Grumpys Brook officially named in honor of naturalist with Wareham ties

Jul 8, 2018

Through his camera lens, the late Robert “Grumpy” Conway captured rare birds, flowers and insects to show others nature's beauty. His goal was preservation, and it’s fitting a stream he discovered in Carver was recently named in his honor, said Claire Smith, Conway’s sister and Wareham’s town moderator.

“We’re thrilled,” she said. “What an honor it is to have something named in his honor in perpetuity for all his efforts and all he did for nature conservancy.”

On June 21, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially approved designating the previously unnamed stream Grumpys Brook. In 2006, Conway, a former Conservation Commission member for Carver, discovered the stream and its source while surveying the Cole Property in North Carver. He was with Conservation Agent Sarah Hewins and another member of the commission.

Originally, the land was to be developed for an affordable housing project, which is why officials were delineating wetlands. However, town officials ended up purchasing the land for conservation.

Conway grew up in Wareham and lived in Carver. He passed away in 2009. Since then, his memory lives on in the many photographs and a long-running 5K that runs through A.D. Makepeace property. Funds raised support scholarships.

One of the former bog foreman's favorite things was teaching people to be more observant of the natural world, said Smith.

“He loved getting people to see what was going on around them,” she said, adding he would often bring people out to the bogs and show off rare plants, such as orchids.

Smith said his connection with nature ran deep.

“He was very protective. He loved showing others the things he saw, but often would bring them in through a main road and then out a completely different way with some detours to disorient people.”

Smith said he feared too many visitors would disturb the very things he was trying to protect.

The formal process of naming the brook started in December 2017 when Hewins, a current Carver Selectman, contacted Smith. Hewins originally had the idea of naming the brook soon after Conway passed, but didn't start the application until last year.

"I decided it was time to stop putting this off and get to work," said Hewins. "It's just such a fitting tribute to him. He was a photographer of professional quality who documented so many rare and endangered species in gorgeous, gorgeous photos."

After getting approval from Selectmen and other boards at the county and state level, Hewins reached out to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

Originally, the plan called for naming it Grumpy’s Brook, but Smith and Hewins learned the agency doesn’t allow for naming a place after a person. So, the apostrophe was dropped and approval soon followed.

“It’s a better tribute to Bob this way,” said Smith. “He wouldn’t want the stream to belong to one person, but to be enjoyed by everyone.”

Smith noted Conway was heavily involved in conservation efforts through the years. One notable example, she said, was his bluebird campaign. After noticing the birds had stopped coming to the area, he urged cranberry growers to put up bluebird boxes, winning him recognition at the state level.

She said his reach went beyond the bogs, too. While Conway never married, he befriended many, many people and families through the years. He checked in on them regularly to talk nature.

“It wasn’t until he passed away that we realized the reach he had,” said Smith. “He truly left an enormous legacy.”