In late June during Reunion 2016, there were plenty of smiles in Flynntown as Johnnies and Bennies from the early 80s to the early 90s gathered in big numbers for an "old school" house party at sunset. It was a perfect night with an awesome band, and everyone seemed grounded in that familiar sense of place. At that particular moment there was nothing like being back in Flynntown surrounded by a special family of CSB and SJU friends.
As darkness fell, however, the spirit of the alumni family gathered there did as well. Word had slowly begun to spread of the tragedy that had struck one of our own late that very afternoon. David Forster, Class of 2011, was out for a run in Minneapolis and had told his buddies that he would be heading to campus soon thereafter to join them for their five-year reunion weekend celebration. But the unimaginable happened. David, an elite distance runner, suddenly collapsed, not knowing that he had already made his last trip to Collegeville. The news left everyone shocked and saddened, and the Flynntown smiles began to vanish. Much like the Class of 2011, members of the Class of 1981, who were celebrating their 35th reunion, were equally stunned.
David's mother, Sandy Pfefferle Forster, graduated from CSB in 1982 and his father, Dave Forster, graduated from SJU in 1983. His brothers, Max and Sam, are also graduates, along with his grandparents, many aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws. Few of us can comprehend the pain that this family has endured over such an unexpected and devastating loss. Yet true to who we are as an extended CSB/SJU family, Bennies and Johnnies of all ages have been standing with them to offer strength and support from the very beginning. What I witnessed at David's funeral Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis was breathtaking, and what I have observed since that time has been extraordinary. It makes me proud to be a part of such a special Benedictine family.
David's story is remarkable and inspirational. As his uncle, Bob Pfefferle ’83, so eloquently stated, David ran life's race with grace, always including everyone and never leaving anyone behind. He made Saint John's proud in so many ways. He was an exceptional friend, classmate and teammate, especially to the underclassmen Johnnies in track and field and cross country.
This past Saturday thousands of Johnnies and Bennies returned to campus for the Johnnie-Tommie football game, and among them were members of the Forster and Pfefferle extended families. Hosting the tailgate party was a large contingent of CSB/SJU friends led by George Jacob ’81. The spirit of the celebration was heartwarming, and the love and kindness being extended to all was reminiscent of David's life. Everyone was included and invited to join in, including two of my high school age sons and their friends, along with my daughter and her friends, who happen to be sophomores at CSB. Everyone made them feel like family.
Construction of the new Dietrich Reinhart Learning Commons prompted the location change for this fall's tailgate to the Flynntown Lot. Ironically, we were all just a few yards from the site of that reunion party in late June. Then it struck me. As the brats were smoking and the music played, friends were reunited and once again grounded in that familiar sense of place. And only one person could be responsible for bringing so many smiles back to Flynntown.