I am on my way over to Leo High School to welcome home the 104 members of the Class of 1959, after the Jubilee Class revelled in the return of pals, many not seen by the classmates in fifty years.
Alumni President Rich Furlong, one last night's Hall of Fame Inductees, will lead bus loads of Leo Men and their wives over to 7901 S. Sangamon to tour the school that helped them launch their lives.
Ronnell Reynolds, the Chief Engineer of Leo High School, will have opened class rooms, the famous 'band box' gym on the third floor, the Leo Boxing Room -home to ten Golden Gloves Champions, the cafeteria that 50 years ago had been the Chapel of St. Leo which served as an annex chapel to the now closed St. Leo Parish, and the courtyard War Memorial and Shrine to Our Lady, where each year Leo High School Honors America's Veterans on the Friday before Veterans Day.
On the War Memorial is the name of nearly two-hundred Leo Men who died in the service to their Country - Pro Deo et Patria: for God and Country - is inscribed on the cornerstone of school set by Cardinal Mundelein in 1926. One of those names, Lt. Col. Thomas O'Dea*, reminds us of 'the full measure of devotion' exercised in living a courageous and committed life.
Last night more than 600 Leo Men paid tribute to the values that maintain Leo High School. Other Catholic high schools have closed, but Leo continues in the public imagination,because of the courage and commitment of thousands of Leo Men.
Leo High School brought generations of young men, most of them the sons of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Belgium and Germany, together in order to be 'led' (educare -in Latin)to an other directed life - a life beyond the self.
These tough and willful kids met Irish Christian Brothers, tasked with disciplining but also nurturing a love of science, art, literature, and most of all the Faith. The Christian Brothers are gone from Leo, but their presence remains in the spirit of the school and witnessed in the school's crest. Primarily, it may be witnessed in the lives of men who do for others. Last Night, William Koloseike '45, was named Leo Man of the Year.
Bill Koloseike, Bill Kay to Chicago's automobile buyers, was a hard-as-nails football player. Last night, Leo Hall of Famer Jerry Tourville, asked me to re-introduce him to the man who 'knocked him on his ass every day on the cinders and broken beer-bottles of Shewbridge Field.' Jerry played football at Colorado after he graduated from Leo and had not seen Bill Kay in decades. In that time Bill Koloseike has been a river of moral and financial support of Leo President Bob Foster, as well as a Jesuit Volunteer teacher and establishing a school for poor kids in Africa.
Bill Kay is about 5'6" and Jerry is about 6' in height. 'Jesus!'replied Mr. Tourville upon introduction, not in prayer,but in honor of the fierce impact the smaller man had in Mr. Tourville's life.
Bill Kay went into the Marines at the end of WWII, instead of playing college football. Another Leo Man and Leo Hall of Famer, Dick Prendergast '43 asked to meet Bill Koloseike. The last time these two men met was in April 1946 at Great Lakes Naval Station. The young Bill Koloseike processed ( 'mustered')Dick Prendergast out of the Marine Corps, after Dick's three years of combat as a forward oberserver ( Joint Assault Signal Company JASCO) all over the Pacific -Guam especially.
Leo Honored Bill Kay and Jack Hallberg and Jim Farrell another quiet hero who served in Vietnam as a Captain in the U.S.Army in Vietnam. Each of these men deflected the Honor bestowed upon him last night to Bob Foster, Leo President, who has remained the anchor to this great school and to the great Leo Alumni who lived and breathed the Spirit of the Lion and have gone Home to Christ- Dr. Thomas 'Doc'Driscoll, Jim Coogan and especially Jack Howard.
Nine Leo Men and a veteran teacher, Bob Schablaske, were inducted into the Hall of Fame 2009 Class.
600 and change Leo Men provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to Leo High School, so poor black kids who live in the same bungalows, three flats, and street-front apartments along 79th Street as the older white Leo men can develop character, courage and a deep sense of commitment as they had years before.
These are magnificent people.
Time to get over to Leo and make sure the men of 1959 get the tour they deserve.
* Click my post title for yesterdays tribute to Leo Men.