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. 23, 2002
Christmas letters to reminisce and keep up with family and friends
Hazel Ollig celebrated her 100th birthday Dec. 10, 2002. She was honored at several dinners over the weekend. An open house was held for her at her daughter Gail's house in Phoenix on December 10th. Over 100 people attended this celebration.
Hazel has many happy memories from her days in Waverly, and Waverly still has fond memories of her and the Ollig family.
I have a great fondness for Christmas letters. It seems to be the only way, not only to reminisce, but to keep up with family and friends.
Some of my favorite Christmas letters come from priests who seem to step down from the pulpit at Christmas and tell you more of their personal life. One such letter I received this Christmas is from Father Harvey Egan, a close friend to Waverly's own Father Marion Casey. It's a pretty cheerful note for a guy who is in a nursing home:
"Beloved O'Learys - Yes, you are! A wandering minstrel recently sang to me an optimistic ballad. Recovering from an ailment may bring a surprising improvement of general health, occasionally a euphoria. I looked for the bluebird and danced.
"On Ash Wednesday, a stroke suddenly struck the back of my neck. Therapies at a nursing home put me in the mood for Lent. Looking heavenward for several weeks revealed some ancient wisdom. The quest helped the healing.
"All the arrangements of God's providence, as close to me as I am to you, seem designed for my growth in wisdom and love, all preparing me for approaching glory.
"Therapeutic exercises became my Lenten hair shirts as I wiggled toward Calvary for the purification of my spirit and enlargement of my love. I thanked God for extending my life span to improve my religious service. I could be doing better . . .
"Sincerity of heart is more important than a plethora of dogmas. Every person's body is now a church, a tabernacle, a shrine, or a mecca to house divinity and all religious forces. In my recovering solitude, my imagination has taken a creative flight . . . God is compassionately dwelling in the heart of everyone.
"Every person, no matter what their 'religion,' is a child of God. Religious vibrations are as close as our heart beats. Godliness and conscience run as an entry in humanity's sprint.
"I am deeply grateful for, and delighted by, the companionship you and I have shared, treasures beyond counting. My ailments are mending as my spirit sings and soars. I hope you and a loving family are flourishing.
"Your get-well notes and assurances of prayer are, each one, a string for my flying kite. We, pilgrims together in a dynamic exchange of love, are moving toward the fullness with, ah, bright wings.
Before his retirement, Father Harvey Egan was pastor of St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis. He was no stranger to Waverly.
Another Christmas past
Marilyn Murray Le Page died June 22, 1996, and I not only lost a good friend that day, but a faithful correspondent. I will always miss her letters.
To the many people who loved her, she was known as an indefatigable letter writer. Here is an excerpt from her Christmas letter in 1992:
"Christmas time in a small town, like my home town of Waverly, was quite mild in comparison to today's elaborate celebrations. I guess I still have that childlike wonder about Christmas.
"All of our entertainment was centered around the church and the family. Advent and baking brought in Old St. Nick. Us school kids always presented a pageant. Mom made our costumes. After the performance, we would each receive a small box of hard candy.
"During the few weeks before Christmas, the house was filled with an unusual amount of secrecy and activity. Some days before Christmas, Dad would make trips to our garage to bring in the decorations and a large board with a hole in the middle to put the tree in.
"The tree, usually a blue spruce, was placed in the hole, and then the board was covered with special red and white crepe paper. The top of the board was used for setting up a miniature lighted village. There were houses, churches, stores, and farm animals. The whole thing was sprinkled with "snow," a box of Ivory Flakes soap!
"As I grew older, I was allowed to help trim the tree. I first put on the lights and tested them. Immediately all the lights went out in the whole house. My dad would take the flashlight and trudge up to the attic and put in a new fuse. After several trips and much switching of bulbs, he would finally get the lights to cooperate.
"I always bought gifts for my mom and dad, Uncle Duff (Kinkor), Aunt Lizzy (Kinkor), my sisters and brothers Elizabeth, Jimmy, Judi, John, and Joan.
"I, myself, received gifts such as powder puffs, bath oil, panties, pictures, writing paper, hand lotion, necklaces, and books. The gift I remember the most was a manicure set complete with zipper case from my dad. I can't forget the beautiful blue blouse from my mom.
"Gifts were opened Christmas Eve before we went to the midnight Mass. Then we would anxiously wait for the carolers to arrive.
"On Christmas morning, it was back to church, and the rest of the day was devoted to family where we ate a big turkey dinner which Uncle Duff carved. The day was usually topped off with ice skating at the rink and sliding down the hill on our sleds.
"Basically, Christmas is still the same for me. It is still church, family, and friends and, of course, it is still the birthday of Jesus.
"Through the eyes of a child, and now through my own eyes, I want to say 'Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the long, extended hours of work you put in to make my childhood Christmas memories such happy ones.'"
Marilyn Murray Le Page was buried from her beloved St. Mary's Church June 29, 1996.
Paul, Dave, John, and Joshua Le Page noted on her funeral card that "each of us will remember her in different ways, but all of us will remember her joy and kindness."
Her immediate survivors were Paul Le Page, David Le Page, John and Joshua Le Page, Judi (Ed) Jansen, Joan (Ed) Bauman, James Murray, John Murray, and Liz (Don) Rasmussen.
The pall bearers were Marian Remer, Pat Gilmer, Beattie Hausladen, Dorothy Borrell, Ann Marie Andrus, Dianne Mahoney, Ida Whitesell, and Maxine Facca.
Marilyn "Nana" Le Page came through the same way in all of her letters to me over the years - cheerful, grateful, and positive; she never had an unkind word for anyone. Her friends and family, now 10 years later, are still grieving for her.
She left this earth much too early. The "Uncle Duff" and "Aunt Lizzie" she spoke of were the Kinkors, who were in business with Marilyn's father, Ed Murray. Together they ran the Murray Meat Market on Main Street. Later in her life, Marilyn would live next door to the Kinkors when her children were little.
Favorite Christmas memory
I had solicited on the Internet some favorite Waverly Christmas memories. Eileen Smith, Don and Gerry Smith's daughter, sent me this:
"My favorite memory is Santa's visit every year. Santa was Jim Franske, who visited our house every Christmas Eve after we were done with the dishes. He always had great timing.
"We didn't have a fireplace, so Santa always came in the garage door and would ring bells to let us know he was there. Presents from Santa were always wrapped in the comic pages from the Sunday paper.
"The pictures from those days are fun. My favorite (which Mom hid from us for years) shows Santa's helper, Catherine Franske, watching through the window."
Blessed be man and the animals
This came in from Fran Presley of The Texarkana Gazette. I have permission to quote from her column in my column:
"Jesus was born in earthy surroundings - a stable, hay, a manger, animals. He identifies with His whole creation, including the animals.
"The place of His birth, accessible to humble shepherds and wise men and animals and a bright star, gives us that message (that He cared not just about us, but about our earth) . . .
"Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection make it possible for people who love Him to become transformed, become like Him and, as much as possible now, live in harmony with animals and all creation . . . He lived among us. No inns and no palaces for Jesus during His life on earth.
"As a result, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, the animals, and the bright star sing joyfully with the disciple John '. . . and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.'"
Out of Ireland
My mother's parents came from Belfast in Northern Ireland. My mother taught me this poem about the same time as she taught me the "Angel of God my guardian dear . . . " prayer. She told me it came from Ireland and here it is:
Christmas is a comin'
And the geese are getting fat.
Please to put a penny in an old man's hat.
And if you haven't got a penny,
Then a half penny will do.
And if you haven't got a half penny,
Then God bless you."
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