After 45 years of service, Conboys bid farewell to Cumberland

After 45 years of service, Conboys bid farewell to Cumberland

The Rev. Thomas F. Conboy Jr., who along with his wife, Lois, has served Cumberland for 45 years, will retire next month and move to Minnetonka, Minn., to be closer to their son’s family. The three local parishes he served each hosted Sunday receptions for the Conboys, the final one this Sunday at Calvin Presbyterian Church on Angell Road, Cumberland. (Breeze photo by Tom Ward)

CUMBERLAND – The Rev. Thomas Conboy Jr. says he never expected Rhode Island to become his lasting home when he and his wife moved here in 1972. Now, the Pittsburgh transplant is struggling to wrap his mind around leaving.

“I never expected to be around this long,” he said.

Conboy, 87, told The Valley Breeze he was still planning until recently to stay in Cumberland for the rest of his life when circumstances outside of his control, health issues for his wife, Lois, changed his family’s course.

The Conboys are set to take part in the last of a series of receptions this Sunday, Oct. 15, at Calvin Presbyterian Church on Angell Road, where Conboy served for 25 years. Earlier receptions where held at the Arnold Mills United Methodist Church on Nate Whipple Highway, where Conboy served as minister of visitation for 17 years after retiring from Calvin in 1997, and at Four Corners Community Chapel at Chapel Four Corners, where he performed many weddings and baptisms and preached when the church’s ministers were on vacation.

The Conboys are retiring to Minnetonka, Minn., this month to be closer to their son and family there. Lois has been in rehab for a broken leg suffered on May 8, and she was given the option to get around-the-clock assistance at a facility here in Rhode Island or move to an assisted living facility in Minnesota. With family in Minnesota, the decision was easy, said Conboy.

The couple will be downsizing from a seven-room home on Plantation Drive to a one-bedroom apartment in Minnesota. Conboy’s current office is as big as the couple’s new living room, he said, meaning he has to downsize significantly, from four desks to one desk.

“I’m compacting,” he said, laughing.

Conboy said he and his wife came to Rhode Island from Pennsylvania to serve two congregations that had merged. He helped oversee construction of a new building and multiple addition projects for a “very active and thriving congregation.” Calvin Church provided leadership in the community and a home to various community functions, he said.

The departing minister said he’s always felt that clergy members should be highly active in their community, which is why he got involved with the Cumberland Library Board of Trustees, serving on it for more than 40 years and overseeing multiple building programs to grow the library to the facility it is today. He was also on the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln.

“I feel that every citizen has that responsibility make their community a better place,” he said. “I always felt that service was absolutely essential, particularly for clergy.”

Conboy said he and other ministers have “been blessed by God in so many ways,” and as spiritual leaders of the community, it’s important to “demonstrate our faith that does not just limit itself to Sunday morning.”

He was fortunate, said Conboy, to serve Cumberland during a time when church and faith were more important to people. The churches he served had one service on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., he said, and families have to make a tough decision between Sunday morning sports and going to church. During his early days here, clergy offered prayer at middle school and high school graduations.

“You don’t do that anymore,” he said.

Conboy said he was fortunate to be able to witness to his Christian faith without hitting people over the head with it.

“You live it by example,” he said. “It becomes part of you.”

Many people in the church talk about being a person of strong faith but never back it up in life, he said. Others talk little about their faith, but prove it by being caring and considerate people.

The Conboys spent their first 25 years in Cumberland living at the church parsonage on Nottingham Way before buying their house on Plantation Drive.

Following Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. service at Calvin, a reception will be held for the Conboys. Conboy said he felt it was important for church members to also say goodbye to his wife, who was a 30-year teacher in the Cumberland School Department prior to her retirement in 1999. Lois also served as choir director and organist at Calvin, and was an “outstanding church musician,” said her husband. She taught private piano lessons for much of the family’s time in Cumberland.

Conboy said he and his wife have been “blessed by a wonderful community,” and will always be grateful for the support of residents and town officials for the church’s ministry.