Longtime Xavier teacher a model of faith, loyalty, commitment

Funeral Mass for Justin 'Mick' Kramer is Friday in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Justin “Mick” Kramer spent so much time at Regis High School that his daughter thought he owned it.

“We spent so much time up there,” Mary Goodfellow recalled Wednesday as she talked about her father, who died Sept. 4. “We went with him to games, to driver’s ed, and we had birthday parties there. I thought it was ours.”

In a way, it was Kramer’s school. For 52 years he taught driver’s ed, was a guidance counselor and coached basketball and golf at the Cedar Rapids Catholic school and then Xavier High School after Regis merged with LaSalle.

Kramer, 77, was best known, however, for teaching Latin.

“He loved Latin. He thought it was a brain game,” Goodfellow said. “When I asked why he kept teaching it he said kids needed it. I told him they could take Spanish or another language, but he kept teaching it.”

Goodfellow thinks it was in 1978, when she was a freshman at Regis, that her dad started teaching what many considered a “dead” language.

She didn’t share his enthusiasm.

“I told him, ‘I don’t want to be in your class and if you call on me I’ll walk out,’ ” said Goodfellow, who has taught in Iowa City for 31 years.

A funeral Mass for Kramer takes place at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Matthew Catholic Church, 2310 First Ave. NE in Cedar Rapids. Classes at Xavier have been canceled for the day to allow students and staff to attend. Visitation is from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home, 4200 First Ave. NE in Cedar Rapids. Burial follows the funeral at Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery.

Faith, loyalty, commitment

Kramer was all about helping students, his colleagues at Xavier said.

Principal Tom Keating, who knew Kramer before he came to Xavier 13 years ago, called him a great role model “of faith first ... loyalty and commitment to family, students and Catholic education.”

“He loved the kids,” Goodfellow said, and teaching was his way of living his faith. He loved praying with the students and thought it was a huge part of Catholic education.”

Nick Ireland, a 2001 Xavier graduate and now the school’s communications director, praised his former teacher as “the kindest person I ever met.”

“He was committed to seeing the best in people,” said Ireland. “I think one of the things kids will remember about him is his spirit and belief that kids have gifts and talents and it’s just a matter of finding them and unlocking them.”

“Nobody saw the good in students the way Mick Kramer did,” Keating added.

Goodfellow and her brother, Joe Kramer, also a teacher, say they’ll remember their father for his passion for teaching and children, especially his grandchildren.

“The legacy he’s left us is his incredible love for my children and my brother’s children,” she said. He rarely missed any sports event his 12 grandchildren were involved in and was a regular at University of Iowa basketball and football games.

When Kramer’s wife, Dolores, died five years ago, “he became like a fifth child to me,” Goodfellow said.

‘vale’ means goodbye

Keating and Ireland said Kramer’s love for and commitment to the Xavier community is going to be missed.

“There’s not much greater testament to commitment than 52 years” as a teacher, coach and guidance counselor, Keating said. “There aren’t too many teachers who can look at a student and say, ‘I taught your grandpa.’ ”

Ireland recalled that at the end of each school year administrators would ask Kramer his plans for the following year.

“I guess we were kind of asking if he was going to retire,” Ireland said. “Every time he would say he’d be back because there would be no one else to teach Latin.”

As part of a lesson on Latin salutations, Kramer had students tell him goodbye — “vale” — as they left his classroom Friday.

“It’s the sort of thing that takes on a different perspective now,” Ireland said.

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