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My father’s dreams were decimated in 1924, but he never allowed them to halt his quest

My dad (in the background) with youngsters in West Pakistan in 1966

My dad, Hugh Conrad, Sr., went through many challenges in his life, but some of those early ones were devastating. In 1915, when he was nine-years-old, his father passed away, leaving six children and my grandmother, Katie Brady Conrad.

Nine years later, his brother, Phil, was killed in the Ku Klux Klan invasion of his hometown, Lilly, Pa., in an attempt to punish the Irish and Italian Catholics in the community.

That was supposedly a stray bullet, but the trajectory destroyed the dreams that my father had of obtaining an education. He had applied to a congressman for the opportunity to receive an appointment to the Naval Academy. Not only was that gone, but he had to become the breadwinner in the family, the role played by his older brother.

Nevertheless, he went to work with the U.S. Postal Service in 1925 and worked there for the next 40 years, except for a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

His goals realigned

He actually wanted to teach and coach sports, but in order to do that, he had to be a teacher. His family obligations precluded that, so in order to keep his love of sports alive, he became a basketball and football official. That led him to colleges around the state where he referred games, led him to the presidency of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, and then provided him with an opportunity to travel throughout the world with the U.S. State Department giving clinics to potential officials.

The photo above is on one of those trips, to East Pakistan and the far East, giving him a special opportunity to work with a college all-star basketball team as they helped young children in those countries to learn the game of basketball.

My dad in our backyard wearing the jacket he received as part of his trip to the Far East in 1966

High school game -- never putting up with nonsense

My dad estimated that he had worked something like 3,000 games over the years. He was not certain, but he did high school games, junior high games, and grade schools games .. along with his college work.

My first cousin, Jim Hugh Farren, who passed away last year in his early 90s, recalled an instance that I never heard of previously, but one that Jim had witnessed at a Portage High School game in the 1940s. He was working the game alone, but he still demanded discipline,

Your dad was refereeing a game at the high school gym on Caldwell Avenue, though I can’t remember who Portage was playing. Somehow, the players started fighting, and he singlehandedly broke it up and sent the players to their benches.

Then, he sat on the basketball at the circle [at mid-court] and insisted that the game would not continue until the players quit their fighting and started playing the way it was supposed to be played.

After a while, the teams returned, and for the rest of the game, nothing happened. That was a tribute to Uncle Hugh.

Conversation with Jim Farren, July 2021

And a great father

But what we remember most today is that he provided us with love and leadership in our lives. He was a community and church leader, and while he never earned a college degree, we knew how important education was to us if we were to accomplish anything in life.

Happy Father’s Day, Hugh Brady Conrad!

My dad's 1924 basketball team, fifth from left -- 24-2

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