Saturday, October 24, 2015
Remembering Leona Cruze, a true matriarch
Death ultimately comes, of course. It came on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, for Leona Cruze, age 95, a devoted Catholic who would never use her faith in a critical context toward anyone. She was the matriarch of a large family that reflected her church's spirit 100 percent. What a vibrant family! Boys predominated.
Back at the start of my seventh grade year, I got familiar with two of the Cruze children who had been guided previously at St. Mary's School. I have always been impressed by St. Mary's as a basic type of school, just doing the job and not getting caught up in any avant garde educational ideas. The public schools get tugged down those detours sometimes. OBE? Those detours are good for getting attention in the media and our pop culture. Meanwhile St. Mary's makes sure the kids get the basics in preparation for real life. A little healthy discipline doesn't hurt either.
Leona and her husband Carl had ten children. Unfortunately one of them has left us: John.
The two MHS Class of '73 members were Art and Tony. Tony did a little wrestling at heavyweight under Al Hendrickson. He's a large of stature individual who could apply that imposing physique as a Kandiyohi County sheriff's dept. member. Our class prophesies had Tony getting taken to the Como Zoo, mistaken for the Hamm's Bear. Young people know little about the Hamm's Bear. Remember the jingle "From the land of sky blue waters?" People my age do. The jingle referred to "pines' lofty blossoms."
Art and I were in the school play in the fall of 1972 under director Mick Briscoe. Art proudly remembers his line "Hey miss, you can't do that!" Briscoe taught French the futile way, with conjugating verbs etc. He knew I was hopeless with my attitude. We had no capability of talking French after actually taking those classes. The way to learn a foreign language is through "immersion."
Art went into communications like yours truly. His forte: radio. Today he "sells air." He sells for the Willmar radio station. (Billy Crystal talked about "selling air" in the movie "City Slickers.") More importantly, Art has been a caregiver for Leona in Paynesville.
We lost a lot when the Cruze family left Morris for Paynesville in 1974. I remember visiting them for Game 1 of the 1991 World Series. Our eyes were riveted on the TV in the basement. When the first pitch thrown by a Minnesota pitcher was a strike, we all leaped up and were ecstatic.
Leona lived life in a relaxed but self-assured pace at all times. There was no evidence that having ten children ever caused her to pull her hair out. She and Carl had a sense of humor that they passed on to their kids. Their family gatherings through the years have been lively. "Lively" is a safe adjective. At times, "raucous" (in a fun-loving sense) would describe. Art and I imagined a headline for the Paynesville newspaper once: "Cruze family reunion held - four cars overturned."
The Cruze family got me introduced to the Catholic Church: they took me to Catholic bingo!
I had an interesting sort of closeness with the Catholic kids in general. There I was, an only child from a Lutheran family. My best friend in college was Mike Westra from a large Catholic family in Foley MN.
I have been a Civil War buff all my life. I have often read that "rebellion is immoral." Thus it was destiny for the South to lose. But isn't the Lutheran Church a rebellion from the Catholic Church? Ahem. All that matters is who wins.
I hope Leona was able to pay attention when the Pope visited the U.S. recently. Her son Greg bristles a bit when attention is paid to the Pope's liberal political leanings. A lot of Catholics are having to learn to rationalize over that. I say "hats off" to the Pope.
The Cruze clan put together a movie saluting Leona, a movie played on the big screen of the Cold Spring theater. Cold Spring is the home of Greg and wife Kari. Leona came back to Morris to hear Greg's daughter sing opera for the summer talent shows at East Side Park.
Leona was born in Morris on June 27, 1920. Her maiden name was Rudnicki. She went to St. Mary's when that school went all the way through the 12th grade! She married Carl (of Morris) on September 9, 1942. They understood the adventure of raising their large and vibrant family. They lived in Morris until 1974.
Leona developed a career in nursing. she worked in the nursery of Stevens County Hospital for ten years.
Here's a list of her surviving children: Roger, Michael, Diane, Patrick, Tony, Art, Marie, Greg and Richard. John beat all the others to heaven.
Leona herself came from a large family. She was preceded in death by siblings Leo, Joseph, Frank, Marie, Sylvester, Edward, Raymond, Josephine, Anselm, Genevieve, Angeline, Paul and Charles.
Families in general have gotten smaller through the years. Is the idea to make things more manageable? Is it about economy? Is it about perfectionism? We need to think twice about this. You're rolling the dice when developing a large family. Being responsible for these human beings can be a messy proposition. But Leona and Carl wouldn't have traded that experience for anything. We're blessed having all the Cruze family members amongst us. How else could I have learned Catholic bingo (LOL)?
Mass of Christian burial for Leona Cruze is at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at St. Louis Catholic Church in Paynesville. Leona Cruze, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org