Anonymous Donor Revealed Page

Anonymous Donor Revealed: Conway Leovy and Family Made Heybrook Ridge County Park Possible by Ann Darlington

While visiting Index in early July, Joanne and Jill Conway enjoyed a chat with Louise Lindgren. The sisters concurred that it was time to celebrate their father Conway for his remarkable gift in 2008 of $500,000 to the Friends of Heybrook Ridge (FOHR). The Leovy sisters and Jill’s son (who loves his full name: Christopher Conway Leovy Duvoisin) had one more day in Index before their return to LA and Vegas. So Louise quickly organized a celebration picnic at the top of the Park’s first trail for the next morning. The Leovy clan has agreed to name the trail, and this gave them a chance to experience its beauty directly. Those of us lucky enough to join in on short notice put together a potluck picnic, got to know the Leovys, to share memories about Conway, and to relate the history of Heybrook Ridge County Park (HRCP).


(L) to (R): Artemis (the Folsoms’ dog); Bill Cross; Ryder, Roxie & Anna Folsom; Joanne, Jill and Christopher Leovy; Bob Hubbard; Tim Folsom; David Meir; Louise Lindgren and Ann Darlington. Photo by Neil McWee


Conway Leovy at Lake Serene, July 2008. Sunset Falls and Heybrook Ridge in background. Photo by Ann Darlington

Most of our readers know that the first ever FOHR meeting took place in Sue and Bill Cross’s kitchen in the fall of 2006.

But did you know that Conway was one of the group’s founders, and a true renaissance man? He had been a weather forecaster for the Air Force in the 1950s, and over the next 40+ years earned degrees in physics, mathematics, and meteorology. Among other things, he was a researcher for NASA missions to Mars; won multiple awards for research in planetary atmospheres; co-created the first-ever computer model of Mars’ global atmosphere; and did key research starting as early as the mid-70’s alerting the world to the enlarging ozone layer over the Antarctic and linking that to manmade pollutants. Dr. Leovy taught atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington for over 30 years. His colleagues remember his remarkable modesty, affability, and unfailing generosity. (See https://atmos.washington.edu/people/leovy)

Conway was also a down-to-earth outdoorsy fellow and ardent hiker. As John Edwards wrote in the “Wild Cascades” Spring 2011 issue, “Early plans for the proposed borders of the Wild Sky Wilderness were hatched in his chalet in Index, where he had an intimate knowledge of the lay of the land.” And he was a cancer survivor. He supported his wife Janet through her many years of living with cancer, and turned to writing poetry for the first time to deal with the grief of losing her in February 2006. He continued to write as a way to deal with his own 5-year battle with cancer. I highly recommend his collections, “Moving Through {Poems of Loss and Change}” and “Moving On {Poems of Here and Now}.” In the latter is the poem “Nasty Surprise”; it includes these words:

Cancer changes everything,
Above all the way to think About each moment.

And then there’s his short Index-based poem ”Gathering”:

Moonlight sifts through thin cloud layers,
On a clearing deep in the woods,
And on a home that’s made for one.
A group of neighbors gathers there
To save some land nearby our town.
Good yeast is rising all around.

Conway gave us the main ingredient for the recipe to save Heybrook Ridge. I spoke with Louise after our picnic celebration. She said that in late February of 2008, Conway told her that he wanted to donate the proceeds of the sale of his mother’s house to the Friends of Heybrook Ridge. His family agreed to this gift of $500,000. But Conway had one condition: it had to be anonymous. Louise said, “He knew he was dying but did not want others to know of his illness. He said, ‘This is my legacy’.” So the secret was kept, and Conway’s cancer cyclically flared and quieted for many months. In July of 2008, Conway and I hiked the Lake Serene trail. Our purpose was to take photos of Heybrook Ridge from that perspective, to be used in future fund-raising efforts for our coming park. He knew that his time on earth was limited, that cancer would be his undoing. We spoke of love and loss, new beginnings and living fully. Such a privilege for me, though I did not know then the full range of his remarkable achievements, nor that I was hanging out with the Patron Saint of Heybrook Ridge.

Most of our readers also know the rest of the story: by the time of the Leovy family donation, FOHR had raised about $100,000, and thus we had nearly half of the $1.2 million needed to purchase the 135 acres on Heybrook Ridge owned by the Buse Timber Company. Snohomish County Parks and Recreation applied for, and with our advocacy, received Conservation Futures grants of $660,000. Heybrook Ridge County Park was officially born in September of 2008. Conway died nearly 3 years later. His legacy and our Park will live in perpetuity.

This story also submitted to The Index Wall by Ann Darlington 7/10/18