"Hi. Here is an outline for my obit. Don't screw it up too badly." – Dave Condren, Sept. 25, 2013
Anyone who knew Dave Condren would tell you he was one of the funniest people they had ever met. So it's no surprise to learn that he made sure his wit would outlive him.
Mr. Condren, a longtime newspaper reporter who worked at four of the region's daily newspapers, including 20 years at The Buffalo News, died this week. Adhering to a newspaper tradition, Mr. Condren wrote his own obituary – with some holes to be filled later – a two-page typed document that was placed in a manila folder in the library at The News with the above direction for whomever would have the task of getting it in print.
This is how he told the story of his life.
Nov. 7, 1937 – July 15, 2019
David L. Condren, a newspaper reporter in Western New York for more than 42 years, died July 15 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital after a brief illness. He was 81.
Mr. Condren, whose familiar byline was simply "Dave Condren," retired from The Buffalo News on Dec. 1, 2002, after working there for nearly 20 years, including 14 years as religion reporter.
Earlier, he had worked at the former Buffalo Courier-Express for more than 16 years and at the Niagara Falls Gazette for three years. He began his newspaper career in 1960 with a three-year stint at the Lockport Union Sun and Journal.
Following the demise of the Courier-Express in 1982, he worked at WKBW-TV for five months as a news writer and assignment editor before joining The News.
During his lengthy newspaper career, Mr. Condren covered government, from the village and town, to the county and state levels, as well as education, crime, agriculture and general news, including feature and trend stories.
As religion reporter for The News, he wrote about issues faced by a variety of denominations – and their members – ranging from the Catholic Church to Protestant churches to Islam and Judaism.
He covered visits by Pope John Paul II to New York City and Denver, where he had an opportunity to shake hands with the pontiff. The religion beat also took him to national gatherings of the American Catholic bishops in Washington D.C., Baltimore and Dallas.
In 2001, he received the St. Paul Award from the Buffalo Catholic Diocese for his extensive coverage of the Catholic Church.
At the Courier-Express, Mr. Condren covered Erie County's infamous domed stadium episode and the planning for Buffalo's Metro Rail system and numerous major highways. For a time he was assigned to the Courier's Amherst bureau, covering the towns of Amherst and Clarence during their period of rapid growth.
Condren liked to boast that he felt fortunate to be able to work for four newspapers and a television station without ever moving from the City of Lockport, where he had resided since 1960.
Besides reporting, Mr. Condren's other loves were his wife of more than 58 years, the former Diane E. Cutter, his family and music.
A gifted singer, he played the guitar and led a folk ensemble in his parish, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Lockport, for nearly 35 years. He remained in the group for another five years after stepping down as leader, until the church was closed by the diocese in 2011. His music ministry included countless solo performances at weddings and funerals.
Condren also composed folk songs and numerous hymns and psalm settings, many of which were performed by his folk ensemble and others.
A former seminarian, Condren spent three years studying for the priesthood in the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the religious order that operated the former DeSales Catholic High School in Lockport. He often quipped that once you take the vow of poverty, it "never lets go" – a reference to the modest salaries typically paid to newspaper reporters.
He was a 39-year member of the Buffalo Newspaper Guild and a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 319 and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, both in Lockport. He served six years in the Army National Guard.
In retirement, Mr. Condren and his wife enjoyed three visits to Europe, touring Italy, Ireland, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. They also spent some of the winter in Florida and enjoyed semi-annual vacations in Las Vegas.
Mr. Condren was particularly proud of completing more than 10 years of participation in Silver Sneakers, a senior-fitness exercise program.
Born in Lockport, the son of Francis and Margretta Jones Condren, he grew up amid the dairies and orchards of the Town of Newfane.
He was a 1955 graduate of DeSales Catholic High School.
As a seminarian, he attended the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Later, he studied accounting at Niagara University.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Condren is survived by four daughters, Lori A. Platt, Colleen A Smith, Patricia A. Truax and Maureen E. Anderson; a son, Jeffrey; a sister, Mary Ellen Fuller; a brother, F. James; 17 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a younger brother, D. Michael Condren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 23 in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 168 Chestnut St., Lockport.
It should be noted that Condren did not include information about services that would be held after his death. But he wanted to be sure it wasn't forgotten, including this sentence as the last line in the information he left behind: "You will have to get funeral and burial arrangements – I'm not doing all your work."
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