Kathryn Ann Elizabeth Lawler Conway of Bath, Maine, formerly of Belfast, Maine and Washington, D.C., died Friday, January 31, 2020, at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine. Prior to her unexpected death, she was visited by family and loyal friends and talked with other friends and family across the country about her planned return home. A Memorial Mass was celebrated on Saturday, February 8th at St. John’s the Baptist Church, 39 Pleasant St., Brunswick, Maine. Interment will be in Arlington National Cemetery where Mrs. Conway will join her late husband, Paul Thomas Conway.
Mrs. Conway was shaped by her upbringing and was a devout Catholic, an unapologetic believer in American ingenuity and exceptionalism, and a fierce advocate for personal privacy, self-reliance and independence. She was a voracious reader of history and a daily consumer of business and political news, a habit formed by her father’s teaching her to read the daily Wall Street Journal. She was a creative artist who expressed herself through quilts and knitting, which she generously shared. Throughout her life she was known for her free spirit, Irish humor and rapier wit, steadfast loyalty to her loved ones, and advocacy for children and the rights of their parents.
She was born on March 9, 1924, the daughter of former Connecticut state legislator and City of Hartford Mayor Joseph Henry Lawler and Marguerite Hickey Lawler. She grew up in the colonial Whiting Homestead and surrounding 150-acre farm in West Hartford, Connecticut. Starting in the later-half of the 1800s, her family was involved in law, politics, and real estate, and owned a major wholesale liquor business, Thomas Lawler & Sons of Hartford, Connecticut, whose supply chains ranged from Kentucky and Tennessee to Ireland, and whose distributorships ranged throughout all major New England cities. Her father was a graduate of the Georgetown University Class of 1906 and the Harvard Law School Class of 1909. At Georgetown, her father was Captain of the baseball team, was a Founding Member of the Georgetown Athletics Club, the recipient of the Merrick Medal for public speaking and was handed his diploma by convocation speaker President Theodore Roosevelt. He was one of the youngest Mayors ever elected in the City of Hartford and won the respect of faith leaders and immigrant communities for his public intolerance of discrimination and, along with other New England Irish Catholic mayors, his opposition to the film Birth of Nation which he deemed racist and bigoted. Her relatives and parents were engaged in national Catholic and Democratic Party leadership circles for decades as well as the bipartisan Irish-American network that fought to establish the Republic of Ireland and to end British rule over the Irish people and their land. Her father’s friends and allies included former Boston Mayor John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, former New York Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith along with a broad assembly of ecumenical faith leaders and leaders in business, organized labor, press and political sectors.
Her mother, a graduate of Smith College, lead a professional career that included posts as a City of Hartford public school principal and, for the State of Connecticut Board of Education, a Field Agent for Americanization. When Kathryn was a little girl, her mother traveled across the country representing the Americanization program, a government initiative designed to help foreign-born adult citizens with their assimilation into American society through classes in English, the Constitution, free speech and religious tolerance, and their responsibilities to the country and their families as citizens in a free society. She was the oldest of four children and her three younger brothers would each serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, two of whom served during World War II.
She attended the Mount Saint Joseph Academy for girls, run by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy, in West Hartford. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Cornell University in 1946. She continued graduate and doctoral studies at Cornell University Graduate School, Fordham University, and Trinity College Graduate School, and received her Master’s Degree in Child Psychology from Trinity in 1952. Following her studies, Mrs. Conway was a social worker for Catholic Charities in New York City and Connecticut, working alongside state agencies including child protective services and law enforcement. She had deep respect for law enforcement and emergency personnel and was a staunch advocate of faith-based and non-profit social service solutions for parents and their children over government, and believed the family institution and privacy should be defended unless the lives of children were truly endangered. She was a tireless advocate of adoption and believed every child deserved a loving home and parents dedicated to fostering their individual imagination, creativity and character.
On January 5, 1952, she married Paul Thomas Conway of Boston, Massachusetts at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford, CT. Mr. Conway was graduate of Boston College with a Master’s in Psychology from Fordham University. He was a veteran of the USMC and USN Reserves and served on PT Boats in the South Pacific in WWII. He worked for Catholic Charities in New York City and the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He was recruited as a psychologist for Department of the Navy and worked for the Department of Defense and in support of other Federal agencies for several decades of the Cold War. The couple retired to Maine in 1978, a state each of their families knew and whose values reflected their own. Mr. Conway died on November 27, 1991, in Belfast, Maine due to medical malpractice.
Mr. and Mrs. Conway were both Founding Members of the American Catholic Psychological Association, an organization dedicated to maintaining religious values in the fields of psychology and social work and opposed to the diminishment of moral beliefs in the treatment and services afforded to those in need. In Washington, D.C., they maintained a circle of friendships dating back to their courtship and among colleagues in the cleared community of the Federal civil service, Diplomatic Corps, and military professionals fighting the Cold War. They were active parents in the activities of the parochial schools their children attended and were among the first families involved in formation of the Holy Spirit Parish and Holy Spirit School in Annandale, Virginia under the leadership of Pastor Paul Cauwe, Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the direction of His Excellency, John Russell, Bishop of Richmond, Virginia. Mrs. Conway worked closely with Father Cauwe to recruit a network of Catholic parents and professionals to stock the new Holy Spirit school with supplies and to fill the library with hundreds of books and educational toys for children. Father Cauwe, a native of Belgium who had been a missionary priest in China before World War II and a prisoner of Chinese communist forces in Manchuria for five years during the war, shared a personal friendship and deep philosophical bond with the Conways. He encouraged Mrs. Conway to further engage her personal network to help Catholic relief activities in Appalachia Virginia and West Virginia, which she did by collecting and distributing clothing, books and toys for needy parents and their children. In addition to her volunteer work on behalf of the Catholic Church, she and her husband also spent thousands of their volunteer hours with local Virginia hospital associations and volunteer fire departments including Inova Fairfax Hospital and the Burke Volunteer Fire Department.
In Maine, Mrs. Conway surrounded herself with good friends who shared her humor and interests in handcrafts, art, antiques, and home restoration. She kept regular company with friends Elizabeth Dingley of Bath, Mr. Dana Grondin, master craftsman and proprietor of Woodfinish Plus of Phippsburg, and a cadre of adventuresome and caring quilting friends and cooks who supplemented her passion for pizza from The Cabin Restaurant in Bath. A constant learner, she received expert certification in American needlework and design through Carnegie Mellon University. She was active with Pine Tree Quilters and was a faithful attendee at Sutherlands Auctions in North Yarmouth, Maine which she described as one the most fun and educational venues in Maine. She was thankful to the teams of professionals she assembled and trusted to help her achieve her aspirations of full independence, a warm home and strong health. These included her friends Mr. Kenneth Bray, Vice President, Bath Savings and Trust Company and Ms. Erica May of Bath Savings; her accountant Mr. William Brewer of Bath, Maine and proprietor of the William H. Brewer Company; her attorneys, Mr. James Elliott of Camden, Maine, founding partner of Elliott and MacLean law firm and the late Mr. Wendell Large of Portland, Maine, founding partner of the Portland law firm Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger; Mr. Jonathan Rice, manager of Wilson’s Drug Store in Bath, Maine, pharmacist Eric Morse and the full Wilson’s professional staff, her cardiologist Dr. Scott Mills of Mid Coast Hospital, her General Practitioners Dr. Carl De Mars and Dr. Christopher Hjorth of the Mid Coast Medical Group, Bath Internal Medicine and her Ophthalmologist Dr. Mark Marotta of Midcoast Eye Associates and the Mid Coast Hospital Emergency Room team of nurses and doctors – particularly those who fully respected her Roman Catholic beliefs and followed her express direction and choice of life.
Mrs. Conway was also especially grateful to the fine professionals of the City of Bath Fire and Police Departments, with whom she had a special relationship and an unwavering respect for their good humor, selfless service, bravery, and dedication to both citizens and mission. She is survived by her children Kathryn Marguerite Conway of New York, Eileen Marie Conway of Colorado, Elizabeth Theresa Coco of New York, and Paul T. Conway of Virginia and Maine; her brother Professor Thomas Lawler of Worcester, Massachusetts; and four grandsons and three great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Conway requested any gifts be made to the Catholic religious order of the Poor Clare’s, C/O Monastery of the Poor Clare’s, 2505 Stone Hedge Drive, Alexandria, VA 22306. Arrangements were managed by Stetson’s Funeral Home 12 Federal St. Brunswick where memorials condolences may be expressed at stetsonsfuneralhome.com