What an Arm!

by Mike Miller, class of 1966


"Miller",  the voice bellowed, "If you don't learn your poetry and stay away from  those female women of the opposite sex, you're going to wind up a food vendor-that's right-vending food on some street corner." 

As these words  of inspiration (and possible foresight) carried across the classroom, so  also did either a piece of chalk or a blackboard eraser-directed  precisely at my somewhat over sized head.  What an arm, what an arm that  holy man had!

Father La Riviere often regaled us with tales from his own youth, and  occasionally about sports: how for several days before a big football  game he would let grow his facial stubble, and then on game day enhance  it with green food coloring to make himself look more ferocious. (As  Father spoke, he would gaze out the windows onto Date Street and use his  index finger to knock away the dust from the end of his piece of chalk,  as if it were ashes on a cigarette).


Father La Riviere relocated to San Diego in 1969, as I had done in 1966.  He  was teaching at University High School while I was across the street at  the University, totally unaware of our proximity to one another.  I did  have a chance encounter with him at the high school in the mid '70's (he  actually called me by my first name) and again in the early '90's at  St. Michael's parish.  

Following graduation from USD, I began a 33 year  career with the San Diego Police Department, and Father blessed my  police badge during our second visit-just as Aquinas classmate, Fr.  Michael Sreboth, had done at our class reunion in 1986 (same badge, with  which I retired.)

Footnote:  Father La Riviere was living at the Nazareth House, a Catholic  retirement community, at the time of his passing in 1996.  My  Grandmother and Mother also lived there, before and after him.  Father  is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.

Upon personal reflection, I know that Fr. La Riviere inspired me the  most by his unwavering ethics, morals and values.  He was a man's man,  but also compassionate, humble when need be, and the epitome of  spirituality.  Because of his legacy I also recite the Universal Prayer  on a regular basis.