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Remembrance of the Life of Don McCloskey CoL

Posted on January 13, 2015, by Loretto Community

Donald E. McCloskey CoL
Nov. 21, 1937 – Jan. 13, 2015

Don McCloskey approached his death like he had learned to approach each day of his life: open, present, feeling his feelings, communicating from the heart, eliciting an ever-deepening awareness and shared acceptance tinged with hope.

How did he get that way?

He grew up in Denver’s west side in St. Joseph’s parish and made an early commitment to a spiritual quest that he followed throughout his life. His ordination as a Redemptorist priest was as much the beginning of a mature quest as his assent to an adolescent calling. Profoundly evoked by Pope John XXIII’s exhortation to renew the church, he participated in regular meetings hosted by Doug Tranel in Chicago, who was mentored by Carl Rogers. These explorations at the intersection of theology, personality, and community also introduced him to Theresa Kinealy, Michele Stimac, and his future wife Magdalena (Gilmary) McCloskey.

Don never abandoned his vocation to the priesthood but acquiesced in the institutional requirement to turn in his collar when he married. He considered his family roles of husband and father to be essential facets of his spiritual practice.  He and Magdalena co-founded Apple School (Alternative Parent Participation Learning Experience) which emphasized parental involvement in a shared learning community with the children. It was the first parent-initiated alternative school in the state’s public school system and now includes all grades K-12.

Don and Magdalena were among the early co-members of the Loretto community. Their January 1, 1973 commitment, signed by Helen Sanders as president, asserts their desire to live open to the truth and to love, and their need to explore and articulate the presence of the church.  Don offers “his priesthood when the Church at large is willing to accept it.”

He earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University and devoted his newly polished skills to establishing restorative justice protocols in Spokane, serving as mediator and co-coordinator of the West Central Conflict Resolution Team. His 1996 run for Congress allowed him a platform to extend ideas of mutual listening and community building as essential to the health of a democracy.

With Magdalena, he diligently studied and practiced whatever he could find that would challenge him to become more aware, loving, effective, and awake on the spiritual path. Gil Milner M.D. introduced them to Oscar Ischazo and the Arica school. They learned in Sufi community from Murshid Sam and the Dances of Universal Peace, and in their community of friends from The Course in Miracles. In the 1990s they were chosen to travel to Russia to co-facilitate gender diversity and reconciliation seminars, and they offered these in Denver as well, where they moved at the turn of the century. Donbecame resident manager of Denver Coalition for the Homeless’ Forum residence, where he continued his work building community and enhancing communications.

Don’s health problems of the past forty years were a constant challenge to be present. He found his way to two programs that really helped: ReLiv nutritional support and Landmark Education – once again, practices followed with devotion and diligence. Donretired in about 2008 and moved with Magdalena into Montview Manor where he continued to foster community informally by, among other activities, hosting the Saturday night movies. Their son Mitch and his wife had moved to Denver to start their family, and then their daughter Gia and her husband moved to town with theirs. The family interactions were rich and lively, including Don’s siblings and their offspring when available.

Vivian Doremus recalls Don as a marvelous cook, inventive, attentive and patient at the stove. Years ago, before red meat was looked at askance, Don whipped up turkey chili that would have made a ranch cook beam. Breakfast was always a treat – luscious omelets and smoky bacon were highlights. While cooking, Don chatted amiably, listened closely and chuckled often with his guests. He was verily a gentle giant, displaying his kind patience and deep interest in people and ideas in every aspect of his life. Sports scores or arcane theological points, interspersed with homespun wisdom and folklore, were among the myriad topics he would entertain. His interests were as encompassing as the topics friends wished to discuss. Don’s beautiful dark eyes gazed at people with welcome and compassion. We cherish your spirit, Don!

Don and Magdalena were regular participants in the Denver Gospel Group for many years, migrating in the last decade to the Kairos worship community. Lisa Reynolds comments, I was in an “I Am The Way” study group with Don. He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth as he saw it, to share his knowledge of topics that were related to the subject at hand, and to basically enrich any conversation with his depth of study and reflection. On top of all that, he could bring a spark of humor and wit to many a too-serious conversation. He will be so missed!

In the last year of life, Don challenged himself to become a stand-up comedian and pulled off a few pretty good shows. He had just set a goal for 2015 to complete the Spokane Bloomsday Run with his oldest grandson, when his circumstances changed. He shifted gears and, within three days, as Magdalena described it, hit his big home run instead.

This may leave you wondering, with his youngest grandson who was heard to ask, “How did Opa get from his bed up into the clouds?”  How indeed.

It was no accident, as this remembrance has tried to recount.


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