The Night We Took the Nuns to Prom

The Night We Took the Nuns to Prom

A story about the good old days with some good old friends, by our Southern Gables neighbor Ken Fischer. To see more of his stories, click on his name at the end of the article.

Cincinnati is a great town. Great Schools, great people, great times especially in 1966. I was a freshman on a football scholarship living in a religious frat house a mile off campus. Even on scholarship we had to minimize costs as my folks were older and retired. I was usually broke, even with my doorman job at the local 3.2 club. I had food and drink benefits but just $5 – $10 pay on a good weekend night.

At the frat house we got 5 meals per week: evenings Monday through Friday. Weekends required culinary inventiveness. A veritable manna from heaven was furnished by the coeds of Mt. Saint Joe’s (on the Ohio), who fashioned a buffet/dance Sunday nights for any college men who could make the 15 mile trek to the boonies where the all-women’s college was located. The one stipulation was the men wear ties with a collared shirt and slacks. A wide selection of ties was always available in a frat brother’s trunk.

The college women put on a remarkable table after cooking all afternoon. For coeds who went dateless, this was an opportunity to mix with some hungry men and possibly dance too. It was, for all concerned, an event! I first met Kathy Beecher on a VISTA expedition into the impoverished mining country of Kentucky. VISTA was new and had originated along with Peace Corps under JFK and Sargent Shriver. In the frat house we were required to do monthly “apostolates” which entailed giving some service back to the community. VISTA was appealing, hands-on and front line. Two guys from the house would drive four women from Mount St. Joe’s down to the little town of Beauty, Kentucky, for two nights to work with mining families at a barn type community center.

Kathy Beecher was from a large Irish St. Louis family and I fell in love with her that weekend. Yes. I loved her like my fourth sister. She had a wonderful, funny, glib personality and could say anything to anyone and get away with it. She would make some lucky fellow a great wife, some children a great mom and anybody a great friend. She was not a looker. She could have been Rosie O’Donnell’s altruistic sister. I’m a little reluctant to admit it but looks were usually very important to me in those days. In one weekend, Beecher and I became fast friends. I have never laughed so long and heartily at anyone’s stories, impressions and life perspectives. The spring prom was five weeks off and a bevy of Mt. St. Joe women were dateless. Who else but Beecher could work some magic and get dates for the last who wished to go but were without dates. At 4 weeks out, she was down to three women. She called. Could I help? Like to, but I’m broke – as usual.

No sweat: the flowers, dinner and tickets are already covered by some type of slush fund. All that was needed were two guys in suits with a car. I melted. This woman was amazing when working with the less fortunate children of God. How could I refuse? The rest of the story: These “dates” were sisters. Very tall sisters. Sisters as in nuns. One had committed to joining the order commencing at graduation. The other, a junior, was going to sign up at the end of the semester.

This would be their one and only prom.

I needed a wingman. Without hesitation I planted a seed with my best frat brother, Mike Lyons of Chicago. Mike starred in “The Music Man” in high school and was a very close match for Professor Harold Hill. Mike was madly in love with a girl he’d known since grade school and followed her to Cincinnati in hopes of taking their friendship to higher ground. What Mike could not see (and most of the rest of his friends did) was that this young woman really loved him… like a brother.

I had to use some radical tactics to get Mike on board. I lied. I made up a fairy tale about a very pretty transfer student, just into school who was Miss Junior Milwaukee or Sheboygan or something. I had four weeks to modify the picture of the pretty transfer into two very tall nuns. We kept a running tally on the days until prom and I could usually fend off any requests to meet this fictitious coed. The problem was that I had no car and no prospect of borrowing one. The Monday before the prom, my conscience erupted as well as a demand from Mike to meet this mystery woman. I had to come clean.

Mike fended off his allowable anger to note that I was without a car and short of taking the bus to all the events, out of luck and choices. Not so fast – behold the Lord’s providence or just pure luck. On Thursday, a Bowling Green junior arrived at the house and would be staying the weekend. He had a car but could double up with his buddy, and since I was “fully covered on everything I operated” including an F-16 (what?), we had wheels.

Mike was speechless. Not just on this piece of luck but due to a flu virus he had picked up. He could have opted out but honored his commitment. We picked up the nuns, had a quiet dinner – not quite a meditative vigil but close – and moved on to the dance. It was something about Mike’s date being almost a head taller than him that made him uncharacteristically quiet. Seated, crickets. Dancing, Mike looking up at the underside of his date’s chin. Mike got progressively worse and nearly passed out with each camera flash. At nine o’clock, he advised that he would try to make eleven o’clock with the dance ending at twelve. At ten thirty he requested I call an ambulance. A good wingman can always assess the absolute needs of his buddy. I loaded him into the back seat of our Rambler and set out for the infirmary. While enroute, my attempts to speak directly to him were countered with compound profanities, so I just beelined for a medical handoff.

Beecher (dateless at the event) was aglow with how well everything went and the “sisters” had a great time. She inquired regarding Mike – basically to learn if he lived. He did, but after 2 days of infirmary care wished he hadn’t.

I do not know whatever happened to Kathy Beecher, but I hope it was the good life she deserved. She was a good friend. She taught me a valuable lesson. The guys who were seeking Farrah Fawcetts, Jacqueline Smiths or Ali McGraws were missing out. Not that those iconic beauties are bad people; they just got their beauty card dealt from the top of the deck. It takes all of the cards to play.


Ken Fischer holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Iowa and was involved in organizing Iowa’s first Law Enforcement Training Academy. He was on the SWAT Team in the Lakewood Police Department, and retired as a Senior Sergeant. A longtime resident of Southern Gables, he is an experienced woodsman and now runs a firewood business. 


More Tough Guys

More Tough Guys

Last week we mentioned that our neighbor Ken Fischer met a lot of tough characters during his service in the Lakewood Police Department. There is always more to tell about toughness and courage. This week’s story is an homage to the kind of bravery that is sometimes hard to appreciate, the quiet kind.  To see more of Ken’s stories click on his name at the end of the article.

By Ken Fischer

It was so heartening to read Frank DeAngelis’ book and learn that Columbine student Patrick Ireland not only survived but prevailed in life after the tragic shooting on April 20, 1999. A tough, courageous young man. He knew he would die if he did not move, so with mortal wounds, he dragged himself across a body-strewn library and pivoted himself out of a window.

He fell into the arms of a Lakewood PD SWAT team on the top of a borrowed armored truck. There was a good deal of heroism that day including a beloved teacher/coach.

That SWAT team countered orders and rescued the lad and, in doing so, they rushed into what’s called the “fatal funnel” or kill zone, where most policemen are killed. Starting down the mountain, off-duty, by the time I mounted up and started to respond to the madness, it was over. I am proud to have served with those officers and to call them my friends. Their courage matched that of the student Patrick and was one element of the tragic puzzle that went right.

That brings to mind my friend, peer, and eventual boss Jim Kiekaffer. Our sons were about the same age and both were named Matt. We shared some interesting and tragic times together. I go back to the mid-seventies when we were both on patrol. Jim was a rookie, but had earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam with a shrapnel-laced shoulder that really never came back completely. I was about a ten-year street veteran who missed that war by a whisker.

I had made a traffic stop and noticed the driver slide to the passenger seat prior to my contact: not a normal move. The heavily muscled young man had just come from the gym, had no license and was under suspension, and had a warrant. He advised me that he would not go to jail.

Jim arrived as my backup. I briefed him with a caution: just follow my lead and if it gets “jiggy” call for more units.

I stood next to the passenger door. Removed my .357 Smith. Opened the cylinder and popped out 6 live shells in full view of the bodybuilder. He looked confused. I explained that we were about to have one hell of a fight and I did not want him grabbing my gun which would necessitate Jim shooting him. His eyes widened.

I then took out a napkin and tore off several pieces and placed them in my gums. Again a quizzical stare from “Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

“What’s that all about?”

I explained through the Kleenex “New teeth, crummy dental insurance.” He bought it.

Jim was not quite certain who should be arrested, the violator or the really bizarre guy in the blue suit with the badge.

Mission accomplished, after everything was handled, Jim politely asked where I got the scenario from and how would I counter the arrestee if he produced a gun?

I explained. After working the street for a while you form the ability to read people. Our driver was not a bad guy. Actually pretty disciplined based on his build. Nice car, well dressed, clean and neat. In my opinion, he wanted to make a point and was one who would resist but not assault. He just needed a good reason to comply. I tipped the scale in our favor and really did not want to tussle with him unless he insisted.

And the gun? I advised Jim that I always carried a boot gun that was fairly accessible. Courage may be an ideal, but it is best paired with good judgment.

Several years later I was requested by Jim to respond to his home and bring my notary gear. His teenage son, Matt, was battling a rare form of leukemia. Doing his best, but losing ground. They thought it best to do a will. There’s that good judgment. Matt was weak but managed a smile and a high five. I could usually rouse some light moments in folks by some of my antics. I don’t remember much of the brief conversation, but I tried to say something funny or self-deprecating and it seemed to get a pleasant rise from Matt. I caught eye contact with Jim. No words, in the presence of the quiet courage in that room. I thought how fortunate we were to have a healthy teenage Matt. It’s hard to imagine what strength it would take if that were not so.

Jim’s Matt passed after a valiant effort by his brother to supply bone marrow. Jim and Sally have always handled this terrible loss with class over the years, and at times comforting parents experiencing similar travails.

Courage, toughness, the quiet kind. There’s no better kind than that.

This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Part 1, last week: Tough Guys. Ken has previously written about another aspect of the 1999 tragedy: Columbine April 16, 2021.

Ken Fischer holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Iowa and was involved in organizing Iowa’s first Law Enforcement Training Academy. He was on the SWAT Team in the Lakewood Police Department, and retired as a Senior Sergeant. A longtime resident of Southern Gables, he is an experienced woodsman and now runs a firewood business.