My great-uncle, Brother Joe Trageser, died Monday, Aug. 11, 1997, at age 92 after 70-some years of teaching high school. Below are memorials written by his religious community at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, and by myself, which was read at his funeral Aug. 13, 1997. If any other family members or friends would like to add their memories of Uncle Joe, click here to e-mail me. (James Michael Trageser)
The Chaminade Family Mourns
the passing of
Brother Joseph A. Trageser
August 11, 1997
The Society of Mary, Province of Meribah recommends to your fraternal prayers our dear Brother Joseph Anthony Trageser, who died in the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 11, 1997, in Mineola, New York, in the 93rd year of his age and the 75th year of his religious profession.
Joseph Anthony Trageser was born November 28, 1904, in Baltimore, Maryland. He made his postulancy and novitiate at Mt. St. John in Dayton, Ohio, and professed his first vows on August 15, 1922. After his scholasticate at the University of Dayton, Bro. Joseph began his long apostolate in high school education, primarily as a teacher of mathematics and religion. His first assignment at Cathedral Latin School in Cleveland, Ohio (1924-1941), was a long and very happy one for Bro. Joseph. Even after more than 60 years, Bro. Joseph remained in contact with many of his students from those days. Bro. Joseph also taught at St. John the Baptist High School (Manayunk, PA) from 1941-43; at Chaminade High School (Dayton, OH) from 1943-46; and at Hamilton Catholic High School (Hamilton, OH) from 1946-48. Bro. Joseph returned to Chaminade-Dayton from 1948-61 and taught at Moeller High School (Cincinnati, OH) from 1961-69.
Throughout his 45 years as a high-school teacher, Bro. Joseph was very involved in student activities of all sorts. He was most proud of his work with the Sodality and as the founder and moderator of a number of high-school bands. His marching and concert bands won numerous awards and competitions and were often invited to march in parades around the country. One of the highlights of Bro. Joseph’s work with the bands occured in 1939, when the Cathedral Latin Band performed at the World’s Fair in New York.
After his retirement from full-time teaching in 1969, Bro. Joseph remained actively involved in work with high-school age students at Bergamo/East (Marcy, NY) from 1969-73 and at Moeller High School (Cincinnati, OH) as a tutor and audio-visual moderator from 1973-82. In 1982, Bro. Joseph came to Chaminade High School (Mineola, NY), where he remained a very active member of the community and the school until the final months before his death. Throughout those years, Bro. Joseph not only kept the school’s audio visual equipment in repair, but he also became widely known in the school and throughout the community for the inspirational buttons and cards that he created. On almost any occasion, Bro. Joseph could produce from his pocket the appropriate button or laminated prayer card, and "Bro. Joe Buttons" became an important feature of First Communions and Catholic Schools Week celebrations in many local parishes. Through this final ministry, Bro. Joseph touched the lives of many people, offering them encouragement and consolation through his care and attention.
In March of 1997, Bro. Joseph entered the hospital with a staph infection. Weakened by the infection, Bro Joseph’s health declined steadily. He was pleased that he was able to be cared for by the Brothers in the Chaminade Community, and he died peacefully just as the Brothers were beginning Morning Prayer and Mass. Bro. Joseph had looked forward to celebrating his 75th Anniversary of Religious Profession on August 15th with his Brothers and his family and friends. We now pray that he will enjoy an even greater celebration with the Lord and His Blessed Mother, whom he served so long and faithfully, and with the whole company of Heaven.
From James Michael Trageser, son of Brother Joe's nephew James Henry:
Everybody should have an Uncle Joe. Or a Great-Uncle Joe, in this case, but to all of us great-nieces and -nephews of Joseph Trageser, he was just Uncle Joe.
My sisters and brother and I got to know Uncle Joe better than most of the other kids in the family, though, because when we were growing up in Dayton, Ohio, in the '60s and '70s he was teaching at Cincinnati Moeller High, while our cousins were all in the Baltimore area.
And so our childhood is full of memories of Uncle Joe. Of the childlike wonder Brother Joe carried through life. Playing tag with us kids in the back yard on long summer nights, of helping us chase fireflies, of showing us all the different musical instruments in the Moeller band room, of patiently teaching a shy six-year-old how to wave a baton.
But we were only one part of Brother Joe's life, his students from Cathedral Latin and Dayton Chaminade and Cincinnati Moeller and then Mineola Chaminade forming an infinitely larger family that meant nearly as much to him. Maybe more. Although he taught high school for round about 70 years, and worked with tens of thousands of kids, he remembered most of his students and never tired of hearing from or about them.
The memory that best sums up what I think Uncle Joe meant to an awful lot of people comes from my high school graduation in 1979. Uncle Joe was then at Cincinnati Moeller High, but for years before that he had taught at Dayton's Chaminade -- and I was graduating from Dayton Alter. And of course, Uncle Joe somehow got somebody to drive him up for my graduation, he never having learned to drive.
After the ceremony, I was standing with my father and Uncle Joe when I saw the dean of boys -- in my naive teen-age mind, the meanest, coldest, most heartless man on the face of the earth -- running toward us. Mr. D. was his name, and we all hated him with a deep and very un-Christian passion. I hadn't been in trouble of late, though, and couldn't figure out why Mr. D., who hardly ever even granted me the courtesy of simple acknowledgement, could want with me -- especially now, as I clutched my diploma tightly, fearful that he would even yet snatch me back into his dark and powerful clutches.
As it turned out, Mr. D. wanted nothing from me. "Brother Trageser," he asked breathlessly. "Is that you?" Mr. D. was winded from chasing us into the parking lot, but clearly excited. "It's me -- Ronnie!"
Ronnie? RONNIE? It had never occurred to any of us that Mr. D. even had a first name, let alone "Ronnie."
"Ronnie D-----. I played tuba for you at Chaminade." I looked over at Uncle Joe, and he clearly had no idea who on earth could be this middle-aged man, so eager for approval, so eager to make Brother Joe proud.
But it was just as clear that to have admitted as much would have crushed Ronnie D., tubaist from the class of '59, and so Uncle Joe did what he always did and made Mr. D. -- the once-feared authority figure who had finally let one of his students know he was human after all -- feel like he was the most special pupil in Joe Trageser's life.
And Uncle Joe was proud. Even if he couldn't remember exactly who he was, this was one of his boys, grown up into a good and decent man, a teacher like himself no less. "Ronnie D----, of course! Look at you! Well, it's good to see you!"
And as they walked off a few feet to catch up, Mr. D., dean of boys at Archbishop Karl J. Alter High School, scowling disciplinarian extraordinaire, a man who never showed any emotion at any time, well, he beamed. Yes, beamed. Smiling, waving his arms, telling Uncle Joe all he'd done in the 20 years since he'd last seen his teacher. In my youthful ignorance, I wouldn't have guessed it possible. But then, I'd underestimated the impact Brother Joe had on people. And of course, looking back now, almost 20 years since that day, roughly the same age as Mr. D. was then, I realize Uncle Joe's perspective was accurate: Mr. D. was the man my uncle thought, a decent and kind man trying to keep reign on 600 hormone-pumped teen-age boys -- a job *I* wouldn't care to tackle, thank you very much.
After he and Uncle Joe had talked, Mr. D. came over to congratulate me. "Well, I guess the last name of Trageser should have tipped me off, but I never would have guessed you were related to Brother Joe."
I wasn't quite sure what Mr. D. meant by that, but I hope that as I make my way through this life I am able to live up to the standards Brother Joe Trageser set, that the next time I meet someone who knew my great-uncle, they say instead, "You know, there's a lot of Joe Trageser in you."
I am Robert Pomponio a health & PE teacher at Chaminade HS Mineola, NY .
I too have fond memories of your uncle Joe .
Many a time Bro Joe & I would discuss his button making for the various clubs here at Chaminade . The young men under his guidance truly grew both educationally & spiritually through Bro. Joe's kind words & actions.
We would discuss his earlier days prior to Chaminade -NY of his wonderful experience at Moeller HS & their football coach Gerry Faust.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have been blessed by the presence of Bro. Joe. By his words & actions he helped me become a more understanding teacher and a more loving & caring Christian.
God Bless you & your family ,
Sun, 24 Feb 2008 18:15:13
(Editor's note: The note from Robert Pomponio was received as an email and is reprinted here with permission.)
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