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Passion for Education Leads to Authorship

May 07, 2018
By Deb Daley

As sisters, they share many bonds-- family, faith, and fondness for Mercy, and a thirst for education that led each of them to write and have books published. In fact, according to Omahan Carol Smola Dargy ’56 and Mary Pat Smola McCormick ’58 of Denver and Carmel, California, education is the thread that is interwoven in both of their lives resulting in passions for lifelong learning, reading and writing. 

As students, they moved to Omaha in 1955 during Carol’s senior year and Mary Pat’s sophomore year. Their father was transferred to Omaha from Sioux City.  Their parents believed in Catholic education and enrolled them in the newly formed Mercy High School.

 “Both our parents and Mercy had a profound effect on our perspectives and how we would lead our lives.  There was a generous spirit of kindness from our family and school,” said Mary Pat.

Their mother instilled in them the belief they could do anything, and their father regaled them with information on current events every evening.

They both feel Mercy reaffirmed their parents’ faith and education goals as well as encouraged them to practice kindness and hospitality.

“At Mercy, that welcoming instinct was ingrained in the entire community.  I remember students and teachers being cheerful, meeting everyone at the door with a smile,” Carol said

While at Mercy, Mary Pat was editor of the yearbook and credits that experience to her love of writing and editing in later years.  For both, especially Carol, the transition to a new school in her senior year, could have been difficult but it wasn’t, thanks to Mercy.

“Sr. Mary Brendan O’Malley, RSM, our principal, was very kind to us and took us under her wing.  We were both made to feel very welcome,” Carol said.  

And Mercy inspired them to act with kindness,

“Sr. Brendan would close assemblies saying “girls, always do the right thing, at the right time, and for the right reason,” Mary Pat said.

When Carol graduated, she attended Duchesne College and received a two-year teaching certificate.  She immediately took a position teaching 2ndgrade at Holy Cross, teaching for one year and marrying Bob Dargy.  As their five children grew older, she returned to the charism of Mercy at the College of St. Mary’s. She earned her education degree in 1983 and began an 18-year teaching career at St. Thomas More School, followed by substitute teaching at several Catholic schools including Mercy.

Mary Pat went to Creighton University and got an education degree also.  She married Dick McCormick, taught for several years in public and Catholic schools, raised four children and moved several times as a result of her husband’s corporate transfers.  She also earned a Master’s degree from the University of Denver in Liberal Studies in 1989.

A quote from noted educator Anthony J. D’Angelo might describe their feelings about education.

 “Develop a passion for learning.  If you do, you will never cease to grow.”  

Through the years they have both been community volunteers in education and health fields with particular interests in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, mental health, history and art as well as their parishes and local communities.

“We have been blessed with supportive husbands who share our interests and activities,” said Carol.  Both have been married to their spouses for more than 50 years. 

Their writing journeys, however, took different paths. For Carol, writing a book was part of a class assignment at the College of St. Mary’s. The final assignment in one of her Children’s Literature courses was to write a children’s book.  At the same time, she was intimately involved with her father’s dementia. She felt that the most effective writing she could do was with a topic with which she was familiar.  That is howMy Pal, My Grandpa: The Story of a Child’s Journey with a Grandfather Suffering from Alzheimer’s Diseasewas born.  The memoir is told through the eyes of her son, Tom, who had a strong and loving relationship with his grandpa. Carol later refined it and the book was published in 2016. The 42-page paperback is illustrated by Michael Pflaum, Dargy’s nephew and former Mercy parent.

“There’s a real need for children to be involved, never forgetting their loved ones.  I hope children and their parents find value in this book,” Carol said.

Mary Pat’s book came about as a result of her work at the Carmel Mission, her California parish, which is the burial place of St. Junipero Serra. As a docent, Mary Pat welcomes guests and leads tours explaining the history and art of the Basilica and adjoining museums. She has also been on the art research team, writing and editing papers for archival records.  That led to her writing a book along with docent friend, Gail Sheridan, calledArt from the Carmel Mission. It features 30 of the most important artifacts – paintings, sculptures, silver and vestments—accompanied by descriptions of their historical and religious significance and color photography by Dennis Wyszinski. 

Both Mercy graduates have shared their passion for education with and for others exemplifying the best of Women of Mercy. Many family members have attended the school including a daughter, granddaughters and grandnieces.