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‘To enjoy the occasional cigar’

| Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hesburgh Gallery (9 of 20)Observer File Photo

In his 97 years, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh oversaw the Civil Rights Commission, the International Federation of Catholic Universities, several Vatican and United States delegations and the University of Notre Dame.

The rest of the world took care of the cigars.

“Just when I think I’m getting low,” he told The Observer in 2013, “someone will come in out of nowhere and say, ‘hey, by the way, I was in Central America and I picked up something for you,’ and they come up with a box of cigars.”

Junior Tommy Schneeman said the president emeritus was smoking the first time he met him.

“He was over 90, and it was like, alright, interesting,” Schneeman said. “[He] never had any health problems, which is like a miracle in itself.

“… He was like, in his gravelly voice, ‘they’ve been trying to get me to quit smoking in here forever, but I told ‘em, if you don’t let me smoke in here, you’re going to have to take my name off the building.’”

So Hesburgh kept smoking cigars — and people kept sending them — until his death Thursday.

“He continued, in his final days, to visit with family, friends and fellow Holy Cross religious and to enjoy the occasional cigar,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in an email to the Notre Dame community Thursday night.

That evening, among the Grotto candles lit in his memory, someone left a cigar in a candle holder for him.

On Friday, Schneeman and juniors Brian Cimons and Andrew Glover gathered to light cigars under Hesburgh’s statue in front of the library named for him.

“I always kind of wanted to smoke one with him but never got to,” Schneeman said.

“So this is the best we can do,” Glover said.

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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