Amherst Magazine
ROBERT JAMES CONWAY ’51

Robert James Conway, son of James S. and Clara (Booth) Conway, was born in New Hartford, N.Y., March 20, 1929, and he died at home in Clinton, N.Y., Sept. 15, 2008. He died from late complications of esophageal cancer. Bob is survived by his wife, Frances (Glass) Conway; their son, Dr. James Conway; their daughter, Lisa (Conway) Hameline; and his sister, Dorothy (Conway) Pratt.

Bob graduated from New Hartford High School in upstate New York. At Amherst he majored in American studies and played on the freshman and varsity teams in both football and basketball. A fine defensive halfback, he ripped off a dazzling punt return in the Colby game. One year Amherst sponsored a boxing exhibition, inviting students to volunteer as participants who would be gloved and paired up against each other for a few rounds.  Bob, not one to be timid about physical challenges, volunteered. I remember watching him glide gracefully about the ring as he and his opponent went about the business of pummeling each other.

During the summer of 1950, Bob and Frances Grass chanced to meet in the Adirondack Mountains. He was visiting a friend, and she was there from her home in Virginia to work in a resort hotel as a riding instructor. Frances grew up on a tobacco farm and graduated from Mary Washington Univ. They married in 1953.

After graduating from Amherst, Conway joined the U.S. Air Force. He completed his training to be a pilot, and in 1953, he was sent with his wife to Bitburg Air Base in the Eifel Mountains of West Germany. Bitburg was becoming a major frontline military base in the Cold War. The pilots faced the daunting assignment of learning to fly new supersonic jets, first the F-86 and, a couple of years later, the F-100. They made constant sorties over western Europe, and fatal accidents occurred. Bob also was gone from the base on extended maneuvers, sometimes to North Africa for tension-filled weeks. There were leave breaks, however, when the family was able to travel in a relaxed fashion through other parts of Germany. The Conways lived at the base for five years. Their son, Jamie, was born in Germany, Lisa, later in the U.S.

In 1958, Bob left the U.S. Air Force and returned with his family to his hometown in upstate New York. Starting with a background in carpentry, he began a business building houses. The business was hurt by a sinking local economy and ultimately was abandoned. Bob changed course and studied at Syracuse Univ. to become a teacher. Afterwards, he taught math for 24 years at New Hartford High School, the same school where he had been a student and shining star athlete almost a generation before. During those years teaching, he continued his involvement in sports, coaching children in Pop Warner football and becoming good enough in golf to win numerous tournaments and to reign for several years as the club champion. Frances is athletic herself, and the parents’ talents have extended to their children. Besides his physical endeavors, Bob was an avid reader, especially of historical texts.

Frances wrote in a letter about their life together: “Bob and I were hikers and backpackers. We both loved the Adirondacks, and we had the summers free. We took long hikes (weeks!) and climbed the highest peaks. He loved all that—the planning, the lean-tos, the fires.”

—Bill Neill ’51

 

Quick Links

Post Your Remembrance

To post a remembrance for an individual, click on "Add Comment."