The Rev. Conway Keibler, whose wit and compassion drew people to his churches and who never forgot a name or a baseball statistic, died Saturday. The longtime resident of Upper St. Clair, 85, had moved to The Embassy, a retirement community in Mt. Lebanon, about a year earlier.
"He was known for his wonderful humor. If someone was organizing an event and wanted it to be a success, they would invite Conway to be the master of ceremonies. But he was so much deeper than that," said the Rev. Robert Richards of Seven Fields, a close friend and also a retired United Methodist pastor.
"He was a man of great compassion and understanding. He was a minister who understood that vocation to the fullest degree. He truly comprehended the message of Jesus Christ."
Rev. Keibler was born in Brownsville and remained devoted to his hometown, even as education and the ministry took him elsewhere.
He majored in chemistry at Grove City College and worked as a chemist before answering a call to Methodist ministry. He met his wife, Betty, when they were both students at Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey. They married in 1955.
He served the First United Methodist Church of Braddock, Pine Run United Methodist Church in Clairton, Trinity United Methodist Church in Peters, Heritage United Methodist Church in Ligonier and Avery United Methodist Church in Washington Township. He retired in 1991 but served until 1999 as an associate pastor at Smithfield United Church of Christ, Downtown.
He loved both God and Pittsburgh sports. "He let church out early when the Steelers were playing in town," said his son, Charles Keibler of Eden Prairie, Minn. He was at Three Rivers Stadium to witness Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit and the Immaculate Reception and at Forbes Field for Bill Mazeroski's home run to clinch the 1960 World Series.
He had wide-ranging interests and a tenacious memory. He memorized batting averages and could name the composer of any tune someone hummed. He was so good at "Jeopardy!" that Rev. Richards urged him to audition for the game show.
He made friends easily, and kept them. In Clairton the Keiblers hosted a 15-year-old exchange student from Panama, Ernesto Perez Balladares, who in 1994 was elected president of that nation. Mr. Balladares sent the Keiblers plane tickets and hosted them on a visit to Panama.
He had a strong youth ministry, serving for many years as a counselor and then dean of Jumonville, a United Methodist camp in Hopwood.
The Keiblers quietly cared for other people in hard circumstances, including a mentally disabled woman whom they visited frequently, Rev. Richards said. He constantly wrote personal notes to people, and always sent birthday cards.
His theological outlook was "progressive in the best sense of the word," Rev. Richards said, adding that "he preached the gospel full of grace and forgiveness" and had a strong social conscience.
Retirement didn't slow him down much. He was a popular guest teacher at many churches. "If it was announced that he was going to speak, no matter what the subject was, you would see a dramatic increase in attendance on that Sunday," Rev. Richards said.
He poured hours into plans for the revitalization of his beloved hometown, Brownsville, attending many meetings on the topic.
He was an avid writer of letters to the editor. In 2010 he decried the belittling of elderly people by youths who addressed them as "honey" or "dearie."
"This has been going on since my hair turned from brown to white," he wrote, adding that his wife had dissuaded him from responding by asking the young women in question for a date.
"The practice is widespread, which reveals that many believe senility automatically accompanies aging. Most of us prefer to be considered wise, not cute."
In addition to his son, Rev. Keibler is survived by his wife, Betty, of Mt. Lebanon; a daughter, Robin Ann Ashley of Bolton Valley, Vt.; a sister, Marilyn Clarke of Buckhannon, W.Va.; and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be Wednesday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Beinhauers Mortuary, Peters; and Thursday at 10 a.m. in Christ United Methodist Church, Bethel Park, where the memorial service will begin at 11 a.m.
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.