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One 'heck' of a guy

The Spirit of Tehachapi

Some years ago I used to stop by on my way to the Post Office to pick up a friend and retired Priest Monsignor Francis Pointek. Other people drove him as well but I had my turns. Monsignor lived to be 100 years and four months old.

I would park by his house as close to the curb as possible so he could step directly into the vehicle and not need to step into the street first. He'd say, "Don't get out of the car! I don't need any help! I'm fine." He did not use a cane but sometimes I'd get out of the car, anyway, and tell him just the same he was no spring chicken. He was about 98 when I stopped driving him.

We often conversed in Latin. By conversing, I mean he taught me certain phrases and the responses. It was kind of fun and it made me think I'm smarter than I am. He'd settle himself and say to me, "Laudatur Jesu Christe." Meaning, "Praise be Jesus Christ."

I, when I could remember, would say, "Nunc et in aeternem, amen." Meaning, "Now, and forever, amen."

One day he told me a delightful story about a Latin professor who taught him in the seminary. Moving back in time to 1927 we find 14-year-old, Francis Joseph Pointek in the 8th grade at Saint Boniface Parochial School in Wilkes Barre, Penn. Sister Adelrica, of The Sisters of Charity, was the teacher. She was to introduce to the class some basic Latin as well as the standard subjects she taught. Her foresight in imparting this bit of knowledge would prove to be a help to any student planning to enter the seminary to study for the priesthood. This was young Pointek's plan even though he suffered a serious broken leg which detained him for a year. He did enter into the Pontifical College of the Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, the fall of 1928 at the age of 15.

Latin was a prime study in those days and he found himself in the class of Father Harry Heck, D.D. , PHD. After only a few weeks of study Father Heck announced that they would need to write, in class, any 100 Latin words they knew. Monsignor told me, "I won that test thanks to Sister Adelrica." I would also say, due to Seminarian Pointek's excellent recall ability, Sister's teachings were retained.

Many of the seminarians did not go home for Christmas due to the distance by train or the financial problem of the cost of the fare. Classes were continued to keep the boys occupied. One day Father Heck brought into class a large wicker basket filled with identical presents. The gifts contained shaving kits for the early teen age students who were, no doubt, showing "peach fuzz" on their chins indicating a coming lifetime of manly beards. What a thoughtful gift for those young men who were probably anxious to begin the task of what would become a lifetime of shaving.

Monsignor laughed as he told me, "He was a 'HECK' of a guy!"

Fine memories abound when it comes to people who cannot ever even know the good they do in their lifetime here on earth. Monsignor was a "heck" of a guy, too!