Photo used with permission from St Ambrose University Library. E. M. Catich making a rubbing of the inscription at the Trajan Column in Rome with fellow seminarians in the late 1930s and again c. 1960. One can try to imagine the difficulty he faced when he made the full-size cast from this inscription with the help of Italian workmen.

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  1. In 1976 I was awarded a significant scholarship to St. Ambrose to continue my studies in calligraphy. I postponed my scholarship for a year and went to New York instead to study with Paul Freeman. Paul told me I was nuts to be in New York and to return to Iowa to Father. I was terrified that I would not “make the cut” so to speak.

    I remember the first day I met Father. I came to see him about taking up my Ambrose scholarship to study art with him. He said my work was “midwest nothing” but that we could fix that in time.

    We agreed that I would begin courses in the Fall. He told me I would need books to study before the semester began and promptly began to climb metal shelving on the side wall of his studio to pull down books. I was terrified the shelving would collapse and he would be injured. When he came down from the shelving, he handed me “The Trajan Inscription in Rome,” “Reed, Pen & Brush Alphabets,” and “The Origin of the Serif.” I told him I did not have enough money to pay for them right then, and he said, no matter, I could pay in time. He wrote my name down on a sheet of paper on the back of the studio door with the title of the books and a total amount. He told me to go home and practice, read, and study, and he would see me in the Fall.

    It was not until after his death, when I was cataloging the library in his studio, that I discovered that all the shelving was bolted to the wall!

    The Christmas before he died my husband and I came to be with Father one evening and we brought him a Christmas present. It was a gray 100% wool sweater. He was so very touched, his eyes watered as he took it out of the box. When we gave it to him he immediately put it on and then opened a bottle of sparkling wine he pulled from somewhere so we could have a toast. After his death I was told that he was buried in the sweater we gave him. I am not sure if this is true or not, but at the time it gave me great comfort.

    Father gave me my nickname, Sadie, and it has stuck throughout my adult life. Being with him for that last little time before he left this world for the next changed my life. I will be forever thankful to God that he put me in front of one of the greatest souls I have ever known.


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