Pilgrimage to a Divine Landscape: The Resting Place of Pat Conroy

On November 7, 2017 while on vacation in Hilton Head with my wife, Mary Catherine, and my in-laws, we set out on a Pat Conroy Pilgrimage. At the Pat Conroy Literary Center, in Beaufort, S. C., Jonathan Haupt, the director, and Maura Connelly, Communications & Events Coordinator, welcomed us and proudly introduced us to the world of Pat Conroy.

Sitting in Pat’s writing chair behind his desk stirred a feeling for the 11 memorable books created there. The panorama of the marshlands captured the atmosphere of the Low Country while the commemorative quilt covered significant milestones in his life.

Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., opened a new challenge for him, one filled with imagination and beauty. One patch honors this school.

From the Center, we followed directions to St. Helena Memorial Cemetery located in a secluded wooded area on St. Helena’s Island. Pat chose his resting place wisely, a place worthy of Ronald Blythe’s Divine Landscapes. Various tokens scattered over the grave express readers’ devotion to Pat for his ability to tap the deepest emotions, as he was the herald of the common man.

In my memory of the school year 1960-1961, I recall a lonely student in a Gonzaga tenth grade English class. For this teacher, he is a dream — eager to learn, read, write and share his thoughts. Though a student, I consider him a kindred spirit, showing appreciation of the written word and talent as a writer.

At his grave, I prayed for him, thanking the Lord for the stories that continue to enrich our lives and for his boundless generosity to everyone.

The next day, Jonathan Haupt delivered a lecture, “A Reverence for Teaching,” at the Hilton Head Library. Jonathan covered Conroy’s former teachers and his varied experiences while teaching. Always teaching, always learning, Pat’s first teaching job was with underprivileged children of Daufuskie Island, located on the South Carolina coast, south of Hilton Head. Throughout his career, he taught seminars, advised young writers and spoke to each person during book signings. Near the end of his talk, Jonathan showed and read a letter by Pat to his Buford High School principal — inspiring in thought and word for its reverence and understanding.

What James Boswell was to Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Haupt is to Pat Conroy.

At eighty-five, my hope is to return annually, Revisit Jonathan Haupt and Maura Connelly at The Pat Conroy Literary Center, Participate in the annual conference, Pray at Pat Conroy’s Divine Landscape and at the Foolish Frog Restaurant Honor with a toast our beloved Pat Conroy.

 

– Joseph Monte, Former English Teacher

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