‘He was one of the best’
Hayfield High School authorities learned early Dec. 6 that band instructor Dennis Conroy had died overnight, hours after leading the school’s pep band during a girls basketball game.
By noon, at least 15 area band directors had reached out to assist with music lessons and the winter holiday band concert, scheduled for this past Monday.
That’s how valued Conroy was as a colleague and friend, Hayfield principal Grant Klennert said.
“He was one of the best. Somebody who always had kids’ interest at heart,” Klennert said. “He always had a passion for music, and he was always willing to share that passion with kids. He was such a valued colleague, not only in our building but in southeast Minnesota.”
Conroy, 54, a native of Rice Lake, Wis., taught 23 years at Hayfield, and for 30 years overall. He and his wife, Sally, had three children, Kelsey, Nathan and Hannah. Sally Conroy is a speech clinician in the Hayfield school district.
Dennis Conroy was an avid cyclist who always thought “outside the box” for solutions, and had high expectations for his students, Klennert said.
“He was just one of those teachers who would be there whenever kids needed him,” Klennert said.
“He was very dedicated to the students and expected a lot of his students, but he only wanted the best for them and the entire band,” Hayfield schools district coordinator Lila Rehnelt said. “He would go the extra mile to help the kids. He was a special person, and definitely a gifted musician.”
Blooming Prairie High School band director Ross Reishus, who was tutored by Conroy upon joining the Blooming Prairie schools, played Saturday at Conroy’s funeral and planned to assist during Monday’s concert.
“The silver lining in all this is how overwhelming the outpouring of support has been from our community and all the schools in southern Minnesota,” Klennert said. “It’s a really unfortunate event, but we’ve really been able to see Hayfield rally toward the cause, and the small towns around us rally and show their support as well.”
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating,” Conroy’s fellow teacher Vince Reynolds said. “A small community like Hayfield, the community outpouring is overwhelming. They can’t believe the support that they’re receiving from the community.”
Counselors and church pastors offered assistance on Wednesday at the high school.
Klennert said the focus on Thursday turned toward honoring Conroy’s memory.
Senior and junior class band members chose a special selection to perform during Monday’s concert: “Silent Night.”