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Friends Mourn, Say Goodbye To Conaboy

November 12, 2018

SCRANTON — In a packed church nine blocks from where he lived, friends and family heard Senior U.S. District Judge Richard P. Conaboy eulogized as a great storyteller who played piano, sang at daughters’ weddings and struggled sentencing criminals. Always proud of his working-class roots in Scranton’s Minooka neighborhood, the judge felt as comfortable among maintenance workers and secretaries as lawyers, said the Rev. Scott Sterowski, pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Parish on Prospect Avenue. Conaboy and his wife of 68 years, Marion, regularly worshiped at the church. “Proud of his accomplishments, proud of his family, he never bragged. He never lost touch with his roots, he never thought that he was better than anyone else,” Sterowski said during a homily Monday at the judge’s funeral Mass at St. Paul’s. Conaboy, 93, died Friday morning. He suffered a heart attack six days earlier after choking on pasta at a local restaurant. The judge, who came up through local Democratic Party politics, served as a Scranton School Board member and president, chairman of the Lackawanna County Democratic Party, a county judge for 17 years, a full-time federal district judge for 13 years and a senior federal judge since September 1992. He served as chief judge of the county and federal courts, too. President Bill Clinton named him chairman of the United States Sentencing Commission, a post he held from 1994 to 1998. The Conaboys raised seven daughters and five sons and have 48 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren. Family filled the church’s front pews. Numerous members of the county’s political and legal elite also dotted the audience, a symbol of the lives the judge touched over the years. At the outset, a bagpiper blew “Amazing Grace” followed by “Danny Boy,” a nod to the judge’s Irish-Catholic upbringing. “I’m sure in telling the story of Judge Conaboy, many smiles come to your faces, as well as many a tear,” Sterowski said. “We celebrate a person who was a great storyteller. I understand that he loved to spin a yarn, he loved to talk about the old days, growing up in Minooka back in the good old days.” He lauded Conaboy’s integrity, professionalism, goodness, sacrifice and sense of duty, love and faith. “On the night prior to a sentencing, Judge Conaboy was always very, very restless. It was not a part of his role as judge that he found easy,” Sterowski said. “He wrestled with the decisions he made, assiduously studying the law and applying it with great wisdom and insight.” Attorney William P. Conaboy, one of the judge’s sons, said his father referred to himself as “a skinny, short guy from Minooka” who thought “no crisis ... couldn’t be handled around the kitchen table.” He marveled at how his parents daily fed 12 children and recalled family dinners and homework around the dining room table, fatherly discipline and road trips to the Jersey shore in packed cars. “So many weddings, so many births, so many graduations, so many deaths, so many crises, so many joys and momentous occasions, so many insurance claims for wrecked cars,” Conaboy said. “So many grocery bills that would choke and devastate the average man. So many tuition bills, so many mortgage refinancings ... so many mornings with no hot water left for his shower.” He recalled former Vice President Joseph Biden visiting his father at Regional Hospital in Scranton after Biden rallied voters at Pittston Area High School just two days before last Tuesday’s election. Biden helped Conaboy get appointed to the sentencing commission chairmanship. Biden, who regularly consulted with the judge, boasted about him to Conaboy’s family, William Conaboy said. “I want you to know this guy made me look good,” the vice president said. Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter.

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