Class notes submitted July 21, 2019


There’s a rhythm of normalcy in the items of this report.

Yet, how abnormal is our normalcy.

When the death of a classmate is part of the news – and we have an instance in this report – the normalcy is stunning. Always, the guy we knew as the fellow down the hall, the former roommate, the Peace Corps volunteer or ROTC officer who went on to become the professor, the businessman, the husband, father, grandfather and vocal Notre Dame fan, this classmate inevitably and normally, also became the modest mainstay of his childrens’ Scout groups and sports teams, the maker of sandwiches for the parish ministry to the homeless, the neighborhood contributor, the guy whose death really is a loss.

Meanwhile, the living are living it up. Bill Matturo and his wife are enjoying the proximity of grandchildren in Sarasota, FL. Tom Gibbs and Sheila gathered Class President Tom Weyer and Mary, the McKenna cousins Tom with Mary Ann and Tom with Mary Pat, Tom Durkin and Janis, Rick McPartlin and Patty, Kathy McCann, Bryan Dunigan, Dennis Toolan and Mary Lou, Roger Guerin and Jean for a Les Turner fundraiser. Bob Denvir and Leslie chaperoned.

In Pittsburgh, Tom Weyer says, “Rocky Bleier is expanding his acting chops by playing a military judge in a professional Pittsburgh production of A Few Good Men this fall. He hopes for lots of rehearsal time, as he has spent 73 years prepping for his previous role.”

Tom Fitzharris, apparently not one for the golf course or the laziness of the beach, spent his July and August with two more New York City shows of his art work. Images are on the blog, Californian Tom Loarie is in the third year of co-hosting The Mentors Radio, which airs on the Salem Network Saturdays in California. It is available 24/7 via podcast after it airs. Among the show’s inspiring guests have been Notre Dame alumni.

Tom Fitzharris: Good Sign (2015) 16” x 20” OIl on canvas

In Florence, SC, Tom Dorsel, father of five, grandfather of 12, devoted one of his Citizen Courier columns to fatherhood. Proposing that appreciation focus on the young dads still at their work, Tom closed with “If grandparents’ day ever catches on, then maybe the veterans of past parenting will get one last hurrah, one last nod, one final pat on the back for their sometimes forgotten years of service.”

Even though his own news is sloppy seconds, a duplicate of what he supplied for his University of Chicago law classmates, Ralph Neas sent pleasing word about his health: with a lot of grit and family support, he is recovering from the recurrence of Guiellen Barre Syndrome. After 180 days of hospitalization, Ralph is at home in Maryland, walking and climbing stairs, eager to resume work on his political memoir, about his work when politics included bipartisan collaboration.

Jim Woods, in Milwaukee, is a daily encouragement to groups of fellow military veterans he visits. A Falls Church, VA lunch visit Dennis Reeder and I had with John Schmelzer bubbled with John’s stories of classmates he knew in Howard Hall and in the summer ROTC training at Ft. Riley, KS. Joe Hale, in an email found in full on the blog, praised the accomplishments of Houston lawyer-accountant-MBA Dave Zell and Chicago area marketer Tom Culcasi: “right after graduation, Tom married Judy Donofrio (SMC ’68.), made his career in medical product sales, and with Judy, raised three Notre Dame graduates: sons Philip and Dave and daughter Maria.”

Another fine note on the blog is Father John Sheehan, SJ’s reflection on the 1968 and 1969 50 year reunions he attended.

Attesting to the normalcy of our classmates’ abnormal impact on those around them, USAF Captain Alya R. Reed, an ND’12 alumna, sent this with the obituary of our classmate Patrick Sharp, who died May 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, NV: “Pat was the definition of a patriot and his influence was crucial to the development of many of our greatest Air Force weapon systems. Although he did not have any blood-relatives at the time of his death, he taught, coached, and mentored an incredible number of people in the defense of our nation, many of whom considered him family. He was also distinctly proud of his alma mater (as all of us are).” Pat’s obituary appears on the blog.

Please remember, too, Brian Sullivan, whose mother Lillian, known as Snooky, died in June, 2019 and Bill Weiler, the former Irish Guards captain whose wife Edith, a photographer, died in January, 2019. On the blog is an article Bill sent about Edith and her work.

Please send news and photos to Tom Figel, 1054 West North Shore, Apt 3E, Chicago, IL 60626, tel. 773-764-4898,, blog: Let me know if you need help finding and contacting a classmate.

Tom Fitzharris: Rome-Courtyard-12-2017-17inx14in-iink-conte-acrylic-watercolor-on-paper

Jacquelyn Stephens, daughter of Colonel Stephens, death at age 68, August, 2019

Jacquelyn A. Stephens

Jackie Stephens

Aug. 29, 1950 – Aug. 23, 2019

SOUTH BEND, IN – Jacqueline Ann “Jackie” Stephens, 68, passed away on Aug. 23, at home with her family. She was the beloved wife of Philip Krause of South Bend. She was preceded in death by her parents, Col. Jack and Almira Stephens of South Bend. Jackie is lovingly remembered by her daughter, Jillian Sawyer (Chris) of Denver and granddaughter, Charlotte; siblings, Elise (Dennis) Reeder of Alexandria, VA and John (Joann) Stephens of Chicago; her brother-in-law, Father Ed Krause, CSC; and her nieces and nephews, Bridget Westhoven, David Reeder, Kelly Cecil, John Stephens, Michael Stephens, and Jimmy Stephens. Jackie will also be warmly and joyfully remembered by so many good friends. 

Known affectionately as “the little colonel,” Jackie grew up in locations around the world as the daughter of an Army officer, and made South Bend her permanent home beginning in 1964. She graduated from St. Mary’s Academy as valedictorian in 1968 and from St. Mary’s College with a degree in Fine Art in 1972. She had a long and successful business career. She worked with Doolittle Realty as the manager of the South Bend office. She later joined Waterfield Mortgage, working in the South Bend and Ft. Wayne offices for over 25 years. As a loan officer, she set a record of loan closures that will never be broken. She also mentored and trained hundreds of staff and employees and became a valued and beloved member of the Waterfield community. Jackie retired from Mutual Bank in South Bend in 2018.

In spite or perhaps because of being called “Peanut” by her father, Jackie lived an outsized life. Her humor, infectious laugh, and loving, generous personality drew friends from every neighborhood and every walk of life. As the children of “The Colonel” and Moose Krause, Jackie and her husband Phil have personified the heart and values of the Notre Dame community. Her hand-painted leprechauns popped up everywhere, even in the center of the original Notre Dame ice hockey rink. Her loss will be felt deeply by so many. Those closest to her will treasure the handcrafted Christmas ornaments she gifted them yearly.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Notre Dame in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Aug. 29, her 69th birthday, at 3:30 pm. The family will briefly greet visitors outside the Basilica before the service. A celebration of her life will follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center or the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. Welsheimer Family Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. Family and friends may leave email condolences at in South Bend Tribune on Aug. 25, 2019

Father John Sheehan , SJ, on the reunions of his two classes, 1968 and 1969


I have the unusual distinction of being a member of both the class of 1968 and 1969, and since my 25th reunion with ’69, I have attended all the intervening reunions. I was not going to miss the opportunity of going to my 50th twice.

I found them very different experiences. I knew more people in ’68, and although I may be wrong, it seemed to me that 1968 may have had slightly better treatment in terms of schedules or facilities. ’69 was very well-organized; there were regular weekly reminders for months before the reunion, stories from classmates, contributions to the class blog, and the organizers put out a reunion book, with mini bios of members, stories from our time, a very impressive publication – and our registration packet included a map of the campus from 1965 when the class started. Little touches that were fun.

Because of the screening of the Hesburgh movie on Saturday night, the class dinner for ’69 was tightly scheduled so it ended pretty much on schedule, by ’68 standards very early.  The university organization was, as it always is, impeccable. I had the same feeling with the lectures and seminars this year that I did last year, that most were way too academic and for me at least, did not hold a lot of interest.

But the key for any reunion is people – meeting old friends, reconnecting with friends made during earlier reunions, and just meeting “new” people whose paths had not crossed before and discovering just how much we had in common. I can’t put a finger on it, but the character – the personality – of the two years is markedly different. Although we shared the campus for three years, the focal points were very different, the memories decidedly different, the reactions to things.

I had a great time at each of my 50th reunions – and now, of course, we can go back whenever we can go back. Of course my assignments as a Jesuit determine availability – and budget – but I know I will be back to reunite with the Great 68 – and the fine 69 – which rhymes with wine – and as always, if anyone is coming to Jordan before the next reunion, stop in. We even have guest rooms for men. And a great hotel two doors away.

Not sure if this is the kind of thing you had in mind – it isn’t what I thought I’d write and words did not come But just in case – here is something completely different. 

Fr. John Sheehan is back in Amman, Jordan, after a flying trip to attend his SECOND 50th reunion, this time with the class of ’69. (Those who don’t know WHY he is in both classes should ask around, it’s a great story.) To celebrate his return he will be offering a solo concert in October; his first concert last year got national attention and great reviews in the national English-language newspaper. He reports the usual schedule of activities for a parish priest covering three different churches, including an upcoming pilgrimage trip to Malta, publishing a calendar and teaching several classes each week. But there is always time to host visitors and go to some of the wonderful places in Jordan – so any classmates coming to the REAL Holy Land, be sure and look him up. The Jesuit Center even has guest rooms (for men) and if you’re traveling with a wife or girl friend, there is a great hotel two doors away. You would be MOST welcome.
The second is probably the better piece. I’ve included a couple of pictures from the first concert in case they’re looking for filler. And one visiting the son of Tom Holstein who I believe was ’68 – gone to God – Tom’s son is my godson, and I met HIS first born son on this trip – the 4th generation of the family I have known.  Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJPastor – Sacred Heart Parish

The English Language Church in Amman
Cell: 079 013-8985 (in Jordan)GMT +3The Jesuit Center, PO Box 212074, Amman 11121, Jordan.
Packages: The Jesuit Center – LATIN CHURCH, PO Box 212074, Amman 11121, Jordan.
Fedex: The Jesuit Center – LATIN CHURCH, 43 Al-Razi Street, Jabal Hussein, Amman, Jordan.   

Rocky Bleier, ESPN Documentary

Rocky Bleier confronts his past in ESPN’s ‘The Return’

Rocky Bleier still isn’t used to being the center of attention, despite all he has accomplished in his documentary-worthy life.

“I think that the majority of people don’t know [my story], unless you’re an old Steelers fan,” he said. “I now am introduced to people outside of this area or even younger people in this area, and their parents or friends will say he played for the Steelers. I get that blank look, so then I have to put it in perspective.

“I go, ‘Listen, have you heard of Terry Bradshaw? Have you ever heard of Franco Harris? I’m the other guy.’ ”

Bleier’s story is about to be thrust into the national spotlight again due to “The Return,” a 30-minute documentary chronicling Bleier’s life from his days winning Super Bowls with the Steelers to him going back to the spot where he was injured as a soldier in Vietnam 50 years ago.

The full Tom Rinaldi-hosted documentary will debut on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, with a shorter version airing as part of “SC Featured,” a weekly series on “SportsCenter” Aug. 17-18.

“It’s a very powerful story,” producer Jon Fish said. “It’s an important story. Rocky was wonderful sharing himself with us and being so open. … “[I]t was really great and it’s one of those stories you’re proud to be a part of.”

Bleier’s career as a running back included a college football national championship with Notre Dame in 1966 and four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers . His most famous play as a Steeler was a touchdown he caught in Super Bowl XIII that gave the Steelers a lead over the Dallas Cowboys they never relinquished.

The lesser known part of Bleier’s story involves his time in Vietnam. He was drafted into military service in 1968 and came home a year later after suffering a severe injury to his legs while on patrol in Vietnam’s Hiep Duc district. Bleier was shot through the thigh and suffered a grenade blast to his foot.

He was told he could never play football again, but Bleier worked his way back into health and form enough to help Franco Harris anchor the backfield during the Steelers’ dynastic run. In “The Return,” Bleier goes back to the place where he was hurt 50 years ago and tries to make sense of his experiences since and the Vietnam War itself.

“What I did not expect was the strong emotional overtones that took over while in the rice paddy in Vietnam,” Bleier said. “I couldn’t understand where that emotion came from. Partly, I’m sure it was my visualization that when we went from Da Nang to Hiep Duc and how it had changed and grown in 50 years, how prosperous it had become.

“Maybe that became a subconscious feeling, because as I stood in that rice paddy recounting what had taken place … it was like, what for? Fifty-eight thousand Americans died, for what?”

It’s a hard concept to understand even all these years later, and the documentary includes multiple scenes of a raw, emotional Bleier being unable to hold back his feelings as they overwhelm him. Despite how hard it was for him to relive his trauma, Bleier is thankful for the opportunity to represent the voices of Vietnam War veterans in the 21st century.

“The thing that I had told [Tom] Rinaldi and Jon Fish was, it’s not as if the majority of Vietnam veterans specifically ever had an outlet to be able to talk about their experiences because of the way the war was perceived and the soldiers were perceived in that war,” he said. “There was nobody to talk about it, so the majority of soldiers had to repress those feelings. It wasn’t until years later that the American people finally warmed up or accepted veterans for serving their country and not necessarily identifying them with the war they served in.”

Fish had wanted to work with Bleier on this project for a decade. He remembered calling Bleier while the former Steeler was watching Notre Dame take on Princeton in the first round of the 2017 NCAA basketball tournament and finally getting him to agree to make the documentary.

“This was a story that everyone was on board with doing, so it was nice to finally be able to tell it,” Fish said. “It all kind of came together, but the most important piece was Rocky allowing us to tell his story. We just wanted to get it right and honor his story as best as possible.”

Rocky Bleier talks to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi about his experiences during the Vietnam War as part of “The Return,” a documentary about his football career and his time as a soldier.(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

In addition to his war recollections, the documentary also includes plenty of archival footage of Bleier’s football exploits and a few of his former teammates talking about how inspiring they found his will to play football despite everything he had been through. Bleier, of course, never saw himself as an inspiration while he was trying desperately to get back on the field and then maintain his spot as a Steelers contributor.

“It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, fitting in,” he said. “You work hard, and things happen. It wasn’t as if I was an All-American running back or even the running back at Notre Dame, or even the star running back with the Steelers. That was fine, and when you look back you go, ‘Wow. I got to play and be an integral part of those successful seasons and become part of a dynasty.’ ”

Since his heyday with the Steelers, Bleier has moved into the world of entertainment. He’s written a book about his life — “Fighting Back,” which recently came out with a reprint featuring two new chapters written by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier — did a one-man autobiographical show called “The Play” and has a small role in an upcoming production of “A Few Good Men” opening Sept. 12 at O’Reilly Theater Downtown.

He’s still paying close attention to the Steelers, as well. Bleier has faith in Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive line, and expects big things out of James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster in their first seasons as undisputed starters. As is usually the case when discussing this Steelers, his questions are about the defense.

“What we’re watching and hoping for is that the veterans who are there will step up and play up to their potential and that some younger guys will be able to have an impact this year,” he said. “We’re counting on [rookie linebacker Devin] Bush to fill in that middle linebacker spot and the secondary to step up and play more cohesively. Given all that, I really believe we’ll win the division this year and do what we were supposed to do last year and get into the playoffs and championship game.”

Fish is hoping that Steelers Nation and beyond will watch “The Return” so Bleier can receive the proper appreciation for the obstacles he overcame throughout his long, storied career.

“Rocky Bleier in many ways is the perfect Pittsburgh Steeler for that time period,” he said. “As Pittsburgh goes forward, he’s one of the guys that created the reputation and DNA of the franchise you know today. If you want to tune in and learn more about his story, here you go.”

Joshua Axelrod: and Twitter @jaxel222