Mary Louise Hummert was the first daughter of Victor Joseph Hummert and Bertha (Sartory) Hummert, born on January 2, 1933 in Breese, IL. Mary’s sojourn ended after 2P.M. on the 82nd wedding anniversary of her parents V.J & Bertha, February 3, 2015.
When the Joliet, IL prison, (south of Chicago) was opened in the 1930’s Warden Joseph Ragen invited V.J to Joliet for the purpose of setting up an accounting system in the pre-digital/computerized penal institution.
Victor Joseph, Bertha and their first infant daughter Mary Louise then moved to the Joliet prison where baby Mary was cared for by V.J., Bertha and select inmates of the penal institution. During her infancy perhaps Mary acquired a non-judgmental acceptance of those who may have had difficulties with the law. Prior to their marriage Bertha worked as a nurse in St. Mary’s Hospital of East St. Louis, IL. There she cared for some southern Illinois underworld figures as down state cohorts of the northern Illinois Al Capone group. One patient informed Bertha the young nurse to be careful when fluffing his pillow because he insisted on keeping a loaded revolver under it. This hand gun encounter was unnerving to an unsophisticated woman from a farm near Warsaw, IL.
Perhaps the seeds of Mary’s pacifism were planted on May 5, 1945 when Paul Bruening, a young neighbor brought a shocking Western Union cable to the home of Henry Hummert, V.J’s oldest son. The cable came from the US War Department bearing sad news on the death of Captain Thomas A. Hummert, 28. The second of three sons, (Thomas, Richard, Robert) who enlisted in the war effort, died in a B-17 plane crash in Cuba.
In an emotional moment, Henry was unable to finish reading the cable and began pounding his fists on kitchen cabinets. Mary, his wife then finished reading the death notice to five small children (Joann, Margaret, Mary Louise, Kathryn, Victor Jr.) seated at the kitchen table. There was a funeral service in May 1945 with a catafalque (casket lacking a body) held in St. Augustine’s Catholic church, Breese, IL while the remains of Captain Hummert were still in Cuba. A year later the War Department notified our family that the charred body of Thomas could be returned to Illinois.
A second ceremonial funeral was held in 1946 with taps, firing of guns and military decorum was held in 1946 perhaps reinforcing an unholy feeling for military matters among some Hummert family members.
Two polite Air Force officers remained for a week with the Hummert family on S. 2d Street during the grieving process. They have had so much practice.
During her years working at Hallmark’s library in Kansas City, MO Mary encountered Billy MacGonigle, a decorated WWII Air Force B-24 pilot whose plane was shot down over the Mediterranean. As a strong swimmer, Billy received numerous awards for saving the lives of other crew members who were ejected from the sinking air craft. Bill’s wife Joan observed her husband had little regard for the honors and lent his support to the KCMO peacemakers.
Kathy Kelly is an international peacemaker from Chicago who visited Kansas City where she befriended Mary and other family members.
Kansas City was surrounded by 150 Minuteman nuclear missiles during the 1980’s. A group of pacifist friends formed the Missouri Peace Planters with the biblical ambition of removing those city/country threatening missiles from the area. In 2015, there are no missiles surrounding Kansas City. Ageing is a factor for removal of missiles and replacing them with modern, more deadly weapons. The Missouri Peace Planters may have been raspberry seeds in the cavities of military leaders in the state. Whatever the reason, those missiles are gone.
Fr. Phil Berrigan, a peacemaker from the 1960’s was present at one missile site near Knob Noster, MO not far from KCMO.
Surrounding the missile site one sweltering, hot day in July Phil spoke of the late Sr. Rosalie Bertell , a scientist and nuclear expert at trials against the deadly industry. Sweat dripping from Phil’s everyone’s brow, Sr. Rosalie was somberly quoted: “Those born before 1945 are the last healthy generation!”
Mary’s numerous encounters with such dangerous, prophetic peacemakers permeated her spirit. How could she not aid the Missouri Peace Planters? No ecclesial institution mindful of its tax exemption status would defy the Dept. of Defense and welcome a radical peace momentum that was determined to rid KCMO of nuclear missiles. Mary’ home on Cherry St. in KC became the base of operations from which home telephone local reporters and journalists were informed of actions at various sites against the missiles. NUKEWATCH in 2015 is in the process of preparing a map indicating where other missiles remain.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BOAS) began in 1947 as a warning to those who live in a nuclear age that Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is a daily reality. The very first issue carried a “Doomsday Clock” indicating midnight as the hour of nuclear conflagration. When the former Soviet Union imploded in 1989 after spending billions on weapons to protect themselves from other nuclear powers, the clock stood at 11:40. In January 2015 BOAS editors moved the minute hand to a testy 11:57. More attention was given to deflated NFL footballs than a clock standing at three minutes before midnight.
When Mary was a child, the total defense budget in 1945 was $1 billion. Eisenhower in his retirement speech of 1961 warned of the insatiable appetite of our Military Industrial complex (MIC) which now demands $2 billion daily for “defense.”
Aware of the injustice in our society and crippling effects of our economy savaged by arms corporations, Mary joined Brother Louis and others in serving meals at the Kansas City Catholic Worker.
When General Norman Schwaretzkopf was honored at a KC hotel and given the “Key to the City” as an honored guest, Mary was part of a small delegation that purchased tickets to the banquet and let it be known not everyone respected the general. The women were promptly ushered out.
Gandhi read the Beatitudes (Matthew V, Luke VI) every day that the non-violence of Jesus is our only hope of survival. May Mary rejoice in the company of all those who have gone before her in the struggle for peace. And may her spirit compel us to continue until NUKEWATCH reports no missiles in the heartland. Or the BOAS clock is not so close to midnight.