Officer celebrated Irish heritage with vigor
Bob Conroy was held captive by the Germans in World War II and served as a Pittsburgh police officer for nearly 40 years, but he wasn’t hardened by his experiences.
“He was the kindest guy,” said his daughter, Mary Lou Conroy of Oakland, who sometimes accompanied him on the beat.
Robert P. Conroy of Oakland died of pneumonia on Sunday, March 16, 2014, in West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield. He was 90.
He was born in Oakland to Irish immigrants Michael and Agnes Conroy. His father died when he was 7, and his mother was a housekeeper.
When he graduated from Central Catholic High School, he was drafted into the Army, where he was captured by the Germans and held prisoner. Dying of malnutrition, he was just 80 pounds when he was freed, his daughter said. He received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service.
He joined the Pittsburgh police force in 1950 and retired as a sergeant in 1988, but he didn’t stop working — he was an usher in the Civic Arena until he was 82.
“If it was a weekend and our phone rang at 2 or 3 o’clock in morning, you knew it was someone calling for a favor from my dad,” Mary Lou Conroy said, recalling the pleas for her father to help get someone out of jail. “Sometimes, he’d leave the house and go to the station, or sometimes he would just make a phone call and say, ‘They’re all right, let them go.’ ”
He married Mary Louise Joyce, whom he dated when she was a student in the former Cathedral High School. They used to enjoy dancing at the Irish Club in Oakland. Proud of his Irish heritage, Mr. Conroy attended Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade annually for about 50 years, not missing one until Saturday, and was the parade’s grand marshal in 2010.
“He was my father figure,” said his granddaughter, Kelly Conroy-Hosack of Munhall. “He’s so much more than a grandfather. If I was going through problems with friends or the passing of loved ones, he was the one who could always put a smile on your face.”
In addition to his daughter Mary Lou and granddaughter, Mr. Conroy is survived by a son, Thomas Conroy of Oakland; a daughter, Eileen Conroy of Harrisburg; and one great-grandchild.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Louise; daughter Patricia Ann Conroy; and his brothers, Michael and Thomas Conroy.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc., 4900 Centre Ave. at Devonshire Street in Shadyside. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in St. Regis Church.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.