Condolences to the Family and Friends of Paul Conaway
By Dick Jerardi
Nine days after Paul Conaway, 63, tragically died from injuries suffered in a car accident, family and close friends gathered Sept. 28 at the Red Horse Motoring Club in Pottstown to tell Paul stories at a Celebration of a Life very well lived.
If you were with Paul, he insisted on you having a good time. And nowhere was that more evident than at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.
After an adventure straight from horse hell, Favorite Tale, a horse Conaway bred and owned, was going to run in the BC Sprint. The race had been a year in the planning, but then a quarantine at Parx where the Pennsylvania bred was stabled with trainer Lupe Preciado, forced the horse on an odyssey that included other race tracks and training centers. Then, on the way to Lexington, Ky., a van carrying Favorite Tale broke down and the horse had to spend hours in that van by the side of the road. Then, Favorite Tale drew the 14 post against the toughest field of sprinters assembled that year.
No matter. Paul, with his beloved Judi constantly by his side and his family and friends along for the ride, took everybody out to dinner the night before the big race, just anticipating a moment that would last less than 69 seconds. And he made plans for another dinner the next night regardless of how the race played out.
Judi asked me to tell that Breeders’ Cup story at the Celebration as a prelude to a wonderful video Let’s Go Racing producer Bruce Casella masterfully crafted about that day at Keeneland. Mostly, before the video and after, I felt fortunate to listen to so many stories from those who knew Paul best. He lived his life with rare joy, no matter what might be happening.
And he really loved his horses, especially Favorite Tale, the horse which started 24 times from 2014 to 2018 with nine wins, five seconds, four thirds, earnings of $1,026,300, and four stakes wins. One of the biggest wins of the horse’s career came in the 2014 Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes on Pennsylvania Derby Day, the day the great California Chrome raced at Parx. The winner’s circle picture from the Gallant Bob had a prominent place among Paul’s memorabilia at the Celebration.
Favorite Tale’s best performance was in that 2015 BC Sprint. Sent off at 23-1 against the great Runhappy and the very accomplished Private Zone, Favorite Tale was always very wide and always very much in the race.
There were moments in the stretch when it almost seemed possible that he could win it. In the end, “Favorite’’ as Paul and Judi always called him, finished third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind Runhappy and 1 length behind Private Zone. Those two were going to be difficult for any horse in the field to beat. That Favorite Tale had finished in front of the other 11 horses felt very much like winning.
And that was the reaction in the “Conaway’’ boxes overlooking the track. Paul’s face positively glowed. In the biggest race of the horse’s life, Favorite Tale had performed brilliantly.
Those moments were re-lived the rest of that afternoon and well into the night at another dinner Paul hosted. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s final race, a tour de force in the BC Classic, may have been the big national story. But, for those from Pennsylvania, there was another celebration for another horse and his people.
That we lost Paul so tragically and far too young was shocking and just so sad. Thankfully, we got to remember him, learn more about his life as a brilliant salesman and how he loved to ride motorcycles and play cornhole among so many other pursuits, hobbies and charitable endeavors. Paul Conaway absolutely was, as so many said, a larger-than-life figure. Anybody who knew him even a little knew that. So we will all miss him, but we won’t ever forget him.
Ticket extraordinaire, Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones, and Joe Cocker fan, successful racehorse owner, family man, husband, father, grandfather, passed away on Sunday, September 19, 2021, at the age 63. Paul was born in Wilmington, DE on December 2, 1957. He attended Oxford High School and went on to enlist and serve in the United States Army in 1975. Paul was the President/CEO of Wanamaker Ticket Office, which was one of the first brick-and-mortar ticket agencies in Philadelphia. When you needed tickets, you called Paul. He combined his love of sports, music, and theater with his natural ability to make connections and sell tickets to your favorite events. Through his generosity, his friends and family were lucky enough to accompany him on many events including the 2004 Super Bowl featuring the Eagles, the 2008/2009 World Series which his beloved Phillies won, and so many more. He could often be found on the golf course, where his competitive side emerged. He had a great jump shot and was a tremendous fan of Dr. J and the 76ers. He was an avid music fan and concertgoer, lucky enough to attend Live Aid in Philadelphia. He took great pride in sharing his love of music with his sons and took them to their first concert to see Eric Clapton at the Spectrum in 1985. Thanks, Dad! A fan of horses since his childhood, Paul was a racehorse owner with his most successful horse, Favorite Tale, who was honored as the top thoroughbred in Pennsylvania in 2014. A milestone of which he was very proud. He had a soft heart for bulldogs and owned several over the years. When he wasn’t with friends, family, and attending events he would spend his day riding his Harley, finding peace, and feeling the breeze through his great head of hair. Paul is survived by his wife Karen, his two sons Jeremi (Greta) and Jacob (Lauren), his sister Paula (Gerry), and brother Bob, along with his grandchildren Davis, Dakotah, Drake, and Palmer. He is reunited with his parents Paul Sr. and Dora who proceeded him. His kind heart and generous spirit will live with those who knew him. The world changes from year to year, our lives from day to day, but the love and memory of you shall never pass away. Until we meet again! We love you.