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.

August 18, 2001

Ray Pearson, a fellow columnist on these pages, gave me this tip when I asked him how to write a column:

"Writing a column is like writing to a friend you respect very much."

I want to write a letter to a friend named Elinor Sawatzke Franke, who was one year behind me at St. Mary's High School, but light years ahead of me in every other category.

She sent me an e-mail to tell me that she had enjoyed seeing my brother, John, and his wife at a reception in Pine River, Minn. Elinor had been visiting her brother, Larry Sawatzke, and his family.

She had spotted John as a Waverly O'Leary right away. They were both attending a reception for Father Ed Foster's 50th anniversary as a priest.

Fr. Foster is pastor in Pine River, and Mr. and Mrs. Larry Sawatzke had known him when he had been their pastor in Cross Lake, Minn., where they now are living.

When I asked Elinor how Larry had ended up in Cross Lake, here's what she told me:

"Since Larry's wife was originally from the Cross Lake area, they always had a cabin 'up north,' although living and raising their family in Minneapolis.

"About 10 years ago, they built a roomy retirement home in Cross Lake. They have recently sold it and live in a townhouse now right on the bay in town.

"Both are very active in church, social, and civic projects. They are enjoying their retirement to the utmost.

"They raised four children. All are married with families. Lynn, the oldest, is a special needs high school teacher and lives in Wisconsin.

"John is a landscape architect for the city of Aurora, Colo. Paul lives in Elk River and has a business like his father had, in the pipe covering industry. Tom lives in Billings, Mont. and works for the government as a soil engineer."

Elinor went on to tell me she was headed for the Rasset Store that afternoon to attend a party there. She hurt my feelings by asking me if I remembered the Rasset Store. How could I forget!

Not only do I remember the Rasset Store, but I remember the Rassets.

She also mentioned that she and "Fitz" (Lorraine Fitzpatrick Kittock, of course), Carolyn Vaughan Custer, and a good friend she had not seen in 50 years, Norma Kolbinger Hunt, enjoyed a ladies-day-out luncheon at the Mill Creek Inn in Buffalo last week, and said, "Whenever we get together, we always have a blast!"

For the last 10 years Elinor's friend, Norma, had lived in Ireland, where her husband works as a writer.

He is working on a book about the Lusitania. He has been locating and interviewing people from County Cork who had heard the explosion when the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine, just off the Head of Old Kinsale.

There is now a golf course at the Head of Old Kinsale, where the lighthouse still stands. Mr. Hunt was able to interview the lighthouse keeper who was on duty when the Lusitania was torpedoed.

Michael Jordan recently played on this golf course and tipped the caddies $400. The caddies told me this when I was at Kinsale.

I didn't spend the hundred pounds it takes there to play a round of golf, though. The caddies said they split the $400 among themselves. They also informed me that "Yanks" were the best tippers, even better than the Scots who play the course, if you can believe that.

I want to see the book when it comes out. The Germans probably lost World War I because they sank the Lusitania.

One hundred twenty eight Americans lost their lives, along with over 1,000 other passengers and crew. This was the Pearl Harbor of World War I, for up until then, America had been isolationist.

Who knows how long it would have taken for the United States to come to the rescue of France and England in World War I? ("Lafayette, we are here!" . . . but only because of the Lusitania).

This tragedy took place 12 miles off the coast of Ireland shortly after 2 p.m. May 7, 1915, and there is a memorial and benches there at Old Kinsale, which are beautifully maintained by the Irish government.


"The faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident."

The term was coined by Horace Walpole after the characters in the fairy tale, "The Three Princes of Serendip," who kept making happy, unexpected discoveries throughout the story.

I don't think it was mere serendipity, but more likely divine providence that made me run into Sister Mary Hasbrouck, CSJ, and Sister Mary Ellen Foster, CSJ, July 19, while Jeanne and I were on a trip to Peru this summer.

It was a joyous reunion, made even more so because it was unexpected. We spotted each other at the base of Machu Picchu, which I think should be one of the seven wonders of the world.

Sister Mary Ellen had been Sister Philip Neri, CSJ, before Vatican II.

She had taught at St. Mary's High School in 1960-61. It was her first year of teaching high school.

Although she was in Waverly for only one year, she remembers it all vividly. "I loved the kids," she says.

They gave her every job under the sun, including organizing the junior-senior prom that year, which chose the theme "The Highland Fling."

She and Sister Mary Hasbrouck are still educators, and were in Peru for a rather intense missionary workshop, studying peace and justice issues as they related to the global community.

Back in Waverly, Sister Philip Neri is still fondly remembered. Coming to Waverly she had fully expected to teach mathematics, which was her first love and her college major, but Fr. Gessner of St. Mary's parish, also a mathematician, taught all the high school math courses.

Sister was assigned to teach general business, general science, physics, biology, English, and economics, six preparations per day. This seems incredible now, but such were the times.

At the beginning of the school year, she met all of her students for the first time in orientation. To her physics class, she passed out all of the textbooks and told the students to look them over and bring them back with them on the first day of school.

On Monday, Francis De Mars came to class and announced he had found six errors in the physics textbook. He had read the entire textbook cover to cover over the weekend.

Sister checked the book for herself and found out he was right. She then wrote to the publisher, who told her it was too late to recall the million or so textbooks, but they would amend their teacher's edition.

From Waverly, she went to Jamestown, N.D. to teach in the Catholic high school there, but she never forgot Waverly, and has always preferred it to anywhere else, just like I have.

The seven wonders of the world

A group of geography students studied the Seven Wonders of the World.

At the end of that section, the students were asked to list what they considered to be the Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following got the most votes:

1. Egypt's Great Pyramids; 2. Taj Mahal; 3. Grand Canyon; 4. Panama Canal; 5. Empire State Building; 6. St. Peter's Basilica; 7. China's Great Wall.

One shy young lady, though, had trouble with her list and when the teacher asked her, she said,

"I can't quite make up my mind because there are so many wonderful things."

The teacher said, "Well, tell us what you have and maybe we can help."

She said "I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:

1. to touch; 2. to taste; 3. to see; 4. to hear . . .

She hesitated a little and then added, 5. to run; 6. to laugh; 7. to love.

Not bad, huh?

And the reason Machu Picchu isn't one of the Seven Wonders of the World is that the list was made before Machu Picchu was discovered by the American, Hiram Bingham, in 1911.

Antipater made the first list when only man-made wonders, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, whatever they were, were considered.

Anyone who has ever been to Yellowstone Park knows better.

Party lines ­ the good old days

People of my generation have fond memories of the Ollig family, not only because of the telephone company they owned and ran, but because they were friendly and generous people.

I even got to ride in the Ollig telephone truck as it went around the county with us teenagers. This was so we could learn how telephone lines were strung and repaired. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to climb any poles.

Later, Bob Decker got a real job with Mr. Ollig as an honest-to-God "lineman for the county."

The Ollig operator used to give us the time whenever we asked her for it. ("Time, please" we said.)

We all had "party lines" where you could listen in on the neighbors.

Everybody liked the Ollig girls.

So it was a big thrill for me to receive an e-mail from Joan Ollig Rasmusson herself:

"Dear Jim:

We are in Phoenix visiting my mother, Hazel Ollig, who will be 99 in December of this year. Her health is reasonably good, all things considered. She lives in her own house at 4929 E. Mitchell Dr., Phoenix, AZ 85018.

We visited Diane Moll Hoffman Saturday. She and her family live in the same part of Phoenix as my mother, as does Diane's mother, Marge.

John, my husband, and I live in Dell Rapids, S.D. Our children are all grown and far away, so we spend a fair amount of time traveling between Boston, Chicago, and Hamburg, Germany. On our trips to Minneapolis, we stop in Waverly.

The last time we visited briefly with Gen Henk.

My mother has many good memories of our time there and we often listen to her Waverly stories over our meals together.

Please add our name to your e-mail list.


Joan Ollig Rasmusson

The Rasmussons have eight grandchildren, two in Chicago, four in Boston, and two in Hamburg, Germany. No wonder they are on the road so often!

Quote of the week

"We need people who mean something to us, people to whom we can turn, knowing that being with them is coming home."

- Bernard Cooke

Back to Waverly Star menu

Howard Lake-Waverly Herald & Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries
Community Guides | Special Topics | Cool Stuff | Search | Home Page