Awards recognize contributions to TMP
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Galen Pfeifer was raised in the Catholic faith in Ellis County, known for its rich tradition of German Catholics. His wife, Cathy, was raised in the Methodist Church in Norton County.
A few years after the couple married in 1983, Cathy decided to convert to Catholicism for the sake of her family.
"I knew we wanted to raise our children Catholic," she said, "and I wanted our whole family to (participate) in the same religion."
The Hays couple also made the decision to send their four sons to Catholic schools.
Now, 20-some years later, the Pfeifers are receiving one of the highest honors awarded on homecoming weekend at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School.
They will be honored as Points of Light in the "dedicated and faithful friends" category, joining "dedicated faculty and faithful alumni" winners Gene and Mary Zimmer.
Galen Pfeifer gives his wife credit for starting their sons at St. Joseph Grade School, which later changed to Holy Family Elementary, and continuing on to TMP.
"I did push for it," Cathy admitted, "because the faith thing appealed to me."
So, too, did helping at their children's schools.
"This is stewardship, doing your part," Galen said. "If everybody does a little, it adds up to a lot."
In the Pfeifers' case, they have done a lot by themselves.
Behind-the-scenes volunteers at numerous TMP functions, the Pfeifers also are charter members of the Jean Ross Society and St. Thomas More Society.
But like most Points of Light honorees, the Pfeifers were surprised when they received a letter this summer telling them of the recognition.
"When I saw the word deserving," Cathy said, "I was really humbled. We don't feel any different than anybody else, just doing our part."
They plan to keep doing their part for a long time to come.
"The people we've met, teachers and friends, is amazing," Galen said. "Neither of us graduated from TMP, but we almost feel like alumni."
Gene and Mary Zimmer
Gene Zimmer taught math to junior high and high school students for 46 years, including 12 at TMP, before being forced into retirement after being diagnosed a year ago with primary lateral sclerosis.
The PLS developed into ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and Gene now communicates via a DynaVox.
He types in a message on a keyboard of his communication device, which activates a voice-delivered message, and Gene said he was in "disbelief" when he learned he was being recognized as a Points of Light.
But his wife wasn't.
"I'm very proud of him, and I told him, 'You do deserve this,' " Mary said. "He totally enjoyed teaching out there, and it's been very rewarding being part of (TMP)."
Gene's most notable accomplishment probably was the dominance of his teams at the annual Fort Hays State University Math Relays. The only time a Zimmer-coached TMP squad didn't win its division of the Math Relays was in 2007 when the event was canceled.
Three of the couple's four children are TMP graduates, and Mary is a 1966 graduate of Marian High.
The couple plans to ride in the homecoming parade Friday, and although Gene can't speak, he still has good use of his right arm.
"He can wave, and he has that pretty smile," Mary said, glancing at Gene, who sat grinning at his wife. "You have such a pretty smile."