Published On: Fri, Aug 24th, 2018

Col. Willie “Bill” J. Condry: A True Gentleman, Leader, Christian

When Delray Beach city officials needed structure at Pompey Park Recreational Center some years ago, they tapped U.S. Army Colonel (Ret.) Willie “Bill” Condry – the city’s first black to reach such rank – to address the issue.

And when I needed advice on how to handle some recalcitrant subordinates in the Navy, it was Col. who helped to navigate me through the challenge.

A highly-decorated career Army officer, who was the voice of reasoning in many heated disputes, Col. went to be with the Lord on Sunday with his family by his bedside at Bethesda Memorial Hospital. He was 90.

He was candid and frank, and he was a source of knowledge. As a young reporter for one of the local newspapers, I would often sit with him outside his late mother’s home and just listen to his stories. I had the privilege of spending more personal time with him, as my fraternity brother, and relished his sage tutelage.

Oh, I marveled at his wisdom, especially how he could coin his phrase and make you feel good, even while admonishing you. He was a “master of diplomacy.” I recall at times asking him, ‘Col., did the Army teach you that?’ to which he would smile and quip: “C. Ron, you just keep living and you will see.”

The Quincy, Florida, native moved with his family to Delray Beach at the age of five and was educated in the Palm Beach County public school system. He graduated Carver High School in 1949 and was quarterback for the school’s first football team under the leadership of the late C. Spencer Pompey. He also served as president of the Junior and Senior classes.

During World War II, at the age of 17, he showed his love and patriotism for the United States of America by volunteering for the Army. The highlight of his enlisted career was being selected to serve as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia. For sentinels, being selected for the walk is an honor they vie for on a daily basis. An assignment to the midday walk, called the “noon moon,” is the ultimate prize.

Upon his discharge, Col. returned to complete high school then enrolled at Florida A&M College where he earned his bachelor’s degree and a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army. He served 30 honorable years including tours in Korea and Vietnam. He later earned a Master of Science in Education from Pepperdine University.

The devoted husband, father, and family man showed love and affection with strict educational and family values, the love of his life, Helen Franklin Condry, told me recently. As she puts it, they were united for 62 years, 11 months and 21 days. They had two sons, Willie J. Jr., and Wayne O.

After he retired in August 1980, he moved back home, which was when the City reached out to him. He lived in Boynton Beach and was active in both cities.

He served as campaign manager for Boynton Beach’s first black City Council member Sam Wright, was a member of the City’s Human Relations and Parks and Recreation boards, as well as a member of Congressman Alcee Hastings’ Military Academy Cadet Selection Committee.

He was also active in his church, Saint Paul AME in Delray Beach, where he wore many hats.  I think among his prized duties were teaching Sunday School and Bible Study and singing in the Sons of Allen Male Chorus. Being the instigator, I often poked fun about his singing, to which he would respond with his trademark chuckle, “And don’t forget I heard you sing before C. Ron.”

His civic and fraternal affiliations were so many. He was a charter member of several organizations both here in his hometown and Hawaii, where he was last stationed.

Services are pending at press time.

It is said that some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. It is safe to say that Col. did not have that problem.

On another important matter, Tuesday is election day and Boca Raton taxpayers have a lot hanging in the balance.

I would be remiss if I did not urge you to let your voices be heard at the ballot boxes.

Six candidates are vying for two seats on the city council, including the mayor’s. Both positions are critical to the future of the city. Not voting could be a vote for the wrong person getting in office. This could be detrimental.

  1. Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@DelrayBeachTribune.com or 561-665-0151.

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