William “Babe” Conroy, 67, passed away peacefully Saturday at Shenandoah Senior Living Community after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. While the disease affected Babe’s everyday functions, it in no way diminished his spirit for life, his wit and his never-ending love for his family.
Born Jan. 24, 1948, he was a son of the late Anthony and Eleanor Garrity Conroy. He was a lifetime resident of the villages of William Penn and Lost Creek.
He was a 1965 graduate of the former Immaculate Heart High School and attended both Allentown College and the Temple University School of Journalism.
He was of the Catholic faith and a member of St. Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Parish, Lost Creek.
His loving wife, Ann Louise, Lost Creek, who compassionately cared for and loved him to the very end, survives Babe. They recently celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary on Feb. 5.
Also surviving are four sons, Bill (Pam), Raven Run, Jim (Renee), Clermont, Fla., Brian, Shenandoah and Chris, Shenandoah; relatives and friends. The joy of Babe’s life was spending time with his grandchildren Kelsey, Abby, Will, Emily and McKenzie. Frequent visits, as well as attending their sporting and school events, brought happiness to his day.
Babe enjoyed a distinguished journalism and sports career throughout his full life. He was the sports editor at the former Shenandoah Evening Herald from 1971-76 and 1981-95. In 1995, he became the chief correspondent for the Northern Schuylkill office of the Hazleton Standard Speaker, then promoted to bureau chief in 1996. Later in 1996, he was appointed sports editor of the Standard Speaker, a position he held until his retirement in 2005. Babe also served as the Schuylkill County bureau chief for the Lebanon Daily News from 1979-81.
During his distinguished news career, Babe received numerous journalism awards. The late state Sen. James J. Rhoades also ap-pointed him to PIAA State Subcommittee.
He had the uncanny ability to articulate and encapsulate a story like no other. Getting a child’s name in the paper was his number one priority, whether it be the team star or the role player.
Babe was especially thankful to the Walser family and the Standard Speaker in the way they professionally conducted their consideration and hiring of him and other co-workers upon the closing of the Evening Herald.
Babe also owned and operated Babe’s Bar in Lost Creek from 1976-79, a fun-filled, story-rich establishment which served as a community gathering spot for many in the area. He also entertained hundreds at the yearly Lost Creek Minstrel shows at St. Mary Magdalen Parish.
Babe’s career in local athletics started at Cardinal Brennan High School, where he served as an assistant boys’ basketball coach from 1980-82. In 1984, he was named head baseball coach at Shenandoah Valley High School, a position he held until 1999.
During his tenure at SV, he compiled a 179-156 overall record. In 1987, his Blue Devils reached the district playoffs for the first time since 1969 and also ended a 44-game winning streak by Schuylkill Haven, coached by his friend and competitor, Scott Buffington. When Babe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Coach Buffington was the first to send a card to Babe, wishing him well.
Success quickly followed for the Blue Devils as the 1988 squad clinched the Division II title. Both his 1988 and ’89 teams finished as District 11 PIAA Class AA runners-up. The 1989 team set a school record with an 18-game winning streak. In 1999, the Blue Devils finished as the District 11 PIAA runner-up.
In 2003, Babe was elected to the Northern Anthracite Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was elected into the Shenandoah Valley Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2013, he was enshrined into the inaugural class of the Schuylkill County Coaches Association Baseball Hall of Fame.
Another chapter in Babe’s life was his love for the horses, or the “ponies,” as he often referred. A highlight in his handicapping career came in 1986, when he finished second in the World Series of Handicapping at Penn National Race Course, claiming a trophy, which donned the front page of the Evening Herald as well as a check for $30,000. He enjoyed talking about sports, handicapping and complaining about the Phillies with his best friends, Mick Jacavage and Sammy Matta.
He was a passionate fan of the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Phillies, Notre Dame Football and Shenandoah Valley athletics.
Babe will always be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, relative, coach, writer and friend. Not once did he complain about having a debilitating disease; rather, he cherished the time he had and fought to the very end. There are so many times to cherish while he was on this earth and so many stories about “The Babe” that will linger in local lore for many years to come.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday from Walukiewicz-Oravitz Fell Funeral Home, 132 S. Jardin St., Shenandoah. A Mass of Christian Burial will then be celebrated at 11 a.m. in Divine Mercy Church, 232 W. Cherry St., Shenandoah. Monsignor Ronald C. Bocian, pastor, will officiate. Interment will follow in Annunciation BVM Cemetery, Shenandoah Heights.
Relatives and friends are invited to call from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy can be made to Shenandoah Valley Baseball, 805 W. Centre St. Shenandoah PA 17976.
Walukiewicz-Oravitz Fell Funeral Home, Shenandoah, is in charge of arrangements.