Last week’s column contained a small paragraph on the late Rev. M. Cyril Nemecek, the pastor emeritus of Mater Christi Church in North Riverside. When talking with Bob Uphues, my editor, he suggested I should write a column on Father Nemecek, the priest and man.
My first encounter with Fr. Cy was when I was a teacher at Mater Christi School when he was pastor. Our first real conversation came as we were both picking up our Market Day orders. He did his own cooking and Market Day helped him plan his meals. He asked me how I was, and I told him my mother had just entered the hospital. He turned around, set his items down and spent time with me. Something I never forgot.
There was a playful side to Fr. Cy. A few of us at school referred to him as “our bookie.” Here’s the story and I’m sticking to it. When the Triple Crown of racing took place each year, our bookie would make his appearance. This was all Fr. Cy’s idea, and we eagerly went along with it.
When he came over to school, it was time to place your bets. He would come to school with what we called his fishing hat to hold the bets. We would only bet on one race at a time. The number of horses in the race determined the cost of a bet, 50 cents to $4.
No one was allowed to purchase too many so as not give more people a chance to win. Come Monday morning we would see him make the trek across 10th Avenue to play off his customers. He was an honest bookie. A few times we even bet on the Indianapolis 500.
I was also told if you ever gave Fr. Cy a gift of money, he would gift it right to the school, which came first with him, sometimes bypassing his own needs.
Case in point, his trench coat — he needed a new one. So, we purchased one. He questioned why we would buy him a new one. Our reply, “We were tired of seeing him in his old Columbo trench coat.”
He accepted the gift and I’m sure it was the last trench coat he had.
More to write but space prohibits. By the way, the “M” stood for Milan. He gave his body to science — I bet they find a big heart.