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Front Page - Friday, December 20, 2019

Believing isn’t seeing for Realtor with vast St. Nick knowledge

Lore Conway is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center. Her childhood belief in Santa Claus was restored as an adult as she researched the life of St. Nicholas, a wealthy third-century man who brought gifts to orphaned children. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

There comes a time when many children stop believing in Santa Claus. After outgrowing the naiveté of youth, they conclude the stories about cheery St. Nick giving gifts to good girls and boys couldn’t be true. However, at 45, Realtor Lore Conway says she still believes they are.

Conway’s belief is grounded not in the timeless, magical tales set in the North Pole, but in the millennia-old stories of a man who gave presents to orphaned children.

“St. Nicholas was born around 280 A.D. near what is now Turkey,” she says. “When he was young, he lost both of his parents, leaving him with a large inheritance. He used this money to buy gifts for poor and sick children.”

After St. Nicholas died, the stories about his kindness and generosity were passed down through the generations and took on mythic qualities. Now called Santa Claus, he’s able to keep an eye on every girl and boy, and once a year, his elves on the North Pole heave his bag of toys into his reindeer-powered sleigh and he flies around the world delivering gifts to every good child in a single night.

Although outlandish, some of these embellishments contain kernels of truth, Conway says.

“My great-great-great-great-great-grandfather existed,” she notes. “He was a real person, just like St. Nicholas was a real person. And saying I don’t believe in Santa Claus would be like saying my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather never existed.”

Even the traditions many people today observe during the holidays have their origin in the benevolence of St. Nicholas, who was called the Gift Giver, Conway adds.

“St. Nicholas inspired the parents of other children to give toys to their sons and daughters, and the traditions we follow today evolved from there,” Conway says. “Maybe he even carried a sack. How else would he carry a bunch of toys?

“We don’t know all the details, but the magic of St. Nicholas lives on.”

In the same way, Conway says, there might be some truth in the things she’s heard about her family. “I’ve heard stories about my heritage, and I wonder which ones are true and which ones are embellished,” she says. “But who am I to say what’s fact and what’s fiction?”

Conway finds one detail about St. Nicholas especially intriguing: his red suit. Many centuries after stories about the man known as St. Nick, Kris Kringle and Father Christmas began circulating, a lithographed book published in the U.S. referenced a jolly, red-suited man who handed out toys.

Conway says St. Nicholas could very well have worn a red suit, and just like the stories about children putting out their socks before bedtime and finding them filled with fruit and nuts and wooden toys the following morning, this detail persisted through the centuries – essentially surviving one of history’s longest games of telephone intact.

“Who’s to say St. Nicholas didn’t wear a red suit?” Conway asks. “Not me.”

Conway says even when the legend of St. Nicholas is stripped of all its trimmings, the man still lived. She also says holding on to that belief is important.

“There’s a lot of sorrow and sickness in the world, and belief gives you hope and replaces the pain in your heart with joy,” she says.

Conway knows it’s easy to have faith when life is going well. When people look at her, for example, they see one of Realty Center’s top agents and an award-winning Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realtor.

Conway is also busier than a mailman at Christmas. Her current load includes selling a new subdivision on Old Dayton Pike, working with commercial and residential investors, serving her long-term buyers and sellers, and tending to the many referrals that come her way.

Through it all, Conway has treated every client like family, handled each transaction like it’s her only one and maintained her status as one of Realty Center’s leading agents, she says.

But the sorrow and sickness Conway mentioned has afflicted her life as well. Four years ago, her 9-year-old son was stricken with a rare autoimmune disease called Henoch-Schönlein purpura, or HSP for short. Triggered by an upper respiratory infection, there’s no cure. “Doctors can only treat the symptoms,” she explains.

A few months later, Conway’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. And then she was called to her father’s bedside at Thanksgiving. As a single mother of five, her burdens weighed heavily.

In time, good medical care lifted some of the load. Although Conway’s father died, her son eventually entered remission and doctors declared her mother to be cancer-free.

Then, in June, she was struck with her own physical malady. While vacationing in Mexico, she awakened one morning to find her left knee bent and unable to move. It was also three times its normal size. Horrified, she flew home and went straight to an orthopedic emergency room.

The news was not good: her cartilage was gone, leaving bone grinding against bone. As a temporary measure, doctors fractured her kneecap to create a blood clot that would restore her mobility.

The surgery did little to alleviate her suffering. “My knee pops when I walk; I can’t do anything strenuous,” she continues. “But I’m still selling the daylights out of real estate.”

She also continued to be her “outgoing, adventurous, optimistic” self. “My busted knee allowed me to slow down and be with my family, and to concentrate on building relationships, even with my customers,” she says. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Conway received good news in November when she learned she’d been placed on the registry for a knee-cartilage transplant. Then, on Dec. 10, the voice on the other end of an early morning call told her a matching donor had been found.

Her surgery was scheduled to be performed Dec. 19.

If the surgery fails, then Conway’s doctor will have to replace part or all of her knee. But like her steadfast belief in Santa Claus, Conway is clinging to her faith in a good outcome.

“When you stop believing, the hope within you dies,” she says. “But when you keep believing, hope persists, and you can never know all the good that might come out of it.”