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.
Aug. 5, 2002
Bob and Phyllis Zeller came to see me on my visit to Waverly last month. Naturally, we talked about my brother Paul, who was Bob's best friend almost from the time we moved to Waverly.
The Zellers had moved from South Dakota like the O'Learys did. Paul was always at the Zeller house hunting ducks or fishing if he wasn't working at the lumber yard.
Bob was a very welcome guest at the O'Leary house . . . always. My parents doted on him. Both Paul and Zip were gunners on airplanes in WWII. Both of them married wonderful women. Both had four children.
Theirs was a life-long friendship. Zip and I were together at the hospital the night Paul's oldest son, Jeff, was born at Midway Hospital Jan. 6, 1949.
Bob had driven me into the Twin Cities in the first car he ever owned when he first came back from the service. We were playing Monopoly at Paul and Betty's house when Betty went into labor.
I have a picture of Paul and Zip when they were altar boys together. They are holding the priest's cincture, a rope to tie around the waist of the alb, in front of the door where the bride and groom are to emerge after the boys had served the wedding Mass.
According to an old French-Canadian custom, the best man is supposed to tip the altar boys.
In this case, the money would be used for an altar boy trip up to Father Morgan's cabin on Gull Lake. Father Morgan had the common sense enough to bring the mothers of the altar boys along on these trips to cook and clean the fish, and make the boys behave.
The boys liked my mother when it was her turn because she didn't care how they behaved, but she was not their favorite cook. Mrs. Zeller was.
Right now, Zip needs our prayers since he has to overcome some challenging medical problems. Along with my prayers, I am sending him this tribute for his old friend Paul that Paul's granddaughter wrote. I think it is so fine that I am afraid she will steal my job.
Katie is 14 and is my nephew Mark's daughter. They live in Sioux Falls where Katie will be a junior at Bishop O'Gorman Catholic High School. Her column follows below:
Dear Great Uncle Jim:
"Hello, this is Katie. How are you? I am great. I enjoy your articles for The Waverly Star.
"Well, I just finished volunteering at a telethon for Children's Miracle Network. It went well, and we raised over half a million dollars. I did face-painting at the hospital, and even though I wasn't very good at it, I don't think they cared very much.
"I suppose I better get to my subject now. I'm sure you remember when I recently asked you about our grandfather, Red Pat O'Leary. The assignment was to research a family member who has touched our lives, and then give a speech on them and pretend to be them giving the speech. Thank you for all the information, including when Red Pat came from Ireland.
"Well, I had researched Red Pat, and done interviews, and was prepared to begin writing my speech. I got about half way through, and realized that although he was an extraordinary person, he really hadn't personally inspired me.
"I instantly realized that the person I would be privileged to share with my classmates, was a man whom I barely had to research at all. It became clear to me that all along my grandfather, Paul O'Leary, was the perfect choice for this project.
"Well, after much preparation, I gave my speech the next day in the auditorium. After it was over, I received a hundred percent on my speech.
"It isn't possible for any words to describe such a noble and honorable man, but perhaps this speech gave my classmates an idea of what a wonderful grandfather he was. I hope you enjoy it, just as I enjoyed giving it. I am enclosing it for you."
Here is my speech:
"My grandpa wrote a book I have called "Why Did I Run So Fast?"
"And hanging on the wall of my bedroom is a plaque entitled,"Don't Quit". My grandfather, Paul O'Leary, gave me that plaque when I was five years old.
"My grandpa always told me that I can do anything I put my mind to, and to never give up no matter how hopeless things may seem. I think of my grandpa each time I read that poem, and every time I read it, it inspires me even more than the last. You see, he never gave up, even in some of the hardest, most difficult times in his life; he always put on a smile and never quit trying.
"My grandfather was, and always will be, a brave, compassionate and trustworthy man.
My grandfather now speaks:
"I was 16 years old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Living in Waverly., I never realized how close the war would hit home until the following year when I enlisted in the army so I could be a pilot.
"After months of training, I became the head gunner onboard a B-29 aircraft. At such a young age, I was frightened of the dangers, but proud to be serving for my country.
"However, I remember the time when I was the most scared of all. We were flying over Tokyo, when a type of kamikaze attack caused us to lose two engines on our B-29, and we had to make an emergency landing at Iwo Jima. Thankfully, the other men and I on the plane made it back safely.
"The next year, I was able to go home after completing all my missions. In all, I completed 35 flight missions, and received the flying cross.
"When I was much older, and my four children were all grown up, I lived with my wife, Betty, in Brownsville, Texas, where I practiced law.
"However, ever since I was a little boy, one of my favorite hobbies has been hunting. Brownsville is right near the Mexican border, so I often hunted in Mexico. Once, while near a town called Santa Teresa, my son, Mark, and I were walking down a country road, looking for a good place to hunt.
"We saw a man carrying an old rusty shotgun, and we figured he was a hunter as well. As it turned out, he let us use his property that day to hunt. The man's name was Candelario. He was a struggling farmer.
"Later that night, he invited us into his home, which had no electricity and a dirt floor.
"He was married with seven children, and I knew I had to help my new friend. Over a short period time, I brought Candelario and his family many necessities of everyday living that I once took for granted.
"I brought him and his family things such as a stove, refrigerator, food and clothing, and I arranged for the installment of electricity and running water. I also made sure that he and his family had proper medical care, and that his seven children were able to get an education.
"Throughout my life, I have practiced law in both Minnesota and Texas. While practicing in Minnesota, I tried 203 court cases; and I have never lost a case that was held at the Supreme Court in St. Paul.
"However, no matter how many cases I won or lost, I always stayed honest with myself, my clients, and the jury. As a lawyer, I always reminded myself that my job was not about 'out-doing' the other attorney, but to defend my client's rights to the best of my ability.
"All human beings have rights which should be protected. That is why many times I defended people who couldn't pay for a lawyer, and helped them for free. I did my best to bring justice to all people who needed my help, no matter what their personal status."
Paul O'Leary, as told by his granddaughter, Katie O'Leary
So my Grandpa passed away Feb. 26, 1996, at only 70 years old, which was just a few years after the death of his wife, my beloved grandmother.
I didn't have the privilege of knowing him for very long, but he still lives in my heart and in my memory everyday.
For Christmas one year, my grandpa wrote a book dedicated to his grandkids entitled, "Why Did I Run So Fast?"
This title has always puzzled me, until lately when I came to realize that the "route" he ran was so blessed, that maybe he wished he would have "ran" through it slower.
I will never know the answer for certain. One thing I am sure of is that he always made it known to his kids, and grandkids, how proud he was of them, no matter how many times they succeeded or failed, as long as they did the best they could.
He has taught me not to quit when some things can seem almost unbearable, and to run through life's route a little bit slower. I have learned so much from him.
These are things that I will carry with me throughout my life, and I hope I make him proud, just as I am proud to be his granddaughter.
Katie O'Leary, English II, Sioux Falls, S.D., May, 2002
So, Zip. There it is. I don't think you and Paul ever foresaw the great fortune of having grandkids like Katie when you were young and poor and working so hard with so little prospects.
Remember when you and Paul practiced shooting at Hitler's statue with a .22? Remember when your mother told my mother that "before this is over, Paul and Zip and maybe even Toby would be 'in it?'" (My mother had told Mrs. Zeller that we could beat "those dumb Japs" in three weeks.)
Zip is the only Zeller to settle in Waverly after retiring from a banking career in Minneapolis. Gertrude Zeller Donovan lives in Rochester (her husband's name is Paul), Viola (Chuck) Asgain Zeller lives in St. Paul, Mary (Wally) Zeller Grotz lives in Delano, Catherine (Jim) Zeller Borrell lives in Maple Lake, Rose (Wayne) Zeller Machalacheck lives in Maple Lake, and Ed Zeller (Toby) lives in Loretto.
From A to Z, I have never met people like Waverly people. From Althoff to Zeller, I've only just begun to tell you all about them.
Corpus Christi, Texas 78412
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