Husband Remembers His Late Wife With A Legacy To Catholic Education
Gregg Lesh holds a photograph of his wife, Jean, a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Wichita, who passedaway last summer. In the background is a crucifix that was atop Jean's casket. Gregg recently established a memorial with The St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund.
Until about a week before Gregg Lesh's wife, Jean, passed away on July 30, he had never heard of the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund. But after reading about it in the Catholic Advance, he knew it would be the perfect way to honor her.
Gregg, a retired banker, said he and Jean had plenty of time to talk about their lives and their children as she drew near death from brain cancer, but they didn't talk about a legacy for her.
"Jean's family was ultra-poor," he said, adding that as a child, her family lived in two buses, only one of which had electricity and gas. Cooking and laundry was done in a nearby concrete building.
She was able to go to Madonna High School in part because she cleaned restrooms there and at Bishop Carroll High School. "There was nothing wrong with that," Gregg said, "I did that at my dad's car dealership."
After high school, Jean studied at St. Francis Nursing School and became a nurse, a decision that would change the rest of her life. It was at St. Francis Hospital that she met Gregg, who was there for some tests and who quickly decided that he wanted Jean to be more than just his nurse. They were married soon afterward.
"I'm not Catholic, but when we got married I agreed that if we had any children that they would be raised in the Catholic Church," he said.
They had two children, Kerri and Andrew, who both attended St. Francis of Assisi Grade School and Bishop Carroll Catholic High School.
"I was pleased with the education they got," he said. "It was obvious that the teachers could give more attention even though there may have been more kids in the classroom than in the public schools. In fact, my son who went to WSU, said college was easy compared to high school."
Gregg said he and Jean initiated their children's stewardship education early, making sure they always put part of their allowance in the collection basket.
He also said his brother, Dennis, set a good example, with the philanthropy his brother had for Pratt Community College, after his brother sold the family car dealership in Pratt. Gregg, a graduate of the college, said he and his wife have an endowment there in their names.
"Jean wouldn't be surprised that I set up the Drexel endowment for her," he said. "She would be surprised that I would set up an endowment for Catholics!"
Gregg, a Methodist who attends Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wichita, is well-known by Father Dan Spexarth and Monsignor John Gilsenan, who on alternate Friday's would bring Holy Communion to Jean at home and later when she was in hospice care. Msgr. Gilsenan also gave Jean the last rites.
"I keep telling Father Spexarth that he would make a really good Methodist," he said.
Despite his good-natured jabs at Catholics, Gregg says his wife would have been very supportive about her Drexel fund endowment. "She would have been tickled pink, she would!"
The St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Named Endowment Program
The St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Named Endowment provides an opportunity to name an endowment in honor of or memory of a specific person or family. These endowments are established by donor-restricted gifts and bequests to provide a permanent source of funding for the benefit of the Drexel Fund.
The source of funding derived from investment performance will be distributed annually to parishes that struggle financially to provide a Catholic education to families of parishioners.
For information about how to establish a named Drexel Endowment, please contact Mike Wescott at 424 N. Broadway, Wichita, KS 67202, at (316) 269-3915 or at wescottm@CatholicDioceseOfWichita.org.
Three Drexel endowments have been established thus far:
- Pope Benedict XVI Drexel Endowment
- Kathleen Cline Drexel Endowment
- Lois Jean Lesh Drexel Endowment