‘Brought joy to all’: Catawba County HS honors longtime employee who died from COVID-19

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — A school in Catawba County honored one of its own Thursday who died after a long battle with COVID-19 in 2021.

Larry Conger worked at Hickory High School for 17 years as head of maintenance, but it was his connection with students and teachers that made him beloved by the school community.

Now, one of the main entrance hallways to the school will bear his name. Channel 9′s Dave Faherty was inside the school when friends, family and employees filled the walkway where they honored Conger. At one point, the principal walked over to Conger’s wife and gave her the hammer Larry used while working at the school.

“It showed that he enjoyed his job by the way that he cared for not just the building, but the people. That’s who really made up Hickory High,” said his wife Barbara Conger.

Employees at the school and the district office raised money for Larry when he was hospitalized with COVID-19 in early 2021.

The 66-year-old supervised the maintenance department for over 15 years prior to his death. On Thursday, the principal said he was always there for the students and the teachers who taught them.

“He embraced every teacher, served them in all capacity,” said Principal Rebecca Tuttle.

The hallway is filled with photos of Larry -- many of them taken with the students he loved -- capturing that smile every time.

“I look around, and there are reminders of him everywhere. He was a man of faith and really brought joy to all of us,” said teacher Heidi Rice.

People at the school told Faherty that Larry had three priorities in life: God, his family and the students at Hickory High School.

“They have supported our family tremendously since Larry’s passing. I think it’s left a hole here, just like it’s left a hole in my heart,” Barbara said.

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