Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Remembering Dean Conway

A part of Yosemite’s history died when Dean Conway passed away on June 6, 2008. Conway was a legendary packer who packed in to the High Sierra people from all walks of life, along with at least one future president, film crews, and celebrities.

The obit from the Fresno Bee gives a far better overview of Conway’s life, than I could do, but the one time I got to meet Conway was a memorable one.

After retiring from Yosemite, Conway did plumbing in the Yosemite Gateway towns of Oakhurst and Coarsegold, and a plumbing emergency brought him to my house one Saturday morning. Since Dean worked in Yosemite long before my three short years there, I did not know who he was, but as he worked, we talked and he told me many stories of his packing days, including one about the son of a famous Yosemite photographer who would, on occasion, buzz the pack trains in his jet fighter.

During the service call, Conway noticed a photograph of mine that I had on the wall, and said something to the effect that that was one of his favorite places in the world. That surprised me a little as the photo, shown here, is just a black ridge line with a sunset. I said it was one of my favorite places too, and he asked if I knew where it was. “Conway Summit by Mono Lake,” I replied. “That’s right” he said, and told me that Conway Summit was named for his family, who had a ranch there. He proceeded to name the peaks on the ridge, as if he were naming off his own children. What became very evident in that moment was Conway’s deep love of the High Sierra, and that he was one amazing fellow. Before he left, he said, “That’s a nice photograph,” in a tone that let me know that he really liked it, and what it represented. I’ll cherish that compliment always.

Sadly, that was the only time I got to meet Conway. His passing takes with him a huge amount of Yosemite history. My deepest condolences to his family, and Dean, may you rest in peace by refreshing waters and green meadows that exceed anything you saw in this life.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aloha from Hawaii,

Thank you for this beautiful memorial of my husband. He was the finest man I ever knew. Your story about him is beautiful & it was truly Dean. I could see him there recognizing the skyline in your photograph.
My name is Leena & he was my beloved husband & boss & dearest friend from 1976 to eternity. I personally took care of him during his cancer which he became cured of. I knew no better man or person than him in this life. I miss his presence & hope to see him again soul to soul someday.
He told me that he wanted to be reborn into the same life he had as a cowboy, fisherman, lover of the wilderness in the Sierra Nevada. He asked me to rejoin him in that next life. His love for the mountains & people he met was special to him. To those who never knew him....you missed out. I was soooo...fortunate to have him in my life.

9:43 PM, October 15, 2010  

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