Photo above: from left to right are brothers Jim, Tim, Mike, Pat, moderator Walter Edgar, sister Kathy Conroy Harvey, wife Cassandra King Conroy, and granddaughter Melissa.
By Lanier Laney
The nearly sold out Conroy family panel was at times laugh out loud funny (as all members of the family have great senses of Irish humor) and very touching. Said sister Kathy Conroy Harvey: “The book ‘The Great Santini’ changed all of our lives in this family. We had never spoken about it before and then suddenly the whole world knew our secrets. We are very grateful for Pat for having the bravery to put all of the that out there. And the best part was, our father changed after the book! Pat inadvertently gave us a dad we never had before.” Added Cassandra explaining, “Pat’s father became much nicer and quite charming after the book and movie, almost to prove that everything Pat had written was a lie.” “I knew none of the charming or nice side of him growing up—he ruined our childhood” said Pat. Brother Mike agreed, “We thought being slugged by your father all the time starting as early as 5 years old was the norm”. And having to watch him beat up their mother repeatedly was heartbreaking to all. When the Conroy brothers and sisters first saw ‘The Great Santini,’ at the end of the movie, brother Mike turned to Pat and said “Duvall was Bambi compared to our real dad!” (who apparently was much tougher and hit harder than anything portrayed in the movie). “No one would have believed it if they had to see how mean it really was,” said Pat with a shrug. “We were the only family thrilled with the Vietnam War because dad was sent away to it,” said Pat. It was amazing watching the family members how they all seemed to have survived with an ironic and funny take on everything. Somehow they all took the pain of their childhood experience and transformed it into a black comedy. Fascinating interviews with the Conroy family by moderator Walter Edgar (who hosted) have been turned into several books.