Class notes submitted Oct. 31, 2014


Thank you to Jim Hutchinson, Larry “Monk” Forness, Tom McKenna (Indiana), Jim O’Rourke, John McCoy, Tom Fitzharris and Bob Smith for the contributions to “We’re Pumped!” and the four items following it.  The items report the death of classmate Tom Connolly, the existence of ND grads who found South Bend weather milder than the weather at home, some photos documenting how little we have changed since our 25th reunion, the attention Tom Fitzharris is receiving for his paintings, and the news of some Bob Smith friends.

And thank you to all of you for being good Notre Dame subjects, in all the senses of that.

Mike Helmer’s popular contribution from the West Coast last time around has no immediate successor: after a night of revelry following his San Francisco Giants’ World Series success, Mike is recuperating from the strain of tipping over his neighbors’ cars. Since Mike and Elizabeth live in the Napa region, the cars are no easy matter: mostly Bentleys and Teslas, unlike the compacts known to most of us practical liberal arts majors. Fortunately, Forrest Hainline and John O’Connor had their fleets secured during the time of Mike’s joyous rampage.

Maybe southern California’s mound of muscle, Crossfit trainer Mike Burgener, can help Mike get in shape for any repeat of the Giants’ season. Larry “Monk” Forness, far along in his recovery from a heart repair, wrote from Granger, IN that Mike Burgener was one of the Father Bernard Lange‘s Gym group assembled for the Michigan weekend: “We had a great time at the Fr. Lange Weight Room in the Rockne Memorial Bldg. Big Steve Quinn was one of the better lifters. I couldn’t participate because of my recent surgery. Mad Dog (Burgener) looked so buffed that he didn’t lift, but instead was the judge. After the lifting, we went out into the parking lot and Kent “Iron Man” Durso (’67) had brought up an arm wrestling table stand, driven all the way from his farm, outside Nashville, TN. Big Steve Quinn got into a match with Dr. Jed Ervin, MD (’70) and tore Jed’s biceps tendon. Thankfully, it won’t require surgery. Iron Man got into it and dislocated his right shoulder. The only saving grace was that there were two bottles of booze — a 150-dollar bottle of Irish Whiskey (which we drained in toasts to Fr. Lange) and a 120-dollar bottle of scotch (that we drained to our own stupidity).”

During the Stanford weekend, Monk and Florida’s Jim Smithberger turned to heavy intellectual lifting when they sat in on a class in Classical and Scientific Genetics, an interest of Jim’s grandson Clayton, who is a Notre Dame prospect.

Also around for Michigan was Jim Hutchinson, who filed this mysterious report: “Jerry Murray, Bob Kubiak and I were part of the Rochester, NY crew that rented a house in Mishawaka. The weekend even included some non-pc insight from Mike Ryan re: the football player scandal. Only rough patch was a misunderstanding (now known as Towelgate) which resulted in Jerry M. shouting at everyone, ‘We are not supposed to use the towels, stand out on the lawn naked, and drip dry’.”

Here come the Irish. . . to the Purdue tailgate hosted by Tom McKenna and Mike Browning.

Here come the Irish. . . to the Purdue tailgate hosted by Tom McKenna and Mike Browning.

On the road - to Purdue game 2014

Feeling the prick of conscience after decades of presence at the tailgates of Class President Tom Weyer and his family, Carmel, IN’s Tom McKenna and Mike Browning organized their own party for the Purdue weekend. Tom reported, with attitude and a photo posted on the blog “Beautiful weather, great food, uniforms looked good, rare sighting of Maggie Kernan and Mary Ann O’Toole, two former Governors, our own Joe Kernan and Evan Bayh, kicked Purdue’s ass, sneered at former Governor and current unqualified and incompetent Purdue President, Mitchell Daniels, wasn’t wearing his baseball cap nor riding in his RV. ’68’ attendees: Joe Kernan, Mike Ryan, Tom Gibbs, Gene Cavanaugh brought our class flag, Denny Toolin, Wally Moxham, Michael Browning, Class President Tom Weyer, Mike Wolf and Skip Strzelecki, generous provider of the tee shirts especially made for the game.”

Jim O’Rourke sent word of Thomas M. Connolly‘s death August 26, 2014. After serving as a U.S. Navy pilot, Tom came back to South Bend, where he married Bonnie McHugh, made his career in automotive and aviation industries, and enjoyed a wide circle of friends. Suffering from cancer at the end, Tom was the father of two sons and grandfather of four. Please keep him and Bonnie in your prayers.

Pals of John Schmelzer can write him at 200 North Maple Avenue, Apt. 611, Falls Church, VA 22046-4328. Though suffering from some health issues, John is sure to reply with interesting comments. Also, keep Bill Knapp and his wife Mary Clare in your thoughts as Mary Clare deals with some health matters. (In an early November phone call, Bill said that 2013 was a difficult time but, on January 6, 2014, Mary Clare had surgery that put her back in the pink.  The Knapps are good.)

Thanks. – Tom Figel, 1054 West North Shore, Apt. 3-E, Chicago, IL,, tel. (office) 312-223-9536.

Thomas M. Connolly death Aug. 26, 2014

Thomas M. Connolly Aug. 26, 1946 – Sept. 6, 2014 SOUTH BEND – Thomas M. Connolly, 68, passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 6, 2014, at 3:00 PM at Hospice House in South Bend, with his devoted wife of 46 years by his side, after a long and difficult battle with cancer. Tom was born on August 26, 1946, in Chicago, Illinois, the only son of Paul and Ann Connolly. Tom lived all over the Great Lakes region as a child, moving frequently as his father managed various industrial construction projects from Illinois to New York. He came to South Bend to attend Notre Dame in 1964 and graduated with a bachelor of economics in 1968. On July 20, 1968, he married Yvonne (Bonnie) McHugh at Christ the King Church in South Bend. Soon after that, Tom joined the Navy as an officer and was stationed in Pensacola, Florida where he successfully finished flight school to become a Navy fighter pilot and was commissioned Ensign USNR. He was awarded an honorable discharge in 1969 and he and Bonnie moved back to South Bend afterward. Tom’s lifelong love of cars and airplanes guided his long and winding career path. He was truly a jack of all trades working in outside sales in the insurance, trucking, and automotive industries, general manager in the retail industry, and for many years as a telephone system technician. He was a superb mechanic and opened his own automotive parts supply and repair shop, Imported Automotive Supply, in 1977. Many years later, he went back to college to become certified as an aircraft mechanic and had worked at LaPorte Aviation in that capacity until just recently. Tom enjoyed British sports cars and vintage WW II era aircraft, attending airshows and visiting aircraft and auto museums around the country. In his younger years he enjoyed car racing for a time on the SCCA Formula V circuit. He was also an athletic man who enjoyed spending time outdoors. He enjoyed cutting and splitting his own firewood, and at various times throughout his life tried his hand at skiing, surfing, bicycle racing, tae kwon do, fishing, and gardening. Tom was an avid reader for his entire life and could talk for hours on a variety of topics, though he had a particular interest in WW I history, and had done countless hours of genealogical research on his family. More recently, Tom and Bonnie enjoyed traveling to many exotic locales including Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Barbados, Greece, Italy and many more places in between. A loving husband as well as a wonderful father and grandfather, Tom’s passing weighs heavy in the hearts of his family. He was also a man who could always be counted on to lend a hand to his friends and will be missed by those many friends he has made over the years. Tom was preceded in death by his mother, Ann in 1972 and his father, Paul in 1979. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie; two sons, Neal (Jillian) Connolly of South Bend and Kevin (Jill) Connolly of Newnan, Georgia; and four grandchildren: Neal and Jillian’s daughters, Scarlet and Violet; and Kevin and Jill’s daughters, Caroline and Elizabeth. The entire Connolly family would like to express their sincere gratitude to Drs. Rafat Ansari and Binh Tran and their entire staff at Michiana Hematology Oncology and also to the Center for Hospice for the care, compassion, and support that they provided for Tom and his family throughout this difficult time. Viewing will be from 2 to 4 and 5 to 8 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2014 in the Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 N. Bendix Drive, South Bend, where a Parish Rosary will be prayed at 3:30 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 am Thursday, September 11, 2014, at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church Terre Coupee (meet directly at church). Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Osceola. In lieu of flowers, all memorial contributions may be made to the EAA Young Eagles Program To send online condolences, please visit

Old Reunion Photos Discovered by John McCoy

After some back and forth with Class President Tom Weyer, shown in some of the photos, John McCoy identified these as photos of the 1993 reunion, our 25th.


Tom Weyer, Class President, you'll notice, is in these photos.

Tom Weyer, Class President, you’ll notice, is in these photos.

These photos explain why Jay Schwartz and Nancy Carlin Figel, as well as Maureen McAtee and Bill Kelly have never held elective office.  Jay's election to head of the Hall President's Council occurred in years prior.

These photos explain why Jay Schwartz and Nancy Carlin Figel, as well as Maureen McAtee and Bill Kelly, have never held elective office. Jay’s election to head of the Hall President’s Council occurred in years prior.

Notice the four Toms (Condon, McKenna, McCann, McKenna) in the second photo.

Notice the four Toms (Condon, McKenna, McCann, McKenna) in the second photo.

Ah, South Bend, respite from hard winters

A sketch received from Jim Hennegan around 1971 - with a laugh.

A sketch received from Jim Hennegan around 1971 – with a laugh.

South Bend, IN has its good qualities but who’s ever heard South Bend’s weather included on that list?
The exceptions are our own John McCoy and Dennis Gallagher, who both found their climate situations improved when they matriculated at Notre Dame.
“We both came for the mild climate,” John McCoy said, “but the dispute was over who had bettered his lot the most.”
Dennis is from Oswego, NY, which is on the east end of Lake Ontario and directly in the path of the Lake Ontario lake effect.
John is from Bradford, PA (about 80 miles south of Buffalo and 2 miles south of the NY/PA line). Bradford is due east of about the first 200 miles of Lake Erie (the shore line eventually bears north east toward Buffalo). As a result, says John, Bradford gets the bulk of the Lake Erie lake effect and much worse winters than Buffalo sees.
John says he and Dennis have debated the issue for many years. Then a third party stepped into the argument.
“I claimed victory a few years ago,” John said, “when the Weather Channel set up an NCAA BB style bracket of 64 cities and had its viewers vote on which ones had the worst weather. Bradford won in the east region and in its semi-final match-up, but lost to Fargo, ND in the final. If I recall correctly, Bradford was the only one of the six cities that Fargo faced to hold it under 60 percent of the vote.”
And what about present locations? Neither classmate returned to old haunts. Instead, they both live in the DC area, where NBC news reporter Pat Collins keeps track of snowfall with a blue stick and lots of commentary.
In revisiting the argument, John sent two links:
Perhaps global warming is having an effect:

This is the weather channel’s description of Bradford’s climate from the 2011 competition:

Tom Fitzharris’ Art Becoming Recognized

New York City resident Tom Fitzharris says graduating from the General Program of Liberal Studies turned out to be a big asset. Just take a look at the images of Tom’s work.

Bad Spring 2001 by Tom Fitzharris

Bad Spring 2001 by Tom Fitzharris

Since leaving fulltime work as head of Court TV’s website, Tom has turned plenty of spare time to painting. He is also part of the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he draws on his General Studies knowledge while conducting tours for school groups.

Tom’s painting “Fall Interior” was among the works of Met employees included in a special exhibit during 2014. Another work was part of a similar exhibit in 2012.

"Fall Interior" by Tom Fitzharris

“Fall Interior” by Tom Fitzharris

Tom had to miss the 45th class reunion when it conflicted with a long-sought honor, selection as a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome, where he spent two weeks. In July, 2014, the art critic David Cohen ( made Tom’s work “Landscape” part of an exhibit in the Manhattan gallery Bowery, located in Chelsea. Tom also has a work included in the permanent collection of the US mission to the United Nations.

 Tom’s email address is:

"Landscape" by Tom Fitzharris

“Landscape” by Tom Fitzharris

Bob Smith reports on Len Niessen, Jerry Niederman, Tom Moran, others

Below are pictures of Len and Pat Niessen (Farmington, MA)  and Jerry and Cam Niederman (Oak Park, IL) taken during the Syracuse football weekend this fall when they spent the weekend at the home of another ND lacrosse alum, Tom Moran.  Len and Pat have been married nearly 45 years (and 2 children) and Jerry and Cam not far behind (over 40 years and 5 children).  Jerry is a retired Pediatric doctor who spent many years in teaching hospitals and Len has kept working after many years in the IT and electronics industries, kind of a Mr. Wizard with management skills.  Also heard from Jim Stoffel, another electronic wizard and big time executive (Sr. VP at Xerox and later Exec VP at Kodak before entering the consulting field), who wrote to wish me well with my cancer treatments.  Brian Kenny and his wife Pat are still in Ellington, CT, where Brian is a retired environmentalist with the state of CT that works full time now as his Parish’s administrator while managing a couple of entrepreneurial activities.  Dick DiLorenzo has retired after a long career as a Professor at the Air Force graduate school at Wright Patterson.  He and his wife, Sharon, live in Beavercreek, OH where he has fully recovered from a heart attack and is back to playing basketball (full court and all).  Brian Muskus and his wife, Annie, are raising 2 teenage twin girls, and now living in Ft. Walton Beach, FL close to the air base there to take advantage of being a retired air force pilot.  He has spent time teaching at the community college level to keep engaged.  Chuck Belding is doing well here in Greenville, SC, enjoying his wife’s retirement as a VP at BMW.  Chuck has joined the bionic man group with new knees and hips.  Chuck has done tremendous charitable work in the inner city areas of Greenville with his heavy involvement at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, a Catholic Church run by Franciscans that serves the African American community.
Len and Pat Niessen during Syracuse game weekend Fall 2014

Len and Pat Niessen during Syracuse game weekend Fall 2014

Jerry and Cam Niederman during Syracuse game weekend Fall 2014

Jerry and Cam Niederman during Syracuse game weekend Fall 2014