By Mick Holien
Happy mid-week Valentine’s Day and what a romantic story I have to share with you.
I guess I could say I planned it all out this way but alas the truth be known, some special activities I have planned for the University of Montana’s most elder Alumna just happen to be planned on Charter Day celebrating the founding of the institution 125 years ago.
Now you’ll remember I often have talked with you about the influence that 106-year-old Emma Lommasson has had on my life.
For approximately the past six years, we have conversed weekly and I attempt to visit her at the Village Senior Residences in Missoula every couple of months.
Just a little background: Emma is a Griz through and through.
And several years ago she contacted my friend Terry Hober, who ironically grew up down the street from her, and said she had enjoyed listening to me broadcast games for so many years she wanted to meet me.
Terry, his friend, Kay Larson, and my friend Rose and I arranged for lunch at the Missoula Country Club and as fate would have it while I might beat her to the Pearly Gates a deep relationship and bond formed.
She keeps a large color photo of me on the wall as you come in the door and my photo of the two of us has a place of prominence of the refrigerator.
Emma said she would never have been so bold so as to do ask to meet me in her “younger” years.
During one of our visits, which have to be arranged around the myriad of friends who drop by, she told me she thought she had met every UM President but four.
And of course I immediately thought that with Seth Bodnar taking the helm as the 18th Pres, what better time than to have the two meet.
An email to Bodnar was all it took as he was anxious to move forward depending on his schedule.
Then as I was traveling to the football signing party last week I remembered Mick Delaney had been so kind as to go meet her when he was the head man and with Bobby Hauck new for the second time at the helm, an alum himself and a Montana guy, I asked him to join us.
Quickly a few of her other friends – you see she worked on campus for some four decades – decided to join in and well we got ourselves a party as Mick Hanson, Ron Brunell and Charley Thorne plan to attend.
Born of Italian descent in Sand Coulee in 1911 it is an epiphany for me since my deceased mother also was born in 1911, seven days later than Emma.
Emma Maedalyn Bravo, who did not speak English until in the first grade, enrolled at the University in 1929, graduating four years later and returning to her hometown to teach English for four years.
In 1937 she returned to campus as an assistant to Math prof N.J. Lennes, eventually moving in to the second floor house he constructed for $35 a month,.
After obtaining a Masters Degree and teaching math she later began showing military men how to fly at Hale field, where Sentinel is now.
That, even though she had never flown herself.
In ’45 she became the Veteran Affairs Officer and a year later moved to the Registrar’s office even though she hung on to her affinity for the military.
When veterans returned from Vietnam they say she played a pivotal role not only in getting their benefits but also in many case helping financially,
In 1973 she became the registrar – she was 62.
She retired 14 years later but continued to volunteer in the office.
The Lodge on Arthur Avenue was later named in her honor.
While Emma’s memory not unexpectedly is fading as is her eyesight, she has been a pillar for me, filling a void I didn’t even know existed.
When I had my stroke several years ago, her she comes down the Providence Center hall, pleated skirt, high heels –she walks without assistance – every hair on her head meticulously placed.
I love her like my own and dread the day someone else answers her telephone when I call.
We share a mantra. She lived this long because she surrounded herself with young folks, she said. Thirty-one years on the road wars with the Griz for me and I certainly share that sentiment.
Seth Bodnar is the University’s 18th president, replacing Royce Engstrom who along with his wife Mary visited a few years ago.
Charles Horace Clapp was at the helm when Emma enrolled, dying in office in 1935 at the age of 51.
By Thursday dinner indeed there still are just four UM presidents Emma Lommasson hasn’t met.