Saint Mary's College, Class of 1952, News, Spring 2005

Dear Classmates,

It’s hard to believe that this is the year when some of us are turning 75. To celebrate this milestone, classmates are fulfilling lifetime dreams. Mary Jo Bowman writes that “in late September/early October, Dee is taking me to Quebec so I can fulfill a childhood dream of staying at the Chateau Frontenac.  He took me to Florence for my 50 th.” Sally Disser Wiegand writes “Bob and I are sailing on the Queen Mary II from Southhampton to Spain, Portugal, Rome, Florence, Cannes, Gibraltor and back.” Mitzi Wiggins Forrester is “still in remission so Keith and I are off on a cruise to Scandinavia, the Baltics and St. Petersburg in August.” Joanne Hickey Frazel is celebrating more than one anniversary:“ Jerry & I look forward to our 25th summer at Long Beach. We will take a short trip to London in June, and visit historic places.”

Europe isn’t enough for some more enterprising classmates. A surprising number mentioned that they have gone to Australia and New Zealand. This would require more hours of flying than I can imagine for a trip, even for my 75 th. But Mary Berners Kischler made the formidable journey. And so did Betty Foley McGlynn. “I had an absolutely fabulous 16-day trip to New Zealand and Australia, February 23-March 10, sponsored by the Notre Dame Alumni Association.  Leading us on this adventure was Fr. Bill Miscamble, CSC, a history professor at Notre Dame and a native Australian.  We visited Auckland, Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Christchurch in NZ, and the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney in Australia.  Highlight of the trip for me was attending an opera, Die Fledermaus, in the famed Sydney Opera House, a dream come true.  I had stopover visits with my sister Mary (SMC'60) in LA on the way out, and with my daughter Beth and family on the way home.” I can perhaps understand Midwesterners wanting to escape our winters, but Californian Nancy Ahlforth Steele went Downunder as well. “The trip was wonderful, but I was tired when I got home and only too glad to be in familiar surroundings. I will content myself with shorter trips around the USA visiting friends and family for awhile.” She was rewarded for the short trip to Tacoma, Washington, with the sight of Mt. Ranier, without the rain and fog she’d encountered before. Her son Chris moved to Boston last year but comes to Los Gatos for visits.

I asked Faith Kilburg McNamara what she was doing for her 75 th, and she replied that the trip she and Pat Egan madeto the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe, last year, was her celebratory trip. (Actually, it was the 50 th anniversary of their first trip to Europe, she admitted.) Now that Faith’s daughter Claudia has moved back from London, trips to Washington will have to suffice. I asked Marie Galoney what she was planning for her 75 th; she says she is renovating her house and doesn’t have time to go anywhere.

In preparation for my 75th (next year), I’ve doubled my living space. (My sister encouraged me to “have a room for a caretaker.”) It’s good I moved while I am still able to run to Home Depot. Now that my dream dwelling-- with views of Lake Michigan from every room--is finally finished, I’m going to settle down, and resist the lure of the far-away. I’ll walk through the gardens and ride my bike through the parks (all tended by others), and along the lakefront. I’ll walk through the gardens and ride my bike through the parks (all tended by others), and along the lakefront. (When the far and way-off does lure me, I turn to the elderhostel catalog. I’ve made countless trips with them.)

Speaking of dream homes, Sally Disser Wiegand has found hers in Palm Desert, California, where she’s been renting for 9 years at “the Lakes.” She invited the southern Californians-- Mary Blanford, Mary Kramer, Lynn Ambrose, Mary Jean Wallace Paxton—over for lunch in March. Mary Jean had taken pity on me in the midst of my renovating and invited me to San Diego for a visit, so Sally included me, and the four Mary’s piled into Lynn’snew Volvo station wagon for a scenic drive through the San Jacinta mountains to the desert oasis. Southern Californians are used to palm deserts. Sally showed us around “the Lakes” and hosted us for lunch at their community clubhouse, where we visited with Bob and some of their grandchildren. We celebrated--not that we were going on 75 (too early to think about that)—but thatMary Blanford is now a great grandmother; Mary Kramer has 21 grandchildren; Lynn had just returned from visiting family in Connecticut and building houses in Fredericksburg, Texas; that Mary Jean is teaching again, after a brief retirement, and I that I was lucky to be alive and together in such a beautiful spot. Mary Jean and I followed up that reunion with another in Los Angeles with Janet Rowe, who took us to see the new Cathedral, the Disney pavilion designed by Frank Gehry.

Mary Kramer, Mary Blanford, Sally Wiegand, Mary Jean Paxton, Mary Rose, and Lynn Ambrose at the Lakes in Palm Desert, March, 2005.

Californian Mary Jo Bowman didn’t make this reunion, but she did get together for lunch with Nancy Ahlforth Steele and Gloria Gazzara Eppler. In spite of feeling the “aches and pains of the orthopedically challenged,” Mary Jo writes, she and Dee and “had a great tour of the coast and Islands of Costa Rica and then went through the Panama Canal.  I'm not really into engineering but it is amazing to see how something completed in 1914 still works so well.  We were on a smaller ship - 90 passengers - so we were really able appreciate how it "works".

Toni DiSalle Watkin writes that on her way home after our mini-reunion last June, she had stopped by to visit her sister Connie in Ohio. Since then Connie has been diagnosed with lung cancer and referred to Hospice. Toni asks prayers. (Connie passed away in mid-June, we later learned.) She has resumed her volunteer work at the base chapel and library in Arizona, and has taken training for Pro-Literacy. “Presently I am working with three Hispanic males to obtain citizenship and one in ESL. I am really enjoying it. It has special meaning being the granddaughter of immigrants.”

Since meeting Joan Huguenard at our mini-reunion, I have been reading her “inspiring, enlightening, sometimes amusing, often challenging weekly column” for the Sonoma Sun, entitled just joan, online. You too can read Joan’s weekly musings at or subscribe by emailing Joan at She will be happy to add you to the list of folks who receive a link to the column weekly.

Joanne Hickey Frazel plays golf with Pat Egan in a women’s golf league. She will be having eye surgery in July and asks for prayers. She met Jo Brazaitis Ebert at a grandparents’ day event in Evanston. And she heard from Joyce McMahon Hank who was surprised at the last SMC Board meeting to learn that she had been made a permanent or honorary trustee, an honor never given before.

Mary Caryl Cash Straub visited the SMC campus in May with daughter, Mary Ellan and grand- daughter, Caitlin, who both live in Omaha.  “Caitlin just finished her junior year in high school and wants to know more about St. Mary's.  After visiting the admissions office we got a tour of the campus.  Mary Ellan and I then left and Caitlin stayed on campus the rest of the day and overnight.  She attended a class and that evening she got in on the fireworks display which was part of the dedication ceremony for the new student center which is a wonderful addition to the campus.”

Several sad notes: Liz Ravenscroft writes that Jay Zalesak Worthington’s husband, John (ND ’51) died May 30. Many of our class knew him. His death was peaceful and most of the family were with him. Joey Bryan Macdonald’s son Mike died in late June.

I must say a word about the retirement of Bruno Schlesinger, at the remarkable age of 94, after 60 years of teaching at St. Mary’s. He was my favorite teacher, as I bet he was yours. I took every course he taught—not only History of Art, but English History, Current Affairs, Christian Archaeology. We had him in his earliest years, and already he was a legend. I’m sure you all join me in thanking him and wishing him well in his retirement.


Reunion 2002


It was our 50th reunion, June, 2002. We wouldn't have missed it. Fifty-seven of us from the class of 1952--over 50 % of the class came from all over the country to spend three days together--June 6, 7, 8, 9--catching up and reminiscing on 50 years. It felt as if we had been together all along. We came together in a way we never had before.

On Thursday morning (before many got in), we gathered together and briefly told what we'd been up to in the last 50 years. I took notes. It was Rosemary Mundi Nicastro's first reunion. She has 6 children (4 B, 2G). Her husband Larry was ill for 20 years--10 in a coma-cared for at home. It was the most precious time of her life and knit the family together. Now she is in real estate with her daughter-in-law. Joyce McMahon Hank told us her story. She married right after college. She has 5 children-1 attended SMC and 4 ND. She thinks of St. Mary's as "home." In 1987 her son Jim got Lou Gehrig's disease. Without a voice he ran his life for 7 years, using an eye gaze computer. At the Reunion Banquet Joyce received the Distinguished Alumna award. She has been the Quad Cities Alumnae Club president, was the first chair of the Madeleva Society, and is on the SMC Board of Trustees.

Betty Foley McGlynn has 3 children. For 20 years she's been on the staff of the University of Wisconsin. Her husband Bob has recently undergone surgery for his heart and now has colon cancer. They are active in Jesu Parish in Milwaukee. Joanne Hickey Frazel married Gerry Frazel because he was so funny and has been laughing ever since. They have 9 children and now live in Michigan City. Mitzi Wiggins Forester has 6 children (5 B, 1 G) and lives in Scottsdale. Emmy Lou Roach Majeski still lives in Evansville. She married 10 years after graduation. She has 3 daughters, 4 grandaughters and 1 grandson. Celeste (Letty) Miller spent the '60s in Bangladesh as a Holy Cross missionary. She left in 1970 and went to New Mexico and simplified her life. She built a passive solar home, runs a bed and breakfast in Dixon, and weaves in her spare time.

Mary Jane Belfie entered the graduate school of theology at St. Mary's after graduation, then became a Eucharistic Missionary of St. Dominic in Louisiana. She received a PhD in counseling and has run the Serenity Center in Alexandria, LA for 25 years. She said that she could feel the love in the room while we were telling our stories--we all agreed. Mary Jean Wallace Paxton entered Holy Cross after her freshman year and was sent on mission to Beverly Hills, CA (where she taught actors' children). She taught at a number of other places, including St. Mary's, before leaving in 1970. She later taught at Jacksonville State College in Alabama. She married twice, had a son when she was 44 (!) and now lives in Oceanside, CA with her second husband who owns his own business.

Faith Kilburg McNamara lives on Chicago's south side, 5 blocks from where she grew up. She taught 40 years in the Chicago public schools. She had 3 daughters-the youngest died of a brain tumor in 1979. One daughter lives nearby and the other lives in Hong Kong. Mary Caryl Cash Straub married between our junior and senior years. She was pregnant at our graduation, as we all remember. She lives in Iowa, raised 14 children (8 sons and 6 daughters), taught French and English. Her husband is a district court judge. Elise Curry O'Connell calls herself a "survivor." She lives in Hartford, CT. Sr. Gertrude Anne was the Registrar at the college and is now in Pastoral Care.

Lynn Dargis Ambrose's story is well-known to us-10 children (2 of whom died), a PhD, a teaching career at Chico State University in California, two years in the Peace Corps in Lithuania, and now work (out of her RV) for Habitat for Humanity. Gloria Gazzarra Eppler lived for two years after graduation in Spain, where she was engaged to a duke. At 28 she came back to the States without the duke, but met and married a scientist from MIT. They have two children-one adopted, one biological, and live in Saratoga, CA. Pat Cain Murray lives in South Bend. Her husband Tom was at the ND law school. She taught for 2 years. They have 6 children. When her husband retired after practising law 32 years, he went into development and Pat into real estate (subdivisions). They go to Naples in Winter.

Jean McQuaid Gaschler has been married 50 years and has 5 children. Mary Jo Struett Bowman had 6 children with her first husband (whom Mary Berners introduced her to) and lived in Madison, WI. They were divorced and Mary Jo later married Dee Bowman and moved to California. She lost her daughter Louise 2 years ago. She was our beloved class reporter for many years. Sally Disser Wiegand and Bob, a Xavier U. grad, have been married 50 years, have 5 sons and 1 daughter and 13 grandchildren. Toni DiSalle Watkin married an Air Force officer and has traveled around much and now lives in Phoenix. Her husband has cancer and is undergoing his 5th chemo treatment. Nancy Ahlforth Steele married a couple of months after graduation. She has 6 children, and 4 still live nearby in California. After 20 years she was divorced, remarried for another 20 years and raised step children as well, including a stepdaughter who is her best friend. Her husband died 5 years ago. Now she lives alone and enjoys single life. One daughter, who was retarded from the age of 9 months, is one of the happiest people she knows. She sees blessings hidden in bad things and recommended When Bad Things Happen to Good People. (Others recommended this as well.)

Sis Stack Corker got a job teaching in South Bend after graduation. She married Paul Corker and had 4 (2 and 2). She taught for 32 years in Chillicothe, OH. She lost her husband several years ago and is herself a cancer survivor. She felt that SMC made us feel important and we all agreed. Kay Justin Devereux came to SMC from Barry College with Helen O'Donnell. She has had a knee replacement and has moved into a new condo on one floor, in Saginaw, MI. Joey Bryan Macdonald had 8 children in 13 years. Now she has 18 grandchildren. She lived in Lafayette, IN for 30 years, then 13 years ago she and her husband moved to Lake Superior to live close to nature. Now they are moving to Madison, WI. Nancy Hutchison Newton lived and worked in Arizona as a social case worker. She met her husband in Tucson and they have 3 children. Now she lives in Houston. Kathy Smith Schaffer married Gene Schaffer (ND). She interned at Yale in dietetics and had a career as a dietitian, while raising 5 children. One son, who is blind, has 2 children, bringing the overall count of her grandchildren to 7. Gene worked at the NY Times and they lived in the NY suburbs. Later he went into finance and she worked for GTE. They moved back to Dallas, where he works from home; he had a triple bypass a few months ago. She is the president of the local chapter of the SMC alumnae. Dorothy Murnane McMahon has lived in Florida since she left Holy Cross in 1970. She married Dick McMahon in 1972. After a long career teaching French and Spanish in Florida schools, she has a second career teaching ESL and now English at the International College in Naples. Dor and Dick devoted themselves to helping their many Hispanic friends. Dorothy lost Dick to cancer in January this year.

Please forgive me for these brief summaries which do not do justice to the richness of our individual experiences. It was inspiring to see everyone looking so radiant and fit. I pray we may continue to be in good health. Sherry Palmer and I went on the power walk Saturday morning and I can vouch for her fitness. I was impressed by everyone's vitality. It seemed we had shed decades just by being together. If you have any corrections you wish made or more news to report, please e-mail me at I am telling my story on my website:

Mary Jean Wallace Paxton wrote me later her impression of our class: "Our class was truly special. Interestingly, many were married just after graduation and had large families...that was expected of our generation. Others, like you and me, entered religious orders. I believe that six of us were in Holy Cross. In addition, a number of us have Ph. D.'s, not usual for Catholic women of our era. As we shared with each other during the session …many remarked that our St. Mary's education was a source of strength "when bad things happen(ed) to good people".

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