Conaty, Thomas Patrick, III, D.D.S.

Beloved Son, Brother, Nephew, Cousin, Husband,
Father, Grandfather and Uncle

Captain, United States Air Force (Ret.)

Leader in Dentistry

Strong Advocate Who Made Delaware’s Children Safer

Thomas “Paddy” Patrick Conaty III, D.D.S., 82, of Wilmington, Delaware, died Monday, September 4, 2023, after a long illness, in the presence of his loving family. In 2020, soon after his retirement from dentistry, Tom faced the devastating diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) with the same quiet bravery and dignity he carried throughout his noble life.

Tom was born to Detective Thomas P. Conaty Jr. and Louise Buckley Conaty in 1941 at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington. When Tom was five years old, his father was shot to death while on patrol for the Wilmington Police Department in the early morning hours after Christmas Day 1946. The tragic loss of his father at such a tender age had a profound effect on Tom, his younger brothers, Bill and Gerry, and on the generations that followed. Detective Conaty’s young widow, Louise, kept his heroic example of service to others alive in her children and later in their many grandchildren’s lives. No doubt, Tom made his mother and late father extremely proud of him for his kindness, generosity, love of family, faith, relentless work ethic and high achievement. Tom’s ultimate success story is one of great perseverance and of overcoming childhood trauma and adversity.

Tom attended Christ Our King School, Salesianum School, where he ran track, Malvern Preparatory School as a postgraduate, where he played football and ran track, Villanova University and University of Maryland Dental School, where he was elected student body president. Tom was a dedicated student, who achieved great success in school and in his chosen profession of dentistry. Tom proudly served as a Captain and dentist in the United States Air Force and received an honorable discharge in 1976.

Family meant everything to Tom. He met the love of his life, Martha Mary Donelan, in Baltimore while he was attending dental school and Martha was studying nursing. Tom and Martha married in 1966. They were a perfect complement to one another and a shining example of true love. Together, the couple raised three sons. Tom and Martha then joyfully welcomed their lovely daughters-in-law and six beautiful grandchildren. Tom was a wonderful and devoted husband, father and grandfather.

When their sons were little, Tom and Martha enjoyed annual idyllic vacations on Cape Cod. In 1980, after a chance meeting with Tom’s lifelong friend, Joe Kelly, the Conatys found Lewes Beach, Delaware. After purchasing a quaint cottage and painting the metal roof a beautiful pastel blue, Tom spent as much time as possible enjoying Lewes, which reminded him of the splendid times the family had on Cape Cod. Tom was a visionary and saw Lewes as a place of Conaty union, which eventually led to the construction of his blue-roofed castle, a Sussex County sanctuary for himself, Martha, his children and grandchildren. On many summer weekends for as long as he could, Tom woke early in Lewes to ride his vintage touring bike to Lewes Dairy Market for milk, cereal and several newspapers. On summer evenings, he relished time shucking corn with his grandchildren. In fact, Paddy’s face always lit up in joy at any chance he had to spend time with Louise, T5, Cate, Owen, Fritz and Cian. The bond Paddy had with his grandchildren was undeniable. From the time they were toddlers, Paddy had an almost magical ability to enthrall and delight them with a story or a traditional Irish song.

Tom enjoyed life immensely. He had a superb sense of humor and a larger-than-life personality. He was a loyal friend to many. When you spoke with Tom, he made you feel special. His smile was genuine and his word was true.

Tom brought the best version of himself to his many endeavors. He was an avid squash player at Wilmington Squash Racquets Club, a careful gardener and a captivating storyteller. Tom’s Irish heritage was a great source of pride for him. He enjoyed windsurfing on and swimming in the Delaware Bay. He loved to watch his Villanova Wildcats play basketball and to root for the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles. Tom often held court with friends and family at Ristorante Attilio on Friday and Saturday evenings over the years. After squash matches, he could regularly be spotted on Union Street at DiFonzo Bakery and Fusco’s Italian Water Ice. At weddings, he was a star on the dance floor. Paddy was a voracious reader and especially enjoyed scholarly books about both Irish history and American history, particularly George Washington biographies. He also loved to read the Wall Street Journal and often shared relevant articles from the newspaper with his family, making copies and annotating them with his own clever messages. The thing Paddy enjoyed most was his role as patriarch of the Conaty family. He adored being around his family and participating in all his childrens’ and grandchildrens’ events, and he loved to celebrate their successes. Dr. Conaty’s reputation as a dentist was stellar and he was truly loved and respected by his patients, staff and colleagues. Upon his retirement in 2018, Dr. Conaty received scores of thank you cards and heartfelt letters from generations of his patients and colleagues. Dr. Conaty was well known as a generous employer. His excellent and loyal dental assistants, dental hygienists and clerical staff were part of his practice for many decades. Dr. Conaty loved having a home office in Chalfonte, which allowed him to be present for his wife and children and it made the office seem like an extension of his family. Dr. Conaty served the Delaware State Dental Society (DSDS) for decades as an executive officer and editor-in-chief of the organization’s award-winning newsletter. He was elected president of the DSDS in 1992. He served for many years as chair of the DSDS DenPac. In 1994, he was elected as a Fellow of the International College of Dentists. Dr. Conaty also served in many roles for the American Dental Association (ADA) most notably on the ADA’s Council for Government Affairs as the vice chair. In this role, he fought to make sure all Americans had access to the best quality dental care.
Tom supported many causes and charities generously with his time and resources. Dr. Conaty had a leading role in the DSDS’s “Give Kids a Smile” program since its inception. The program was designed to help eliminate oral health disparities for children. Nationwide, “Give Kids a Smile,” has given hundreds of thousands of underserved children access to top-notch dentistry regularly. Tom was a founding member of the Saint Patrick’s Day Society in 1994, which celebrates Irish culture and has raised more than one million dollars for the Saint Patrick’s Center. The Saint Patrick’s Center benefits the less fortunate on Wilmington’s East Side. In 2017, he received The Society’s Daniel S. Frawley Award. Tom also served as a member of the Salesianum President’s Council at the request of Father Robert D. Kenney, O.S.F.S., for many years.

Tom considered the unanimous passage of Delaware Senate Bill 29 in 2007 (The Child Victim’s Act) the greatest accomplishment and legacy of the Conaty family. This landmark legislation makes children safer in Delaware and beyond. Thanks largely to the entire Conaty family’s fierce advocacy and leadership, the Child Victim’s Act exposed predators and their enablers and it gave victims of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to seek some measure of justice after suffering in silence for far too long.

Tom was preceded in death by his father, Detective Thomas P. Conaty Jr., and by his mother, Louise Buckley Conaty Wachter Hoffman, his father-in-law, Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Charles A. Donelan and his mother-in-law, Louise R. “Sally” Donelan as well as his brother-in-law Charles A. Donelan Jr. He is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Martha Mary (Donelan), his sons, Thomas P. Conaty IV, Esq. and his wife Jennifer (Heimlich), Deputy Attorney General Matthias C. Conaty of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Brian Boru Conaty and his wife Megan (Lewis); his grandchildren, Louise, Thomas “T5,” Catherine “Cate,” Owen, Frederick “Fritz” and Cian; his brothers, Bill Conaty (Rosalie), Gerry Conaty (Jackie), Jim Wachter (Lynda) and Joe Wachter (Paula); his sisters, Judy Giunta (Joe) and Geri Bilinski (Steve). In addition, he is survived by his sister-in-law Sara (Donelan) Whitworth and his brother-in-law Dr. Michael Whitworth; and by his brother-in-law Dr. Matthias Donelan and sister-in-law Janet Carroll Donelan; and many nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at Penn Neurology, Bayada and Ivy Gables for the care given to Tom. Although there were many outstanding caregivers for Tom, the family is especially grateful for the kind and compassionate care provided by Shanae Wright of Bayada Home Health Care.

Family and friends are invited to the visitation from 5:00-7:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2023, at McCrery & Harra Funeral Home, 3924 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803. (Additional parking will be available at the Brandywine YMCA Rear Parking lot with a connecting path to the funeral home). On Monday, September 18, 2023, at 11 a.m. a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Church, 10 Old Church Road, Wilmington, DE 19807. Burial will follow in the adjoining cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Saint Patrick’s Center, 107 East 14th Street, Wilmington, DE 19801 ( or to Prevent Child Abuse Delaware 100 W. 10th Street, #715, Wilmington, DE 19801 ( To send condolences visit:

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