography is my wound…” better than a Pan Am flight attendant. We had wounds all over the world….I’ve been giving Pan Am history classes for OLLI here in Beaufort County and around the Southeast, and at Pan Am reunions in Ireland and Berlin. It’s been an amazing “trip.”
Nobody knows better than a fellow writer that the saddest stories of all are the ones that don’t get told. I think Pat would heartily agree. So as you said, if we have to sit on a milk crate down on Bay Street with a sign and a plastic bottle to make this happen, then we should do it.
*Maura Connelly and Stephanie Edwards are friends.
Rebecca and Greg S. – St. Helena, SC
Robert S. Handler Charitable Trust has been of great help to The Pat Conroy Literary Center. The Center is grateful to Marty Dreesen and Mike Donkle the two co-trustees and to Tim Conroy, founding director and President of the Center, who introduced the Center to the trustees of Robert Handler Trust.
A brief note on Robert S. Handler:
Robert S. Handler (April 27, 1937 – May 14, 2015) was born and grew up in Chicago, Ill. and spent summers in Iowa where his extended family had a farm. Bob graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and earned a law degree from the University of Chicago. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and Israel during his youth. During those years he met numerous artists and began his art collection which he continued to add to throughout his life.
After Bob returned to the United States he settled in Atlanta, Ga and became involved in several business ventures. Bob began his career in banking specializing in strategic asset liquidation for First Union and later Wachovia banks.
Around 2002, Bob retired from Wachovia Bank as a Senior Executive Vice President. At this time, he discovered that he had developed COPD which prevented him from enjoying his passion for travel during his retirement. Bob started spending happy hour at Bar None and enjoyed chatting with the many different types of professionals that gathered there. During his career in the financial sector, Bob had built-up a substantial stock & bond portfolio.
Bob passed in May of 2015 from lung cancer. He bequeathed monetary gifts to the Tree of Life Synagogue and the Katie & Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center in Columbia, SC. The remaining pieces in his art collection were bequeathed to different art institutions and to several of his close friends. The bulk of Bob’s estate was set up in a charitable trust with the only stipulation being that it is to be used to make life worth living.
The co-trustees of the Robert S. Handler Charitable Trust have taken these brief words to heart and have endeavored to give grants to small, local groups that would not ordinarily be noticed by more mainstream donors in their giving. The trustees take care to include charitable, artistic, athletic and scholarly pursuits in the grants from the trust. The hope is that the grants will enable the recipients to have the opportunity to experience a life as rich and full as possible.
Robert S. Handler Charitable Trust – Columbia, SC
“Tell me a story”! I remember Pat Conroy calling those the most powerful words in the English language.
I met Pat a couple of times at Fripp Island and heard him speak in Atlanta once. Although I did not know him, I feel as if I did (I bet you hear that a lot.) He touched my life – yikes, Pat would hate that sentence, but that’s why I am a reader, not a writer.
I am about Pat’s age and sort of grew up with him. The Water is Wide is the first book of his I read. I understand that’s the one that most touched his heart. I watched him “grow up” as a writer, enjoyed his witty exchanges in The Great Santini and the great opening line of The Lords of Discipline, “I wear the ring.” That line hit me like a slap in the face and in reading it I knew then that this guy had become a great writer. That line ranks with “Call me Ishmael” as one of the greatest opening lines in literature. I suppose that The Prince of Tides is my favorite – the opening scene in the movie was filmed at Fripp at the house next door to the one we were renting that summer – or it might be Beach Music. It just depends on which one I am rereading at the time. My Reading Life is basically my reading list, but even though I am newly retired, I find it impossible to read 200 pages a day as he did.
I am thrilled that Pat’s legacy is being so well tended and that it is such a great resource for young or aspiring writers. I attended Jonathan Haupt’s lecture on Friday at OLLI @ Emory. He does a great job.
John Stewart – Atlanta, GA
I’m a Beaufort native. When the Conroy family arrived in Beaufort, they lived in the home built by my grandparents, James Albert and Mary Mills Kinghorn – located on the northwest corner of Hancock and Hamilton Streets. Today it is numbered as 403 Hancock Street. My father and his twin brother were born in the home shortly after it was completed in 1910, and the family of seven thrived there. Later in her life, my widowed grandmother moved to a smaller home built for her by her sons, and the larger family home was rented to the Conroys and others.
I attended Beaufort public schools and am familiar with the mentors Pat Conroy mentions. More particularly, Nancy Head Thode is both a childhood and lifelong friend. I was often in Nancy’s home as a child, and I knew and admired her mother Ann Head. I was a witness to her dedication to writing. Ann Head was a strong, thoughtful woman who possessed a kind and engaging manner with children and young people. It’s easy to understand why Pat Conroy appreciated her mentoring and her friendship.
My first donation is in memory of Ann Head. I’m thankful for the work that the Pat Conroy Literary Center is engaged in and am pleased to support it.
Elizabeth C. – Beaufort, SC
I was delighted to receive your email.
Pat Conroy did hold a special place in my heart. I’ve been on the board of the Atlanta Writers Club for the past eight years. I was the AWC President from 2013 to 2015, and had the honor of making the opening remarks at our centennial celebration in April of 2014. I started writing in 2009 at age 52. I joined the Atlanta Writers Club the following year, and have surrounded myself with writers ever since. Naturally, the name Pat Conroy was very familiar, and always spoken with great admiration. Though I never met him in person, I have read and love his work. Sadly, I discovered my love for his work shortly before I learned of his illness.
I’ve been doing the programming for the Atlanta Writers Club since before I stepped down as President. For our September meeting in 2016, we organized a panel of Pat’s dear friends from his early writing years, who paid tribute to both the man and his work. The panel included Terry Kay, Bernie Schein, Cliff Graubart, and Daniel Sklar. The panel was moderated by retired TV news anchor, John Pruitt.
As for me, I’m the author of four published novels, and I’m currently shopping for a new publisher for my fifth. During business hours, I’m the CFO of an engineering firm, but that’s just my day job. My passion is the writing. My husband and I are talking about moving to South Carolina when I retire in a couple of years. I hope to be able to offer my services as a volunteer at the Pat Conroy Literary Center one day. Meanwhile, I hope my schedule will allow a visit to the center this year. Thank you for your work in support of this wonderful organization, and thank you for reaching out to me!
Valerie C. – Norcross, GA
Thank you for getting back to me and so quickly too.
I know Marly Rusoff from back in our Minneapolis days when she owned Rusoff’s Bookstore. I worked in the buying dept. at B. Dalton Bookstores for almost 15 years and then at Waldenbooks for 3 years and finally just short of 20 years at HarperCollins. I do think it’s pretty impressive that you were able to find my name among 80K emails.
I met Pat at the Houghton Mifflin sales conference for the publication of the Lords of Discipline – he was there to schmooze with the sales reps and I was there invited as a buyer. We adjourned to a bar/pizza joint in Boston. I had met several authors by this time, but none like Pat – we spent about 2 or 3 hours talking. I had spent a year teaching elementary school in the South Side of Chicago in 1968/69. Hardly like Pat’s experience in South Carolina, but certainly a cultural shock for me to teach in the ghetto in Chicago after growing up in West Los Angeles.
I had the pleasure of having several dinners with him and my wife and I ‘stalked’ him at a couple of book signings. Some of my most treasured mementos of over 40 years in the book business are signed galleys and books with personal notes from Pat. I am sure you know, everyone who spent any time with Pat (and some who didn’t) felt a strong personal connection and I take those books down and read the notes fairly often.
I felt honored to have known Pat and to have spent time with him. I was so in awe of his talent and human kindness. I once said to him that I was sure he got tired of people telling him how much they loved his books. His answer “I never get tired of hearing how people feel about my books”. That still stays with me 25 years or so later.
I am glad to be able to support the Pat Conroy Literary Center and hope that someday my travels will get me to Beaufort.
Jeff R. – Fairfield, CT
The holidays always get me thinking about Pat and all of you. There was a post from the literary center on Facebook about students returning to teachers. Just this week, I had a student return after twenty years to see me, and yesterday my husband Bill and I had breakfast with a former student who wanted to be assured that he was choosing the right career in becoming a teacher. In both cases, I felt such joy at what I get to do every day, and Pat’s words captured that. I keep returning to Pat because I found his stories in high school, and he has been teaching me ever since. He clearly recognized how much the students grow us and help us become better people.
My daughter is named Savannah because of Pat; she is a first-year high school science teacher, and she loves it. My husband and I are both English teachers. We are currently reading The Water is Wide aloud (as we make our way through all Pat’s works again). My son is named Tom because of Pat. Thomas Elijah (we call him Elijah) is in the Navy, stationed on the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. He’s reading “The Prince of Tides” right now, and he carries a copy of Savannah’s letter to Tom from the novel in his wallet. The way Pat uses words humbles me. I am happy to be an unabashed fangirl of his work, and I am humbled that both of my children have found great wisdom and love in his work.
Bill and I continue holding hands through this crazy life. Married six years on Dec. 27. Like Pat and Cassandra, we found each other after many storms and now live such a life filled with love. We’ll simply never get over the gratitude we feel. And we’ll always be reading Pat Conroy and sending “Great Love” into the world as he did and continues to do.
Stacey H. – Saegertown, PA
I lived in the old village of Mount Pleasant in a historical house; almost rented a house on Tradd Street; I was a Charleston Lawyer on Church Street, near St. Philips. Weathered Hugo, and moved back to Florida in 1991. I left my heart in Charleston. I love South of Broad and I’ve read all your books.
Your characters will live on forever. I almost worked for a law firm started by Augustine Symthe. When he came to Charleston they said, “If you ordered a trainload of sons of bitches and, when the train go to the station, only Augustine Smythe got off, you would have got your money’s worth.
If you were the only Southern writer, we would still be proud of the South’s literary legacy.
Mac Stuckey – Charleston, SC
So there’s that.
But there’s more. A lot more. I’ve wanted to reach out to someone, somewhere, since Pat died earlier this year. But I kept putting it off. I can come up with a list of reasons why, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve just given me my chance.
The first book of Pat’s that I read was Prince of Tides. I had seen the movie—twice—before I read the book, so of course, I knew how it ended. But knowing the ending didn’t make me wish for something else as I approached the finish. I’ve thought often of that—always with a smile on my face. To me, it’s proof positive of how captured I was by Pat’s words and images. And of course, since then, I’ve read every other book that Pat wrote. Including Beach Music.
Twice, as a matter of fact. The second time was earlier this year. My father died this past January. He was 98, so his death wasn’t unexpected. But it also left me unmoored for several months, and unable to do one of the things that I love most—read. I started and put down several books, but just couldn’t get through any. So I picked up Beach Music again, and it got me back on the reading track. And by the way, in my 60 years or so of reading, I’ve read 3 books more than once. Why Beach Music? I don’t think there was a reason other than I knew the book could take me away, giving one part of my mind a place to escape, while giving another place in my mind a chance to heal. And the book did both. Thank you again, Pat Conroy.
Who am I again? Well, you can google me to get the work bio. And you’ll see that I also wrote a book—not the Great American Novel I had once aspired to, and certainly not a NY Times best-seller, but I believe we all have a book in us—I just happened to get mine out. But I’m also just one of many who loved every book that Pat wrote and someone who misses him.
He was in many ways the father and brother I never had. Your reaching out to me at the end of this epic year has given me hope for the one ahead.
Richard G. – Tiburon, CA
I first knew Pat Conroy’s writing through an undergraduate course taken during the 1970s. The purpose of the course was to explore novels suitable to light literary interest among teens. The novel was the Water Is Wide. I quickly honed a palate for all things Conroy, and I sparked to find this grand storyteller who shared a last name with my paternal grandmother. The 70s hadn’t been wasted after all. Recently Ancestry.com reported my DNA’s travel from Dublin to Chicago. If the CONRAKS of Beaufort are connected to Martin Conroy and Elizabeth Hayden Conroy of Dublin, we may be genetically connected. That would delight me, but it really doesn’t matter. Everyone who has read The Lords of Discipline or The Great Santini or Beach Music is linked to the scribe, his circle and his story. I am so pleased to have discovered the Center and hope to visit this summer. Slainte’!
Don Ward – Belmont, NC
You know when you are gathered amongst friends and the question of “if you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be” arises. My answer, after getting to know Pat Conroy through his characters, always included Pat.
My initial introduction to his literary genius was Prince of Tides. I then devoured The Great Santini, Lords of Discipline, and The Water is Wide. While anxiously awaiting Beach Music (long time coming) I probably reread each book two or three times. I have no idea how many reads I am up to now but it’s a bit embarrassing. Pat reminds me of my favorite authors, Wouk, Hemingway, Uris, Austin, Caldwell et all in his ability to connect with the common reader and leave us more aware, more passionate and in a better place.
His writing helps get us through the ups and downs life throws at us. Sometimes you just need your “Conway Fix”.
I was saddened to hear of his death last year. In October 2016 my wife Stephanie and I visited Charleston, Savanah and Beaufort to get our own feel of the low country Pat so passionately describes. It was a wonderful goodbye to our favorite author.
When I received your email regarding the Pat Conroy Literary Center, our donation was the least we could do for all the joy Pat has brought into our lives. We hope to be back to see it for ourselves in the near future.