‘Grumpy’ was anything but, 5K walkers say

Nov 7, 2022

Claire Smith wants you to know that her brother, the late Bob “Grumpy” Conway, was not grumpy at all.

“He didn’t talk a lot,” Smith said, “so as many times as he would see people, he was always quiet, and they would just assume he was grumpy.”

Smith remembered Conway, a 46-year-employee of the A.D. Makepeace Company and nature photographer who died in 2009, as a gentle and caring man who loved the environment and his community. 

“He had families all over the county that he cared about,” Smith said, “that he would stop in and check with.”

People from across Massachusetts and beyond ran and walked through A.D. Makepeace’s cranberry bogs in Conway’s memory on Saturday, Nov. 5, the tenth Grumpy’s Cranberry Harvest 5K. 

“It’s heartwarming,” Smith said. “This is the first time I’ve been emotional. I went and dug out two of his hats today and I just bawled. He left such a legacy.” 

The runners and walkers, many of them Wareham locals, lined up to enjoy cranberry treats after the race.

“I thought it was great,” said first-time runner Debbie Cook, of Onset. “The scenery was fantastic. The route was beautiful. All the runners and walkers were upbeat.” 

Cook does not run often, but she made an exception Saturday because the money raised by the race goes to the Cranberry Educational Foundation. The Foundation awards upward of eight $1,000 scholarships to students from cranberry-growing towns.

“I think the crowd just carried me along,” she said. “I’m happy to support the educational efforts of Grumpy.”

Every year, Ann McDonough brings a new person to the 5K. This year, she brought her sister-in-law Dianne for her second race. The scenery, and Ann’s appreciation of Conway’s “stunning” nature photographs, keep her coming back year after year.

“[Conway] was all for maintaining the environment and the balance of Mother Nature,” she said. 

Saturday’s fastest runners received wooden birdhouses, honoring Conway’s campaign to build bird boxes in cranberry bogs. This campaign helped bring bluebirds back to Massachusetts.

“He would use nature to educate the cranberry growers,” Smith said. “He would find things in the bog that were rare and endangered. He wouldn’t say anything, he would just put the picture on the desk.”

68-year-old Jackson Gillman stood out in his neon yellow running socks.

“This is the best 5K there is,” he said, “because it’s not on any road. It’s all ‘round the bogs and dirt roads. It’s beautiful.”

This is the fourth Cranberry Harvest 5K for Gillman, who knows Conway’s sister and niece.

“I want to keep doing it for as long as I am able,” he said. “I’m still able to run so far, but even when I’m doddering I hope I can still walk it.”