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Sunday, June 16, 2024
The Observer

One last smoke

After a full day spent celebrating the life of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, students gathered one last time Wednesday to remember him in the most fitting of ways: smoking a cigar.

Outside of Hesburgh Library, roughly 600 people gathered following the memorial service in Purcell Pavilion and lit up stogies the same way Hesburgh did almost every day of his adult life.

The event was conceived by senior Andrew Weiler when he and a group of friends were discussing their memories of Hesburgh.

"The most recent [memory] for me is, he blessed my cousin's two little babies, and as he blessed them, he had a glass of scotch there and a cigar smoking as well," Weiler said. "It's just a fun way to honor a truly great man."

Several of Weiler's friends, including fellow senior Alex Caton, had similar experiences with Hesburgh and were immediately on board with the idea.

"For me, the first time I ever met Fr. Hesburgh, the thing that stuck out to me was just this eight-inch, fat, burning stogie that he had in an ashtray on his desk," Caton said.

The friends initially thought about keeping the event restricted to with a smaller group but quickly changed their minds, Caton said.

"It was a question of who do we restrict this to? Do we just do friends, do we just do seniors?" Caton said. "Eventually we just said ... let's get everybody."

Caton and Weiler created an open Facebook event and invited 2,700 people. Caton said they were hoping for 300 to 400 attendees, but over 980 people responded saying they would attend.

"We created the event, and I did not think it would hit almost 1,000 people," Weiler said. "I have no idea how many people [showed] up, but this is already beyond our wildest expectations. This is pretty cool."

In order to meet the demand for so many cigars, Caton and Weiler reached out to several local businesses, such as Belmont Beverage, the Tinder Box and Low Bob's Discount Tobacco, which agreed to donate a total of 400 stogies.

With temperatures dipping into the teens, groups came from both the memorial service and around campus, lighting up to end two days' worth of remembrances.

"To me, he's an incredible example of someone living out their Catholic faith to the fullest sense of it," Weiler said " ... I just hope these cigars are a little bit like incense they have at Mass, going up like prayers, memories of him."

Caton said the smoke was also special because it was not organized or orchestrated by the University administration.

"What makes this different and does serve to Fr. Hesburgh's legacy is the idea that this is a student-organized event," Caton said. "We just wanted to have something by and for students."

Both Weiler and Caton said they never had the chance to smoke with Fr. Hesburgh while he was alive, but they each said they saw the event as their next best chance to do so.

"I feel that's a lot of people's dream here: to have smoked a cigar with Fr. Ted," Weiler said.