Dr. Graham Patrick Conroy, son of the late Earl Patrick Conroy and Florence Elizabeth Casey Conroy Butson was born April 30, 1925 in Portland, OR. He passed away on December 21, 2017 of natural causes at 92 years old. Graham was a lifetime resident of the greater Portland area including Lake Grove and Laurelhurst, moving to the NW Portland Alphabet District/Slabtown neighborhood in 1976. Prior to his death Graham resided at Pacifica Calaroga Terrace. Graham was a 4th generation Oregonian; his great-grandfather James Casey moved from County Loth, Ireland in 1849 and joined the Aaron Rose oxen train as the official blacksmith for the Rose party, traveling from Michigan to the Oregon Trail to found Roseburg in 1851.
Graham graduated from Lincoln High School in 1943, and briefly attended Reed College before enlisting in the US Navy during WWII. Graham served as the Aerographer’s Mate or weather forecaster on the USS Maryland (BB46) Battleship seeing active WWII combat in the Pacific during the Battle or Leyte Gulf; the USS Maryland was hit by a kamikaze attack aimed at the bridge where Graham was posted; machine gunners blasted off the plane’s wing diverting it toward the decks below. Graham recounted how he could see the intense look on the kamikaze pilots face as his plane headed for the bridge. Graham received an Honorable Discharge in 1945.
Following WWII Graham graduated from Stanford University in 1948; While attending Stanford Graham met students from Persia (now Iran) who introduced him to the Baha’i faith which centers on the belief in the unity of all religions and humanity. These lifelong friends preceded him in death recently, and as a faithful Baha’i Graham was honored in death by funeral rituals including being washed and wrapped in a white shroud and wearing a burial ring with the inscription “I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate”.
Graham continued with graduate studies at University of California, Berkeley, earning a master’s degree and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) after writing his thesis on Bishop Berkeley the namesake of UC Berkeley, and took pride in being the youngest recipient of a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California Berkeley. In 1960, after earning his PhD Graham became a Philosophy Professor at in Cheney WA Eastern WA University where he met and married Frances Rose Goodrich, bringing two daughters (Sheilagh and Gillian) into the world. In 1962 Graham became a Philosophy Professor at Portland State University. Although his office was in Neuberger Hall, the irony was not lost on him that he was now a few buildings away from Lincoln Hall where he began his high school experience when it was the original Lincoln High School location.
Graham taught countless students at PSU, retiring in 1990 becoming a Professor Emeritus after a 30 year career as a college professor. Graham was recognized upon his retirement with an official city proclamation of “Practice Preliminism Day” on March 9, 1990 with a proclamation written by Sigrid Clark with input from Rex Amos. The celebration held at Goose Hollow Inn has been recognized annually ever since. Mayor J.E. “Bud” Clark’s official city seal with its red ribbon has gone missing but its memory is held in perpetuity. Graham was the co-founder with his friend Rex Amos of the philosophy Preliminism (the theory and practice of practice). Preliminism which could be defined as a contemporary philosophy or an ongoing joke posits that “practice makes practice”. He lived this philosophy including sporting “PRELIM” vanity plates on his car, and wearing a “Practice Preliminism” button on his sport coats. In keeping with practice during funeral planning the funeral director said that to do the things we needed to prepare for a funeral after Christmas we need to hold the funeral yesterday. Graham had a Preliminism influence on that comment.
Graham had some great jobs with amazing stories including working in R&D with Nobel Prize winners at Los Alamos Laboratory culminating in being seated adjacent to the King of Sweden during a Nobel Prize award dinner. Graham also worked in Hollywood at the Pickwick Bookshop, a favorite haunt of movie stars and bibliophiles. He was as well versed in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein as he was in the jazz of Dizzy Gillespie who was also a Baha’i. Graham had an astonishing love and knowledge of classical music, able to identify a piece of music as soon as the first notes were played. Graham liked to tell of the time he was able to spend a night on a Persian carpet in Lake Oswego with the mythically reclusive author Thomas Pynchon. He claimed it was because he had promised Pynchon he wouldn’t turn it into an interview. Graham also took great pride in being the oldest member of the Jackie Chan Fan Club; he traveled to China and Hong Kong several times to meet with Jackie Chan including joining the crew during filming of “Rush Hour 2”. Graham was a voracious reader decorating his homes with wall-to-wall bookcases of scholarly books, having read each book multiple times. He also enjoyed writing poetry; his works are being gathered into a to be published poetry book. Graham enjoyed the arts as well and was so honored when Dutch artist Henk Pander asked him to model for a portrait of mathematician, astronomer and astrologer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) which debuted at the Russo Lee Gallery in 2013.
A funeral was held December 26, 2017 in the chapel at Holman’s Funeral and Cremation Service. Committal with Military Honors was held at Willamette National Cemetery.
Dr. Conroy is survived by his daughter Gillian Conroy, brother David Butson, and grandchildren Molly Conroy and Casey Foster. He was preceded in death in 1994 by his daughter Sheilagh Conroy, as well as siblings Bill Butson and Reah Earlene Conroy Walker. He is also survived by his beloved companion Mary Constans and faithful dog Spock.
Contributions in Graham’s memory can be made to:
Portland State University Alumni Association Scholarship Fund
PO Box 1326
Portland, OR 97207
Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Time: 11:30 am
A funeral will be held at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, December 26, 2017 in the chapel at Holman’s Funeral & Cremation Service. Committal with Military Honors will be held at 2:00 PM at Willamette National Cemetery.
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