Last week I wrote deer don’t touch pink lady lilies. They do! They nip the buds, just for a taste, and spit them right out, same as with daffodils.On the subject of flowers, at a well-attended luncheon following Sunday services at Montauk Community Church on August 17, E. Virgil Conway, who recently celebrated his 85th birthday, was presented with a large floral bouquet by session member Susan Raymond.
Asked to address those gathered, Mr. Conway said, “I always feel a speech coming on. My heart runneth over, and Elaine’s does too, my partner and beloved wife.” Also present was their daughter, Sarah Conway, who sang special music during the preceding church service, including, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” a particular favorite of her father.
Mr. Conway was baptized in Montauk Community Church. He has enjoyed innumerable dinners here, where congregation and friends were now gathered, in the downstairs community room of the church. He had appeared many times on this very stage, he said, dressed up in all kinds of costumes including shepherds and various roles young people typically play.
Recently, he said, daughter Sarah had been looking through items in the attic of the family home, and discovered love letters written by Mr. Conway’s father to his mother, before they were married. His mother then was still living in Missouri. Normally, two or three letters a week were penned. In one of the letters he warned of a forthcoming lapse when all his spare time would be taken up with fundraising for construction of the church, which was built in 1927. One of the first church elders, Mr. Conway senior was its first treasurer, a position his mother also held for 20 years after his father died. Mr. Conway said she knew nothing of finance and taught herself bookkeeping.
“You could say I come from strong Calvinistic roots,” he said. “The two main beliefs of Calvinism are, #1, everything we have is a gift from God, and #2, Calvin emphasized the importance of education.”
The present Virgil and Elaine Conway have put these ideals into action. For 20 years they have given a scholarship each year to a promising Montauk School graduating student going on to a four year college.
At Sunday’s luncheon, two tables were filled by recipients of the Conway Scholarship. Many of the recipients were, for me, entirely new faces. I took notes as each young person stood to introduce him or herself and give a short description of what they are now doing.
Jennifer Burke Chan, the 2004 recipient of the Conway scholarship, received a bachelor’s degree in English and music at Fairfield College. She impressed those assembled by singing, a cappella, “The Greatest Love of All,” a song popularized by Whitney Houston. Ms. Chan went on to get her master’s degree at the University of Bridgeport and now works for a federal Head Start preschool program in Connecticut.
In 2005, the Conway Scholarship was awarded to Jimmy Mirras, who studied at the University of Florida and for a time afterward worked in finance in Manhattan. Now he’s back locally, one of the co-founders of The Free Ride business. That’s the familiar environmentally friendly shuttle service that uses electric vehicles in and around the Hamptons.
Also present was JJ Burke, 2008 scholarship recipient who attended the University of Notre Dame and had traveled back to Montauk from Miami, where he works for an insurance company.
Shelby Joyce, the 2012 scholarship recipient, is attending the University of Miami where she’s studying green science, biology, and environmental science.
Kacey Malinson, a senior this fall at SUNY Geneseo where she majors in business with a minor in economics, is looking forward this year to an internship in Italy.
Recipient Molly Nolan did her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, where she majored in nutrition, and will start graduate studies this fall at NYU.
Also in attendance was MCC member Michael Burns. A returning sophomore at Stony Brook University this fall, Mike was awarded the 2013 scholarship. He’s studying mechanical engineering. His cousin, Shana Devlin, is this year’s scholarship recipient. Shana had to rush off to catch a plane taking her to her first week at College of Charleston in South Carolina. She sent word that she hopes she can follow in the footsteps of all the scholarship recipients who preceded her.
The luncheon was prepared by Carlos and Mayela Vargas with help of church deacons. One notable past recipient of the Conway Scholarship not present is Carlos Vargas Jr., the Vargas’s son who graduated from Cornell University in 2003 with a degree in landscape architecture. Carlos works for Gibney Design Group in Wading River. He and his wife have a home in Miller Place. They expect the birth of their second daughter any day and had been advised by doctors to stay close to home.