Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

June 16, 2003

The class of 1949 ­ I remember when . . .

Bernard Marion Althoff was born Aug. 15, 1931, on a farm south of Waverly, the youngest of three.

Bern's older brother, John Althoff, is now a retired district judge in Greeley, Colo.

Anne married Joe Neaton from Hollywood township and left behind a handsome family, who look remarkably like the Althoffs, with the same blue eyes and laughing Althoff faces. Anne died July 24, 1962.

I will never forget her funeral at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Watertown, with a grieving Joe Neaton and their six bright children in the front pew with their scrubbed faces, new clothes, and solemn blue eyes.

Bernard came through another scrape recently at the hands of the healers, but still works as an attorney in New York City where he commutes every day from Rye where he lives with his wife Peggy, and not too far from their children, Gretchen and Jay, both attorneys now themselves.

Bern and Peggy have grandchildren to worry about now, and I try hard not to be envious.

Back in high school, Bern was witty, athletic, and inevitably, the class valedictorian. I used to be puzzled as to how a mathematical genius like Bernie could end up in "The Law."

Bern graduated from St. John's University, the US Air Force, and Harvard Law School, where he had Ralph Nader as a classmate.

Damn that Bernie. He was good at absolutely everything. One time he even beat Oscar Lueck in a pool game and won some money.

Marion Borrell was also born on a farm south of Waverly, the second youngest of five boys and one girl born to the Joe Borrells. He had a great build from throwing hay bales, a booming laugh and a very gentle disposition.

He is retired now from the US Forest Service. He had to miss the All Time St. Mary's Alumni reunion because he had been called out of retirement to help fight the forest fires then raging on the west coast.

In high school he had a broad range of interests and even boxed in the Golden Gloves. I never once saw Marion lose his temper, though, not even in the ring.

Margaret Decker was more mature than the rest of us, I think. Although she was used to hard work, both on the farm and in school, she was still a happy, sociable sort of person.

She always had an opinion on things, unlike most girls of her time, and her opinions were of the sensible and mature sort.

She wasn't one to go wild, but she wasn't against having fun. None of the St. Mary's boys dated her very much. In fact, none of the boys in the class dated any of the girls in the class because, after 12 years of going to school together, we were like brothers and sisters.

Margaret married Don Loebertmann, now deceased, and lives in St. Louis Park.

John Alden Gagnon ("Chuck") received his nickname from the Althoff boys, who had nicknamed nearly everyone in town.

My nickname, "The Professor," never stuck even though I wore glasses. They probably called Chuck "Chuck" because in baseball he used to say "Chuck it here!"

He was also born on a farm, but moved to town to become my neighbor and lifelong friend. He had lost his father when he was very small and was the youngest of four children, Robert, Lorraine, Ralph, and himself.

Like all of us, he had a wonderful mother who lived to a ripe old age, but not before she raised a great family all by herself.

He and his friendly wife Marion live in Brooklyn Park and have the joy of being surrounded by their children and grandchildren, although the two of them went through the grief of losing a child while they were with the Air Force in England.

Later they were to know the same sorrow that Margaret Rogers Kutz went through in losing a grandchild.

Chuck retired from the Minneapolis Police Department after his career in the military.

Margaret Galvin ("McGee") was born and grew up on a farm north of Montrose to Leonard and Rose Galvin. She was the second oldest of seven, six girls and John.

She was valedictorian along with Bernie Althoff. Her brilliance would have shone forth in a much larger school. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph right out of high school. She taught on a variety of levels and earned a master's degree from Marquette.

She ended her teaching career at Derham Hall High School, where she won awards for being an outstanding teacher. She now lives at Bethany Convent, the home on the St. Catherine's campus for retired sisters.

Now she is facing serious health challenges, including Parkinson's Disease, the same disease that killed my father.

We were all so very lucky to have been taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. We had the faith presented to us by intelligent, caring people whose own lives were the best testimony there ever was for the validity of Catholicism.

They're all gone now. At some time in their young lives they must have heard, "Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come." And so they did.

And we were all the better for it. Someone said, "At what expense is any valuable work performed? At the expense of a life!" And so they gave their lives, joyously and generously. They're dying now, and the church is dying with them.

Sister Marguerite Marie was my favorite, and I think I was hers, along with Eddie Paul, "Chuck," Bernie, Marion, Don, "the three Margarets," Annella, Joan, Rose Mary, and Agnes.

I will always remember her cackle when she played poker with us after school in the library and played classical music for us at the same time. She was a great teacher, though, whether it was German or anything else. Thanks to her I later made A's in college German. I got to attend her 50th anniversary Mass, and when I saw her limp up the aisle to "renew her vows," well, guess what I did.

Rose Mary Galvin and her husband, Dick Juneski, just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Tom ("Truck") Galvin was her older brother.

She was too good to be true. I can't remember anything she ever did that was not just right. She dressed very well and there was never a hair out of place. She was also unflappable.

I remember the time some sodium (Na) got loose from its oil bottle in chemistry lab and spurted around, burning people and smoking, Rose Mary stood her ground while even Sister Augusta got rattled and the rest of us panicked.

She didn't even mind too much another time when chorine gas in that same lab bleached out her red hair ribbons. She was very smart in school, but never demanding of anyone. I last saw her when she was sitting at her mother's bedside in St. Mary's Hospital in 1968.

In high school, I thought she was very pretty, but probably the quietest girl in the class.

Annella Theresa Negus had a gorgeous, throaty laugh. If any boy from St. Mary's high school denies that he was in love with her at some time or other, that boy is surely lying.

She married our own Jim Lammers, who was certainly an improvement over anyone she had met in Minneapolis where she had gone to work right out of high school.

She had a way of looking you right in the eye when she talked to you and she demanded that kind of honesty in return, which is quite a bit to ask of adolescent boys.

She was one of those rare girls who, although popular with all the guys, was also well liked by all of the girls ­ everybody's friend.

We lost Annella December 31, 1996, when she died at the Lammers farm home. She left behind her husband, Jim, her beautiful family, and friends galore.

The last time I saw her was at the time of my brother Myles' funeral. Her own funeral was a huge affair. The pall bearers were Jerry Dubbin, Joe Reardon, Ed Perra, Wally Peterson, Jack Reinert, and Tim Youngren.

Edward Paul was the middle child between Herb and Helen. Ed's father had been the depot agent in Waverly and after his sudden death when Ed was still down in grade school, his mother married Bill Dignan, a dignified bachelor and insurance man when Ed was about 11.

Ed's mother was notably kind to all the children in town, and the Dignan house soon became a welcoming place for all of us.

Mr. Dignan made a wonderful stepfather. He had been like a father to the Jandro twins before they grew up and left.

Ed was fearless in high school. He wasn't very big, but he was built like a coiled spring. He boxed in golden gloves. He always won.

Ed became my lifelong friend, and he and Sally even visited us one time in Corpus Christi. I was privileged to see him just before he died.

He had a good and peaceful death, surrounded as he was by his loving wife, Sally, and his son Mark and his wife. Ed died Nov. 20, 1995, in Sioux Falls.

Joan Quast was my neighbor and a tall, slender, beautiful, and quiet girl with a perfect disposition.

She married Hans Gritz, one of Waverly's good guys. Hans was very well-liked. Hans was a farmer, but he still found time to play on one of Waverly's championship baseball teams.

They moved to San Diego and had three children. Word has it that they are in Hawaii right now.

I wish I had gotten to know her better when I had the chance. I could have walked to school with her, but I was always late for school and she was always early. (I had such a reputation for tardiness that when the Sisters put on a banquet in the convent for our class the night of graduation, the little verse I had to read by my plate, written by Sister Marguerite Marie, was "Here's hoping that tonight at eight, poetic James will not be late.")

Agnes Reardon ("Ankie") was the funniest, the prettiest, and the smartest of all the beautiful Reardon girls. I tried to chase after her and fell flat on my nose.

This futile pursuit began on the dance floor in the Waverly Village Hall in our junior year. If she had said "yes" to my invitation to "supper" at intermission, I never would have bothered with the seminary.

She was another of those sturdy farm girls. She now lives in Duluth.

Margaret Rogers was born July 31, 1931, and was the second oldest daughter of Jack and Catherine Rogers. Margaret had been the Waverly representative to girls state.

She had the most beautiful voice in the class, maybe the whole school. Marion Borrell had the best male voice.

Good singing seems to run in the Borrell family. Margaret sang "Annie Laurie" in the 1948 senior class thriller of the same name. That was the play in which Jack Daigle, Jim Lammers, and other nobles of the time paraded about onstage wearing kilts.

They also tried to sit like ladies as they discussed a forthcoming war. I, personally, have never mentioned the kilts to either Daigle or Lammers to this day, and I would advise against doing so.

Margaret married Harvey Kutz and they had a large and wonderful family and hosts of friends.

It was Margaret who sent me all the class addresses a few years back.

We lost Margaret, after a very brief illness, March 26, 2002.

Donald Joseph Smith was born Aug. 25, 1931, to Conrad and Minnie Smith. He had one older sister, Barbara, who married Ray Kaczmarek from Cokato.

Don was the smartest guy in our class. The only trouble was that he didn't know that. He could do anything, fix anything, and make anything, and he could do it all without bragging.

Bragging was the one thing he hated. He and Bernie Althoff both played football for Howard Lake High School when they were seniors and full-time students at St. Mary's High School.

They became eligible for football at Howard Lake by signing up for typing, which they were already taking at St. Mary's. Father Morgan put a stop to it as soon as he found out about it.

Don married Gerry Meehan, but that was after the Korean War and many other happenings in his life. The reason Don was not a lady killer in high school was because he didn't want to be. He had too many other things to do, such as shoot ducks, play baseball, and work like a man from the time he was 14.

Don came to my parents' funerals, and his parents had been awfully good to my parents over the years. Conrad even rigged up a comfortable bed, including a lifter, when my father became bedridden.

Their house on the lake is the first place I go whenever I visit Waverly.

Epilogue

It was May with a full moon over Waverly Lake. We seniors and juniors were having a fish fry at Decker's Point, that spit of wooded land owned by Joe Decker.

It came with picnic tables, a barbecue pit and a horseshoe pit. Joe was most generous in letting everyone use it. That evening started with all of us catching fish at the channel at Isadore Decker's place.

The boys cleaned the fish. At Decker's point, the girls all set to frying them in butter over the open fire. Then they sat around and sang like they always did. There wasn't any beer, just pop and bread to go with the fish.

I remember standing with Bernie Althoff looking out over the lake with the moon's reflection making a path on the smooth, clean surface.

I confided in him that I was going to the seminary in the fall. He was headed for St. John's in Collegeville on a scholarship. The girls were harmonizing on "Now is the hour when we must say goodbye . . . "

We cleaned up the place and went home to be with our parents.

I knew it was too good to last.


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