Our View: It's been a year of significant loss

From left, Sister Generose Gervais, Harley Flathers and Alan Calavano are local residents who died in 2016 and left inspiring legacies.
We are part of The Trust Project.

In some corners, 2016 is being called the year the music died. The deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michaels and others have cut a wide swath in the world's musical landscape.

Follow that with the Tuesday's death of Carrie Fisher, a "Star Wars" icon, and Wednesday's death of her equally iconic mother, Debbie Reynolds, as well as earlier deaths of Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, Nancy Reagan and countless others, and many simply want to finish 2016 without another high-profile loss.

Yet, it's worth noting Southeast Minnesota has lost important voices this year, as well. The deaths of Sister Generose Gervais, Harley Flathers and Alan Calavano offer a sampling of the often-quiet community voices that have gone silent after helping shape our region.

Sister Generose

Sister Generose, a longtime administrator of Saint Marys Hospital and president of the Poverello Foundation, died Oct. 7, leaving a legacy of faith and service that continues to inspire.


She presided over a time of St. Marys growth, overseeing the construction of the Mary Brigh Building and its 40 operating rooms, directing the hospital response to the great Rochester flood of 1978 and nurturing the integration of Saint Marys with Mayo Clinic.

At the same time, she was known for her caring nature and dedication to patients.

"Sister Generose had a true Franciscan spirit. She did not have the need to take credit for everything or anything. She simply wanted Catholic health care to be a shining example of Christ's love for the sick and the poor," Sister Jean Keniry read from a statement by Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, at Generose's memorial service.

Harley Flathers

Another quiet and inspiring role model was Harley Flathers. A familiar radio voice for decades and a popular Post Bulletin columnist, Flathers died on Jan. 25.

Flathers notably gave up his childhood dream of farming after being stricken by polio, and Southeast Minnesota benefited from his cheerful radio voice, which first hit regional airwaves in the early 1950s. It was a career that started in Red Wing before moving to Rochester stations that included KROC, KWEB and KNXR.

We remember Flathers as a man who worked harder to get through his days than most of us ever will, and he always did it with humor and grace.

Such dedication continues to inspire.


Alan Calavano

Known to many as "Mr. Rochester Historian," Alan Calavano also offered a quiet inspiration of his own.

The New Jersey-born transplant died March 18, but left behind a wealth of historic insights for the region he called home for more than 40 years.

That legacy continues in the effort to restore Rochester's historic clock and bell in a new downtown tower. the clock and bell were installed in front of the Mayo Civic Center in 1982 at Calavano's urging, which later turned into relocate it to the fire station on South Broadway.

Calavano's quiet dedication is highlighted in his involvement in the project. Prior to his death, he said he was representing an anonymous donor who wanted to give $100,000 to the project. After his death, it was revealed was the donor.

As many musicians, entertainers and other notables have been remembered with great fanfare in 2016, it's important to remember the quiet voices as well.

The likes of Generose. Flathers and Calavano have made a lasting impression on the region, and we expect their memories will continue to inspire well beyond the new year.

What to read next