Sr. Patricia Attends 8th-Grade Reunion

Class Shares Memories of Eventful Year

by Patricia A. Bauch, OP
Not many teachers have the opportunity to revisit their 8th-grade class 54 years after teaching them. It came as a surprise when I received an email from Mike DeBauche asking me to travel to Green Bay, WI, and attend his St. Patrick School 1969 8th-grade class reunion as a special guest. Why me? I only taught math to this group for the first semester and then only a few weeks at the end of the second semester due to illness. He sent me a class graduation picture with the mop-top Beatles haircuts of the day and their teachers—Anysia Sheridan, OP (1895–1986); Ruella Bouchonville, OP (teacher and principal); and my 28-year-old self.
Nonetheless, they brought forth many good memories—“Remember our trip to Madison for a math contest and on the way home we ran out of gas?” “You asked me to cut my bangs because you said you wanted to be able to see my eyes.” “You gave us those University of Wisconsin math quizzes every Friday. Some of us only got one problem right.” (But it was a great teaching tool!) “We got to visit your parents in Freeport, IL, and from there traveled to Chicago to see Chinatown.” “You were the best teacher/the best math teacher I ever had!” (Imagine that!) Several told me that they hated or were afraid of math until I began teaching them. Some even said they would not have been able to enter the professions they did if they had avoided math in high school. One even said that I had not changed a bit! (I wonder why?) There were lots of hugs, some teasing, and exchange of stories. Several were retired after successful careers! What a joy to see their faces and hear their stories!
In a short address to the group, I told them how Michael sent me their graduation picture naming as many of his classmates as he could recall. At the reunion, we filled in several more names. I recalled their cooperation and help as I faced an emergency.
My memories of this group were vague, as I ended up in the hospital with an unrecognized ruptured appendix that I had carried around for six months prior to emergency surgery shortly after Christmas, followed by a long recovery. Mary Ann Casey, OP; Ruella; and Liz Sully, OP, as well as the students nurtured me through much pain, surgery, and recovery. I told them that they had “lifted me up” in many ways. Prior to Christmas, my condition was such that I could not ascend or descend to my second-floor classroom and my second-floor bedroom in the convent. No problem. The bigger guys gently carried me backward on a wooden chair and deposited me wherever I was going. As it became more difficult to move around, I relied on the students to bring whatever I needed to my desk, write on the chalkboard, and to bring me their work. The teacher across the hall brought me aspirin and a glass of water every few hours to keep my temperature down. I had seen the doctor numerous times, but he could not figure out what was making me ill. After struggling up the choir loft stairs to play the organ for Christmas carols and Mass on Christmas Eve with Marie Raymond Strunk, OP (1915–2001), directing the choir, I finally looked forward to a long rest during Christmas vacation. The then Sister—now Reverend— Mary Pharmer came from Edgewood to spend the holidays with us and ended up taking over my classroom when I finally said, “No more.” I had emergency surgery on Saturday morning, Jan. 18, and was in critical care for two weeks. My parents flew from Albertus Airport in Freeport to be with me. The scene was too much for my father, who shortly returned home, but my mother sat with me every day for two weeks.
My mother insisted with the doctor and the Sisters that she needed to see me well before I returned to the classroom. When the doctor said I was well enough to ride the Badger Bus to Freeport, my parents were happy to see that I made a good recovery. Upon my return a week later, my wonderful 7th- and 8th-grade students and I were happy to be back together again. The students were so cooperative and attentive as they had been prior to my going to the hospital. Some had tried to sneak into the hospital to have a chance to visit me but were stopped on the back stairway. When I finally returned to teaching toward the end of March, their love and care was evident. The guys still had to carry me up and down stairs, but I think they loved it, as I did, too.
There are so many blessings to being a Dominican Sister—to live with a loving community, to teach, to love, to be loved, and get to know students and their families. I will never forget this time and the people who “lifted me up.”