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What a feeling

By Lou E. LaGrand ’58
Venice, Florida

It has been 48 years since I spent my one calendar year at Notre Dame, and yet it never fails, every time I hear or see the words “Notre Dame” my mind goes positive. I have been given a most welcome treat. Why? I suspect there is a mysterious reason, part of my life script. Perhaps to help keep my inner life vibrant and other-centered. However, what is very clear is that the intangible atmosphere that permeates the Notre Dame experience has penetrated to the deepest core of my being. The physical and spiritual presence of the campus coupled with the people who roam this happy place remind me of the peace and goodwill that every heart seeks.

“We will carry you”

by Diane Gill Ballor ’96
Shelby Township, Michigan

On a dreary day of April showers in 1994, I learned that my mom, my best friend in the world, had cancer. I remember the 1 p.m. phone call to my Notre Dame room like it was yesterday. “Oh, God, no. Not my mom. I’m sorry, Mom,” I shrieked, over and over again, not even trying to control the onslaught of tears.

I thought I would never laugh again, never be so young and carefree again, never have just tests and SYRs top my list of concerns—at least not for a very long time.

I immediately ran next door to see my dear friend, Alison Fogarty, as my mom had requested to speak with her. “It’s cancer,” I cried. She talked to my mom and promised to look after me, a promise she kept to the utmost degree. Fogie, as everyone called her, one other friend and I went to the Grotto, where I lit a candle for my mom.

I guess it was then that I realized that the world doesn’t stop for you. But it’s true what they say about kindness being returned to you in the end. I think about a random letter I had recently sent to a freshman in Morrissey struggling with the death of his grandfather. I had signed it simply “A Friend,” because he didn’t know me and I didn’t feel he needed to in order to hear the message. In it, I told him about my favorite Observer story: the sophomore battling cancer who wrote: “God forbid any hardships befall you, but if they do, we will rally to your side. On this you may depend; we will carry you.” That for me, I told him, is part of the magic of Notre Dame. Little did I know that just a few weeks later, it would be my turn to be carried—my turn to experience that magic in a most profound way.

I think about two of my professors, Kevin Misiewicz (accounting) and Robert Drevs (marketing), who sat down with me and asked about my life, sharing their own stories of life’s hardships, taking me in like one of their own children, and praying for me in class when my seat was vacant on the day of my mom’s surgery. I think of the Howard Hall rector, Sister. M.J. Griffin, who immediately arranged for a priest, Father Joe Carey, also traveling to Michigan the week of my mom’s surgery, to drive me, too, so I could be with my family.

I remember how, when Lou Holtz spoke at my dorm two days after I learned of my mom’s cancer, the last thing he said was, “If there’s anyone you know of who could use a little message of motivation from the head coach of Notre Dame football these days, just drop me a note—I’d be happy to do it". My jaw dropped. I had just mailed him a letter that day, thinking he might inspire my mom in some way, just as he had me in so many ways. His letter to my mom arrived just four days later.

Finally, I will forever be indebted to my friends. Every second I needed someone, someone was there. I have never before been the subject of such an outpouring of love, support and friendship. If ever one were to doubt the sincerity, the reality, of what we call the Notre Dame family, let all doubt be dispelled. My story is a testimony to the beauty of it all.

As a youngster, I dreamed of attending Notre Dame. Now I know that God allowed me to come to Notre Dame for reasons I could not possibly have known at the time. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

I should add that my mom endured her bout with cancer, recovering in time for Junior Parents’ Weekend and many happy events to come, including my graduation from Notre Dame in 1996 and my wedding in 2004.

A wonderful example

by Frank Conaty ’42
San Diego, California

A poor Wisconsin boy came to Notre Dame in 1938 to study engineering. My first hall was Freshman Hall, called the cardboard palace. I had money for my freshman year. The rest of my education came from campus work. It seemed that I spent my life in the dining hall. Engineering was a tough haul but I made it. I graduated with a B.S. in metallurgy. I served as a engineering officer on a cruiser with the carriers in the Pacific. I hate war and the misery that it brings. Masses in the hall chapels got me through.

I married an Irish girl named Peg. Peg and I lived in Los Angeles and raised a family of two boys and two girls. In those days I visited the sick with my classmate Dr Leo Turgeon. Notre Dame set a wonderful example to follow.

Back Again in Indiana

By Joseph E. Zaucha ’49
Washington, Pennslvania

Upon returning to school in early 1947 I found that one of my Morrissey Hall neighbors, John Moran, was also a former member of our Notre Dame Naval group. John was the son of a Tulsa oil family with ND roots. He had attended Culver Military Academy and was an articulate, well-read English/writing major. Our friendship flourished when he and his two bridge-playing roommates needed a fourth. My first semester back, the four of us religiously played cards every Friday night. After the lights in the room were turned off at 10 p.m., we would move the game into the hall or shower room and continue into the wee hours of the morning.

On Saturday, after morning classes, we also began taking on a couple of lads from Chicago at a tenth of a cent a point and usually ended up enjoying Saturday night eating out and then a few beers at the Lido with the contribution.

It is said that meeting new personalities can be as important in our overall education as the classes you take. After John’s roommates graduated and headed back to California, instead of playing bridge every Friday we began the evening by meeting two English professors, Richard Sullivan and Frank O’Malley, downtown at the higher-toned Oliver Hotel Bar. O’Malley later taught at Vassar. Sullivan lived on campus and is considered to be the most eminent “don” of his day. A writer and gifted teacher, his plaque was displayed in a special section of the Main Building honoring Notre Dame’s greatest.

Without extra tuition, Friday evening became a special “no credit” course during which we solved a variety of the world’s new problems. The kicker was that John and I always ended up with the check.

John and I later got involved with a group of international students. Once a month we would offer to be their guides and expose them to South Bend’s limited downtown attractions and how the strange Americans spent Saturday night. In our travels we were probably a bigger attraction than the attractions.

The group included students from Hong Kong, Pakistan, Brazil, El Salvador and the Philippines. My favorite was Rajh from Pakistan. He was interested in how we mined coal in Pennsylvania. His father was the managing editor of their country’s official national newspaper. A few years later Pakistan’s political hierarchy was purged, and I often wonder about him.

You probably have heard the name of another member of the group. Jose Napoleon Duarte. He later became the first democratically elected president in the history of El Salvador. A few short years later, while still in the prime of his life, he died of cancer.

(The previous essay is an edited version of a portion of Joseph Zaucha’s autobiography, Behind Joe’s Ear_.)_

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