Remembering absent friends
By George P. Matysek Jr.
and Paul McMullen
To mark All Souls’ Day Nov. 2, the Catholic Review recalls a few recently deceased who contributed to the vibrancy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Charles Fecher never earned a degree beyond a G.E.D. certificate, but the Baltimore native became one of Charm City’s leading scholars.
Fecher served for nearly two decades as an administrator for the Archdiocese of Baltimore until his 1982 retirement as director of the lay employees’ retirement plan, and was book editor for the Catholic Review from 1968 to 1982.
Fecher was entrusted with editing H.L. Mencken’s diaries and served as editor of “Menckeniana,” a quarterly journal of Mencken studies. He also published a comprehensive history of Catholic Charities of Baltimore.
“My dad’s passion for books started when he was a very small child,” said Charlotte Gerczak, Fecher’s daughter. “He loved to talk about books, write about books and having the column in the Catholic Review was icing on the cake.”
Betsy Fecher, another daughter, said her father’s award-winning columns touched on a wide range of genres including spiritual works and popular fiction.
“He tended to have a very open mind,” she said, “and that showed up in his reviews. If he didn’t care for something, he would explain why, but he wasn’t the kind of reviewer who would savage something because it didn’t appeal to him.”
The parishioner of St. Mary, Govans, died Jan. 16.
Elaine Louise Hartnett went into the family business and gave the last 12 years of her life to Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Essex.
Hartnett, who died at age 51 of throat cancer in July, was the sister of Monsignor Robert L. Hartnett, pastor of the parish. Their aunts include two School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Mary Ann Hartnett, who runs Food for Thought in Baltimore, and Sister Ann Hartnett, the health care minister at St. Joseph, Fullerton.
“She was always impressed with the life they lived,” Monsignor Hartnett said.
Elaine Hartnett held a master’s degree in counseling from Loyola University Maryland and was working in admissions for CCBC Essex when Mount Carmel advertised for an assistant principal.
“The biggest separation the two of us ever experienced,” Monsignor Hartnett said, “was when the school was trying to determine who would become assistant principal. Initially, I said she couldn’t work for us, then was told that as long as I wasn’t involved in hiring or direct supervision, it was fine.
“It was a good experience for both of us.”
Hartnett was known for addressing not just behavioral problems, but the cause behind them.
The swimming community lost two remarkable figures.
In January, legendary coach Arthur F. “Reds” Hucht died at age 95. Hucht got his start with a Knights of Columbus team, and later became athletic director for the Knights. He coached Calvert Hall College High School from 1960-97, directing the Cardinals to 23 Maryland Scholastic Association titles.
Loyola Blakefield had won 18 straight championships before it was beaten last February by McDonogh School, which got a pivotal come-from-behind victory in the 100 butterfly from Alec John Cosgarea.
In July, the 17-year- old died in an auto accident. Cosgarea had attended Immaculate Conception School in Towson and was a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley, where he had been an altar server. He was active in the charity Swim Across America, organizing “angel” chaperones for less capable swimmers in open water events.
At Our Lady of Grace in Parkton, Walt Braxton is being remembered as a member of the planning and finance committees that played key roles in the building of its church, which was completed in 1990. Braxton helped establish the Knights of Columbus at the parish, and offered his expertise when it was designing its computer network.
A computer programmer and consultant who created numerous applications and systems for Catholic Review Media, Braxton was 64 when he died suddenly last month.
Richard L. Lelonek, who died at 86 in July, was a familiar figure at Shrine of the Little Flower in Northeast Baltimore and on the pages of the Catholic Review. Lelonek was the second president of the Belair-Edison Improvement Association, and a faithful letter-writer, as late as January of this year commenting on the observance of the Sabbath being “replaced by the false god of football.”