‘This looks like the first Memorial Mass in three years without a classmates name on the list.’ It has become an annual ritual to attend this Alumni event with my Toronto friend, John Macmillan. Thursday several of us linked through social media receive a message that Ron Dabelle has died in Providence. After sharing the news, I receive messages from Ron Michnik, Sam Santarosa, Ed Curran, Larry Cieslica, and Ray Garnsey. They recalled spending time with him and his passion for painting. Ron was a rarity – a professional artist who lived by his art.
His work appears in public and private murals and painting throughout Rhode Island and the New England area. His work also hangs in the home of several classmates, myself included. When notifying SFHS about his death, Paul Bartell tells me he is looking at a painting of Assisi that Ron donated to the school. An artist colleague has created a public Facebook page of Ron’s works at https://www.facebook.com/ron.dabelle.5
Looking through the list of those remembered, I comment to Fr. Michael that during the past two years there seems to be several very recent graduates appearing among the list of those remembered. He responds that, ‘What happens in the world, happens in here too.’
The too young join the list of the expected, graduates from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The choir is particularly good. Their sound fills the chapel and joins the receding sound waves of choirs from the past 90 years, including years of broadcasts by the Fr. Justin Rosary Hour.
After Mass we join Tony Rudnicki, spouse Lynn, together with Al and Dick with spouse Marilyn. Two graduates from the class of ’54. They refer to me as ‘the youngster’. Al taught Physiology at UB Medical and Dick ran his own plumbing business. Tony is a retired educator and author of “Bipolar Buffalo”. White tablecloths and a wide choice of breakfast offerings have set a new standard for the cafeteria we all remember. Classrooms, labs, gyms, study halls – all have moved around and changed over the years. Chapel and cafeteria keep bringing us together for laughs, memories, stories and updates.
This may be the 12th time that John has come with me for this event. To round out his SFHS experience, I take him on a tour of the tunnel and the gym. We recall the Cold War and the Fall Out Shelter status of this tunnel.
Throughout the day the theme of challenges to values and their expression in today’s context emerges in our discussions. Most of us grew up in a time of organization, explicit and understood rules and expectations. I still recall during our 50th reunion how classmates who entered the military mentioned they could not understand the anxieties of other new recruits because of the SFHS boarding school background. As Fr. Mike’s comment acknowledges, that world has changed. Values remain. Now each one of us has to choose, accept and follow the ones we believe in or accept with God’s grace.
Later John and I join Fr. Romulus Rosolowski for lunch at the Pho Kim Chi, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the former Daisies Cafe location – https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-kim-chi-lackawanna. Less than a month old, it is receiving well deserved praised. This year’s breakfast is at Peg’s Place where we enjoy a counter conversation with a local whose daughter attends Guelph U.
Fr. Romulus and I were in St. Hyacinth’s College and Seminary together. He stayed to serve in Rome, Ghana, and many parishes. Now he’s the Vicar at Our Lady of Victory. Another fellow former Franciscan, John Neysmith was prevented from joining us because of flu. Romulus and John were both in ‘The Singing Friars’, a folk group. There is talk of a reunion. We cover a wide range of memories, opinions and ideas over our 3 hr lunch.
After a bit of shopping and car touring, John and I have supper at Buzzy’s in Niagara Falls. We return with pizza and wings leftovers and enjoy more conversation with Mary. My Monday morning subway ride to the train station reminds me of the Walking Dead. Many looking very tired. Many hunched over sleeping. Snow cover returns as the train gets closer to Ottawa.