Funeral services for celebrated Beaufort author Pat Conroy are expected to draw one of the largest gatherings of loved ones, friends and devotees the area has ever seen.
Anderson Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements, said it anticipates 1,500 to 2,000 people will attend both the visitation and funeral for Conroy, who died at age 70 on Friday, just about four weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“This is considerably different even than the death of a leader in our community,” said funeral director and manager Carla Anderson-Smith. “He’s known worldwide.”
The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at Anderson Funeral Home, 611 Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort, though Anderson-Smith said the visitation may stretch as late as 9 p.m.
“Everyone is welcome to be there and pay their respects.”
People will likely wait in line for several hours, as the funeral home can comfortably accommodate only about 200 people at a time, she said.
Anderson-Smith added that, when her father, the founder of Anderson Funeral Home, died, her family stood for about four hours to receive about 800 people.
With that in mind, she asked that Conroy’s friends and fans alike respect the author’s family by briefly offering their condolences and moving along.
“It’s very exhausting to a family” to receive visitors, Anderson-Smith said, especially when they number in the hundreds or thousands. “And the family is not going anywhere. They’ll still live in the area, and you can visit a week from now or a month from now.”
“They might even need you worse then,” she added.
Anderson-Smith said those attending Conroy’s funeral on Tuesday should also be considerate of the family’s request for a private interment and allow them to leave for the cemetery uninterrupted after the funeral Mass, which will be held at 11 a.m. at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 70 Lady’s Island Drive on Lady’s Island.
Anderson-Smith said the 1,200-seat church has held standing-room only funerals in the past, though it’s likely some attendees will need to gather outside.
The funeral home has also requested the assistance of law enforcement to help direct traffic and escort the funeral procession.