Pat Conroy is still teaching from 6 feet under

A place to rest

 Even some of Pat Conroy’s close friends didn’t know where he wanted to be buried. It was early 2016 and the author, suffering from cancer, had been severely ill for a month. 

Conroy | David G. Spielman file photo

But after the funeral mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Beaufort, which more than 1,000 people attended, a group of 30 family members and friends gathered at Conroy’s grave at St. Helena Memorial Gardens. At the time, the graveyard on St. Helena Island did not have one White person buried there, until Conroy. 

 “I was surprised,” said fellow Citadel classmate and author John Warley of Beaufort, “but someone later told me Pat went to a funeral there and said it was a peaceful place, and maybe he could be buried there.”

For years, Conroy would go on pilgrimages to authors’ graves, such as Thomas Wolfe’s resting place in Asheville, North Carolina. The author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini would see the pens and other mementos left by people who loved Wolfe. 

Death was a theme in Conroy’s many books, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous. In The Great Santini, the character based on his father dies in a military plane crash. In a Conroy cookbook, there is a chapter “Why Dying Down South is More Fun.” Answer: Because folks bring delicious food to the grieving family, of course. 

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