Photo above: Michael O’Keefe and Pat Conroy
Acclaimed author Pat Conroy celebrated his 70th birthday in rousing style with well-wishers coming from as far away as Pennsylvania and Sweden to join in the revelry. A festive birthday bash, hosted by the Beaufort History Museum on Halloween night in the courtyard of the historic Arsenal, attracted over 350 guests who feasted on delectable lowcountry fare, sipped wine, nibbled birthday cake, enjoyed live music and mixed and mingled in the beautifully decorated space.
“We couldn’t have wished for a more perfect way to help Pat celebrate his birthday,” said BHM Board Member Katherine Lang, who was instrumental in organizing the event. “We were thrilled and honored to be able to participate in the three-day ‘Pat Conroy at 70 Festival’ with this party in his honor.”
The birthday boy clearly savored the chance to reunite with family, old friends, former students and colleagues as he welcomed them, posing for pictures, recalling the good times they had shared and meeting his many admirers. His enthusiasm and warmth set the tone for a memorable evening.
Among the highlights of the party the birthday cake itself was a huge hit with partygoers, who were amazed that it was an exact replica of a shrimp boat, complete with Conroy’s birthdate and named “Miss Lila” after the character of his mother in his novel, The Prince of Tides. It sat on a tray surrounded by handcrafted white chocolate shrimp and oysters. The cake, a creation of the Smith and Feil families of Charleston, was sponsored by Halo Restaurant (Charleston) and Spartina 449 of Daufuskie Island.
Another favorite was a quilt, created by Conroy’s sister, Kathy Harvey. It was a birthday present commemorating milestones and memories of his first 70 years.
Rowland Washington, owner of Wings n’ Tings cooked up the lowcountry dishes served at the party. The band, Horizon, provided the smooth jazz music for the evening.
Among the notable friends, family and colleagues who attended were Sallie Robinson (author of a Gullah cookbook); Mina Truong (Conroy’s business partner and trainer); Jan Nordby Gretlund (who came all the way from Sweden); Marly Roussoff & Michael Radulescu (she is Conroy’s literary agent); Jonathan Haupt (Director at USC Press); Scott Graber (Classmate at The Citadel); Bernie Schein (he is a novelist and Conroy’s best friend); actor Michael O’Keefe (who played Conroy in the film Lords of Discipline); novelists Mark Powell and Valerie Sayers and Story River Books authors Ellen Malphrus, John Warley, John Lane, Mark Powell, Maggie Schein and Maggie’s husband and illustrator, Johnathan Hannah.