**From Craig Thurling:
“I have just found out that the Villa de Chantal burnt down in July 2005. I’ve very sorry to hear about that as I used to live there and I have very fond memories of the place.
I am from Birmingham, England and from the 14th August 1997 – 5th June 1998 I lived at the Villa whilst it was owned by Joe Seng.
The reason I lived there is that at the time I was an Intern at Black Hawk College working for Marty Hanson, I was given the choice of either living with a Host Family or living at the Villa. Whilst I was there I lived with Germans, Russians, Japanese and Columbians, I also became very good friends with the people who worked there. At the time Joe Seng held events there such as weddings and the atmosphere was always a happy one.
When it was time for me to leave I was quite sad as I had a fantastic time there (even though it was haunted and it was a bit creepy walking round the old school bit at night). My friends and I would walk around it and try and scare ourselves silly – still we had fun.”
**From Lucia Logan Vranizan (Class of 71):
“Have you read the history book written by the nuns at the Villa, about the Villa, “Bells on Two Rivers“? It has great stories.
I remember looking out over the grounds from my 4th floor piano practice room during the first snowfall of the winter. The white snow contrasted on the naked, black oak tree limbs. I opened one side of the long casement windows, sat on the windowsill, turned up the radiator for heat and enjoyed the snowfall. It was a beautiful quiet moment among the other 20 pianos playing. Sister Dorothy, the hall monitor always listening outside the closed door caught me and made me return to piano practice.
The sisters had an old dog they kept tied outside the back door of the cafeteria. Sister Patricia, head chef, feed him our scraps from lunch.
Sisters Lucy and Miriam, the math teachers had pool table contests every Saturday night. They used geometry to win the weekly tournaments. All the other sisters cheered their favorite competitor.
In 4th grade, Sister Baptista gave me a lily of the valley and a pussy willow branch that I rooted and planted at our house. The pussy willow grew for 50 years and died the year my mother moved from the house. The lilies of the valley still bloom for the new owners. I have had a plant nursery for 30 years. Little did she know that nun gave me my business career!
The nuns, clothed in their black robes, were real people who enjoyed simple real people events ”
**From Walter J. Schwager, Jr.:
“I was born in Rock Island June 23, 1944. My father was a dentist, Dr. Walter J. Schwager, Sr, D.D.S. who practiced in Rock Island from 1937 until 1956. My eldest sister, Carol (deceased) attended the Villa from her sophomore year and graduated from the Villa. My next eldest sister, Elizabeth Ann Schwager, attended the Villa for her Freshman year. The good sisters allowed boys to attend kindergarten which I did. The family moved Rock Island in 1956. Carol took voice, piano and I believe organ lessons there and my sister Elizabeth took piano lessons. Both sisters likes the Villa. I just got to try and be minimally social and not make excretory mistakes. I remember the music programs and recitals. I also recall the May Dances around the May Pole.
My father provided dental services to the sisters who lived in strict cloister and his friend Dr. Clement P. Cunningham, M.D., was one of the physicians to provide medical services for the nuns.
The grounds were beautiful! What a place, the grotto, tennis courts, the gardens and all the trees and pants and handsome building. I knew that the sisters had fallen on hard times and had to be removed as they strictly observed poverty. I saw the place in the late 1980’s when it had been purchased and a group was turning it into a business incubator and business center. At that time they showed me where trees had grown through the failed roof up and trough the roof. When I saw it a lot of work was being tone to fix and rehab the place and I talked to someone about where things had been on the property in the 1950’s.
I have great memories of Rock Island and of the Villa. It is sad that it is now history and that such a place has no place today. I am finding that a lot of the schools I attended are now closed and gone.
I write this as I happened on this site as a fluke. I entered the site name that was on a picture of the 1937 Springfield St. James Trade School (HS). My father-in-law, Frank Tapocik was on that football team. After finding that and some investigating I happened on the Villa and it grabbed me.
Don’t know if any of this is useful but wanted to at least pass on a tiny bit of what was the Villa.”
**From Melissa A. Passno:
“MY MOTHER, PATRICIA VERSLUIS, BOARDED AT THE VILLA OFF AND ON FROM THE TIME SHE WAS 5 UNTIL SHE GRADUATED IN 1947. THE VILLA, NUNS , AND STUDENTS WERE A BIG PART OF HER LIFE. SHE REMAINED FRIENDS WITH SEVERAL CLASSMATES THROUGHOUT HER LIFE AND REMAINED CLOSE TO THE SISTERS, VISITING FREQUENTLY. SHE RELISHED ALL HER MEMORIES OF THOSE DAYS. MY MOTHER MET MY FATHER THROUGH ONE OF HER CLASSMATES, MY AUNT, CAROLYN JOHNSON. I CAN STILL REMEMBER MY MOTHER DRAGGING ALL 6 OF US KIDS TO THE CONVENT TO SPEND A SUNDAY AFTERNOON WITH THE SISTERS. I CAN ALSO REMEMBER THE DAY THAT THE SISTERS INFORMED MY MOTHER THAT THEY WOULD BE LEAVING THE VILLA, MOVING TO ANOTHER VISITATION CONVENT. IT WAS A SAD DAY FOR MY MOTHER AND HER CLASSMATES THAT STAYED CLOSE TO THE SISTERS: MONA ADLEFINGER WHITNEY, KAY VANDEVOORDE, HATTIE LARKIN DUSSLIERE, JUST TO NAME A FEW. MY MOTHER PASSED AWAY A YEAR AFTER THE SISTERS LEFT. SHE INSTILLED IN ME AN APPRECIATION OF THE AMAZING ARCHITECTURE OF THE VILLA. I SPENT MY 5TH GRADE YEAR AT THE VILLA AND CAN STILL REMEMBER FRENCH CLASS WITH SISTER MICHELLE, BALLET CLASSESS IN THE GYM, MUSIC CLASS, AND SISTER LUCY’S EVER PRESENT SMILE. I REMEMBER THE CHAPEL AND FIRST FRIDAY COMMUNION. I REMEMBER MR BRENNAN OUR BUS DRIVER AND MRS WITTELSPATCH WHO WAS THE BUS MONITOR. I WAS ONLY THERE FOR A YEAR BUT THE MEMORIES HAVE LASTED FOR A LIFETIME. SUCH A VERY SAD DAY WHEN THE VILLA CAUGHT FIRE. THE BUILDING IS NO LONGER THERE BUT I CAN STILL PICTURE THE GROUNDS AND THE BUILDING. SUCH A BEAUTIFUL SPOT FOR A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING AND THE GARDENS THAT THE SISTERS PUT THEIR LOVE INTO.”
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