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Dan Conway the ‘storyteller’

In his 79 years, Dan Conway has held a lot of titles — teacher, coach, world-class runner, musician, mentor, friend. The Superior man has added one more to the list — author.

His book, “Carry on Regardless,” is a collection of stories from a man known as quite a storyteller. Starting with his childhood in Superior, the book travels with Conway across the years, and the world.

“I’ve known him forever,” said Lyle Hofstedt, whose friendship with Conway began over softball in the 1960s. “I knew most of the stories. It’s just kind of overwhelming when you put it all together. He did do a lot.”

Superior cross country coach Lee Sims was glad to hear Conway, his mentor, had penned a book.

“He’s a gem for Superior,” Sims said. “He’s a very special athlete for Superior. He’s big time. He was flown all over the world by Nike.”

And yet, say those who know him, he’s a very humble guy.

“He doesn’t like to blow his own horn,” said Lynn Hoff, Conway’s best friend.

But he does love to strum the ukulele.

“He’s a bad ukulele player, I’m a bad piano player, and we’re both bad singers with an affinity for show tunes,” said Tim Stratioti, director of the Superior branch of the Boys & Girls Club. “Since he retired 20 years ago we’ve gotten together just about every week to play music and laugh at each other.”

Conway was a history teacher and coach in Superior, Minong and, for nearly 28 years, in Chetek. He took students down to state competition and coached the Chetek boys team in 1983, when the undefeated Bulldogs were named state champions.

“I loved teaching; I love coaching,” Conway said.

And they appreciated him.

“You just knew how much he believed in you,” said Sims. “You ran for yourself and your team, of course, but you ran for Dan Conway too. He helped make you run for something bigger than yourself.”

A teacher exchange position in England did more than provide the title of Conway’s book. It propelled him into distance running.

That path took him to races in France, Canada and New Zealand and peppered his resume with titles, from Master Runner of the Year in 1982 and four-time Grandma’s Marathon Masters Champion to world record holder for the indoor mile in three different age groups.

Conway is listed in seven halls of fame, including the USA Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame and the WIAA Cross-Country Coaches Hall of Fame.

Through it all, he continued to teach, coach, run and mentor others.

“He’s respected by pretty much everybody who knows him,” Sims said. “When you see him at meets you just want to talk to Dan Conway. You always walk away with a smile.”

For about a year and a half, Conway worked on putting his life story down. He took a continuing education course at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, twice. Conway wrote every story longhand.

“He is a natural storyteller, so he had a real knack for bringing these interesting points out in the book,” said personal historian Mary Beth Frost, who teaches the class. “He’s a good writer, a good storyteller. He’s funny. What a sense of humor.”

Like most of her students, Conway wondered who would want to read his stories.

“I think he underestimated the impact he had on his students and the people he runs with,” Frost said.

In January, Conway was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. That gave him the impetus to get the book out now, even if a few stories were left untold. At $20 a copy, he doesn’t plan to get rich from the publication.

“The title is ‘Carry on Regardless’ and if it should inspire any runners, that’s all I hope for,” Conway said. “ I hope they get a laugh out of it, maybe, a time or two.”

When he heard a fellow teacher in England tell a student to “Carry on regardless, lad,” Conway latched onto the phrase.

“I thought that’s a metaphor for a book,” he said. “So that’s something to do in life, whatever it throws at you, you carry on regardless.”

It became a motto at the end of missives to friends and fellow runners — COR — and the title of his book.

Hoff said one of her friends who read the book admitted to laughing out loud a couple times, and crying once.

“His writing style is very approachable,” Sims said. “I can see him telling them, the little pauses, the voices.”

And it includes Conway’s “not so secret training formula” to inspire runners of all ages.

“I started when I was 37,” he said. “It took me a lot of places.”

Conway will be signing and selling copies of the book during a Boys & Girls Club fundraiser from 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday. Proceeds of the event will go to the club.

Conway has been a very big, behind-the-scenes, constant supporter of the club for the last 11 years, Stratioti said.

A book signing will also take place from 2-4 p.m. April 21 at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High School.

For more information on book availability, email snookshoff@gmail.com.

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