Brother F.R. Finch in 1948 at Leo High School.
Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
Last Friday, as is our custom, Leo High School honored our Veterans of America's Wars. Scores of heroes who survived Tarawa, The Bulge, Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sahn and Pleiku, Desert Storms I-II, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like most of us who enjoy our way of life, I missed every one of those wars and honor those who serve . . .I like to think that I do. I was lucky. I had a high enough draft lottery number and never was called up at the end of Vietnam.
Note the predominance of the first person singular pronoun in the immediate above? Five "Is" in three short sentences. The Veterans never seem to use that. Service must have erased the use of "I" from their vocabulary. We, They, Him and She dominates their declamations.
Men from the Classes of 50, 51, 52, 61, 65, 66, 67, and 68 came home from Korea Vietnam with gray and even white highlights and some of them without limbs, or tiny steel souvenirs from rockets, grenades or mortar rounds that found a home within their young muscles, stood like heroes.
Men from the classes of 40, 43, 44, 45, 46 47, who served in WWII, Korea and, a very few, both Wars occupied cold folding chairs or leaned on the back of them, but stiffed with pride and remembrance when taps was sounded by Vietnam Veteran Larry Richards.
This week I talked with freshman Raheem, a man-mountain of a child -6'3" and every bit of three hundred pounds, who will be a Division I football prospect in three years about his school. Raheem asked me who was the greatest Leo Man of All Time.
Bob Foster, Jimmy Arenberg, Bill Koloseicke, Bob Hanlon, Ed Ryan, Don Flynn, Chico Driscoll, Doc Driscoll, Bro Farrrell, General Gerrity, Bishop John Gorman, Father Finno, Father Tom Mescall, Tony Parker, Jack Fitzgerald, Tom O'Malley, Dr. Hartnett, Frank Considine . . . flooded through my consciousness.
To me, the greatest Leo Man was Brother Francis Rupert Finch. Brother Finch was a short, muscular, scholarly, and saintly man. He taught Latin, Physics, Chemistry, and Theology, coached the Lightweight ( 5'8" & under) basketball team to the National Championship, served Leo as the athletic director and died while teaching big tough smart kids like Harold Blackman, Jelani Clay, Mario Bullock and Kenny Philpot.
Brother Finch embodied the soul of Leo High School. The school is not as some might believe a Jock-ocracy; rather, it is an incubator for the human heart.
Bro Finch was an orphan raised by the Irish Christian Brothers in Tacoma Washington. From there Frank Finch too his degree and joined the Order at Iona, NY and was posted to Leo High School at the end of the 1930's, just when Leo was emerging as a great sports powerhouse and college preparatory standout.
Brother Finch radiated muscular piety. He was a tough man without a trace of the bully and absent of ego. His students learned from his quiet, courtly, and gentle voice mastery of numbers as the language of God - pure Math. It's applications mean nothing unless they lay a carpet before the throne of God.
He did not hit, nor did Brother Finch lash with irony.
On the basketball court, Brother Finch mixed it up while wearing his cassock and one time took an elbow from Bart Murphy '45 that shattered his lower jaw. Brother Finch completed the practice and then went to the doctor's office in Frank's Department Store east of the school and missed no classes, no practices. Brother Finch sat on the bench with his jaws wired shut and his play book in his hands. His boys knew what to do and what was expected of them. They won the upcoming game and went undefeated in 1944-45.
Decades later, after the Irish Christian Brothers withdrew from Leo High School, Brother Francis Rupert Finch, refused to abandon his Leo boys - they were African American now- a-days. Althrough the 1990's, it took Brother Finch more time to climb the stairs to the second floor to get to his Lab, than it did for him to drive the six miles from Brother Rice Monastery to 79th & Sangamon. Brother Finch was never late and only absent when he was hospitalized.
Brother Finch died as a faculty member of Leo High School. He was youthful in his old age, as he was gentle within his toughness. Brother Finch was Christ Resurrected and Triumphant. He was Our Lady's little boy wearing fingerless wool gloves in the Lab that always seemed too cold for him as he spooned Campbell's soups heated over his Bunsen burners.
Brother Finch was a veteran of God's many wars. His silver hair stayed with him like the frost on the flagpole behind Leo's War Memorial.
Francis Rupert Finch, CFC died December 16, 1999*, just before our new century. His spirit is Leo High School and the best that can be found in any man or woman.
*Brother Francis Finch, 87, Coach
December 19, 1999|By Virginia Groark, Tribune Staff Writer.
Brother Francis R. Finch was an award-winning high school basketball coach, leading Leo Catholic High School to two Catholic League basketball titles, two Fenwick lightweight basketball championships and two all-city trophies in the 1930s and '40s.
Despite his accomplishments, the Catholic League Coaches' Hall of Fame coach was "tremendously embarrassed" when the school named its gym after him, said school President Bob Foster."He was very, very modest," Foster said. "He just didn't want any publicity or anything. He was a very modest, a very humble man."
Brother Finch rarely missed a day of school, so Foster sensed something might be wrong when he failed to show up about three weeks ago. His instincts proved correct. Brother Finch, 87, died Thursday, Dec. 16, in Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn after a brief illness.
For Brother Finch, the most important thing was his students. For more than 60 years, he taught math and science and never missed an opportunity to encourage troubled students, according to those who knew him.
At Leo Catholic, where he taught intermittently for six decades--including his most recent stint beginning in 1982-- Brother Finch arrived at school by 7:15 a.m. every day, beating many of his younger colleagues to work.
"He was always on time, even in a snowstorm," Foster said. "He had a hip operation . . . and we thought he might be down . . . and may retire. But he didn't. He came back and he was stronger than ever."
Born in 1912, Brother Finch graduated from Briscoe Memorial in Kent, Wash., and joined the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland, of which he was a member for 72 years.
Brother Finch taught at several other schools, including Vancouver College in Canada, Lewis University and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Romeoville. But his closest ties were to Leo, Foster said.
Brother Finch also made a lasting impact as a teacher, according to school officials. Many of the school's alumni called him the "most brilliant teacher that they ever had," Foster said.
Though he was modest, Brother Finch's work did not go unrecognized. This year, the National Association of Religious Brothers chose him as its first honoree
for the Recognition of Brotherhood Award.
He was to receive the honor in January.
Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Brother Rice High School Chapel, 10001 S. Pulaski Rd., with a prayer service at 7:30 p.m.
Mass will be said at 2 p.m. Monday at Queen of Martyrs Church, 103rd and Central Park.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Francis Rupert Finch, CFC December 16, 1999 -Whose Womb Came This Ice? - Veterans and Above All Our Elderly
Brother F.R. Finch in 1948 at Leo High School.