Thoughts on times with Fr. Levy from students at St. A’s. Shared memories given before and after “the Prefect’s” entry into Paradise.

My first year was a bit challenging. Someone was stealing my clothes and other items from the dorm, the attic and the Chapel. I met with Fr. Levy, who devised a plan which involved using a substance that was not visible initially, but turned a deep purple after contact with the skin. He narrowed the time frame down to a particular hour that my prayer book in the Chapel was being taken and he applied it to a replacement prayer book. Sure enough the perpetrator showed up and 30 minutes later he was caught “purple handed”. I never found out why he was doing this, but Fr. Levy had him packed out and gone within an hour of being caught.

My next experience with him that I recall was at basketball practice, sophomore year I think. For an entire year he had us do almost nothing but learn how to dribble up and down the court.  He said the goal was to run down the court as fast as you could and fall flat on your face…while maintaining control of the ball! His personal coaching moments of “driving the baseline” still resonate in my head as the impossible task made possible thru practicing so much that you could not be stopped. This became evident three years later when he won state with the same team he trained

Last impression of him was at our 45th reunion in San Antonio when I got to serve Mass with him, a privilege, and the comments he made in his homily. I cannot remember exactly what he shared with us, but I do remember that he had our attention and shared with us his wisdom. If anyone remembers it, please share.  This is part of my aging process and CRS. (Can’t Remember Sh…)

For a New Orleans boy who grew up in the French Quarter(The Hood), he done good!
Jay Weil, class of 1967

I have been thinking about him a lot since I heard the news. I was never one of his favorites, but I got to know him better than most since I probably “visited” his office more than anyone else. I actually got him to laugh at one of my pranks, while he complimented me, he said he was still going to have to punish me, we parted laughing…  later I got the worst conduct grade ever… that was Fr. Levy. There was the book, and there was the book.

Most of what I have applied in my life from the Seminary came from the exemplary life he led.  He took his faith and his priesthood seriously and with great detail, he must have worked on his sermons for hours! He took coaching basketball almost as serious as his faith.  He could freeze you with a stare, but without a threat of violence, and he could laugh, what a great laugh.

When I lost the use of my hand at Christmastime of my senior year, midway through basketball, he made me his bench assistant, that is when the basketball, and life, lessons truly began. I also learned all about Johnny Wooden from Fr. Levy, and to this day, still consider Wooden almost a saint, courtesy of Fr. Levy’s input. I saw examples of being tough, but not attacking someone’s dignity to get results, how to plan your practices, to leave nothing to chance. Basketball was totally choreographed in his system, everyone always had a mark to be on, and you better get there as fast as required, or there was the vein popping look.

My senior year he made me take Manual’s spot on the 3-1-1 press. He would have them throw it back and forth to each corner and then yell “BUJNOCH!! Run Faaster in that New Orleans accent , trap them keep your arms out!! “ I lost so much weight, I think I was down to 180 lbs at one point!

LOL!! But I truly loved that man! He made me a better athlete, but more important, a better person. May he Rest In Peace!!

In my freshman year of college, Fr. Levy asked me, my memory sometimes fades, maybe I begged him,  to help him coach the varsity and he let me coach the JV. Wow, what an honor and opportunity to again sit at the feet of the master coach, disciplinarian, and devout priest and absorb the wisdom on basketball and life!

I have always considered him my first mentor and as a result, memories of him have cascaded through my life when I would coach or manage people in my profession. “ I remember what Fr. Levy said about that..”

I am sad that I never got to tell him these things, but then again he would have just said that was part of the life he signed on for. To prepare all of us for life, whether as a priest or as a man.

Poor Johnny Wooden! When Fr. Michael Levy OMI from New Orleans, Louisiana finally checks in up there, Coach Wooden is going to be answering basketball questions for a good part of eternity.  I know he is still alive, but when I heard he agreed to enter hospice, He will be soon among his family, classmates, and a few of his former students. He was as disciplined as any man I had ever met. If he has decided it is time to go, St. Peter get ready at the gate!

Thanks Fr. Levy for making me a better person. I will always love and respect you for that.
John Bujnoch, class of 1968

My ongoing personal recollection of him is once I was working down by the gym and he used the speaker phone from his office (David did you set that up for him?) in the college building to call me. Can’t forget his voice booming/echoing “Yosten, Yosten, Yosten, come/come/come to my office/office/office”. With fear and trepidation I trudged across campus only to find out he had something trivial he wanted me to do. Can’t now remember what it was, but do remember the echoes and the trudge. I admired him greatly, feared him some, loved him even.
Harry Yosten, class of 1967

Here are two quick post-St A Fr Levy stories.

#1:I did my career at LSU Health Sciences center — 43 years in all.  Our campus spanned 6 blocks in downtown New Orleans along Tulane Ave. Claiborne Ave(below)/I-10 (elevated above) crosses Tulane Ave, and divides the campus.  It is very wide street and impossible to cross on foot in one cycle of the light.  One day I was crossing Claiborne and arrived at the far side just as the light turned yellow.  To my surprise, there was Fr. Levy, driving the first car in the far lane.  As soon as the light turned green he zoomed off.  But in that brief instant and after about 15 years , I had a full-fledged Pavlovian response — my pulse quickened and I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

#2In the mid to late 80’s, I had a vacancy and my top candidate was spunky, petite recent math grad named Lisa.  About a year after hiring her, she came to me and asked if I knew someone name Fr. Mike Levy.  When I said yes, she announced she was his niece.  I know Fr. Levy had received a full report, and again there came that feeling only he could evoke.

Fr. Levy played an important role in our formation.  I fondly remember his sermons and his lectures.  I pray he recovers.
David Troendle, class of 1967

A life well lived with a tremendous impact on the formation of us all (I use the terms “impact” and “formation” in the strongest sense of both words! As John implied, I try to figure out what I did wrong every time I hear Fr. Levy’s name.
Tom Tenner, class of 1967

Guys, I know we’re all saddened by the news that Fr. Levy is in hospice because he impacted us positively in so many ways. Funny, I don’t remember being particularly scared of him, though he once reamed me out for disturbing Fr. Vrazel’s science class (and I just thought I was being funny!) and I got the message. Apart from him being one of the most effective and entertaining teachers I had and the best coach I’ve been around, he was also a great detective. He once arranged a sting in which I flashed some money he had given me, in the chapel of all places, in front of a suspected thief and then had me leave it in one of the cages we had as lockers while he hid in the locker room office, spying as the culprit to whom I flashed the money took it from my “locker.” The next day the thief was gone. He also did me some small kindnesses – as I’m sure he did for many others. He’s been a fine model of a man with an enthusiasm for helping others, a man of integrity, and I will miss him sorely.
Roland Dougherty, class of 1967

Fr. Levy is a many layered personality.  I remember well one of those “Walk”  Sundays when brother Bill and I were playing basketball in the gym when I got that call to Fr. Levy’s office.  I wasn’t  totally terrified at that point in time since I had Fr. Levy’s room bed makeup etc as part of my manual labor assignment.  When I got there, Fr. Levy gave me $5 and told me to get myself and Bill off campus.  We probably caught a milkshake at Olmos Pharmacy. Bill and I didn’t have much in financial resources and Fr. Levy recognized that.
John O’Connor, class of 1967

What a great video (the one of Fr. Levy recently taken by Fr. Flores) of Fr Levy. The only thing he didn’t do at the end was say ” and I want to see Heausler in my office ” which he usually said after most of his announcements…SO, I have seen Fr Levy in his office MORE than all you guys put together! But the fact is, he helped me form my life b/c I have had a very good life & I have been a good man & he has had a hand in that. God bless him!
Jerry Heausler, class of 1967

You could say a lot about this man but one thing I’ve always admired about him is his straight forward thoughts and his no nonsense approach to life.  He could put the fear of God in you with little effort. Wait that’s 3 things. I guess you can’t just say one administration about Fr. Mike. Hope he pulls through.
Pat Hayes, class of 1967

A life well lived. A range of influence beyond wide. A champion of discipline and prefection. I’m glad I knew him because he knew me.
Matt Jaremko, class of 1967

My prayers go out for Father Levy. What a great spirit he always seemed to have and what a glorious, unbelievably expressive voice he had! Blessings Father Levy.
Danny Palmer, class of 1965

Prayers on the way
Cony Kucera, Jack Callaghan, Michael May, class of 1965

Mike Levy was my first spiritual director, 1961. And one of the most impactful for me of all my Oblate fathers. And, God bless him, when he met our entire family, all he said to my kids was what a fine student I was. And then as we spoke, outside St Mary’s downtown SA,  he learned that Karen had cancer and had all of us go back into church where he anointed her and blest her.  I wish I had done in my life 10% of the service he did for others. Lay down one’s life for one’s friends . . .
Guy McClung, class of ‘65

Among my manual labor duties at St.  A’s not only was it as the trash pickup guy in my 4TH Form year driving that aircraft runway tractor pulling a trailer with those 55 gallon drums to fill up with trash and take to burn at the back of the property (keeper of the keys)  I also one year was responsible to clean Father Levy’s room and Father Davis’ room. Don’t remember much about Father Levy’s room but Father Davis ‘ room I do remember well – lots of red hair to clean up and the everlasting odor of suntan screen lotion.
Ed Speed, class of ‘65

He was pivotal for me.  Looked through my shortcomings and only concerned himself with my potential which he uplifted. A beautiful man.
Robert Thomas

He’s with us and will continue to be, thank God.  We’re his boys.  He’s a great advocate, God gave him those skills.  And persistence.
Nelson Clare, class of ‘67

As you may already know, Fr. Mike Levy passed away on July 17 within hours of the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. What you do not know is that about 7 minutes before the 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Mary’s, I believe that Fr. Mike made his presence known.

Our pastor, Fr. John, always plays music from his iPod from about 4:15 p.m. til Holy Mass at 5:30 p.m.  Chris, the other lector, and I were in the sacristy along with the altar server.  Fr. John was on the other side of the sacristy where the altar adornments are stored.  All of a sudden, bells were ringing loudly in the church.  Chris and I stopped talking and looked at the iPod.  The screen was blank.  Fr. John came from the other side asking if these bells were from St. Mary’s?  I told him they sounded like the bells from Little Flower Church.  Then he said, “I don’t have bells on my iPod. What’s going on?” I told him it was probably Fr. Mike.  He quickly said, “It wouldn’t surprise me.”  Then he reached for his iPod and turned the bells down which did happen. At that point, I told Chris that I felt Fr. Mike was sending us a sign that “He made it!”  Our beloved priest is in heaven. Next, I noticed Fr. John trying to change the bells to a song.  He scrolled his list of songs and tapped the iPod, but the bells would not stop, and his new selection would not play.  After three or four tries to change things, he gave up and walked away.  Then as quickly as the bells started playing, the bell sounds faded away and a hymn began to play from Fr. John’s iPod.

After Mass, I was leaving the church with the Parma family.  On the steps, I turned to Patty and asked her if she had heard the bells in church before Mass.  She said that she had and “They were loud!”  Then she said that those bells were not from St. Mary’s. I shared with her my theory and she agreed ‘it could happen.’

How did I know that it was Fr. Mike?  I knew from mom’s stereo system that kept going ‘on’ after the countless times of me turning it off.  I even started writing down the days and times that this would happen.
T Palacios

Just heard Fr Levy passed away last night. Lovely man, Coach, friend, mentor and priest.

Keep the back door open for me Father! I’ll see you in paradise!

I have two stories  think you’ll appreciate.  Fr Levy coached our Freshman football team as he did for several classes. I played second string quarterback behind Mario Espinosa and defensive back.  I hit Sully coming up the middle in practice who outweighed me by 50lbs and then I hit Pat Wachsman on a post pattern head on collision and knocked us both down for an incomplete pass.  Fr Levy ran up to me and picked me up off the ground and said “May! If you keep throwing that 110lb body around with reckless abandon, you’ll make varsity at 120lbs!!!”

The other one was with my childhood buddy Timmy Haynes trying out for basketball. As you’ll recall, Timmy was a better than average football player making varsity as a sophomore and All-District as a junior.  He could dribble if you didn’t count the 5 steps between ball bounces!  (He redefined traveling) Fr Levy placed both hands on his shoulders and said; “Timmy, the Lord gave all of us some athletic ability, and yours is NOT basketball!”
Mike May

It is sad that those who had such a big effect on us are now leaving…but for a better life.  Father Levy was someone who I feel called a situation for what it was but always with the motive to make it better.  He also did have all of those sayings that we will all remember.  I recall one basketball game when I was either dogging it or did something stupid and he pulled me.  I went to sit by him and he said to me without looking “Sullivan your feet stink.  Go sit at the end of the bench”.  Don’t think I heard from him for the rest of the game but I got the message.  He like so many of the other Oblates was tough but straight forward and gave me what I needed.  I will always be appreciative to him and the others that helped me to get on a better pathway!
Mike Sullivan

I was thinking of Fr. Levy just yesterday during morning prayer. I have so many memories of Fr. Levy, his passion and his many mannerisms and sayings. He once paused basketball practice to explain why our shots had to have this ideal arc (physics and math) so as to get the best possible result—in case it wasn’t perfectly aimed.

An unforgettable memory was the evening he came and told me in the dining room, as we had early dinner, that Gary’s father had passed and I would be starting point guard against Central Catholic at Central Catholic that evening.

I normally threw up before every game, just about the time we took the court (which is why I always came out late) —  that night I threw up that delicious ham like never before. And, oh yes, many of the previous year’s St. A’s championship team members were at the game—that was intimidating. He kept me calm and focused that evening, even as we played that high powered Central Catholic team.

God Bless you Father Levy. I’ll look for you in your rolled up khaki pants legs when I get to the big Game.
Johnny (Juan) Torres, class of ’70

Fr. Levy was a remarkable man: priest, teacher, coach and disciplinarian (we sure needed that)! He also had an unusual sense of humor. In our sophomore year, I sent him a Christmas card on break. He sensed a little “brown-nosing”; I got my card back with “Merry Christmas” scratched out and “have a lousy New Year, Rastrelli” in its place.

On a related topic, today is the 50th anniversary of the Great Train robbery in Brackenridge park. Two masked gunmen robbed the passengers on miniature train. We were gone in 1970 but I bet Fr. Levy must have suspected two St.A’s guys looking for a few bucks.
Larry Rastrelli, class of ‘67

I had the good fortune of having dinner with Father Levy a few times over the past couple of years. I’d couple trips down from DC to Austin to visit him (& Fr Walker after his return from Africa.) He was having tremendous problems physically but the mind was as sharp as always. There is a lot to be said about Fr Mike but, personally, I can say he had as much a role in preparing me to handle life’s difficulties & pressures as anyone. You don’t fully appreciate it at the time but he was one heck of a mentor.

And why his obituary doesn’t mention the two state championships is so wrong!
Gary Schmidt

I can’t imagine my St. Anthony experience without Father Levy.
Tom Buchanan

I agree with Tom Buchanan.
Joe Heiney-Gonzales

Fr. Levy was surprisingly strong. Once when we were doing chores, I think in the house, as a joke he grabbed  one of our classmates by the lapels of his jacket and jacked him up against a wall. It was hysterical. Was that you,  Ron? I can’t remember. Anyway, he was a good guy and will be in my prayers.
John Grothues

Response to John Grothues: Yes; that was me. That’s how I grew from 5’1” to 5’11”
Ron Safran

And finally, fellow YellowJackets, a word from one of our own ‘Jackets and a brother Oblate who responded to your memories above:

What a Jacket tribute. 10 pages!  Impressive and humbling and just plain inspiring. In the eyes of these ‘Jackets,  Mike was a true and faithful son of Eugene who admonished his men to … “leave no stone unturned” in making the gospel come alive. In Mike’s early priesthood,  that meant for the Yellowjackets he taught, coached, and counseled.  Given the ‘Jacket lineup, I’d say Mike was indeed, “a specialist in the most difficult mission!”
Fr. Billy Morell, OMI