Forty-Niners Reminisce about the Dominicans of Fenwick

With extra time on their hands during the COVID-19 health crisis,
10 members from Fenwick’s Class of ’49 trade memories via e-mail.

“I keep looking for something more or less productive to do,” writes Fenwick alumnus Tom Morsch ’49. “While watching a Zoom presentation on Thomas Aquinas, I noticed that his treatise on the Gospel of John was translated from Latin to English by someone named Fabian Larcher, O.P. I said to myself, I know that guy; he taught me algebra. To be sure, I went online to check ‘Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great.’ There I found that this was, in fact, our Fr. Larcher (and lots of other interesting stuff).”

Classmate Bob Lee responded, “I had Fr. Larcher for algebra also. He was a clean-desk guy. Remember? The only book on your desk was the algebra book, all others below your desk. And he walked around the class every day and enforced the law. He was one of my best teachers at Fenwick. You always had to be prepared for his quick tests. I had the feeling he was interested that I got it.” Fr. Larcher went on to teach at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, from 1949-53. He passed away in 1981 at age 77 (see list below).

Tom Morsch in 1948-49.

“I agree with you, Bob. I loved the guy!” replied Morsch, who also reminisced about Father James Dempsey. “My first day in Fr. Dempsey’s English class, he asked: ‘Are there any of you who did not go to a Catholic school? If so, raise your hand’” recalls Mr. Morsch. “I did so, along with two or three others. My hand was about as high as the top of my ear.

“Dempsey said: ‘Morsch, stand up and recite the Our Father,’” he continues. “I stood up. I was terribly embarrassed, and mumbled something like, ‘Mumble, mumble, Our Father, mumble, ugh, er, mumble.’ I knew the Our Father but was too scared to say it. With disgust Dempsey said, ‘Sit down, Morsch.’ That was that. But I loved the guy!”

Classmate Jack Spatafora notes: “Fr. Dempsey let me be a columnist for The Wick. All went well until I got writer’s block. I decided to ‘borrow’ some ideas from the Chicago Public Library stacks … [and] found a clever piece on golf and adapted it. Later, I discovered that my source was a well-known New York author who was all too familiar to Dempsey — as he later advised me with a contemptuous scowl! Still, I think I’d prefer THOSE innocent days to THESE!”

Tom McCormick ’49 adds: “Freshman year we … had Fr. Larcher for Algebra, Dempsey (a good friend of Red Sox catcher and manager Birdie Tebbets) for English, Lawton for General Science, maybe Donlan or Morganthaler for Religion, Shortie Connolly for Speech, aka ‘Show and Tell,’ I don’t remember who for Latin, but I do remember fun-loving Br. Schoffman being overseer of JUG …

“An anecdote, perhaps you recall, involving Fr. Dempsey: Bill Finnegan knew I had the book Barefoot Boy with Cheek and asked to borrow it. I said okay, gave it to him before English class, and admonished him not to read it during class. Naturally, he couldn’t resist a peek, started giggling, and prompted Fr. Dempsey to ask ‘What do you have there?’ The first words out of Finnegan’s mouth were, ‘It’s McCormick’s.’ So Dempsey confiscates the book. Three weeks later he gives it back to me with a lecture on why I shouldn’t be reading things like that. I’m sure it made the rounds at the Priory during the three weeks. As a result, I wouldn’t let Finnegan read my father’s copy of Forever Amber.”

Fr. Dempsey and Fr. Lawton left Fenwick to join the Dominican mission in Nigeria. Fr. Lawton was invested as Bishop of Sokto in 1964. He died of a heart attack in 1966 while riding in an automobile and is buried in Nigeria. Fr. Dempsey succeeded him as Bishop of Sokoto in 1967 and eventually returned to the United States, where he died in 1996.

’49 TRIVIA

Father Malone
  1. What were the nicknames of Fr. Conley and Fr. Malone?
  2. Nickname of Fr. Scannell?
  3. What bet was made by astronaut Joe Kerwin in September 1945?
  4. How many freshman boys hailed from northwest suburban Park Ridge, IL?
  5. Who won the Scholar-Athlete Award at the 1949 graduation?
  6. What model car did Tony Nashaar drive to school?
  7. What was the rather remarkable thing that Jack McMahon did after graduating?
  8. Who was the fourth member of the one-mile relay team that won the Daily News Relays title beside Jack Kelly, Jack Regan and Bill Carmody?
Nashaar’s mystery car.

Answers

  1. Little Caesar & Butch
  2. Skipper because he was moderator of sea scouts.
  3. Chicago Cubs to whip Detroit Tigers in World Series, and he gave odds!
  4. Nine (A. Jenks, Sorquist, O’Brien, Frainey, Jolie, Normandt, Barczykowski, Gleason, Georgen)
  5. Jim Strojny
  6. Nash
  7. Robbed a bank and went to jail.
  8. George Remus

Order of Preachers – Province of St. Albert the Great – Necrology (Date of Death)

Teachers

John Murtaugh – 1947
James Quinn – 1961
Edward Lawton – 1966
John Simones – 1967
Michael McNicholas – 1968
Chester Myers – 1968
Andrew Henry – 1971
George Conway – 1972
Anselm Townsend – 1972
Joseph Reardon – 1977
Fabian Larcher – 1981
Cyril Fisher – 1982
George Conway – 1984
Victor Feltrop – 1984
Walter van Rooy – 1985
John Malone – 1993
James Dempsey – 1996
James Regan – 1996
Gordon Walter – 1996
Louis Nugent – 1998
Raymond Ashenbrenner – 2003
Walter Soleta – 2003
John Morgenthaler – 2004
Thomas Donlon
Albert Niesser

Teachers not O.P.

Fr. Leonard Puisis – 2013
Tony Lawless – 1976
Dan O’Brien ’34 – 2003
Br. Schaufman               

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