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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
4:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)
Martine Vilas Conway (Marty), born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 15, 1931, quietly passed away on April 1st, 2023 after a brief vigil, joined by several friends and family who had a chance to say their goodbyes and pray at her bedside. Marty was a dedicated mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, a pious Christian, a model of camaraderie and a paradigm of gratitude; she received so many blessings in her life and returned them in kind a hundredfold to her family, friends and society-at-large. Born to loving parents Martine McCulloch Vilas and Charles Wylie Vilas, and four wonderful older siblings -- Jean, Elizabeth, John and Adrienne -- her family doted on her as much as she adored them. Marty was raised in Cleveland Heights, in St Ann parish, then after sixth grade, moved to Gesu parish, where she caught the eye (“I chased him until he caught me”) of her future husband of 65 years, Gerald Anthony Conway. Despite her inchoate love interest, she recalled fondly her annual summer trips away to Ogontz, an all-girl summer camp in New Hampshire. She often hummed her old camp songs even seven decades later. Graduated in 1949 from Hathaway Brown School, whence she, by her …”grace, buoyancy and zest,” garnered many true friends. Marty studied at Vassar College until June of 1951, when she was wed to her lifelong companion, Gerry. In short order, a large, happy family with seven Conway children ensued. She always put family first and raised her children with wise guidance and abundant love.
Marty suffered tribulation with astonishing composure. An abiding sense of piety in God’s benevolent Providence gave her the strength and confidence to pull through the toughest times, and she surely was tested in a few desperate family tragedies. Nevertheless, she was preternaturally good-humored and upbeat virtually all the time. Serving others in need was always her priority; even when there were many little ones at home, she made time for charity, always a cheerful giver of her time and energy at home and away. She regularly helped parishioners in the impoverished Catholic parish in Hough neighborhood, Our Lady Of Fatima, which her children remember fondly by the awesome recipes she brought home — Brazilian Chicken tops the list. A long time member of the Junior League, she was a regular of the International Women’s Group, helping newly arrived immigrants to get on their feet in their new home in Cleveland. A woman from Turkey recently came to call on Marty and thank her, forty years after she had first made her feel welcome in her new country. Some impact!
In her mature years, her alma mater, Hathaway Brown, got a large share of her time and attention. She served there on boards, volunteered, and notably, she endowed three distinct scholarships, including the Aspire Chair; she also underwrote the HB Serendipity Fund to help girls with financial constraints to fully participate in extracurriculars, with emphasis on tennis and swimming. A copious benefactor to numerous causes and institutions, including The Urban Community School, University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra and Trees, Water and People (co-founded by her son, Stuart). treeswaterpeople.org is a top rated 501(c)(3) using 99% of it’s funding to help families in isolated foreign and domestic communities to make a growing impact on global ecology with a focus on preserving forests worldwide.
Marty cherished and partook of every moment of life to its fullest, never at a loss for companions, nor activities to share. An avid bridge and tennis player, she also enjoyed entertaining of an evening, but she never once indulged in tobacco, nor coffee nor alcohol; one could argue that their putative benefits were redundant, being innate to her — her boundless energy and joie de vivre were omnipresent. After Christmas and Easter her favorite day was Kentucky Derby day, an homage to her mother’s hometown of Louisville, where she also often visited relatives. Marty acquired a curiosity over genealogy from Mary McCulloch, an elder aunt who enjoyed tracing her family history. Marty loved to pass on stories of the colorful characters and events in days of yore, featuring one or another long lost kinsman: Gilded Age entrepreneurs, several war heroes, Kentucky pioneers, Catholic Colonists, Clergy and Cavaliers.
Marty and Gerry loved summer getaways at Chedwel, on Lake Chautauqua, enjoying the Institution, fun with their grandchildren, and opening it to myriad guests and extended family. For the past thirty years, winter called for a trip to the Skyline Country Club in the Catalina foothills near Tucson, Arizona. Up until the past four years, Marty often led her teenage grandchildren up the rugged mountain sides on challenging hikes. She had to quit tennis and hiking a few years ago due to knee pain, but she still cut a wicked Charleston dance until just last year! Her last words on the night before she died were, “I love you.”
She is survived by five children, Kevin C. Conway (Kelley), Stuart N. Conway (Jenny), Gerald A. Conway, Jr. (Srini), Paul D. Conway (Jazmin), Martine Conway Bennett (Tyson); her twelve grandchildren — Jeffrey (Amanda), Jeremy, David, Chris, Laura (Ben), Charlotte, Kenzie (Mario), Audrey, Nathaniel, Wren, Adrian, and Johann; six great-grandchildren — David-Jacob, Amarianna, Lumière, Giovanni, Estelle, and Celeste; and seventy cherished Vilas and Conway nieces and nephews.
The family affirms its gratitude to the kind and conscientious people at Arden Court Memory Care and Hospice, where Marty enjoyed her last full year in safety and inimitable comfort. Deep appreciation and thanks go out to Joseph Latona of ProCare Management in Chagrin Falls; Joe has been supervising the family office and the health and general welfare of Marty and her late husband Gerry for many decades with limitless dedication and effort above and beyond his duties.
Friends may call from 4-7pm, April 11, 2023 at Brown-Forward Funeral Home at 17022 Chagrin Blvd, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120.
A funeral mass will be celebrated on April 12, 2023 at 11am, at St Joan of Arc Church, 496 E. Washington St; Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022.