Paul Charles Hartzell

By Stephen J. Hartzell

Brother Cesaire, 1915 - 1940
Brother Cesaire About 1940

Special thanks are due to:
Brother John H. Kuhn, C.S.C., Archivist
Midwest Province, Congregation of Holy Cross
Notre Dame, Indiana

Toni I. Benson, President
Van Buren County, Michigan, Regional Genealogical Society

Mary L. (Hartzell) Elchert said it very well.
"We all hold our heads just a little bit higher, because one of us was a member of the Holy Cross Order whom God was pleased to call unto Himself."

Born on February 8, 1915 at 9:30 p.m., Paul Charles Hartzell was the 4th child of Thomas & Rosalie (Reinich) Hartzell, and was affectionately known as "Pud" by his family. His friends called him by such nicknames as "Bones" or "Skelt" because of his slender frame. He was baptized at St. Mary's Church on Feb. 21 by Fr. Thomas F. Conlon. His godparents were Charles and Catherine Werling. He received his Confirmation from Bishop Samuel A. Stritch in 1922.

Paul attended school at St. Mary's School in Tiffin. The teachers there were all Ursuline Sisters. One of these was Sr. Mary DeSales. Her & Paul became particularly close.

In the late 1920's Paul was in the 7th grade. By now it was clear that Paul was not getting along well in school. His grades were bad, and on at least one occasion he was caught smoking under the rear church steps with another boy named Buck Wagner. This was during the time of the Great Depression. Finally Paul had had enough. Sometime during one school day he left, never to return. As he walked away, one Sister looked at Sr. DeSales and said "There's your bird flying away".

Although he never attended the school again, he often visited Sr. DeSales. During these visits she gave the boy council, and ultimately suggested to Paul that he should consider a life in a religious vocation. This, Paul did begin to consider.

Rosalie Hartzell had always dreamed that at least one of her children should enter a religious vocation, and she encouraged this. A cousin, Lawrence Reinich, had already entered the Congregation of Holy Cross and was now known as Brother Joachim. With the encouragement of these 3 people, Paul decided to take the first step.

Shortly after his 16th birthday he obtained an application for admission to the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross. Paul completed the 2 page application, and he and his mother signed it on March 6, 1931. It was then mailed to Notre Dame, Indiana, where it was considered by the order.

He waited eagerly for a response. Finally it came. Tearing it open he began to read it. His application was accepted! In jubilation he threw his hat into the air, let out a gleeful yell, and rushed off to share the wonderful news with his family.

With mixed emotions his family bid him farewell, and he entered the Juniorate at Notre Dame on August 17, 1931. He later acknowledged that one of the hardest things about this move was that he was had to quit smoking.

He received the Habit on February 1, 1932. He then entered the Seminary at Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin. His first vows were taken on February 2, 1933. On August 16, 1936, he took his final vows. These vows were hand written, and are quoted as follows.

Brother Cesaire at Watertown, Wisconsin
About 1932

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
I Paul Charles Hartzell, Brother Cesaire CSC, unworthy though I am, but nevertheless relying on the Divine Mercy, and earnestly desiring to devote myself to the service of the Adorable Trinity, make forever to Almighty God, the vow of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, according to the sense of the Rules and Constitution of the Congregation of Holy Cross, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived without sin, of her worthy spouse Saint Joseph, and of all the Heavenly Court.
In the Church of Sacred Heart, this sixteenth day of August, in the year nineteen hundred and thirty six.
Brother Cesaire
Called in the world  Paul Hartzell"

Brother Cesaire was trained as a cook, and served as an Assistant Cook at the Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame. His mother proudly declared that her son was a better baker than her, and that he could make cakes as good as a bakery.

Exterior of Sacred Heart Church - ca. 1950----Interior of Sacred Heart Church - 1935
Notre Dame, Indiana

The bulk of his service was at Notre Dame. As a Brother, he received free passes to all of the football games. Paul was indeed a fan of the game. He frequently attended their practice sessions. There he became friends with a player named Bill Shakespeare, who became a 2nd team All American at halfback his senior season in 1935.

In the summer of 1940 Brother Cesaire was informed that he would be sent to Washington D.C. for his next assignment. This assignment was one that would never come to pass.

It was Saturday August 24, 1940. A group of brothers were readying for a weekend trip to Bankson Lake, also known as San Jose Park, near Lawton, Michigan. The park served as a summer camp for the university. There was a light panel truck that was used by Brother Sabinus for delivery of such items as laundry, vegetables and other things that the brothers needed to haul from place to place. On that particular day the load consisted primarily of the week's laundry. After lunch they left for the camp. Driving was Brother Sabinus, a commisioner, or special employee at Notre Dame. Brother Cesaire sat in the middle. Brother Ladislaus, a prefect in Bronson Hall at Notre Dame, was on the passenger side. Brother Eustace, a teacher at Central Catholic High School in South Bend, and Brother Valeries, an assistant cook in Dujarie Hall at Notre Dame, road in the back of the truck.

At about 1:30 p.m. between Marcellus & Lawton, Michigan, the truck approached an intersection  near the Porter Center School. This was a blind intersection with the view being abstructed by high banks. At that intersection the northbound truck in which the Brothers were riding collided nearly head-on with an eastbound heavy farm truck which was hauling 43 sheep. The Notre Dame truck was thrown into the east ditch. The heavy farm truck was thrown to the north and landed in a field after breaking off a telephone pole. Brother Ladislaus was thrown from the truck first, then Brother Cesaire. Brother Sabinas died almost instantly.

Hearing the crash, several neighbors came upon the scene and lent whatever help they could, as did passing motorists. Two local doctors were called to the scene to give medical aid, and sent the injured to Lake View Hospital in Paw Paw, Michigan. The driver of the farm truck, Marion Fox, was only slightly injured and was able to return to his home later that day. Brother Cesaire died shortly after reaching the hospital. A passenger in the Fox truck, Robert Crippen, died 2 days later. Brother Ladislaus received a serious head injury and was transferred to Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. Of the Brothers in the back, Brother Eustace broke his collar bone and Brother Valeries broke a thumb, and they were sent to St. Joseph's Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. The bodies of the two dead brothers were returned to Notre Dame.

Brother Ladislaus was unconscious for 2 days and was thought to be near death. Miraculously though, he regained consciousness the following Monday. On coming to, he saw a small mirror on the stand near his hospital bed. He had no idea where he was and why. Looking at the mirror, he saw a man with a partially shaved head with his arm in a sling. Looking up he saw the nurse, and she said "What do you see?" Asking her what had happened, he was shocked to learn the truth. He remembered absolutely nothing from time of the accident up to that point.

Brother Ladislaus recovered at a wondrous pace. Within a short time, he was able to get up to go to the bathroom, but was reprimanded by the doctor for doing so. The doctor ordered that higher sideboards be installed on the bed to prevent him from doing so again. By January he insisted on returning to Notre Dame. He taught school for the next 47 years. As he reached his older years his duties were reduced to volunteer work. Feeling that he must remain active, he then obtained additional work at Ohare in Chicago, where he worked for a while. Today at age 88 he survives in River Grove, Illinois. He still walks about 4 blocks a day, and remains with the order.

After the accident came the grim duty of notifying the families of the terrible tragedy which had just taken place. At the Hartzell home, the telegram arrived. Reading the message, Rosalie screamed and cried aloud. Tom & Rose, and children Vic, Eugene & Mary attended the funeral. (Only 5 people could fit in a Model A Ford.) Brother Joachim Reiniche, a 1st cousin, also attended the funeral. It was held at 8:00 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church on the Notre Dame campus, with Rev. Joseph A. Maguire, superior of the Community as celebrant. The burial took place at the Holy Cross Cemetery, located in a wooded area not far from the Moreau Seminary. Brother Cesaire & Brother Sabinas were interred on either side of a large tree. Today that tree is gone, and a young pine tree has taken it's place. Every stone in the cemetery is identical. They are about 3 feet high, and are in the form of a cross with an arched base to hold the inscription.
Brother Cesaire, Feb. 8, 1915 - Aug. 24, 1940, Paul Hartzell

Tom Hartzell near the grave of his beloved son, Brother Cesaire
Holy Cross Cemetery, Notre Dame, Indiana, about 1950

The family of Brother Cesaire purchased a large portrait depicting Our Lady of Fatima appearing to the children. This portrait hangs in the Tiffin St. Mary's School, across from the library. A gold plate contains the inscription, "In Memory of Brother Cesaire, Paul Charles Hartzell".

The following are recollections of Brother Cesaire, Paul Hartzell as recounted by several family members.

Joanne M. (Hartzell) Greene, a niece

"I only have one memory of him. We were sitting on the swing on my grandparents' porch, and he gave me a gift. It consisted of 3 little medals - a cross, an anchor, and a heart, standing for the 3 virtues of faith, hope, and charity - each attached to a navy blue grosgrain ribbon on an ivory sheet of paper that had "God bless you" written on it. I still have it today; it is yellowing but still in good condition."

Mary L. (Hartzell) Elchert, a sister.

"My brother (Paul) and I as preschoolers would sit in a corner behind our pot-bellied stove and he would tell me stories of Hansel and Gretel. I would sit there feeling so sad for this little brother and sister who couldn't find their way out of the woods. When this brother of mine grew up he joined the Holy Cross Brotherhood and worked on the Notre Dame campus."

In another writing she described a later time when the house was filled with "the happy sounds we made preparing for a much treasured visit from my brother Paul."

Brother Ladislaus (now known as Brother Joseph Walter Olszowka, CSC) was recently asked by me if he ever wondered why some survived the accident and some did not.
His response was, "Well, only the good die young."

I remember a number of occasions when my grandmother spoke about her son Paul, Brother Cesaire. I only wish I had taken more of it to heart, that I would have asked her more of the right questions. I remember very clearly how her mood tended to swing to one that is sad and reflective on each of those occasions, even 40 years later as she lamented "He was such a good boy." But at the same time she knew without reservation that the Good Lord has a purpose for everything and everyone.

1998 by Stephen J. Hartzell
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