Pedro Pan Stories

A story about Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh

A story about Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh (pdf)

I met Monsignor for the first time around January 1962, although I had arrived three months earlier. It happened during a visit he made to our Jesuit Boys Residence where I lived for close to two years. He used to visit our house periodically and when we got our school bus, some times he rode with us to Belen School and chatted with the boys. But I wasn’t really close to him, just one out of 40 other boys.
Years later there was an alumni event at Belen Jesuit School and I went with my parents, and Monsignor happened to be there. So I took the opportunity to shake his hand, thank him for all he had done for us, and introduced my parents to him, all very casual. He acted as if he had known me all my life, very warm and affectionate.
Then one day, Yvonne Conde had a presentation for her newly released book, and I went there with my wife. After a while, I showed Elly Chovel a group picture taken at the Florida City Camp. Elly and I were in the picture among others boys and girls from the Jesuit Boys Residence and from the Florida City Camp. My sister was also in the picture.
Elly knew the story of the picture, and that I was the Pedro Pan driver who periodically drove the boys from our house to visit their sisters and small brothers, and to other camps as well. I had obtained a driver’s license with the knowledge of my Pedro Pan Jesuit guardians and they allowed me to drive their van. As a matter of fact, I passed my driver’s exam using Father Nuevo’s personal vehicle, a 1955 Pontiac. I was possibly the only Pedro Pan with a driver’s license. I had begun to read the Spanish version of the Florida High Way Patrol within a week or two after arriving in Camp Matecumbe, although it was poorly translated. In Cuba I drove since I was 13 years old, always within the property of the sugar mill and in the countryside, never in the public high way (that my father knew), but in Cuba I could not get a license until age 21. Here I was trilled to know I could get it at age 16, the best news I had regarding my new situation in this country.
Elly grabbed me by the arm and said, let’s go see Monsignor and show him the picture, and he can sign your book too. He was seating at a table autographing the books for those who bought it.
Elly said to him, “Monsignor, look at this picture of me, Clemente and a group in the Florida City Camp. Clemente had a driver’s license and brought the boys to see us” At this moment his face changed, turned red, looked at me and said with a loud voice “…that you had a driver’s license? It was strictly prohibited for the boys to have it, and no one should have let you drive, and you should have known, etc…” He was visibly upset; and I was very surprised at the reaction, and suddenly I said, “Monsignor, I did not know, but can you forgive me almost 40 years later?” And suddenly he looked at me again, paused, and began to laugh in that loud and contagious laugh of his, like almost falling from his chair, and grabbed my picture and signed it and then signed my book too. I have both and I keep them as a treasured possession, of the day Monsignor chewed me up and then forgave me all within a matter of a couple of minutes.
After that, I saw him once in a while when he showed up at the Versailles breakfasts and was always so happy surrounded by a group of his beloved and grateful Pedro Pan “children”.

Clemente C. Amézaga Wolf.

LEO STEINMAN, our friend "The Jewish Angel."

LEO STEINMAN, our friend "The Jewish Angel."

Fri, October 29, 2010 11:41:48 PM

Ayer envie a algunos este articulo de 1964 donde se habla de Leo Steinman, el judio amigo de los muchachos Pedro Pan y de muchos otros niños necesitados. Hasta ayer no recordaba su nombre ni sabia mucho sobre él, solo que era el judio que visitaba con frecuencia nuestra casa del Jesuit Boys Residence para llevarnos regalos, ropa, tickets para todo tipo de evento en la ciudad.

Gracias a él fui a los Holydays on Ice, Globertrotters, The Ringling Brothers, visita a su finca, Seaquarium, juegos en el Miami Stadium y el Orange Bowl, y una tremendísima fiesta de navidad para nosotros en el Fontainebleau Hotel en diciembre de 1962 donde cada uno salio con $15.00 por lo menos, comida en abundancia, cantos de navidad donde mi hermano Pepe y posiblemente Jacintico Pérez cantaron villancicos en el coro improvisado con los mas pequeños de nuestro grupo.) Se dan cuenta, tal vez la mejor fiesta de navidad de mi vida ofrecida por un judío!!!!!! Por años Pepe y yo hemos hablado de aquel amigo y siempre quisimos saber su nombre y haberlo incluso visitado y haberle dado las gracias por sus muchas atenciones.

Ya es muy tarde, pues hoy averigué que Leo murió en 1987. Le compré el obituario al Miami Herald hace un rato, y aqui tambien lo comparto con ustedes. Al menos podemos rezar por él pidiendo a Dios lo recompence por todo lo bueno que hizo.

Por ese obituario, ahora sabemos que tubo al menos dos hijos, y sabemos sus nombres. Voy a contactar a B'nai B'rith de Coral Gables para tratar de saber mas de él y buscar alguna foto, ya les diré. Este es otro pedacito de nuestra historia.

Clemente.

Brother Francisco Martin

Estimado Jorge, llame a Benigno Crespo que entonces estaba en La Salle de Miami el primer ano de la fundacion que era el que recibio el dinero que mande de Nicaragua y el sacaba la visa waiber para qu los nonos pudieran salir de Cuba. Me dijo que todo el papeleo se lo dio a otro Hno.,estoy tratando de comunicarme con el. Pero despues de tanto tiempo va a ser dificil localizarlos. Casi estoy seguro que el apellido del Sacerdote era Fernandez pero tratare e confirmarlo. El Hno. Benigno me envio a Nicaragua algunas de las cartas que traian lo ninos y era muy emocionante. Yo se las lei a las damas nicaraguenses y muchas lloraban, Quien iba a decir que unos anos mas tarde ellos sufrieron algo parecido con los Sandinistas. Una carta de una nina de seis anos que vino en los brazos de una azafata decia:" Mi hija tiene un lazo rojo y una batica azul, por favor ella es alergica a algo que no me acuerdo. Ella nunca se ha separado de mi ni por una hora, les suplico que me la cuiden porque ella esta muy apegada a mi.Firmaba la mama. La azafata la entrego al responsable del Catholic Welfare y se fue llorando. Asi hubo cartas conmovedoras que le rompian el corazon a uno. Yo estoy en la universidad de los Hnos. en Memphis que se llama Christian Brothers University www.cbu.edu Ahora estoy encargado del Laboratorio de Lenguas. Cuando Elly estaba encargada le dije que los Hnos. de La Salle habian trabajado no solo en Matecumbe sino en Kendall y en San Rafael. A ver si algun dia puedo ir por Miami, donde tengo muchos antiguos alumnos de Cuba y de Miami pero muy poco se de los Matecumberos porque eran tantos. Me acuerdo de un muchachito Tony Areces a otro que le decian "El Lecherito " que fue encargado de los Deportes en el antiguo Belen de la calle 8 Habia un muchacho que le decian "la Sombra del Hno. Andres " pues siempre me esperaba al salir de la casa de .los Hnos. y no se separaba de mi en el comedor .. Mo me acuerdo del apellido. Tenia iuna hermana en Dallas cuando mataron a Kennedy y era de Ciego de Avila.