Our brother Gerlac Riess (REEsss) was born in Shawano in 1919. Gerlac became a postulant for the Order in 1940 and was vested as a novice in 1941. He professed solemn vows in 1946.
“Jack,” his baptismal name, was first appointed to the Southeast Catholic faculty house at 920 Christian Street in 1944, where he was porter and did manual work around the priory.
In 1949, he was transferred back to the abbey, where he worked in the kitchen making salads of lime Jell-O and green garden peas and desserts of grape Jell-O with nuts, chocolate chips and whipped cream. During this time he was also Abbot Killeen’s private housekeeper, and the main porter at the abbey entrance.
With the move to the new abbey in 1959, Jack moved in with his canaries and parakeets to the room next to the bell tower on the second floor. He lived in that same room, changing birds as they died, for the next 25 years. In 1984, he became active/retired and moved into Xanten cloister with “Peetie” and “Willie III”. Daily, he picked up the newspapers strewn about the community room by the “Fathers,” filled the candy dishes, carted the dirty dishes left by the Fathers back to the kitchen for washing, and all with humility and care. A man of quiet demeanor and few words, Gerlac wrote birthday letters to confreres, who were away from the abbey, informing them of the goings-on at the motherhouse. He was truly a caring, simple man.
Plagued by multiple physical problems, it was best not to ask him how he was unless one wanted to be tied up for a long, full-blown description. After a premature tolling of the church bells announcing his death, Gerlac really did die on Thursday, May 3, 2001 at the age of 82!
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