Sunday, October 1, 2023

National Park Service’s John Conoby Dies


Corrales’ John Conoboy died suddenly on New Year’s Day after a 32-year career with the National Park Service, most notably its National Trail System. A memorial will be held  Saturday, March 18 at the Conoboy home in Corrales; email for details.

His Park Service projects included pending designation of the Route 66 National Historic Trail, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, among several others.

In the Albuquerque metro area, he was best known for performing Irish music, starting with his band Beyond the Pale. He and wife, Carol Nelson Conoboy and two children moved to Corrales in 1991 where they created an orchard and garden featured in Corrales Comment’s March 2014 Garden and Landscape issue.

Conoboy was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1945. He graduated magna cum laude from Case-Western Reserve University with a degree in geology. After marriage in 1967, he did graduate work in geology and paleontology at Cal Tech and University of California - Davis. Then they both taught at the  Quakers’ Sandy Spring Friends School outside Washington DC.

While there, in 1975, he was hired as a seasonal Park Service employee at the C&O Canal National Historical Park. A year later, he went on as permanent staff with its river safety team. In 1977, he transfer to the Mt. Rainier National Park as a ranger and as an emergency medical technician (EMT) with a search and rescue crew. He transferred in 1982 to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah as chief of operations. For a time, he was acting superintendent of Crater Lake National Park.

In 1989, he was assigned to the Long Distance Trails Office in Santa Fe where he helped develop an exploratory study for what would become the Route 66 National Historic Trail proposal. He continued working on that project until his retirement in 2008 and beyond as a volunteer. That dedication led Amy Webb, of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to declare that “John’s guidance and expertise as we have been navigating Congress and the legislative process have been invaluable, and I honestly don’t know what we will do without him. I will miss his calm and reassuring presence, and the fierce passion he brought to his work with Route 66.”

With his father and brother, Conoboy first visited Ireland in 1972 and returned in 2008 and 2019. He had taught himself to play guitar, banjo and mandolin, skills that extended his repertoire of Celtic tunes which he shared in Irish pubs and living rooms in this country and elsewhere. Here, he joined a Celtic music group and learned to play the bouzouki; he was a steadfast member of the local Zoukfest. He loved playing Irish music with friends.

He is survived by his wife, children Heather Bridgid Conoboy and Brendan Conoboy and their spouses and children, as well as his brother Richard Conoboy.

In lieu of flowers or memorial donations, the family suggests well wishers contact their congressional representatives to support legislation to designate Route 66 as the nation’s next National Historic Trail, or contact the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership at for details.