“Are you Rosemary McShane from Hopkinsville, Ky.? My mother would like to know.”
Those words on Facebook turned a sleepy Sunday afternoon on Jan. 13, 2019, into an emotion-packed week for Rosemary McShane Kranz, Mount Saint Joseph Academy class of 1950. They set in motion a phone call reunion with her dear Academy friend Dot Monty Pellegrini, who she hadn’t seen in 68 years.
“I never get on Facebook, but this day I did,” Rosemary said about that fateful January day. “This name came up, Carolyn Pellegrini. I thought maybe that was Dot’s daughter. I couldn’t contact her because we aren’t friends, but I could wave to her. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I waved.”
That’s when Carolyn Pellegrini responded asking that prophetic question.
“The next Wednesday we set up a time to talk,” Rosemary said. “It was like a first date, I got all dressed up and sat in my chair and waited for her to call. Right at 1 o’clock she called. We just cried for the first few minutes. We talked for two hours.”
“It was very nice to hear from her,” Dot said in a phone call from her home in Modesto, Calif., 2,000 miles away from Rosemary’s home in Hastings, Minn. “I’ve been looking at an old picture book. I’m going to send her some pictures.”
Their friendship began in 1946 when they came to the Academy from different hometowns. The McShane family was from Hopkinsville, about two hours from the Mount along the Tennessee border. The Monty family was from Clarksdale, Miss., now home to the Delta Blues Museum. Pat Schram, class of 1948, and her older sister attended the Mount from Clarksdale, that’s how the Monty children learned of the Academy, Dot said.
“I was from farther away than her, so I spent every Thanksgiving for three years with her and her family in Kentucky,” Dot said. “That was a wonderful memory.”
Rosemary was very active in music – playing the piano, organ and violin – and in the Sodality to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“She was in orchestra and I wasn’t, but I liked to listen to them play,” Dot said. “We took long walks, just talking and joking. She was very jolly, she liked to joke. I used to go to the library a lot, she’d come with me. We had a recreation room, with music and records. I loved to dance, we taught the girls to do the jive jitterbug after supper. There were two ping pong tables and a piano there.”
Their happy school days together were forever altered at the end of their junior years. Dot’s younger sister, Carolyn Monty – a freshman at the Academy who everyone called “Sis” – became seriously ill at the end of the spring semester of 1949.
“That summer she was diagnosed with cancer,” Dot said. “The doctor thought it would be best if we stayed closer to home. Memphis is only two hours from Clarksdale, so we both enrolled in St. Agnes boarding school there. I was very upset, I wanted to graduate from the Mount.”
Her sister’s health deteriorated after just two months, and she had to go to the hospital, Dot recalled.
“Rosemary and her family all drove down to Memphis to see her in the hospital before she died,” Dot said. “I have a lot of very, very fond memories of them.”
The two friends reunited in the fall of 1950, when they both attended Fontbonne College together in St. Louis. Rosemary stayed just a semester, and in January 1951 returned to the Mount to join the Ursuline Sisters. “I stayed a year and then I went home,” Rosemary said.
That January of 1951 was the last time the two friends saw each other.
“I’m sorry we let these years go by so fast,” Rosemary said. “We were such good friends.”
They stayed in touch for a while, and their mothers also remained friends. When they each married, they moved away and lost touch.
Rosemary found her husband thanks to the kindness of her parents. Richard Kranz – father of Academy graduates Judy Kranz-Donley, Peggy Kranz and Sarah Kranz – lived in a small town 17-20 miles from Hopkinsville but made the long drive each week to bring his children to church, Rosemary said. That impressed Rosemary’s parents and they often invited Richard to their home after church. When Richard’s siblings from Minnesota came to visit, they were invited to the McShane home as well. That’s how Rosemary met James Kranz, whom she married in 1954.
The couple moved to Hastings, Minn., south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Rosemary has lived there ever since. The couple raised six sons and one daughter.
“God has been very good to us,” Rosemary said. Once the children were all in school, Rosemary helped her husband in his printing business. James Kranz died in 1984 and one of their sons now runs the business. Rosemary never remarried, although she concedes she’s “been asked a few times.”
Dot graduated from Fontbonne College in 1953 and attended graduate school at St. Louis University in the social work program.
“I didn’t finish, I married one of the guys in the program, Joe Pellegrini, he was from Pennsylvania,” Dot said. “We moved to New York City for three years, then to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for four years. In 1962, we moved to Modesto, Calif., with our three children. My husband had an uncle in California, he took a state job with the mental health department. I raised our children and got my teaching certificate, but I just taught part time.”
Joe Pellegrini died five years ago, and now Dot lives with her daughter, Carolyn, who she named after her deceased sister.
Dot and Rosemary say their distance from Kentucky made it more difficult to stay in touch with classmates. Dot has attended just one Mount Reunion weekend, in the 1980s, and Rosemary hasn’t been back since 2000, when her class celebrated 50 years. Though she is far away, Rosemary said she still thinks of the Mount fondly.
“I’ve always had a piece of my heart at Mount Saint Joseph,” she said.
The two friends tried reconnecting with each other through letters about 15-20 years ago, but old addresses they each had left their correspondences returned and marked “no such address,” Rosemary said.
She believes divine intervention led to her reunion this year with Dot.
“I always said the Blessed Mother takes care of Mount Saint Joseph girls,” Rosemary said. “She just kept on working. I really think we were guided to this. We got so close to the girls at the Academy.”
Their reunion was wonderful, but also bittersweet, Rosemary said.
“We’re both 87, I live in Minnesota and she lives in California. I wonder if we’re ever going to see each other again?” The two plan to Facetime, and this time they promise to stay in touch.
“When we said goodbye, we told each other we loved each other,” Rosemary said. She has one message for other Academy graduates.
“Don’t ever give up on a friendship.”
By Dan Heckel
Mount Saint Joseph staff