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Joseph 'Moon' Conlin, 79, ran a tire service company in Oreland

A proud father of eight, he died watching a grandson play Little League baseball.

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BEHIND HIM were many years of often brutally hard work, sometimes from dawn to dark; a family of eight children, some of whom became sports stars; service in the Army; many friends; and the acclaim and popularity of a friendly, jovial Irishman.

Joseph "Moon" Conlin sat down in a grandstand in Schwenksville on Saturday morning to do what he loved most in recent years, watch a grandson play Little League baseball.

In the bottom of the first inning, he fell over in his seat. A coach tried CPR. Joseph Conlin was rushed to Pottstown Memorial Hospital, but he died of a massive heart attack at the age of 79.

When he ran his own tire-repair business, servicing customers from his truck, starting at dawn and not getting home until dark, Joseph would sometimes fall asleep while eating dinner.

When he opened his own tire business in a garage in Oreland, he did his sons a huge favor by making them work with him in the summers. They couldn't wait to get back to school.

"It was brutal, nasty, dirty work," said his son Craig, a former La Salle University basketball star and now varsity boys' basketball coach at Episcopal Academy. "It was a great lesson for all the boys to work in that shop. They never wanted to do that kind of work again."

Fortunately, their father's life eased considerably after he retired in 1999. His wife of 40 years, Mary Conlin, died that year, and shortly afterward, Moon moved to Tarpon Springs, Fla., to spend the winters.

"He said he couldn't stand cold weather anymore," Craig said. "He would spend Christmas with the family, then go to Florida. He'd come back in May."

That would be in time for Little League baseball season. He had returned from Florida a short time before he went to the field at Schwenskville to watch his 7-year-old grandson, Brandon Thurston, play in the Central Perkiomen Little League.

He and his wife loved to travel - the Caribbean, Europe and throughout the western United States.

But apart from these pleasures, Joseph Conlin's life was one of heavy toil. He was the kind of guy who would never let fatigue, sickness or injury stop him from going to work.

"That was the great lesson he taught us," Craig said. "The importance and satisfaction of hard work."

Joseph Conlin was proud of the accomplishments of his children, although he never pressured any of them to get into sports.

"But there was always a game going on outdoors," Craig said. "Mom didn't want us in the house. She'd tell us to get outside, and we'd find a game to play."

Of his sons, Chris Conlin, now an assistant coach in the Arena Football League, was an All-American lineman at Penn State and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and other pro teams.

Keith Conlin played offensive tackle and brother Kevin played center for Penn State. Keith was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1996. After injuries sidelined his NFL career, he played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. He hosts a radio show that features Penn State sports.

Craig was a basketball star at La Salle University, and later briefly played for teams in Cyprus and Ireland. He was a teacher and basketball and baseball coach at Germantown Academy for 16 years.

Joseph Conlin was born in Philadelphia to Elsie and Howard Conlin. He graduated from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1953.

After Army service during the Korean War, he went to work for the Glasgow construction company maintaining its trucks. He then bought a truck himself and began servicing his own customers' tires.

"He'd go out before dawn," Craig said. "At noon, he'd call Mom from a pay phone to find out where his next customer was."

After several years of that, he was able to open Moon's Tire Service in Oreland.

"He saw a market there," Craig said, "and he thought he'd succeed by outworking everybody else. And that's what he did."

Besides his sons Craig, Chris, Keith and Kevin, he is survived by another son, Kenneth; three daughters, Carin Caldwell, Kimberlee Guinan and Courtney Thurston; a brother, Anthony; four sisters, Celia DiGiacomo, Margie Conlin, Catherine Conlin and Marianne Van Thuyne; and 16 grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. Thursday at Holy Martyrs Church, Ulmer Avenue and Allison Road, Oreland. Friends may call at 6 p.m. tomorrow and 9:15 a.m. Thursday at the church. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.