This article was provide by Len Strauch
Fellow 1969 Alums- The Last Dragons,
Like you, I recently received the mailing announcing the 73rd Annual St. George High School Alumni Banquet to be held Monday, May 6, 2019. The graphic of the familiar fire- breathing Dragon at the top of the letterhead made the invitation stand out. .
This notice brought forth a flood of memories for me of our formative years spent within the walls, halls, classrooms, cafeteria, library, pool and gym at 350 Sherman Avenue. Hard to believe, but true, it has been fifty years since our class graduated and this paradise of our high school years was turned into a parking lot.
Our classmate and student leader John Conroy wrote this simple truth for the final edition of the school yearbook, The Last Georgian. “The building called St. George is closed...but its presence will be felt for a long time.”
My first exposure to the Alumni banquet occurred in 1970, in the spring semester of our freshmen year. I had white-haired Brother Peter Dolan for homeroom, as well as for Latin. Brother also held the position of Moderator for St. George Alumni. He pulled a few of us wet- behind-the-ears frosh out of class to stuff hundreds of envelopes for that year’s Alumni Reunion.
In our senior yearbook I found this from Brother Peter. “It is not an easy thing to close the doors of St. George for good. However, this should not sever our relationship. It is my fondest hope that the Alumni Association would continue.”
Brother Peter must be smiling down from his desk in Heaven above, because his fervent wish for a strong and vibrant Alumni Association has been realized. The spirit of St. George is alive and well.
My St. George roots run deep. My late father, John (Jack) T. McCarthy III, and three of my uncles were proud St. George alums. I figure I have attended some 20-25 Reunions over the years, many with my father and uncles while they were alive.
The photo here of my father and me was taken at an Alumni Reunion sometime in the early nineteen nineties. I believe that is John Pflaumer seen over my dad’s broad shoulders. Dad was a member of the class of 1943 and a schoolmate of football great Marty Wendell. Their class was graduated early so these young men, part of the Greatest Generation, could go off as soldiers in WWII. Jack McCarthy served in the infantry with Patton’s Third Army and was severely injured fighting in France. I am proudly the safe keeper of his Purple Heart.
The 1996 Reunion was to be dad’s last. I travelled down from my home in Milwaukee to pick up him and accompany him to the Reunion that year. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table when I arrived. Seeing me, he slapped a morphine patch on his arm, donned a dress shirt, and resolutely said, “Let’s go.”
Despite the effects of advanced prostate cancer that would end his life the following month, dad was determined on this night to attend the Reunion and spend precious time with his band of brothers--his high school buddies. For him, there was to be no next year.
Fast forward to a gorgeous night in early May 2013. I parked at the White Eagle and walked the short distance to a bar just to the north on Milwaukee Avenue. I was excited about meeting up with a contingent of the class of ‘69 who had convened there before that year’s banquet.
There, my old friend Carl Favaro and I settled into the corner of the bar and caught up on life over a couple of beers. He was headed to a meeting and wouldn’t be attending that particular Reunion. His wife Joanie has told me I might well have been the last person to have a beer with Carl. Soon after this memorable conversation Carl cruelly was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would end his life the following May.
The older we get the more we are reminded that life is indeed short and the future unpredictable. The Alumni mailing counted Carl Favaro as one of the 35 members of our 1969 brotherhood who have passed on.
After St. George, I attended Marquette University and was fortunate to be there during the Al McGuire era of MU basketball prowess. Thinking back to my last time sharing those beers with Carl, a McGuire quip came to mind. “Don’t wait to have a drink for a fella once he’s dead, better to buy him a drink while he’s alive.” I’m glad I didn’t wait.
Memories and connections aside, I have completed and mailed in my registration for our fiftieth anniversary banquet. I encourage all my classmates to make the effort to come together, raise a glass, and reunite for this very special life event. As Tom Howe likes to say, “Every day is a great day to be a Dragon.”
All the best and hope to see you at the 50th.
John T. McCarthy