September 2001 Updates on

Mary Beth's Journey

 

The following page contains updates regarding Mary Beth's Journey for September of 2001.

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August - 01 / October - 01

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9-1-01

It is hard to believe it is unofficially the end of the summer as we enter this holiday weekend.  This summer brought a lot of fun our way as we traveled and experienced new places, people and things.  We also had equally as much fun experiencing familiar places, people and things on our daily travels through the journey of life.  The most important experience one can encounter in life is to be loved.  We all have encountered, and continue to encounter this feeling from all of you.  As we end the summer of 2001, we want to express our deep appreciation for allowing us this experience.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-2-01

While at Innsbrook yesterday (Missouri, not Austria), Will and I spent several hours with our fishing poles in hand.  We were not having any luck at all.  In fact, the only bites we got were those from mosquitoes.  When he started to get bored, he told me he was going to ask for help from Mary Beth.  He started talking to her about how much fun it would be to catch a fish and he said, "Hey Mary Beth, will you please help me catch a fish?"  When we left the dock about an hour later, only one person had any bites.  Yes, it was Will and he pulled in two fish much to his delight.  When he landed the first one, he looked at me and said, "See Dad, you should have talked to Mary Beth too!"  Then he smiled from ear to ear, as I am sure she did.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-3-01

We celebrate Labor Day to honor the working men and women of our country and to pause to say thanks.  Many people have labored to assist us in our journey since November 9, 1999 and we have said thanks many times over.  However, these are words that are never said too often in our lives.  We will never know who to personally thank for all they have done and continue to do, because the list is too exhaustive.  If you are reading this, you are a member of this list.  On this Labor Day, we again wish to thank you for the fruits of your labor, whether they be tangible or intangible in nature.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-4-01

It is great to see the spirit of cooperation alive and well in the sisterly relationship between Heidi and Barbie.  Barbie participated in a skit to kick off Hello Week at St Joe this morning.  Hello Week is the week of initiation for the incoming freshman.  Everyone wears name tags and all freshmen are required to wear the same hat.  Last year it was a crab hat and this year it is a plastic Roman soldier's helmet.  If a hat falls off and an upper classman witnesses it, the freshman is required to prepare treats for the upper classman and bring them to school the next day.  Barbie's hat fell off today and she wanted to make "puppy chow" for her fellow Angels.  Instead of staying home to make it, Barbie attended the CBC vs. DeSmet soccer game and Heidi offered to do so.  From the looks of it, it will be a good treat week in the green halls of SJA.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-5-01

I was in South St Louis County today for some dental work from my favorite dentist, who also happens to be my brother in law Chris Haffner.  After I left his office with half of my face numb, I stopped by to visit Mary Beth's resting place and bring her some flowers. While I was there, her Aunts Joanie and Mary Beth also received some flowers as did one of Mary Beth's very good friends.  As it turns out, the Franciscan Sisters have a plot very near the Kriegshauser family plot where MB is.  One of the people Mary Beth admired most was Pillar's long time librarian, Sister Rita.  Mary Beth shared her affection for reading and would seek her guidance often on which books to read next.  Sister did a wonderful job steering her in the direction of some great literature and was one of the primary people behind MB being so well read.  It is only appropriate that they are sharing the same space forever since they were so close when they were here.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-6-01

We welcome everyone to join us in attending the inaugural OLP Youth Mass at Our Lady of the Pillar this Sunday, September 9th at 6:00 PM.  Sara Clark, our incredible youth minister, is orchestrating this event and will demonstrate to everyone that our youth can celebrate mass in a new and exciting way.  If you are more of a traditionalist, take a chance and live on the edge this Sunday.  After all, if you aren't living on the edge, you're taking up too much space!  You need not be a parishioner of Pillar, or young, or even Catholic to attend.  Everyone is invited to come celebrate and see what it is all about.  Sara has even arranged for free pizza after mass for the teens in attendance.  Barbie is participating by reading as a lector.  If you have questions, you may call or email Sara Clark at 993-2345 or sclarkolp@aol.com.  So, enjoy your weekend activities, sleep in on Sunday, and join in the fun at 6:00 PM on Sunday night.  We look forward to seeing you there.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-7-01

I am sure Mary Beth was surprised at me this morning during the upper grades mass at Pillar.  The seventh grade assisted Father Tobin in presenting the mass today.  Heidi was a lector and said the reading and the music was beautiful as always.  Mary Beth's surprise (and mine) was due to the fact that I did not shed any tears.  This was the first mass I have attended at Pillar in which I have kept dry eyes since she left us.  I guess I felt very much at peace today while in mass.  Maybe I found inner strength as I lent Sheila my handkerchief to dab her eyes.  Whatever the reason, it was wonderful.

Barbie caught up with Mary Beth's friend (and our friend) Jennie Steinmann this evening at Spartanfest at DeSmet High School.  This summer Jennie received a stem cell transplant followed by radiation.  Barbie said she felt a tap on her shoulder, turned around and saw Jennie's smile greeting her.  She gave her a hug and immediately started to cry.  She said Jennie looks really good, is starting to re-grow her hair and is in great spirits.  Please keep her in your prayers and ask for continued success for her.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-8-01

"You are simply my best time.

You are my sweetest laughter.

You are my most peaceful sleep . . .

and still I find new ways to love you.

Always you have my hand to hold.

Mary Anne Radmacher Hershey

This poem was shared with us today by our friend Meg LaVigne while she keeps her busy schedule at the University of Dayton.  As you read these words, I hope you too will find that they apply to many people in your life.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-9-01

The inaugural Youth Mass at Pillar tonight was a success.  The music was great, the teens there seemed to enjoy themselves and Father Tobin had a nice homily.  Since it was the first ever mass of its kind held at Pillar, the attendance was understandably light.  About half of church was full.  As this concept catches on with other teens, I predict that there will not be enough room in church for old people like me.  Sara Clark has done a wonderful job in the past three years in building the youth program and has earned the right to see the church bursting at the seams next time.  So, mark your calendars for September 23rd for the next such mass.

Special intentions this evening for Frannie and Bob Hensley and the Hensley and Mower families.  Frannie is Chris Mower's mother and she and her husband Bob were involved in a traffic accident near Effingham, IL this afternoon.  Bob did not survive the accident and Frannie is in stable condition at the hospital.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-10-01

There are some things in life that are very contagious.  One thing that comes to mind is chicken pox, which can easily be transmitted from one person to the next.  One of the most contagious things in life that I have found is the smile.  When you see one, you smile as well.  There are so many things we have to smile about that we often take them for granted.  Look around you and observe them then take a moment to smile.  The next time something happens to you that would normally result in a negative reaction on your part, stop and smile.  You will feel better and so will those around you.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-11-01

On the evening of our nation's most somber day of horrific terrorism, it is difficult to put into words my thoughts.  One of our dear friends, Kathy Stapleton, is missing.  She is Jack's wonderful sister and works three blocks from the World Trade Center.  She is a fun loving, caring person who loves to spend time with her family, especially her nieces and nephews, who affectionately refer to her as Aunt Goggie.  We pray that it be God's will that she is safe and will be located soon.

Although I can not find my own words, I would like to share those spoken by William after a mass for peace at Pillar this evening.  We were in the car, no one was speaking, the sky was clear and he broke the silence by saying, "I have a feeling this storm is going to blow over.  Just keep your chin up high, smile to the sky, and wish those rain clouds bye, bye, bye."  Sometimes the wisdom of a four year old is the greatest of all.  This is one of those times.

WONDERFUL ADDENDUM - We just received word that Kathy Stapleton is home and well!  She is physically and emotionally exhausted and walked from the World Trade Center to Riverdale in the Bronx and arrived home at 8:00 PM.  Let us continue to pray for all who are affected.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-12-01

When we experienced Mary Beth's departure from our lives, it was a very beautiful and blessed experience as she told us she loved us and closed her eyes to live in eternal peace.  I can not help but think of how blessed we truly are to have had this enriching experience and contrast it with the events of yesterday.  Our hearts ache for those families who did not have the blessing of saying goodbye and for those who are still wondering where their loved ones are.  It is simply unimaginable to think of how they feel.  Until you walk in another's shoes, you can not comprehend their journey.  We pray that each is blessed with the strength to carry on and get through their experience with the belief that their loved ones too are experiencing eternal happiness.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-13-01

Patriotism is alive and well in our country.  Since Tuesday morning, more signs of our proud free country have appeared.  There are flags flying everywhere, everyone is encouraged to light a candle this evening and tomorrow evening, and everyone is encouraged to dress in red, white and blue tomorrow as a sign of support.  All too often we take for granted our free society.  We are free to speak our minds and free to practice our religion of choice, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim.  Tomorrow is a national day of prayer and remembrance.  If you can not attend a service at a church, temple, or mosque tomorrow, take some private time and prayer for those who need our prayers.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-14-01

We have a new website for you to start perusing on a regular basis.  Our friend Erin Wilson is awaiting a bone marrow match for her transplant this fall.  You can see her pictures and periodic updates on line at Erin Wilson.  Please keep her and all who are faced with childhood cancer in your daily thoughts and prayers as you pray for all others in our world who are in need of your blessings.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-15-01

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-16-01

It is obvious that the events of the past week have brought a rekindling in our faith.  The masses at Pillar were all attended by more people than normal.  Attending the mass at 10 AM reminded me of attending mass on Christmas or Easter.  It was heart whelming to see so many praying for the departed, their families, peace and unity.  This afternoon, we celebrated the 19th birthday of our surrogate son, Mike Gelpi who is a freshman ant Saint Louis University.  Mike is the older brother of Elizabeth, Mary Beth's best friend from Kansas City.  It seems like only yesterday when we moved into our home as newlyweds and heard his formal name "Michael" repeated called out by his mom Toni as he entered the "terrific" twos.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-17-01

One of Mary Beth's former Pillar classmates called yesterday to speak to us about Mary Beth's Angels Foundation.  Mary Schaeffer is a sophomore at Visitation Academy and has received a national award for service from the Nestle Company.  In addition to being granted a trip to California, she will be receiving a check in the amount of $1,000 made payable to the charity of her choice.  She intends to grant these funds to MB's Angels to assist underprivileged children.  We are very proud of and grateful to Mary for her spirit of community service and for her generosity to the foundation.  Ironically, she was informed of this honor on January 23, 2001, the day MB left us.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-18-01

If you would like to give back to the community this weekend, I have a deal for you.  The Pillar community has joined forces with St. Peter's Episcopal Church to assist in refurbishing the 6000 block of Margaretta in the inner city of St Louis.  Join us at 7:00 AM in Pillar's parking lot this Saturday for a day of scraping, painting, repairing and landscaping.  We have four homes to refurbish and were informed today that our third partner, Temple Emanuel Congregation will not be able to participate due to unforeseen circumstances.  This community service project will be a precursor to a much larger joint faith project planned for next year when we build a home for Habitat for Humanity.  We would love to have you.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-19-01

We have a new member of government in our family as of today.  Barbie was elected to be a freshman class representative of St Joe's Student Council today and is looking forward to serving her term.  While the new rep and her sister were watching over their brother this evening Sheila and I divided and conquered the Pillar and St Joe back to school nights both starting at 7:00 PM.  So far, so good on the school years of Barbie and Heidi.  Our wish is that each of you has a successful and peaceful remainder of the year as well.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-20-01

While our nation grieves for those affected by the unspeakable acts against humanity of last week, I would like to share some uplifting news with you.  I was speaking with our dear friend Jack Stapleton tonight at Brat 'n Beer night at Saint Joe and he shared some wonderful news.  The service organization created earlier this year in Mary Beth's honor at St Joe, Angels Helping Angels, contributed over 1,000 service hours at Children's Hospital over the summer months!  This is a tremendous tribute to the values Mary Beth possessed.  This is a phenomenal beginning to a wonderful organization with a very bright future.  Earlier this week, 120 young ladies at St Joe signed up for this club.  We wish to congratulate and thank the young women of St Joseph's Academy, the administration and the parent volunteers, especially Bet Stapleton and Madonna Fugel, for their overwhelming and selfless acts of love.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-21-01

I have found a great deal of comfort during the past couple of years in reading this prayer to Our Lady of the Pillar.  I hope you find some comfort in it as well as we heal as a nation and move forward.

Almighty and eternal God, you gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, glorious Mother of your Son, as a pillar of strength.  To all who call upon Her aid, grant through Her intercession, that we may be Strong in Faith, Unwavering in Hope, and Steadfast in Love.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-22-01

What a beautiful day!  I had the opportunity to join 23 other Pillar parishioners today to repair, paint, landscape and spruce up two homes in the inner city as part of the St Louis Neighborhood Services "Block Aid" program.  Over 500 volunteers in total descended on homes in the block to assist those less fortunate.  The most rewarding experience was driving away and seeing the smiles on the faces of the homeowners.  

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-23-01

Another 23rd of the month is almost over and as is the case with this date of every month, our thoughts turned to the 23rd of January when MB left us.  We have been keeping her very busy by praying our special intentions to her.  Feel free to join us because it appears as though her voice is heard.  It was wonderful to hear a special intention for her at the Pillar youth mass this evening.

I would like to ask you to please add another person to your prayer list.  JoAnn Hunt is the mother of Deb Nowicki in KC.  The Nowickis are good friends of ours and we had the opportunity to catch up with them this summer.  JoAnn has had two surgeries in the past two weeks.  One to remove a cancerous tumor from her colon and one to amputate her right leg which was diseased as well.  Cancer took Deb's sister 10 years ago, so we all join in asking God to look over JoAnn, Deb and their entire family as they face the uncertainties of the future and for a complete recovery if it be his will.

 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-24-01

Today would have been Aunt Joanie's 41st birthday.  We are certain she is celebrating today by showing all the other angels and saints the great job Jeff is doing in the upbringing of their son Nate.  Happy birthday Aunt Joanie!

We received word tonight from Kansas City that Mary Beth Connor, loving wife and mother of five, fell into a deep coma over the weekend and began her journey home this evening.  As stated last month, she was suffering from melanoma which metastasized to her brain and lungs.  She was treated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and had the opportunity to see her husband Keith and all of their children before she left them.  Please keep Mary Beth, Keith, their children and extended family and friends in your thoughts and prayers as they face the challenges of the coming days, weeks, months and years.
 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-25-01

It is beginning to feel like summer is actually over.  I guess it is about time since the Autumn Equinox occurred on Saturday.  The nights are now longer than the days and we are expecting a light frost tonight.  When we mentioned this to Will, the first thing he thought of was Jack Frost.  Then he started talking about what occurs in Autumn, "The leaves fall down and I have a birthday."  We haven't started the countdown to October 16th, but will do so when we are within two weeks.
 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-26-01

Just about 8 hours after I mentioned not starting the countdown to William's birthday, he woke up asking me how many days he had left before he turned five.  I counted them for him and he asked to be shown on the calendar.  We now have the official countdown in tact with the days past crossed off the calendar.  He has requested an animal theme for his party.  He watches Animal Planet as often as he can and was disappointed to find out that the Crocodile Hunter could not bring his favorite animals to his birthday party.  We will have to be creative to capture this active mind.  Stay tuned for details.
 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-27-01

It is truly amazing for us to continue to experience the wide spread impact Mary Beth had and continues to have on people we (nor she) have never met.  Today, I spent time with our friend Patrick McNulty and his friend Pat O'Brien.  We were exchanging life stories and the subject of Mary Beth entered the conversation.  Pat stopped me and shared a story.  He said he was reading the West County Journal when Mary Beth died and saved it to show his daughters, the oldest who is 15.  He asked her to read about Mary Beth and reflect on what people would say about her.  They both were touched to see what MB had accomplished in her short time here and what she continues to do for so many.
 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-28-01

It was a typical Friday night in the Fall in the Ricken household.  Heidi and her friend Emily went to the movies.  Barbie had seven of her St Joe classmates over before and after the DeSmet v. Vianney football game.  They all ate Imo's pizza and laughed a lot before departing or spending the night.  On the way home from dropping the girls off at the football game, Will fell asleep at 7:35 for the night.  Sheila and I took turns running teens here and there and conversing with them about the evening's adventures.  We wouldn't have it any other way.
 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-29-01

Shortly after Mary Beth was diagnosed and she knew she would be losing all of her hair, she made the decision to do something positive with the situation.  She was aware of the Locks of Love Foundation that accepted hair to be made into wigs for cancer kids.  Her friend Heather paid a visit to the hospital on her next stay and cut it all off and sent it away.  We have heard of several young ladies who are planning to do the same with their hair.  This summer, one of MB's St Joe friends did just that.

Her name is Allison Jones and she graduated last Spring from St. Joe.  She is a freshman at Miami University in Ohio and contributed a full foot of hair to Locks of Love this summer.  She also participated in Angels Helping Angels before departing for Oxford.  Thank you Allison!  The good surrounding Mary Beth's life continues to grow.
 

God bless you,
Gerry

9-30-01

What a beautiful day!  The weather in St Louis today is absolutely spectacular.  In fact it is so nice, that this posting will be brief because Will and his buddy Forrest are calling for me to help them build their fort from the firewood in the backyard.  I am off to ward away the pirates!  Have a great day!
 

God bless you,
Gerry

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