The beloved S.C. author Pat Conroy is to be interred in Beaufort, SC today, and I for one will miss him. My first exposure to his writing was of course The Water is Wide. I have visited Daufuskie Island and seen the small school house where he taught students many of whom had never been off the island in their lives. When I was a student at the College of Charleston majoring in English, Conroy came to visit and told us about meeting Jon Voight who played the author in the movie
Conrack. Conroy laughed that he felt so nervous about speaking to the actor and his voice cracked like a teenager's.
The next time I saw Conroy was at a writer's conference for English teachers where he said that he had written Prince of Tides specifically for the English teachers of South Carolina. Prince of Tides is my favorite Conroy book because in many instances he waxes positively poetic when talking about the white dolphin, the tides of the Atlantic, and the beauty of the low country.
The final time I met the author was at the Jewish Community Center about the time that Charleston was dedicating it's Holocaust Memorial downtown in Marion Square. Several Holocaust survivors were speaking that night, and Conroy was there because Beach Music had recently been published. The novel tells the story of descendants of Holocaust survivors. Conroy said that as a young teen his mother had made him read the Diary of Anne Frank and told him that if he ever did become a writer, he should write about important events like the Holocaust. Beach Music was written to fulfill his mother's wish.
As an author and teacher, I will always consider Pat Conroy an inspiration even though many of his books were controversial. He wrote from the heart.