John H. Conrath

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John H. Conrath, 93, of Belleville, IL, born February 16, 1927, in Belleville, IL, died Tuesday, May 12, 2020, at St. Paul’s Senior Community, Belleville, IL.

John graduated from Cathedral High School in 1944 and served in the Pacific Theater during the last year of World War II and beyond with the U.S. Merchant Marine aboard the U.S.S. Shiloh.  At the outbreak of the Korean Conflict he served with the U.S. Army at Ft. Belvoir, VA where he was a member of the swimming and diving team.  He was then transferred to Cheltenham Air Base near Bournemouth, England at the end of hostilities.  He was an intrepid traveler all his life and was able to tour the rest of Europe at that time.

In between his periods of military service, he and his older brother Willard, began building new homes, forming Conrath Brothers, Builders and Developers, a business partnership that lasted some 60 years. Among their major career milestones were, the development of the “New Additions” of Chenot Place Subdivision from 1960 until around 2000.  The Old U.S. Post Office Building, at 105 West A St., an impressive Beaux Arts style Federal building was active from 1911 to 1965. After a few years of decline the brothers saw the financial and sentimental value in the building, where their father had served as Assistant Postmaster. They then bought and renovated it. They sold it to Belleville School District #118 in 1970, which still occupies it to this day.  They also renovated the Henry Kircher Mansion on Kircher Place between N. Charles and N. Church Streets. The historic home of the Civil War Veteran and post-war Belleville Mayor was also in a state of decline.  After buying and rehabbing it in the late 1960s it became a modern apartment building.  They sold the building to another landlord and it still retains its residential function today. Past his aforementioned career pursuits, he continued as a very active broker, mainly with Coldwell Banker, Brown Realty into his 80s.

He was a member of the local order of the Elks Lodge and a member of Westhaven Bath and Tennis Club with his family and large circle of friends.  He enjoyed swimming, golf, tennis and diving there for many years.  His love of boating and water skiing included vacations to The Lake of the Ozarks along with day trips to Litchfield and Carlyle Lakes plus the Kaskaskia River, always in the company of family and friends. He taught many a novice the joy of water skiing along the way.  He was a member of the Belle Valley School Board and a trustee of the East Side Volunteer Fire Department.  He was a member of Cathedral, St. Luke and St. Teresa parishes throughout his life and served on the fundraising committee of the latter to build a new church in the late 1960s. He satisfied his lifelong fascination with aviation by obtaining his private pilot’s license.  He also loved music and was never shy when it came to entertaining, no matter the venue, whenever he spied an opportunity at an open microphone.

John’s lifelong wanderlust never faded. He was always ready to go anywhere, always curious about what was around the next corner.  He did much traveling in the 1980s and ’90s including two more tours of Europe where he revisited a few of the places he’d been during his military service.  The highlight was probably a visit to his ancestral hometown of Weinsberg, Germany.  One of his great-grandfathers, Frederick Conrath, emigrated from there in 1833 at the age of 13 with his family, eventually settling in Freeburg, IL.

His infectiously positive attitude, perseverance, and his open heart in helping others in business and life itself set the bar high and gained him much love and respect from anyone who knew him. His warm, sincere smile will be missed. His was the definition of a full life, well lived. He will be sorely missed by all of his friends, immediate and extended family. Those close to him who departed this world before him are appropriately being serenaded again with his favorite go-to song, “Pennies From Heaven”.

He was preceded in death by his parents, John G. and Helen Alma, nee Rudolph, Conrath; a brother, Willard J. Conrath; and a sister, Doris “Connie” (Leo G.) Wagner.

Surviving are his loving wife of 67 years, Mary Beth, nee Binnette, Conrath, whom he married on February 7, 1953;
a son, John D. Conrath;
two daughters, Kathy (Ryan) Stewart, and Julie (Elliott) Temmer;
two grandchildren, Amanda Conrath and Jack Temmer;
a sister, Shirley (Hans) Gebhardt;
numerous nieces and nephews;
a special caretaker, Anna Allen;
dear friends, Richard and Shirley Juenger;
and many lifelong friends.

The family would also like to express their deep gratitude to the caring staff at St. Paul’s Senior Community.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Family Hospice, 5110 West Main Street, Belleville, IL, 62226, or to the Belleville Area Humane Society, 1301 South 11th Street, Belleville, IL 62226. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at www.rennerfh.com.

Funeral:  A private graveside service was held Saturday, May 16, 2020, at Green Mount Catholic Cemetery, Belleville, IL. A memorial mass will be held at a later date.

 

Condolences:

17 Comments on John H. Conrath

Marge Emke said : Guest Report May 22, 2020 at 1:51 AM

Mary Beth so sorry to hear of John’s passing. I have fond memories of time spent with you and John when my husband Joe was a resident at St. Paul’s. I know that John always enjoyed the occasional baked goods I would bring for all four of us to share. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Belleville
  • Illinois
Mark Juen said : Guest Report May 18, 2020 at 5:30 PM

Mary Beth and family, So sorry to hear about John. He will always have a special place in our hearts. How lucky we were to grow up around the Conrath brothers.

  • Belleville
  • Illinois
Marsha Nester said : Guest Report May 18, 2020 at 2:36 PM

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Conrath. As many do, I also have fond memories of Mr. Conrath. I especially remember him having the patience of Job many many years ago when he taught me and finally got me up on one ski! Mrs Conrath and John please know that the Conrath family and all that loved him have my deepest sympathy and are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Jeff and Linda Uhl said : Guest Report May 18, 2020 at 7:47 AM

Mary Beth, John and you were always special friends to our family and the fun always began when John showed up. He had a love for life that was infectious. Dad has many stories of the antics that ensued when John and Willard were part of the group. Wonderful memories! He will be missed. God grant you comfort with your beautiful memories.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Greg Voss said : Guest Report May 18, 2020 at 1:38 AM

Mary Beth, John, Kathy and Julie, I am so happy to have met your husband and father at St. Paul's. He remembered my father and my uncle (Virgil and Leo) from high school. I always saw John, Sr. at Mass in the chapel. I was also pleased and honored to meet Mary Beth and John, Jr.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Dennis and Mary Wise said : Guest Report May 17, 2020 at 4:26 PM

I remember John and his brother from working on their trucks at the mobil station on Carlyle Ave in the 70's always very friendly and kind prayers are with the family God bless

  • Belleville
  • IL
Steve Carroll said : Guest Report May 17, 2020 at 2:57 PM

I’m so sorry. From a distance I knew John Conrath, and thought he was one of the coolest. I will remember him. One love.

  • Spearfish
  • SD
Kathy Ehret said : Guest Report May 16, 2020 at 1:24 PM

Dear MaryBeth and entire Conrath family, I am the daughter of Grant Ehret whom was a very dear lifelong friend and business colleague of John’s. Dad used to share stories of travel and adventures with John and Shiek and their buddies, especially stories of boat escapades of their time together. Always had us laughing and wondering what they were going to come up with next.... but just wanted to offer my sincerest condolences from myself and our entire Ehret family and let you know that Grant and John’s lifelong friendship meant so much to my Dad. They shared defining moments in friendship not only in their lifetime together as friends but at St. Paul’s in the dining room in the last months of their lives. Dad wanted to be at a place where he had a friend He chose St. Paul’s. We as a family are so sorry for your loss and hope in the future that wonderful memories of John can comfort you in the days to come! Our most sincere condolences.... Kathy Ehret

  • Brighton
  • Colorado
F.X.Heiligenstein said : Guest Report May 15, 2020 at 11:06 PM

My sympathy to all of the Conrath family. Always enjoyed talking to him many years ago.

  • Freeburg,
  • Illinois
Gary L. Cox said : Guest Report May 15, 2020 at 5:03 PM

My condolences to the Conrath family. John served the Belle Valley community well. Also, I remember the crazy dives at Westhaven pool, absolutely fearless.

  • Belleville
  • Illinois
KayLisch said : Guest Report May 15, 2020 at 4:55 PM

Uncle John's love of life and song and people fills my heart. He was so intrested that we all live the best and fullest life possible. I feel blessed to have been in his light beam.

  • Dallas
  • Texas
Paul Fink said : Guest Report May 15, 2020 at 10:53 AM

My condolences to the Conrath family. Have many great memories of being a guest in the Conrath home(s). John, Frank, Bill and I were inseperable for a number of years. So sorry for your loss.

  • Chattanooga
  • Tennessee
Dennis and Helene Sparger said : Guest Report May 15, 2020 at 10:29 AM

Our deepest sympathy to Mary Beth, John, Kathy, Julie and all the Conrath family. God has blessed you with such a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, and continues to watch over you. We met John in 1966 when we moved to Belleville and rented a duplex from him. Five years later we bought our first home, built to last by the Conrath Brothers. Living just a few doors away on Hemlock Drive we were able to see John on many, many occasions. He never failed to be cheerful and full of joy, and he spread that joy with all around him. John was always such a positive influence on others. The world could use more people like John. He will be missed but never forgotten.

  • Belleville
  • IL
2 SOUTH NURSING STAFF said : Guest Report May 15, 2020 at 7:28 AM

SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS ,MAY GOD BLESS

  • collinsville
  • illinois
George (Skip) and Nancy Uhl said : Guest Report May 14, 2020 at 8:00 PM

Mary Beth and Johnny, Nancy and I send our sincerest condolences and prayers at this difficult time. We wish we were able to be with you. No matter the age, it is hard to say goodbye. Mr. Conrath was always a delight to be around. Always the funniest Dad of them all. We’ll never forget his dry wit and late night diving antics at Westhaven many years ago (pre-Elks). And many many other memories.We’ll sure miss him and we thank and salute him for his service to our country. He and Willard were good and honorable businessmen and an asset to Belleville. Warmest wishes to your entire family, Skip and Nancy Uhl

  • Belleville
  • IL
Jeff Neuburg said : Guest Report May 14, 2020 at 6:11 PM

Mr. “C” as I referred to him in later years, was my second father. He was both an inspiration and the guy you didn’t want to disappoint. When my brother, his son, and I “borrowed “ wood from a house he was building, to build a fort, he was none too happy. But as we grew older, I came to understand and appreciate what a great dude he was. When in college, I spent most Thanksgivings at the Conrath house, and I’ll never forget the tour that Mr. C gave me. In his truck, we went to the first house that he and “Sheiik had ever built. He told me they were young and didn’t know anything, but they gave it a shot. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the beginning of a beautiful thing.. He then showed me the 2nd house. A little bigger and better. And so on, to subdivisions , lakes, etc. I was so inspired that when I got out of college I started my own business., knowing nothing, of course. .Over the years, I have always treasured my visits with him and the advice he has given me. In addition to being a great businessman, he was a fearless human and a physical phenomenon . Whether doing crazy stunts off the diving board or at the Lake of the Ozarks on water skis, he blew us kid’s minds. He was my hero and inspires me everyday. My heart goes out to Marybeth, the best wife in the world, Johnny, Kathy and Julie. Here is a poem I wrote for him, when I last saw him in the fall. Mr C , You’re a world treasure. The lives you’ve brightened are beyond measure. Thanks for inspiring me and many others. I’ll never forget you, nor will my brother. JWN

  • Springfield
  • Va
Tim and Connie Hagan said : Guest Report May 14, 2020 at 5:18 PM

Enjoyed our visits over the last couple of years with John and Mary Beth, our sincere condolences to the family.

  • Dallas
  • TX

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