Catholic Herald staff
After 48 years of service, Mary Zoesch, the smiling face of St. Anthony de Padua Parish, Park Falls, is retiring.
A lifelong member of the parish, Zoesch started working there in February 1966. She has been an office worker, school secretary, housekeeper, school cook and, since 1991, the full-time parish secretary.
Zoesch has always lived in Park Falls, but much has changed in the community over the years. Back when she was schooled at St. Anthony, there were 55 students in her eighth-grade class.
“All Catholic children were expected to attend the Catholic school,” she said.
Over time, the expectation changed, but Zoesch and her husband, Gary, still sent their son and daughter, Gary and Ann, to Catholic school. It’s a family tradition – Zoesch, her four siblings, two children and three grandchildren are all St. Anthony alumni.
As she retires from parish work, St. Anthony School is struggling to keep its doors open. A successful financial campaign, launched last year, is carrying the school through the 2014-15 year.
“It’s too bad, because I know our school is a very, very good school,” Zoesch said. “The teachers are very dedicated.”
From 1967 to 1979, when Zoesch was the school secretary, she was tasked with the unusual job of tolling the parish bell during funeral processions.
“Because the church was located on a hill, one could watch the funeral procession of vehicles until they turned to go to the cemetery,” she said. “All that time, the somber bell would stop.”
Of all her positions at the parish, Zoesch most enjoyed her time as parish secretary. She liked “the people, the parishioners that would come in, and dealing with the people.”
One challenge was the sometimes frequent change in leadership.
From 1922 to 1999, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood served as priests at St. Anthony.
When Zoesch started working there, the priest was Precious Blood Fr. Charles Froelich.
“When the Precious Blood priests were here, they stayed at least 10 years every time,” she said.
Since 1966, the parish has gone through 23 pastors and associate pastors.
“That was very difficult, because each one has their own personalities and their own ways, and a person had to adapt to that every time,” Zoesch said.
She’s enjoyed working with the current parochial administrator, Fr. Shaji Pazhukkathara.
“He’s a very energetic man,” she added.
To thank her for her service, the parish hosted a retirement party for Zoesch and Michael Plemon, principal of the school. Neither of them enjoys the limelight, according to Zoesch.
“It was a potluck, and they gave Mike Plemon and myself a plaque of appreciation,” she said. “It was pretty low-key. I’m the kind of person that would rather be in the background.”
Zoesch’s retirement plans are relaxed. She wants to spend more time visiting her family in Kansas and scrapbooking, gardening, sewing and knitting.
She and Gary, married 44 years, make infant hats to donate to hospitals, and Zoesch sews fleece hats, mittens and more for area shelters.
“I have plenty to do and lots of good friends to help me out,” she said.