Monday, July 8, 2013
Joe Conley was my dad's best friend for the past 67 years. They met in basic training for the Army in 1946. Both of them were sent as part of the occupying force to Tokyo in 1947. Joe was instrumental in getting my father to become Catholic; in fact, he helped to arrange my dad's baptism, first confession, first communion, and confirmation all within about two weeks! For as long as I can remember, a gold cross hung above my dad's dresser in our home - a gift from his godfather, Joe Conley.
All through my childhood and beyond, I heard stories about Joe and what a great friend he was to my dad. Not many people know it, but Joe was also a war hero; he also served in Korea where he was wounded in action and received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. He spent at least a year in a military hospital in San Francisco recovering from it.
As my father's career took many twists and turns, I noticed that Joe's did too. He bounced around in movies and TV getting small, regular roles here and there but never getting the big break that all actors look for. Just as he was about to give up on acting completely, he landed the regular role as Ike Godsey, the store keeper on the 70's TV show "The Waltons." The funny thing was that Joe also had a very successful real estate business that kept him busy too. When he finally retired, he did it in style.
I was lucky enough to meet Joe just one time. Dad and I went to see his sister for Christmas and we made a special side trip to see Joe. When he came in the room, he hugged and hugged my dad until I thought they were both going to burst. It was a special moment, and I was proud to witness it.
Yesterday, when Dad called to say that his oldest and dearest friend had passed away, part of me died too. I could hear the pain in my father's voice - haven't heard anything like that since his sainted mother died years ago.
Thanks, Joe, for being my dad's friend and for always being there. All of us Plunketts love you - especially the one you called your best friend.
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