Allyn Conwell: Voice Of The Hostages With AM-Hostage Families Bjt
HOUSTON (AP) _ Allyn Blair Conwell, who had the starring role in his high school senior play 20 years ago, held center stage in a real-life drama with an international cast.
Conwell, a clean-cut, poised oil field equipment salesman from Houston, was chosen as a spokesman for the 39 American hostages from the hijacked TWA Flight 847. Relatives say Conwell was a natural choice.
″He’s the leader type,″ says his older brother, Ron. ″He handles himself well under pressure and he’s a person who will think things out. He’s not prone to rash moves.″
Allyn Conwell, 39, spent much of the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Asia working for U.S. oil field service companies.
Before the hijacking, Conwell was living and working in Muscat, Oman, as area manager for Enterra Co., a subsidiary of the Houston-based Oil Field Rental Service Co., which rents heavy machinery for oil exploration and production.
His brother described him as a patriotic, conservative man with a strong sense of fair play.
″He feels angry and upset and he wants to get out of there. But I think at the same time, he understands that the people the Israelis are holding are angry and upset and want to get out of there too. I think he understands their cause,″ Ron Conwell said.
He lived in Houston until he finished junior high school, and then went to live with his father and stepmother in Mooreland, Ind., a hamlet in the eastern part of the state. His father and mother had divorced.
Nicknamed ″Big Al″ because of his 6-foot-2 stature, he was the epitome of the All-American boy, said stepmother Rosetta Conwell.
″He was so well-mannered, very polite. All the teachers just loved him,″ Mrs. Conwell said.
Conwell attended Blue River Valley High School, where he was involved in athletics, the Future Farmers of America and the National Honor Society. He won the leading role in his senior play, was elected president of his senior class and liked to debate, his stepmother said.
After graduation in 1965, he married his high-school sweetheart. They had a daughter, Terri, now 19, before divorcing six years later.
Conwell enrolled at Purdue University, but dropped out two years later ″because he wanted a career, he wanted to be doing something then,″ Mrs. Conwell said.
He returned to Houston and sold oil field equipment, said Ron Conwell. He later took similar jobs in Singapore, Dubai and Greece, where he met his second wife, Olga, 30. They have two children, Alexander, 5, and Alexis, 2.
Last year Conwell took a job with Enterra Co. and moved his family to Oman.
Ron Conwell said they ″were aware of the situation in that part of the world. But they really enjoyed it. They liked to go camping on the beach and they had a boat and went fishing a lot.″
Allyn Conwell and his family stopped in Houston in early June during an around the world trip to visit relatives and to sell their home in Houston.
″We all had such a good time, and I got to baby-sit my grandchildren,″ said his mother, Lois Conwell.
Conwell ended the vacation in Greece after visiting his wife’s family. The Conwells were booked on a June 14 flight back to Oman by way of Rome. But Mrs. Conwell and the children decided to remain in Corfu for an extended visit.