True Catholic Rendezvous
Personal Reminiscence of the Late +William C. Koneazny, R.I.P.
Thomas A. Droleskey
News of the death
of William C. Koneazny reached me late on the evening of June 16, 2004.
He had died around the time of the Angelus earlier that morning, according
to an e-mail sent to Richard and Silvana Cowden-Guido by his daughter,
Mrs. Jean Koneazny Pollock. There was a Solemn High Requiem Mass
for this indescribable apostle of the Catholic Faith at the former Saint
Patrick Church in Falls Village, Connecticut, on Wednesday, June 23,
2004, at 10:00 a.m. As one who met Bill Koneazny and his remarkable
family nearly eighteen years ago, I want to renew on this fifth anniversary of Bill's death an assurance to his devoted widow, Mrs. Eloise Koneazny,
and to his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren (as well
as the rest of his family members) that we pray for his soul every day. And I also want to take this opportunity
to revisit a few reminiscences of a remarkable Catholic man, William C.
Koneazny, who was 77 years of age at the time of his death.
of God leads us to meet many people in the course of our lifetimes.
As the late Father John A. Hardon, S.J., noted frequently, "There
is no such thing as a coincidence. Everything happens within the Providence
of God." I was led to meet Bill and Eloise Koneazny and their clan
back when I was running for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the Right
to Life Party line in the summer of 1986.
Jean Pollock, who ran what
was called the "Summer Catholic Rendezvous" at the Canaan
Valley Sporting Club in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in
an area where the border between northwestern Connecticut and southwestern
Massachusetts meanders and weaves in an almost incomprehensible manner,
called me to ask my running mate, Nassau County District Attorney Denis
Dillon, and/or me to speak at their Summer Rendezvous. Mrs. Marjorie
Garvey, who helped to put out The Parents' Guide to Opus Dei,
had recommended that Jean contact me.
Well, Mr. Dillon was unavailable.
Thus, Jean had to settle for me. I can say in all truth that my agreeing
to speak at the Rendezvous in the summer of 1986 helped to set me on
the path to correct the errors of my Americanist ways and thus become an
advocate of the Social Reign of Christ the King. As you will discover
below, Bill Koneazny himself played a major role in my "conversion" in this regard.
gave me meticulous directions to the Canaan Valley Sporting Club. Although
I made a wrong turn or two on the mountain roads that were on the final
leg of my journey from Long Island to Sheffield, Massachusetts, I made
it there late on a Friday afternoon. The children of Jean Pollock and
her husband Patrick were holding down the fort at the dilapidating structure
that was the sporting club. Little did I realize that those six children,
who ranged in age at that time from eleven to one (God blessed them
with four more siblings), had been exposed all throughout their lives
to some of the most influential Catholics, men and women who had participated
in the phenomenon (and there is no other word to describe it) known
as the Catholic Rendezvous, both in Sheffield and at the Ragamont Inn
in Salisbury, Connecticut, in November of each year.
Rendezvous was organized by Bill and Eloise Koneazny in the early 1970s
to gather together a variety of Catholic speakers for a combination
of talks, spiritual devotions, debates and discussions, all interspersed
with a considerable amount of the consumption of adult beveragesT and
the smoking of oversized cigars, neither of which interested me in the slightest. That, however, did not deter me from enjoying the camaraderie of the Rendezvous.
The Rendezvous was an outgrowth of Triumph magazine, which had been started by the late Brent
Bozell in 1964 when he broke with his brother-in-law, William F. Buckley,
Jr., over the secular conservative thrust of National Review.
The late Brent Bozell, the father of the Brent Bozell who is known as
the "conservative" bird dog of the "mainstream" media, came to understand the necessity
of promoting the triumph of the Social Reign of Christ the King as the
only way to retard the evils of modernity.
Among some of the writers
of Triumph apart from Mr. Bozell who were recruited to participate in
the Rendezvous in the early days were Warren Carroll, who founded Christendom
College in 1977, Garry Potter, and Donald D'Elia, a professor of history
at the State University of New York College at New Paltz (and a prominent
figure in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic
Social Scientists). Among those who would participate as the years wore
on were Richard Cowden-Guido, Father James LeBar
(the chief exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York), the late Dr. William
A. Marra, and a whole host of others whose names I simply cannot recall
at this point.
My own participation in the Rendezvous came relatively
late in the phenomenon's life. Many of the Rendezvousers were early
participants in Operation Rescue. Some of them were brutalized in the
police riot that took place in West Hartford, Connecticut, in June of
1989. The Rendezvous was an eclectic mix of sometimes quite eccentric
personalities. Each Rendezvous had enough combustible material to ignite
heated conversations about First and Last Things, to say nothing about
the state of the Church and the world. And it spawned a few imitations.
Garry Potter had a Washington Catholic Rendezvous in February of 1987.
Most of the participants
in the Rendezvous were earnest "conservative" Catholics who
were devoted to the Social Reign of Christ the King but who had yet
to come to realize the importance of restoring the Traditional Latin
Mass. Nonetheless, contacts were made there that helped many of us to
find our way to tradition. The late Dr. Marra helped the Koneaznys find
their way back to Tradition, just as he had helped me, along with Bill
Koneazny, to come to understand the incompatibility of the American
founding with the Faith. The Rendezvous thus brought together a variety
of disparate souls who came to profit from the interchanges provided
I met Bill Koneazny
and his wife Eloise late that Friday afternoon in July of 1986. He was
sitting in a plastic chair on the veranda of the Canaan Valley Sporting
Club, bedecked in a large shirt that he wore outside of his pants and
festooned with a straw Panama hat. A cigar, which I came to realize
was an ubiquitous feature of his, was being puffed quite merrily as
he shook my hand. He began speaking about his early days in the tree
and pest business, describing also his days as a stand-up comedian in
some of the local establishments in western Massachusetts. I had no
idea, however, of the Catholic profundity of this man until the next
morning, although I discovered the piety of the home in which his wife
and he lived later that evening. They had created a very impressive
outdoor Way of Cross that led to a stone shrine in honor of Our Lady.
"These are serious Catholics," I thought to myself at the
time. I learned just how serious by the following morning.
had asked me to give a talk to the young people gathered for the Summer
(or Youth) Rendezvous about the sin of "human respect." The
first part of the talk centered on the obligations we have to be soldiers
in the Army of Christ and to resist peer pressure and popularity in
order to stand fast in defense of the Holy Faith. I would not change
a word of the first part of that talk. The second part, however, centered
on how we had the opportunity under the framework of the American Constitution
to speak as Catholics and to restore once again the primacy of God's
laws over human law as the foundation of the administration of justice.
I not only would change everything about the second part of that talk;
I am embarrassed by the fact that I gave it.
really stuck it to me immediately after I had completed my talk. As
he took a puff on his cigar in the big plastic arm chair, he barked,
"The Constitution is evil. It does not mention Christ." I
"defended" the Constitution by saying that it at least gave
us the opportunity to compete in the marketplace of ideas, that we could
use its framework to plant the seeds for the Catholicization of the
country. I was quite wrong, of course, which is why I recognize only
too well the arguments made by those who think me daft nowadays for
my criticism of the American founding as antithetical to the Catholic
Bill Koneazny was unimpressed with my response. Speaking quite
directly to a candidate for the second highest office in the State of
New York, Bill said, "Politics is a sideshow." I was not ready
at that time to accept his comments. However, I filed them away. By
the grace of our dear Blessed Mother I came to recognize the Catholic
wisdom she had imparted upon William C. Koneazny and his brilliant ability
to speak truth in a direct and forceful manner between puffs on a cigar.
He was right, I was wrong.
Bill and Eloise
Koneazny spent a great deal of money funding the food and the drinks
served at the Rendezvous, to say nothing of paying for the expenses
of the speakers. They cooked up many of the meals for the rendezvouers,
especially during the summer rendezvous, and served their guests. They
demonstrated both humility and graciousness, sprinkled with a lot of
good humor, in the process.
Indeed, Bill was an expert chef. He and
Eloise had their own catering business, an enterprise that would bring
them into the homes of people who found themselves exposed to the Koneaznys'
apostolic efforts. And Bill and Eloise would venture down the 120 miles
or so from the Berkshire Mountains to New York City once or twice a
year, staying at Howard Johnson's hotel on the west side of Manhattan,
affording them a good location from which to witness to the Catholic
Faith to street walkers and drug dealers. Bill used these occasions
to swagger into bars with his panama hat and walking stick, shouting
out, "Listen up, everyone. Belly on up to the bar. We're talking
about God and the Catholic Church. Drinks are on the house." Bill,
who was a very good apologist for the Faith, took on all comers. God
uses each man's strengths to try to reach other's souls. Bill Koneazny's
strength was that he was a showman who used his naturally gregarious
bent for the sake of bringing souls into the true Church (or bringing
the fallen away back into the Church).
Bill and Eloise's
generosity extended to the speakers they imported for the Rendezvous.
They put up some of the speakers in their home, nestled in the foothills
of the Berkshires in Sheffield, Massachusetts, although they spent a
few months every year in a winter home in Picayune, Mississippi. I spent
a few nights at their home in Sheffield back in July of 1986, sharing
a bedroom with Dr. Don D'Elia. A typical Rendezvous moment occurred
the first evening of my stay there.
has worn hearing aids for years. He stored his hearing aids in a drawer
of a bureau in the bedroom we were sharing in the Koneazny house that
weekend in 1986. I heard a strange sort of buzzing sound emanating from
the direction of the bureau, not knowing it was the sound of Don's hearing
aids. Don was sound asleep in his bed, stone cold deaf as he snored
up a storm. Well, as one who treasures the opportunity to sleep, I was
determined to stop the noise. So, I pounded on the bureau. The noise
We found out the next morning that I had killed Don D'Elia's
hearing aids. "I think I killed Don D'Elia's hearing aids," I announced the next morning at breakfast. Bill and Eloise just roared
when the story was recounted. Indeed, Bill, who had been, as mentioned
before, a professional comic and story-teller, was full of personal
vignettes that had occurred over the years at the Rendezvous. And his
broad sense of humor, which could range from the earthy to the dry,
usually manifested itself in multifaceted ways during the course of
any given Rendezvous.
One of the
examples of Bill Koneazny's dry humor occurred at the end of the "winter"
Rendezvous at the Ragamont Inn in November of 1989. He posted a typewritten
"schedule" for the final day, a Sunday, of the Rendezvous.
It went something like this:
Everyone leaves the Ragamont Inn to return home
Farley Clinton speaks
If you don't
catch that one, I am sorry, folks. Bill was having some fun at the expense
of Farley Clinton, who has been for some years now the Rome correspondent
for The Wanderer, who was not present at that Rendezvous. Bill
was also able to poke fun at himself, especially when he moderated Catholic
trivia games. And he was not above trying bring a bit of levity to events
that were a little pretentious, as he did at a fund-raiser for Christendom
College in New York City in the 1980s. The precise nature of Bill's
prank is probably best not to publish here. Suffice it to say, however,
that it brought down the house. And there was the time in 1987 during
the youth Rendezvous that a large spider was lowering itself right next
to where Ann Cillus, who heads the Padre Pio Society in Canada, was
speaking. Mrs. Cillus was a little unnerved by the arachnid. Bill Koneazny
was unfazed. He took the spider by its web, put it in his mouth and
ate it with delight. "Could have used a bit more pepper,"
he said as Mrs. Cillus tried to control a scream of surprise. Bill just
licked his chops as Mrs. Cillus tried to regain her composure.
beyond all that Bill Koneazny sought to do for the Church--and above
and beyond the burlesque nature of the personality he used to good effect
in public settings, though, he and his wife were first and foremost
Catholic parents who were concerned about getting their children home
to Heaven. Each of their four children (Jean, Joan, Jennifer and James,
all "J's in honor of Our Lord) continued on their parents' apostolic
efforts in their own way, welcoming their own children quite generously
and training them, the Koneazys' grandchildren, to be apostles for Christ
the King and Mary our Immaculate Queen.
Bill Koneazny was man known to do great penances. He once announced that he was going to go on a strict bread and water fast throughout the forty days of Lent. I was very impressed when he said to this to me. He then deadpanned. "Yes, I am going to drink nothing other than beer during the entirety of Lent. What's beer but bread and water compressed into a can?"
Although quite the jokester
in public, Bill Koneazny was deadly serious about the salvation of his
immortal soul, especially about prayer and real acts of penance and mortification. His daughter Jean Pollock told me in a phone conversation
five days before he died that he prayed the Thirty Days' Novena to Saint
Joseph every day of his adult life. Bill Koneazny, although he had gone
to the Novus Ordo for over twenty years before the late Bill
Marra brought him back to Tradition, was not influenced by the new religion
into thinking that he had his salvation assured for him. He worked out
his salvation in fear and in trembling, spending countless hidden hours
in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and to the Mother of God.
As a man of consummate
faith and complete acceptance of the will of God, Bill Koneazny gave
remarkable witness to others when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer
in 2003. After having been given the initial news, Bill went back for
a follow-up examination. He brought some flowers for the nurse who had
been attending him. Quite surprised, she said, "No patient's ever
given me flowers before." Bill told her, "No one's ever given
me cancer before." By the grace of our dear Blessed Mother, Bill
Koneazny, who would frequently sing in a very loud voice "Ave,
Ave, Ave, Maria" as he walked through the corridors of the Canaan
Valley Sporting Club or the Ragamont Inn during a Rendezvous, was intent
on demonstrating that a Catholic accepts the news of a terminal illness
with faith in the will of God, being grateful for the opportunity to
prepare for a happy and holy death.
has now encountered his true Catholic rendezvous. It can be said that
the Rendezvous events he sponsored over the course of twenty years (the
last one was in Kingston, New York in 1994, I believe) were really something
of a foretaste of the Last Day, when all of the souls of the just will
be rejoicing forever in the glory of the Beatific Vision.
has had his rendezvous with the Divine Master he loved so completely
and served so well throughout his seventy-seven years of life. He would
be the first one to implore his family and his many hundreds upon hundreds
of friends and acquaintances to pray for the repose of his immortal
soul and to have Masses offered for him ceaselessly, to say nothing
of remembering him in their daily Rosaries. The legacy of Catholic apostolic
zeal and fervor he imparted upon his children and grandchildren will
include Masses offered for his immortal soul when his great grandchildren
are having children or have entered the religious life.
What I did not note five years ago in the original posting of this article was that the late William C. Koneazny, the man who helped to steer me away from there heresy of Americanism, was also light years ahead of me about the simple truth that those who defect from the Faith expel themselves from the Church and thus cannot hold ecclesiastical office legitimately. Bill's prayers from eternity, I am sure, helped us to find our way to the truth about our ecclesiastical situation. It was through the Koneaznys and the Pollocks that we met Father Joseph Collins in 2003, and it was through Father Collins that we met Father Denis McMahon, who brought my late father-in-law, Mr. John Collins, back to the Faith one month before he died in 2007 after having been away from It for over seventy years. We owe Bill a great deal.
Bill Koneazny was sent many graces by Our Lady in his life. He did not waste them. He is still working for us from eternity as his dear widow, Mrs. Eloise Koneazny, has Masses offered for his immortal soul on the sixteenth of each and every month and as his friends, including us, remember his immortal soul in our prayers every single day without fail.
Once again, in behalf
of my wife Sharon and our daughter Lucy Mary Norma, I want to assure Mrs. Koneazny and her children and their spouses and their own children of our prayers for Bill Koneazny's immortal soul each day, including this fifth anniversary of his death. The little church in Falls Village
was indeed bursting at the seams five years ago when Father Joseph Collins, who is the pastor of Saint Michael's Chuch in Glenmont, New York, offered Bill's Requiem Mass, which itself was a testament to the affection that so many
people continue to have for a giant of a Catholic apostle who had such
love for Our Lord, Our Lady, Saint Joseph and all of the angels and
I have quoted Bill Koneazny several times on this site over the years. His daughter Jean told me of her late father's unshakeable Faith in Our Lady's Fatima Message. Bill knew full well that Our Lady's Immaculate Heart would triumph in the end. As he told his children, "Our Lady will come and throw the bums out!"
aeternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat ei.
in pace. Amen.
ejus et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant
in pace. Amen.
The late + William C. Koneazny, R.I.P.