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.

  Dec. 22, 2003

Remembering the spirit of Christmas past

Christmas allows room for reminiscence, even to the point of yearning for the past and mourning for all we have lost.

The radio broadcast of "A Christmas Carol" was always part of the O'Leary Christmas and Scrooge's "Christmas Past" became part of our own lives even though it was our own past we thought about.

I know all the saints recommend to "live in the present moment" if you want to know God and live godly lives, but I can't believe the saints, who were as human as we are, didn't remember things.

I can't believe they would not have mourned their loved ones, the saints they themselves had known who had been examples for them in a long chain we can call "The Communion of Saints."

This past year, I have lost too many saints I have known and loved when they entered eternal life.

My old and beloved neighbor, Laura Claessen, died July 8. Her death resulted in a wonderful talk I had on the telephone with her devoted daughter, Margie Millerbernd.

Gary MacEoin, a distinguished author on Latin America, died the same date that Laura died. Last Christmas Gary had given me permission to reprint his Christmas letter for The Waverly Star. He was 93.

Jerry Hoover, who had grown up in Waverly, died April 26. I was able to talk with him in Sioux Falls not long before he died, and I was glad to learn that he didn't really mind growing up in a sea of Catholics in Waverly and that he never felt discriminated against.

Phyllis Zeller died January 28 and I was pleased to reprint a very good poem she had written in my column.

Arvid Nelson died June 24 in Minneapolis. He was the Minnesota volunteer I wrote about who had won an award for all he did for elementary schools in Los Fresnos down here in South Texas.

The only reason he gave me permission to write about him was because he hoped it would do some good and encourage some other old people to volunteer for the tutoring of public school students, especially those who came from poor families.

Previous to this year, I had lost classmates and good friends such as Margaret Rogers Kutz who died March 25 in 2002 and Annella Negus Lammers who died New Year's Eve in 1996.

Eddie Paul died in Sioux Falls on Nov. 20, 1995, not long after I had visited him in the VA hospital there.

There are still 10 of us left from this St. Mary's class of 13 who had graduated in 1949.

I have a long list of my dead now that I am 72. I look at these names every day as part of my morning prayers. It's something I learned from my mother who kept her own list of loved ones in her Bible. I believe in praying for the dead and I like to think they are praying for me.

I also mourn Marilyn Murray Le Page (June 22, 1995). She wrote me more letters than any of my other Waverly correspondents and I still have all of them and reread them from time to time.

Three people I visited with at the St. Mary's All-Time reunion are on my list: Susan Tuchenhagen (Sept. 18, 2002), her brother George Tuchenhagen (Jan. 27, 2001, a year after the reunion) and Jimmy Ogle Oct. 16, 2001.

I had already lost the friendly and lively Allan Le Page July 23, 1999 and the wonderful Jerry Sexton Jan. 29, 2000. I know I am leaving out many Waverly people I still mourn and miss.

I still mourn for the one and only Bill Henk who died in 1955, and the always-smiling Anne Althoff Neaton who died July 24, 1962. I can't forget the bright Virginia Berkner Cullen (Jan. 19, 1999) or the beautiful Teresa Reardon Zeleny (Oct. 20, 2002).

We lost Duly Fitzpatrick Herbst on Oct. 6, 1992 and her brother Crete Fitzpatrick on Sept. 20, 1998.

A very good friend of mine from Cokato, Major John Robert Schumann, was captured June 16, 1965. Some report that he died in captivity but to quote from the website www.pownetwork.org "Since the war ended the Vietnamese have made no effort to return the body of Robert Schumann even though it should be readily available to them."

This only adds to the agony his family have already endured.

I met John when I was working at the Green Giant Company in Cokato. He befriended me and even invited me to his church youth group in Cokato where they served us Kool-Aid and cookies and were very friendly to me, this Catholic kid from Waverly.

He was one of the gentlest and kindest men I have ever known, low key but very intelligent. He used to visit the O'Leary house in Waverly as part of his Christmas rounds. My parents loved him.

John was interested in everybody and everything. He attended the University of Minnesota and we stayed in touch with each other into the 1960s. He loved the Army and believed in what he was doing in Vietnam.

To quote further from the POW website: "Major Schumann was an advisor from Headquarters, MACV, and his job was assisting a village chief in Dinh Tuong Province, South Vietnam.

"He was ambushed and captured along the border of Dinh Tuong and Vinh Long Provinces."

Needless to say, he is on my list. I think of him as another good friend in Heaven.

Some day we will all celebrate Christmas together in the next life.

Won't that be one hell of a party!

"The souls of the just are in the hands of God. In the sight of the unwise, they seem to have died, but they are in peace." (Wisdom, 3:21). Merry Christmas, y'all.

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