Col. (USA Ret.) Joseph B. Conboy, an attorney, judge, professor, dean, decorated patriot, and devoted family man, managed to fit several lives and careers into his 90 years. He died on February 10th in South Bend, IN after a sudden decline and complications from pneumonia.
Born in Buffalo, NY, he attended Canisius High School and Canisius College before he shuffled out of Buffalo, serving with the U.S. Army in Korea, and returning to earn his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University. A blind date on Easter Sunday in 1955 bloomed into much more: he married Taine Rems in 1956, and they began a long, adventurous, and beautiful life together. They bought their first house in Grand Island, NY and Joseph hung out his lawyer’s shingle in Buffalo. He left that practice behind when his Army Reserve unit was called up for the Berlin Wall crisis in 1961. He entered the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps and never owned another house until he retired from military service in 1979.
But he and his growing family made every stop on this long adventure into a home: first on the east coast in Fort Dix, NJ and Charlottesville, VA and then across the pond in Germany: Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Berlin. He also served as Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) of the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam in 1970-71 and as SJA in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Along the way, he earned an LLM from George Washington University Law School in Criminal Law and Forensics. He ended his military career as Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the entire U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR).
Col. Conboy’s irrepressible spirit and sunny disposition led him to embrace each new posting and to create community wherever he went. His wife described perfectly his attitude toward life: “He had a song in his heart, and he made everything fun.”
Indeed, his good humor and focus on the upside were positively legendary; the only episode of a bad mood his family can remember occurred when he overslept blueberry pancakes on the USS Darby’s 1966 transatlantic sailing. Typically, while recovering from what proved to be unnecessary open-heart surgery in 2000, he reflected: “The best thing about this was learning I have the arteries of a teenager.”
When he retired from the Army, Col. Conboy immediately launched another career in academia—ultimately landing at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, where he served as Professor and Associate Dean for 30 years. In February of 2017, he and Taine decided to make Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame their 29th home.
Col. Conboy, who stood 6’3”, had both a big personality and a deep humility that was anchored in his Roman Catholic faith. He lost his parents at an early age and maintained close and loving relationships with his brother James and his sister Máire (Sr. Brigid Conboy, OSF), who both predeceased him.
He also had a big heart, and the list of family and friends who loved him is long. His immediate family includes Taine Conboy, his devoted wife of almost 62 years, and his four adoring daughters, Máire Fowler (Kevin) of Topeka, KS; Katie Conboy (Thomas O’Grady) of Milton, MA; Missy Conboy (William Mountford) of Granger, IN; and Amanda Carmona (Jaime) of Lubbock, TX. He was cherished by ten granddaughters and one grandson: Cydney and Emily, Mairéad, Caitríona, and Siobhán, Darby, Delaney, and Killian, Maggie, Molly, and J. J. He will also be missed profoundly by three great-granddaughters, one great-grandson, and his brother’s four children, affectionately known as “the other Conboys.”
Joseph Conboy fully identified with the phrase “blessed art thou amongst women,” and there was never a father prouder of having daughters, or one who gave more support to their varied aspirations. Pursue medical school at age 43? “Of course you can do that!” Get a Ph.D. in something the world considers frivolous? “You have found your passion!” Play basketball at Notre Dame when they don’t accept women? “Make it happen!” Change careers when doing so requires a whole new degree? “Go for it!” He was obviously an early and avid proponent of Title IX.
Joseph Conboy knew how to use time and when to take time, and he knew how to keep time too. He and Taine were flawless dance partners whose jitterbugging gave new meaning to cutting the rug. Asked why, at age 85, he would contemplate knee replacement surgery, he responded without missing a beat: “I’d like to dance again.” That goal sums up the spirit that drove his long, happy life.
Following a private funeral service at Holy Cross Village, Col. Conboy will be interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery later this year. Gifts in his memory can be made to the Texas Tech University School of Law Scholarship Fund, MS 0004, 3311 18th St, Lubbock, TX 79409-0004.
Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, IN is handling arrangements. To send online condolences, please visit www.kaniewski.com.