Domers in the News

Author: The editors | Illustrations by Emmett Baggett


“How close was I?” Terry Hanratty ’69 wondered after his ordeal with COVID-19 was over and he watched the death toll mount. The 72-year-old former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback had to be hospitalized for six days. He lost 16 pounds and, though he never required a ventilator or intensive care, he had to be carried up the steps to get back into his Connecticut home. “I had no strength at all,” Hanratty told The Indianapolis Star. Feeling about 80 percent by mid-April, he expressed gratitude for the support he received from the Notre Dame family and hesitation about a return to normal life. He told the Star that he had contracted COVID-19 despite taking precautions. “The thing is, you can’t let your guard down,” Hanratty said. “The virus is everywhere.” . . . In the gossip of Washington salons, and even in the pages of an insider’s investigation, John P. Sears ’60 was considered a prime candidate to be Deep Throat, the secret Washington Post source who helped bring down President Richard Nixon. He wasn’t. “If I was going to talk to a reporter, I wouldn’t slink around a garage. I’d meet them at a bar,” the longtime Republican political strategist told his son, according to an obituary in The New York Times. Sears, who died of a heart attack in March, had served as deputy counsel in the Nixon administration, but was fired by attorney general John Mitchell after one year, and went on to run Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns in 1976 and 1980. During Reagan’s successful 1980 run, the candidate fired Sears on the day of the New Hampshire primary. “He was a master strategist,” Democratic political commentator Mark Shields ’59, who made television appearances with Sears over the years, told the Times. “But he didn’t suffer fools, and that was his ultimate undoing.” . . . People waving Notre Dame flags were among those parading past Jim Crowe ’70 to applaud his Justice Department career and wish him well in retirement. The surprise celebration took place in May at a park in St. Louis, where the former assistant U.S. attorney spent more than 40 years investigating and prosecuting high-profile tax, corruption and fraud cases. Because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crowe’s supporters passed by in cars, many flying flags and holding signs in his honor. . . . A starting tackle on the legendary undefeated Notre Dame football teams of the late 1940s, Ralph McGehee ’50 chronicled his 25-year career in the CIA in the 1983 book Deadly Deceits, both a professional retrospective and a sharp critique of the intelligence agency. McGehee’s reservations about the role the CIA played in American foreign policy, as well as his own participation in its activities, resurfaced in May after his death at age 92 from COVID-19. McGehee’s memoir “accused the agency of distorting intelligence to deceive American presidents and the American public to protect its power,” The New York Times reported in its obituary. Though he harbored few hopes that his criticism would bring change, he once told the Times, “I guess I justify myself by thinking that I fought for what I thought was right.” . . .


Director Charlie Buhler ’11 said “it couldn’t be more surreal to be debuting this film right now,” as she tweeted the trailer for Before the Fire, her film about a rising star forced because of a flu pandemic to return to the small town she fled. In May, Dark Sky Films acquired North American distribution rights to Buhler’s directorial debut, Deadline reported. Before the Fire is scheduled for a midsummer release. . . . In normal times, Choicelunch delivers 25,000 lunches a day to 300 California schools. The service, founded and run by Justin Gagnon ’00, Keith Cosbey ’00 and Ryan Mariotti ’00, had to lay off many of its 200 employees as schools closed because of coronavirus. Then Gagnon, the CEO, got a mistaken call asking if he represented a business in Orange County, which happened to be located in one of Choicelunch’s former kitchens. County representatives were looking for a service to provide meals to the homeless, a coincidence that allowed Choicelunch to maintain some of its operations. The company’s meal preparation for the homeless has expanded to three sites. Gagnon, Cosbey, the chief operating officer, and Mariotti, the chief technology officer, also decided to use a Choicelunch kitchen in the Bay Area as a food pantry and drive-thru pickup site, serving vulnerable populations, including the elderly and immunocompromised, who cannot risk going to the grocery store. Gagnon told the Catholic News Service that as he dealt with anxiety and frustration, his aunt assured him, “Not only will God get you through this, but he will also bless you abundantly.” Despite ongoing uncertainty, Gagnon said, “I’m already seeing those blessings come to fruition.” . . . Toughness and compassion define the legal legacy of Mike Barnes ’73J.D., the former St. Joseph County prosecutor who died of cancer in May at age 72. During his 22-year tenure as county prosecutor, Barnes helped establish The CASIE Center, an investigation and advocacy organization for victims of child abuse. He also created a special victims unit focused on domestic abuse. After losing a prosecutorial election in 2000, Barnes was appointed to be a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals, serving until his retirement in 2018. . . . Growing up in Pennsylvania, John McKeegan ’87J.D. felt the influence of the Sisters of Mercy, the order that founded and sponsors Mt. Aloysius College, the Catholic liberal arts school where he became president on June 1. McKeegan returns to his home state after serving for the past 10 years as vice president for institutional advancement and general counsel at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. . . .


When the Notre Dame men’s basketball team inducted Bob Whitmore ’69, ’76J.D. into its Ring of Honor last year, the event attracted a larger-than-usual contingent of friends and former teammates. “I looked out at the crowd and thought: ‘My God, he’s the Pied Piper. People will follow him anywhere,’” Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey told The Washington Post after Whitmore’s death in May at 73 from pancreatic cancer, which the former star had fought for two decades. Whitmore averaged 18.8 points and 12.4 rebounds during his college career, then went on to practice law in his native Washington, D.C., area. . . . According to family lore, Thomas J. Hanifin ’49 “was born backstage and placed in a magician’s trunk so that his mother could resume the show that was in progress. Subsequently he was used as a prop in some of the shows when the band traveled,” Hanifin’s daughter Mary told The Buffalo News after her father’s death in April at age 92. Though he was “the life of the party” with his singing and sense of humor, he found his calling not on the stage, but in the law. Hanifin graduated from Harvard Law and spent more than 60 years practicing in western New York. . . .


Over breakfast one Saturday in March, two weeks before his death at age 82 from COVID-19, David Berg ’59 regaled one of his daughters with information about the DNA of Neanderthals. The chemist, who researched diabetes at Eli Lilly, helping to develop new medications, took an early retirement in 1993. By that point all seven of Berg’s children had graduated from Notre Dame, and he pursued a lifelong interest in teaching. He was also active in his parish, a frequent traveler with his wife, a sports fan and an avid reader, enthusiastic about sharing new knowledge, like the Neanderthal DNA. “It was just so interesting,” his daughter Teresa Berg ’90 told The Indianapolis Star. “It’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, and he’s got this book.” 