Campus Life this month is a rememberance of
an endearing campus figure from the early years of the century, Brother
Florian. An excerpt from Arthur Hope's Notre Dame 100 Years:
Then, too, there was Brother Florian, "Brother Flo" to all
at Notre Dame. He was a lovable old rascal whose pompous bearing was a
quiet imitation of Father Cavanaugh's gracious gait. He did it quite well,
too, except that he had sore feet. "Flo" was a picture of
repose. His deep booming voice, and the sense of authority he could assume
when strangers were around, created a respect Brother Florian relished to
an incredible degree.
He was always doing little favors for students and priests. He wanted
their good-will. He generally expected some slight remuneration for all
this courtesy, and usually got it. When the Chicago priests made their
retreat here, "Flo" saw to it that each of them got the special
dishes they needed or craved, but he was always well repaid for his pains.
For years "Flo" was the porter at the Main Building. It was was
general duty to meet visitors. He enjoyed the thrill of extending
hospitality. It is said that one day a cleric climbed the steps
accompanied by a young man. The cleric had a bit of purple showing beneath
his collar and announced himself as Bishop White. "Flo" lowered
himself to the floor - it was not an easy feat for a man of his weight -
kissed the Bishop's ring, and, wreathed in smiles, conducted Bishop White
to the Bishop's suite. As Brother Florian was about to take his leave, the
Bishop thanked him very cordially and, pointing to the young man, he
added: "By the way, Brother, this is my son!" For a moment 'Flo"
was flabbergasted. It dawned on him that he had kissed the ring of a
Bishop of the Episcopal Churcb. Asking about the incident later, some one
said: "Did you shake hands with the boy?" "My God, I can't
After the University had acquired several hundred artistic masterpieces,
they were lodged in the upper rooms of the new library. On Sunday
afternoons the gallery was open to the general public. "Flo" was
deputed to conduct a "tour" for any visitors who showed up.
Sumnmed up, his remarks on these occasions constituted the most
entertaining list of inaccuracies imaginable. From Sunday to Sunday, the
stories would change and the value of the pictures would rise
astronomically. "Flo" had an habitual disregard for fact which
really hurt no one but which achieved the one effect that he thought
desirable: "These people must realize that they are seeing something
of immense value."
On one occasion Brother Florian had in tow, among others, a young student
who was already rather well acquainted with the gallery. This student,
pointing to a picture at the end of the gallery, remarked: "That's
Bishop England." "Pshaw, boy, that's not Bishop England!"
"Yes, it is, Brother!" "I tell you that's not Bishop
England!" As they approached the picture, the student was able to
read the label on the picture and once again asserted: "Brother,
that's Bishop England!" Then, instead of looking. at the label,
"Flo" ran his hand over the profile of the venerable prelate,
and exclaimed: "Darned if it ain't!"
On hot days during the summer, Brother found it rather trying to conduct a
crowd through the gallery. Instead, he installed himself at the circular
desk in the lobby, a handkerchief stuged around his collar, and in his
hand a large palm-leaf fan which he slowly moved back and forth. If anyone
came in to see the pictures, Brother boomed: "Stairs to the left if
you want to see the pictures." On such occasions, after the gallery
was closed for the evening, "Flo" would find his way back to the
Main Building. If there was anyone on the front porch, he climbed up,
heavy-footed and worn, and remarked with an expression of utter
exhaustion: "Good Lord, a hundred and ninety-three of 'em. Walk and
talk, walk and talk; I'm worn out."
"Flo" liked to create the impression that he was overworked and
unwell as the result of his labors. In reality, he was well-fed and
healthy. The students knew, for instance, that "Flo" always ate
his big meals in quasi-secrecy. He sat down at table an hour before the
general meal, and ate with the working men, whose appetites were enormous.
And "Flo" matched them, appetite for appetite. An hour later, he
showed up at the second meal, and when he toyed with his food and seemed
listless about his vitamins, the student-waiters, who were wise to the
whole proceeding, asked him: "What's the matter, Brother? Aren't you
feeling well?" "No, I'm not. I just don't seem to have any
appetite!" "Gee, Brother, that's too bad. You're working too
hard!" This sort of solicitude gave "Flo" tremendous
Brother Florian was very acquisitive. He was a great collector of things
that were left around or had been discarded. He gathered these things with
an eye to the future when some friend of his might desire them. The fact
that these "friends" might have to go to "Flo" for
favors, put them in his debt. And that was just where the Brother wanted
them. On one occasion, when Father Cavanaugh was away from the University,
Father Joseph Burke decided that the carpet in Father Cavanaugh's room was
not all that it should be and ordered a new one. Father Burke remarked to
one of the other Fathers that he might have the old carpet if he could get
to it before "Flo" got it. Arrangements were made with the man
who was to lay the new carpet that he should take the old one immediately
to "Father Will's" room and tack it down without a moment's
"Flo" had had his eye on that carpet, but he was a bit too late.
He went to "Father Will's" room, but found the door locked.
There was a great deal of hammering going on inside. After some delay, the
hammerer opened the door. With magnificent authority, "Flo"
said: "Take that carpet up and bring it to my room!" "But I
can't" answered the worker. "It's already got a thousand tacks
Non-plussed, the Brother withdrew. At noon, he beckoned a finger at Father
Will. "Have you been up to your room yet?" he asked.
"Yes" was the response. "How do you like it?"
"Swell!" "And believe me, Father Will, I had a devil of a
time getting it for you!"
I suppose every religious community has its characters. Certainly "Flo"
was one of ours. Just having him around, with all his little peculiarities
and idiosyncracies added something to the joy of life. He was very much a
"Notre Dame man." He took a pardonable pride in the glory of the
University. He wanted people to feel that, in the public eye, Notre Dame
was seriously underestimated. Her beauty, her spirit, her magnificence
were the things that pressed on his mind. Of course, "Flo"
himself was not forgotten. It was a Saturday afternoon some years later
that he lay a-dying. There was a football game at Notre Dame that day, and
many of the old students had returned for the game. With sadness they
learned that "Flo" was nearing the end. During the game, "Flo,"
in his sick-bed over at the Community House, turned his head to ask,
"What's the score now?" Before the game was over, the tolling
bell announced that he was no more.