Mike Conway filled up the press box and a lot of lives
TORRINGTON – Mike Conway was a big, gregarious guy who just made every sporting venue we were at together that much better and every conversation a welcome part of the day.
Mike passed away last week at the age of 74 and again I was reminded how special and fleeting are the moments we share. How cool is the present moment that so quickly becomes tomorrow’s memory.
Mike led a diverse life – family guy, community guy, educational guy, sports guy. There are those who enjoyed all of Mike’s involvement. For me it was the sports and education part. I didn’t know Mike when he was the mayor of Torrington and had very little connection with his family except for a brief connection with his daughter Maggie, who used my room at Thomaston High School for adult education a while back.
It was sports that brought Mike and I together and sports that was the tie that binds. I first met Mike at the Torrington YMCA for a Torrington High swim meet. But it was really Torrington High football that we enjoyed together so much.
Mike was announcing the games with the late Mike Bacunas over Cable-5 television and I was covering the Raiders for the Waterbury Republican. On a weekly basis we filled the area press boxes. I used to joke with Mike that with their cameras and equipment they were going to have to build a second story for the rest of us.
We met every week, exchanged small talk and I would provide the halftime statistics. Occasionally Mike would sour the airwaves and have me on as a halftime guest. There was a lot warmth in the booth, some of it was hot air from all of us but most of it was good feeling from a bunch of guys that liked being together and enjoyed connecting once a week.
Thanksgiving Day was always special. A festive air with turkey in the future and a rivalry that was close to the heart. Mike was a Torrington High graduate, a proud member of the class of 1962. He was president of his class and editor of the student newspaper. He was always a Raider.
Mike loved giving out the `Helmet’ awarded to the winning team, especially if it was Torrington. But he especially liked getting a pumpkin pie from one of his fans every year. Mike, an accomplished cook on his own, loved that pie and when it stopped coming, I brought him a pie.
We shared a lot of laughs about that pie and a lot of warm days that will always be remembered and always missed.
Cable-5 eventually stopped doing the games and I saw less of Mike. But that didn’t stop the football connection. On more than one occasion he called and asked to go to a UConn football game, another great love of his. Unfortunately I never made it, a regret I still have.
After the football, the education connection kicked in. A former teacher at Torrington High, Mike ran the Adult Education Program held at Thomaston High for a while and I taught there.
I would walk in the building at night and Mike would be in a room doing his duties. I always stopped in. We talked football both Torrington and UConn, and just general happenings in our lives. He as a former teacher and I as present teacher at the time, we bantered about educational trends and our time in the classroom.
The last time I talked with Mike he had left a message on the phone on the death of his old announcing sidekick, Mike Bacunas. I could tell in his voice he was crushed.
In the big scheme of things, Mike and I didn’t spend a lot of time together. But the time we did spend together was quality. Football games weren’t quite the same when Mike stopped doing the game. And we will always share a part of Thanks giving Day.
Mike was a good guy and a good friend. He will be missed. Mike had been out of the press box for a quite a while but still it got a lot lonelier last week and lot emptier. So did a lot people’s lives. Thanks Mike.