0811-hilarymcgovernA collection of reflections from De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ

Brother Hilary McGovern was the “Dean” of the De La Salle Hall community at the time of his death. He arrived seventeen years earlier, after suffering a stroke that left him paralyzed on the right side, and he suffered from aphasia which left him unable to speak, except for short phrases. But over those seventeen years, he won the affection and love of all the residents and staff who experienced his upbeat personality in spite of his handicaps.

Here are some reflections from those who lived closest to Brother Hilary.

He was a man of several names; Hilary, William (his baptismal name), Bill, Jake, and “Boo”. When he disagreed with what was being said, Brother let the others know this by calling out “Boo!” This was especially true if one said something less than positive about one of his favorite sports teams.

Brother Patrick Ellis comments: It was a curious mark of a Brother’s successful life to compile a very short tour of duty. Brother William McGovern worked for forty-three years at his first two assignments, almost evenly dividing his time between St. Francis Vocational School, Eddington (PA) as a Prefect and La Salle High School (PA) as a physical education teacher and maintenance supervisor.

The onset of chronic illness brought him to retirement at De La Salle Hall, during which time he coped manfully with his illness and won the friendship of staff and community by being true to himself. The staff appreciated Bill very deeply, more than some Brothers knew. Tears were shed by some very tough customers – when God called him home. They knew how much he cared about them. In certain ways, his loss of speech made him almost alone in the midst of a large community. But his fidelity to the religious life was nonetheless complete.

In plain fact, “Jake” spent his long life with us very much in his own way: never in the classroom or office, but very much a presence in community. He was a practical man entirely, wherever he found himself. That it took him more than one time to make himself clear was a source of deep frustration to him.

It needs to be noted that Bill made friends by the dozens, as attested to by the volume of his incoming mail. As an index of ultimate personal worth, this is hard to beat.

Brother James Perry reflects: Bill was unable to walk, but with the help of his trusty mobilized chair, he was able to get about the campus to enjoy the outdoors. One day, Bill went to the nursing station desk. He was unable to articulate what he needed – aspirin, cough drops, etc.? Someone suggested a laxative – and this was followed by a big smile from Bill. I used to tease him, asking, “How about helping the nurses make beds?” That was always followed by a very loud NO!

Bill knew where all the chairs in the dining room should be. A loud clearing of the throat and he would point if one of the chairs was out of order. He always had the same seat in the dining room – Bill was in charge!

Bill wore a different sport shirt each day, When we would greet each other in the morning, he would take great pride in showing me the name of the sports team or the message on the shirt.

His room was filled with toys that would move, sing, or talk when buttons were pressed. He delighted in these, had many of them because of his many friends, and always encouraged visitors to press the buttons to animate the toys. Bill sat at the door of the chapel – and a greeting to him was a must. If I was late, he always pointed at his watch when I finally arrived.

Bill suffered a great deal. For a long time, he had a wound on his leg that would not heal. Finally, amputation was needed, but the pain was gone, and Bill was happy once again. Bill added his own sense of happiness to the community. His presence was a blessing. We appreciated how he bore his seventeen years of suffering. Bill was a HOLY man!

Brother James Leahy adds: Hilary became a self-appointed watchman of sorts. In place and poised, he was almost always the first to be ready for a scheduled event: chapel, lounge, or dining room. His sharp eye for detail kept sacristans, organizers, bartenders, waiters, and other responsible figures on their toes. Were not the wine and water, the lavabo towel at the ready, the candles lighted, furniture in place, diners’ needs attended to, window blinds askew, a signal, a grunt, a stage cough, or a verbal mathematical formula would alert the responsible figures to attend to their duties. All this was in good humor, enlivening the moment, evoking a chuckle.

The Nurses and Aides add: My heart is heavy today because I lost someone very special today, my Brother Boo! Even though we never had an actual conversation, Brother and I communicated well! I had to learn how to speak “Boo!” He was always so grateful, always kissing my hand, always saying “God bless you!” Brother never gave up; he was a teacher to the end.

He chose his own clothes each day. He was always very proud of what he was wearing, his room, his treasures.

He waited every Saturday morning for his sister Margie to call.

He was most spirited during the holidays; proud of his room and hallway decorations; spreading cheer.

He always sang Happy Birthday as we celebrated for each resident; he sang clearly and dearly.

Although he was unable to speak, he could express himself by his “1,2,3” because we knew him so well; we learned his very own unique language at De La Salle Hall.

If one of us was on vacation for a few days, we knew very clearly upon our return, that he missed us because of Brother’s unique and very notable welcome.

He enjoyed his scooter rides and he loved to go fast. At 2:00 pm each day, he would say loudly, “Zoom, zoom, zoom!” And after his suntan lotion and sunglasses were put on, he went on his way down the road to Christian Brothers Academy to see the students, their sports activities, and the animals he encountered en route. The flag on the back of his scooter was a trademark!


So we bid farewell to a dear friend and brother who won the hearts of so many these past seventeen years, even though he could not speak “our” language, even though he was confined to a wheel chair. He spoke the universal message of love. And that’s all that mattered!

Live Jesus in our hearts … Forever!

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Hilary McGovern, FSC

Born William Thomas McGovern in Pittsburgh, PA, on September 24, 1926

Entered the Ammendale, MD Juniorate on February 7, 1942 and Novitiate on June 11, 1945

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Donatian Hilary, on September 7, 1945

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Ocean City, NJ in 1951

Brother Hilary died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on August 12, 2011


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Viewing from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1608

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Viewing from 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 am

La Salle Hall
6001Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD 20705-1202

Burial at Christian Brothers’ Cemetery,
Ammendale, MD

Luncheon to follow


District: 100 masses
De La Salle Hall community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass

Brother Hilary died peacefully after five days in hospice care at De La Salle Hall, following a week-long hospitalization at Riverview Hospital, Red Bank, NJ. May he rest in peace.

Tour of Duty

Washington, D.C.
De La Salle College

Eddington, PA
St. Francis Vocational School

Teacher; Maintainence Supervisor
Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College H S

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College H S

Lincroft, NJ
De La Salle Hall

May the soul of Brother Hilary, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.