14 June 2013

(Today's blog post is by my friend, Mary Mulligan. We went to Vanderbilt together, but weren't close friends. However, we gravitated toward each other at our 10th year reunion because we were both wearing black, and realized, appropriately, that we now lived within a few blocks of each other in New York City. We've been fast friends ever since. Melinda)

Lately, I have kept a picture of the entire student body of Saint Mary's School taken around 1919 or 1920 on my desk at work. I like to stare at the very serious faces of each of the tiny children in the front rows who appear to be shrunken versions of old men and women.  And I keep studying the frozen faces of the four nuns whose bodies are completely hidden behind their habits for clues of to what their inner life might have been.  But there is one face that I'm always drawn to every time.  It’s a small boy with blond hair in the second row from the front right in the center of the row.  He seems a bit defiant as if he’s making an effort not to smile.    That's my father John Mulligan.  Today, June 14, 2013, would have been his 99th birthday.

When I was a child, my Dad would take out this photograph from family albums and point out his various classmates especially those who grew up to be rouges or town characters.  He'd tell me their childhood nicknames and usually recall a few stories of their boyhood adventures which frequently involved riding a goat outfitted with a child's saddle, playing with puppies or shooting a rifle at other neighborhood kids. 

I liked looking at this photograph with my Dad because I also attended the Saint Mary's School though nearly 50 years later. I knew the exact spot where the photograph had been taken by the side of the school where we played volleyball at recess.  Much about the school had remained the same over the decades even though me and my classmates wore uniforms instead of the tattered clothes of newly arrived immigrants.  Many of my classmates where the children and grandchildren of my father’s classmates.  The Saint Mary's School is one of the many common threads that my father and I shared.  He believed that a great education was the best advantage that any child could have in life.    

In celebration of my father's life, the John Mulligan Scholarship Fund was established in 2010 to provide two children from Lake Village, Arkansas with the opportunity to attend the Saint Mary's School for their elementary school education. I’m so glad that Melinda got to meet my Dad on one of his visits to New York City and hear a few of his stories.  (Me too! Melinda)

-Mary Mulligan

June 14: The John Mulligan Scholarship Fund

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