By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — “I am that girl whom you tried to teach exactly 70 years ago.”
“I was in the class of 1961 and have happy memories of basketball, volleyball, the high jump and other athletic ventures.”
“You are one of the people who influenced me most as a teenager, and it was through your love and laughter.”
“It seems like only yesterday we sat in your office in Donnelly (Hall) and discussed life.”
“Our Miss Reardon.”
Dozens of cards, notes and emails sent by St. Teresa’s Academy alumni to Pauline Reardon wishing her a happy 100th birthday brimmed with messages like these.
Reardon celebrated her centennial with members of her family Aug. 22 at her home in St. Joseph. She taught P.E. and served as guidance counselor at St. Teresa’s for 45 years. At the time of her retirement in 1984, she was Dean of Students. In cards and letters former students shared memories of classes with her, as far back as the class of 1943.
A graduate of the class of 1946 commented that “Times were certainly simpler then …” Reardon grew up in a town proud of its bygone days. Plattsburg, about 30 miles northwest of Kansas City, was founded in 1833 to serve as the seat of the new Clinton County. Originally the town was named Concord; within a few months, its early settlers changed it to Springfield. It wasn’t long before it was discovered that a town in the southwest part of the state was also named Springfield. In January 1835, the name Plattsburg was adopted from Plattsburgh, NY, the county seat of Clinton County, NY.
Timothy B. Reardon and his Mary built a homestead on the northern edge of Plattsburg, and in that home on Aug. 22, 1911, Pauline was born. With her brother Michael and sisters, Margaret, Theresa, Rosalie, Gertrude, Helen and Lorraine, she attended St. Brendan’s/St. Ann’s Catholic School. The children all went to Sunday morning Mass at St. Ann’s Church with their parents. After graduating from St. Ann’s, Pauline was enrolled at Plattsburg High School.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, girls were beginning to pursue college educations on a fairly regular basis. Pauline enrolled at the College of St. Teresa on the campus of St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Founded in 1916, the college then was a junior college offering two-year programs in nursing and education. Pauline chose education.
She transferred to Fontbonne College in St. Louis, graduating with a degree in education in 1934, and then went on to obtain her master’s degree in education from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Pauline began teaching P.E. at St. Teresa’s Academy in 1939. She also taught P.E. classes at the College of St. Teresa, Loretto Academy, St. Elizabeth and St. Peter’s grade schools.
Basketball, volleyball, softball, high jump, she encouraged and coached her students to attempt them all. St. Teresa’s Academy alumni director Kathleen Fleming Barry, class of 1969, wrote that Reardon was “a legend among our alums.”
A 1969 graduate recalled that Reardon “got me interested in sports and helped me through the broad jump, which I liked since it felt like I could fly. She was also a good instructor in volleyball and was quite patient with me even though I wasn’t good enough to make the team.”
Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Patty Clune, CSJ, class of 1962, commented in her card that “It’s pretty rare these days that absolutely everyone I talk with has such loving memories of you! You were a great teacher; you inspired us to want to be better. I can remember you told me I could throw a softball further than anyone you had ever seen … I was pretty proud!” Sister Patty is now a member of the Province Leadership Team in St. Louis.
Other alumni recalled volleyball games, P.E. classes and, in the words of a member of the class of 1955, “learning all kinds of sports wearing that ugly white bloomer gym suit!” An alumnus of the class of 1959 described them as “‘lovely’ white one-piece P.E. uniforms with boxy pleated legs.”
Several graduates remembered Dean of Students Reardon as a caring disciplinarian. “You kept me in line at school,” recalled an alumnus of the class of 1972. “You are well remembered … still feared! And loved,” wrote another 1972 graduate, in her emailed birthday greeting.
A 1977 graduate wrote, “I have so many fond memories of walking past your office … and seeing all my friends on the inside of your office!”
“I did not have you as a P.E. teacher, but as a pink slip (tardy slip) giver. If I recall correctly, I only had to get one pink slip … I was never late again,” a member of the class of 1979 wrote in an email.
Reardon, who never married, retired to St. Joseph in 1984. She celebrated her milestone birthday with nieces Kathleen Clarke of Kansas City, Helen Pipes of Plattsburg, Patricia Downey of Lathrop, Mary Liles and Margaret Miller, both of St. Joseph and nephew Charles Plummer of Liberty. Her niece Mary Gertrude Basden, who lives in Houston, wasn’t able to come for the celebratory weekend. She also has 26 great nieces and nephews, and 28 great-great nieces and nephews.
Kathleen Clarke, who teaches at Barstow School, praised her aunt for “giving her time and attention to her nieces and nephews and their children, always asking about their school work, going to their activities and babysitting.” Clarke and her younger sister Helen Pipes remembered Reardon helping her mother prepare Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Pipes said her aunt drove a 1957 Chevrolet, and would take her nieces and nephew to the Plaza and other interesting places in Kansas City when they would come visit.
Kathy Teahan Jantsch, class of 1976, said Reardon was a monumental influence at St. Teresa’s. “Just think of all the women she influenced while she was at STA,” Jantsch said. “She was amazing!”
A 1965 graduate wrote, “You taught me so much more than how to play volleyball, basketball and softball. You taught me self-confidence which has carried me through my life and a wonderful career as a lawyer. I am forever in your debt.”
That sentiment recurred in many of the cards, letters and emails sent with birthday greetings from graduates of classes spanning five decades.