A Fifty-Second Reunion for the St. Mary's College Class of 1952

Twenty-five of us came back for a mini- Reunion over the weekend of June 10-13, staying at the Inn at St. Mary’s. It was wonderful. We had the campus to ourselves—the Haggar Center, the new Clubhouse, the Noble Dining Room, Holy Spirit Chapel, Stapleton Lounge. One of our main activities was “reconnecting”--telling various facts about our lives, anything from how we happened to go to St. Mary’s over 50 years ago (which we all agreed was one of the best decisions of our lives) to what we were doing in the present.

We were all glad to welcome Toni DiSalle Watkin, whose husband Bob had recently died in Litchfield, AZ. Her children all wanted her to come, and she had heard from Faith McNamara encouraging her to come. Faith lost her husband last year. When she mentioned that she has an unmarried daughter many were eager to connect her with their unmarried sons.

 Mary Jean Wallace Paxton told of a year in which her sister Dorothy died, her son Jan moved from California to Florida, her dog Roxy was put to sleep, her husband Dave has a slipped disc and is talking of moving. Fortunately , “Dr. Ruth Wallace , my sister, will be honored by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Reseearch in the Apostolate (CARA) on October 6. She will receive the Award for Exemplary Church Research. Ruth (MA Notre Dame, PhD. Univ. of Calif. Berkeley) has completed a sociological study administrators of Catholic parishes throughout the country. Her research, funded by the Lilly Foundation, has been published by Paulist Press under the title They Call Him Pastor. “

Lynn Ambrose told  of spending February building homes with Habitat in Texas & Florida, then a week in Disneyworld helping daughter Patrice & her 4 little ones. Then she gave her children a "mystery weekend" Christmas gift the week after Easter--in Cimarron, NM. “We were "subpoened" for the weekend, wore costumes befitting our "characters" & I was amazed at each of my own kids relishing their roles as Annie Oakley, Vivacious Violet Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Henry & Mary Lambert . . “It's so nice to see your own children enjoying each other's company & yours!!”

 Mary Berners Kishler —remembered hearing her next-door neighbor Mary Jane Belfie, doing her exercises before an open window in Holy Cross Hall. Mary had pulled the covers up over her ears. Seven years ago, Mary’s dying husband Tom told her “Do your exercises.” She joined a fitness center and kept in shape. Two years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was told that because she was so fit, she could take a special chemo treatment and today she is clear of cancer. She recommended that we all keep fit.

Sally Disser Wiegand --who had not graduated with us—went back to college 30 years later, after her six children were grown, and got her degree from IUFW, and found that “every single credit from St. Mary’s counted!” With a degree in sociology she worked with battered women and abused children. She celebrated her 50 th wedding anniversary with a trip to Greece and Turkey. She flies standby to visit her children.

Pat Egan Skudnig's father had told her “You can go to any college you want, but the only one I’m paying tuition for is St. Mary’s.” She sold her family funeral home business . She comes to reunions with her daughter, class of ’82, who recently told her “Mom, your class has more fun than ours does.”

Thelma Hausman Dunlevy: “Yes, I am still working!. . .  After almost 3 yrs. of recession, our business has taken a hard hit. . .After 87 years we are facing a crossroads.” Her work obsession doesn’t keep her from  the many worthy causes she supports. “I am starting my 4th year on Louisville Orchestra Board of Directors. . .In June I accepted a position on Advisory Board for Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Lifelong Formation and Education.  It's only a bi-monthly, so not a burden.  I am particularly concerned about teen agers . . I think this is a great time to reach those intellectually curious minds by sharing our faith in study and action plus getting them together in meaningful activities - to interact with other Catholic teens in many parishes . . ..I just completed 2 years of Presidency of East Downtown Business Association.” Thelma has 6 children and 12 grandchildren (1 boy and 11 girls are all living in Louisville. She will definitely retire at the end of the summer, after she decides what to do with her Jeep dealership.

Margaret Kropf Voyt told the story of how, in Rome, she heard a voice tell her that she should enter Maryknoll, an order of which she had no knowledge of. She entered, and stuck to it for 1 ½ years, until the superior told her that she should go home, as she had no vocation. She said, “Well, God, since you didn’t want me; the least you can do is send me someone who does.” Not long after that while she was out boating, two priests pulled up alongside her in a boat and asked if she would teach second grade in their Catholic school. She heard the voice of God again and went. Her second graders on the playground one day told her “That man over there (a soldier home on leave who lived next to the school) wants to talk to you.” She obeyed that voice as well, and within a short time they were engaged. They had six children, including “Father Steve” who is in the Air Force and has just returned from Iraq.

Beverly Miller Skoniecke (a day student from South Bend who now wishes she had lived on campus with us) had wanted to go to Indiana U. Her father insisted that she go to St. Mary’s and she agreed, on the condition that she could work. Wanting to be a “top notch secretary,” she went to work for Sr. Kathryn Marie, the Dean of Students, for a year, during which she saw many students reduced to tears in Katie Mae’s office.

Liz Werres Ravenscroft brought her husband Ian with her. They met long ago in London where she was researching a paper on the history of the American Revolution. They have five children (2 sets of twins). Twenty years ago she had a tumor on her spine and had the meninges taken out. Now it has begun bothering her and she gets around on a scooter (which she brought to Reunion). She brought greetings from Hope Moore Grunski whose son is fighting cancer, and from Sally Dieterle Landgraf who has a wedding the following weekend but thinks she may be able to come even if not for all four days. After Reunion Liz and Ian will return to Seattle then taking the coastal train down to Santa Barbara to see a cousin, then on to San Diego.. In Seattle they’ll celebrate the newest grandchild's first birthday in mid-August, her sister's third in September. Then they’ll return to Maryland where her doll collection is going to go on permanent display at her high school alma mater, Academy of the Holy Cross, in their new theater's lobby!  In October they’re flying to London and returning on the QM2.”

Jay Zalesak Worthington was driven out by husband John. We hadn’t seen her for years and it was great to see that she hasn’t changed and is as beautiful as ever.

Helen Wade O’Brien has three children—two girls and a boy “John the Prince.” She has 8 granddaughters. She was sporting two new knees.

Mary Caryl Cash and Joe Straub raised 14 children in a town of 500 in Iowa. After some years in town, she realized she couldn’t round the family up for meals, so they moved to a farm, where there was nowhere for them to go. Her husband is a retired Circuit Court Judge who as a senior judge “serves as needed.”

Mary Jane Belfie laughed when she recalled that she decided to come to St. Mary’s after visiting Le Mans Hall and being told that “on Sundays this hall (the Great Hall) is filled with Notre Dame men.” She also remembered that Mary Caryl (her roommate sophomore year) and Joe had stayed with her in Flint, MI --on their honeymoon. Now Mary Jane has a PhD in Counseling, runs the Serenity Center in Alexandria, LA and lives in a perfect house near a friend who has a 258 acre wildlife preserve.

Julie Skelly Fries’s two children live within two miles of her in either direction in Beverly Hill, MI and each has two children. Her husband died a few years ago. She travels a lot, returning from New Zealand just in time for reunion. Her only complaint is that her group of 8 ski buddies has dwindled to 4.

Marie Balfe Richardson came with her husband, James, whom she met at NYU in the PhD program in history. He’s now retired from a career as a professor and has started a new career as a financial planner for seniors.

Jeanne Johnson Desmond recalled walked into a meeting with Sr. Madeleva, and finding Tom Dooley at the piano. She was invited to sit and listen.

 Jean Wade Bestler had 4 children, including one with a 2 chambered heart who died. She later adopted a child with a three-chambered heart, who is now waiting for a heart-lung transplant, but who does everything.

As long as we were telling how we had decided to go to St. Mary’s, I (Mary Rose) said that I decided to go to St. Mary’s after leafing through promotional literature my sister had received from St. Marys. Girls horseback riding in jodhpurs, playing golf on green links caught my eye. I thought St. Mary’s would be like a Country Club where I could also get a good education. Alas, I found neither stables nor golf course. “That was probably St. Mary’s of the Woods literature,” someone laughed. I also remembered going to Washington my senior year on what I always called “our senior trip,” but as no one else could remember such a trip, I was beginning to believe that it must have been just Dr. Bartholomew, Dr. Schlesinger and myself. Fortunately Marie Galoney arrived for the picnic lunch on Saturday and assured me that she had gone along too, that it was the annual spring senior trip to Washington with Notre Dame students and SMC students in Dr. Schlesinger’s Current Affairs students and Dr. Bartholomew’s political science classes.

Besides reconnecting, we heard about new career paths we’re pursuing over 70. Eleanor Fails read us her winning entry in the James Patterson fiction writing contest. I showed a movie I made about Hawaii, and we heard from a new classmate: Joan Gadomski Huguenard, who had attended St. Mary’s one semester her junior year, as a day student. She told us of the adventurous life she has led, including raising 8 children (1 girl and 7 boys), divorcing an abusive husband, receiving a call to ministry, living a nomadic life in a motorhome for 18 years, moving to Milwaukee at 50 and getting a degree in theology, teaching in China for three years, working for the Bishop of Connecticut, being an official observer of the Aristide election in Haiti, living in Israel for a year and doing archaeology, and recently, writing and self-publishing her book “Embracing the Yes: A Life Recycled.” She distributed and autographed copies-- I find it inspiring.

An Angel Walk in Stapleton Lounge gave us the experience of blindly walking, trusting that angels will guide us gently out of danger.

Eleanor Fails and her South Bend team of Pat Murray and Jean Johnson Desmond planned a liturgy in Holy Spirit Chapel, remembering our 39 deceased classmates. Each of us took one or two names which we will remember and called them out as 39 candles were lit. these candles remained with us through the rest of the evening. Bob Austgen, CSC, said Mass. After dinner new president Carol Mooney (’72) and her husband joined us for dinner in the new Noble family dining room. We were all taken with her. Lynn Ambrose gave the invocation and Liz Ravenscroft the closing prayer. We all wish to thank Barb Henry of the Alumnae Association for the help she gave us.

We received encouraging words from those who couldn’t come:

Jo Ann Hickey Frazel planned to come but had angioplasty instead and is doing well. She sent this note: “We have had someone in college or graduate school since 1971, the oldest  of our 9  is 50, youngest is 33. We had our last graduate on 5-07 -04 from the Univ. of Minn. Medical School.  As you can guess we have been busy attending graduation events, as well as weddings, christenings, first communions, confirmations for  these children & their children. We feel really blessed that we are still able to travel to so many states to be with them, have the health to do it. Thank God. Jerry Frazel was crushed when Fannie Mae Candies in Chicago closed this year.  Some of you might remember that he would bring a pound box of that along on a date when we were at SMC and the two of us would finish it together.  Well, good news candy lovers, the newspapers tell us SOME 31 store will reopen this year in the Fall so we look forward to that, as well as hearing from our SMC friends.”

Joey Bryan MacDonald also planned to come, but her son was taken ill at the last minute. She and Mac spent 9 weeks this past winter at their condo on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida with side trips to visit family in Nashville and Savannah. “We will become great grandparents in October.  I don’t feel any older but am trying to adjust to the idea that my daughter will be a grandma.  Time whizzes by. . . . In spite of low vision, I still hook primitive wool rugs and enjoy knitting.  Playing the piano is difficult but I can  still enjoy a lot of outdoor activities...kayaking, biking, and skiing and I'm eating a lot of spinach and carrots! It's good to stay connected to my St. Mary's friends and I enjoy every morsel of news I receive.   I think we have an exceptional class!”  

Mitzi Wiggins Forrester had hoped to come. She would be “in Chicago for our granddaughter's 8th grade graduation and grandson's high school Carmel commeucement.  He's onto U. of Minnesota on a football scholarship.  From Chicago to Grand Rapids for baptism of the 11th grandchild, then Bloomfield Hills for another grandson's 8th grade graduation. Spending a portion of the summer between Illinois and Michigan visiting family and friends.”

Mary Jo Struett Bowman regretted that a recent cataract operation followed by complications ruled out travel to Reunion. But Mary Jo is an inveterate traveler: “ Before the operation I was able to have a great trip to Italy revisiting some of my favorite places.  It was a special trip for my daughter, Sara, and me.  Her first trip. . . The end of July Dee and I are taking a grandchild on an Elderhostel intergenerational trip to Hawaii . . .   Something Dee has always wanted to do is go through the Panama Canal, so early in 2005 we will visit Costa Rica and DO the Canal.  We will be going on a smaller boat so we will definitely be up close.  Mary Jo had a visit from Lynn Dargis Ambrose on her way to Portland for the First Communion of yet another grandchild, accompanied of course by Benji and Dexter.

Betty Foley McGlynn also had to miss Reunion. Her grandson, Daniel, graduated from high school on June 12. “The next day, I will be flying to the West Coast.  Bob had wanted to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, which would have been June 19 this year, with a trip to Victoria, B.C., where we honeymooned.  We were planning to spend a week there on an N.D. Alumni Office-sponsored trip, June 14-20.  Instead, my two sisters are joining me for that trip, and my three children will catch up with us for the last weekend, so we'll all be together on the 19th.  Afterwards, I am going to Seattle, to see where my son now lives after accepting a job there in March, and to visit John and Maureen Dotsch Powers.  Then I'll spend a week in Portland before returning home.
One more item:  On March 23, I retired for the fourth and final time!”          

Mary Ann Scherger Fairlie regretted missing Reunion. “Drew & I just got back from a wonderful two week trip to Africa including a 7 day safari in Botswana. . . .We went with our oldest daughter and her son who had just graduated from college on May 2. . . .Now we'll be home just two weeks before heading out for a 2 1/2 month trip around the country.  We'll have a family reunion in Branson, Missouri ( I think 22 of us will be there out of a possible 35) . . . From Branson we'll continue out to the west coast and then north to the Cascades in Washington.”

Nancy Ahlforth Steele couldn’t come because of the graduation of one daughter from college and another from high school in Colorado. “We plan this to be a mini family reunion with five of us from California and a son from New Jersey  coming to celebrate...My son Chris and his wife Maureen recently moved to the Boston area near where my daughter Kate  lives so I will be travelling to the East coast again...I am planning a trip to New Zealand and Australia nest January...Have a wonderful reunion. I will be thinnking of you all as well as Kay,Sis and Nancy. It is hard to believe that they will be missing. I turned 74 yesterday and can’t quite believe that so many years have passed and am glad that I still feel well and energetic. My love to you all and see you in ’07, God willing.”

Kay Healey regretted,I will not make the reunion in June as GFWC is having an international convention in Disney and I'll be working. Sorry to miss it as I have relative in South Bend”;

Jo Brazaitis Ebert couldn’t make it either, “I'm in a show the Friday and Saturday of that week and there's no way I can get there even for part of the time because of rehearsals. Dor Murnane McMahon had an overnight stay with Thelma on a May 6th visit to her brother- in-law in Louisville. Mary Barnet Large had made plans last November for a trip to Paris and Provence, with the Kalamazoo Instititue of Art.  “Lots of painting, busy Paris (with all those master painters...) and an extensive visit to western Provence--June 8-21. Sue Klimcheck Miller: “I have to be in Cleveland before the 4th of July.  My oldest son is having his 50th birthday and we are going to have a blast for him”, Letty Miller: “Sorry I can't make reunion, but we did a big trip this winter spending the month of Feb. in New Zealand. We loved it -what a stunning country and the people marvelous, bending over backwards to helpus out, so kind and generous and happy. They love their country and really take care of their beautiful land. We also just had a major repair project - had to replace our entire roof on our house and that was a major expense so we won't be going anywhere for awhile. Give my love to everyone and have a great time.” Nancy Hutchison Newton had hoped to come but it didn’t work out: “We have a small motorhome and have had wonderful trips throughout the U.S.  In July we are planning to go to Iowa for the 150th anniversary of the founding of our little town.” 

Sherry Palmer Rompf had planned to come but after a weekend partying at Churchill Downs and a yoga workout for which she was not warmed up she developed a broken blood vessel in her knee and couldn’t walk.

Ann Hannigan O’Neill : “I am so sorry I will not be able to attend the big 52 nd reunion. June 10 th is the day I am taking 32 people to Italy for a 10-day trip. . . It has been a busy travel year with trips that included Scandinavia and Russia. . . I have my own business in an agency and design international trips and tours for families and groups as well as cruises.” Her husband has recovered from open heart surgery and they enjoy spending time with their two grandchildren. Her life is “full with music and art organizations which I enjoy as well as attending board meetings for several Catholic organizations. I remember well the happy years I spent at St. Mary’s.”

Finally, Elaine Smith Caraher proves that childcare lasts forever: “There has never been a year that my family required more of us.  David (#6 child), his wife and two boys moved in with us last September,while an addition was being made to their house, and were with us until March.  Also our family that has gone for years without a medical crises had a crisis of the month from December thru April which required a lot of hospital time and baby sitting.  Our sixteenth grandchild was born in April ( 13 boys, 3 girls) and since then every weekend has entailed one or more of the following, First Communion, Baptism, graduation, not to mention all the spring birthdays.. .  My St. Mary's daughter, Karen and her familly, husband,Tom and three children, Connor, Patrick and Daniel are due to move in with us in the next 7 to 10 days for about six to nine weeks while their new house is being completed.  We are so pleased for this is the first of our children to join us in living in Glenview.”

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