Mary Alice Lawler was known as a master teacher. For more than four decades she taught fourth-grade at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
Lawler, a long-time parishioner of St. Raphael Church, died last August at the age of 78. In her passing, she left more than $7 million to numerous organizations and agencies within the Archdiocese of Louisville and beyond.
The charities and organizations that received the bulk of her vast estate were: the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Sister Visitor Center, St. Meinrad Archabbey, Our Lady of Lourdes School, St. Raphael Church, Assumption High School, Mercy Academy, the Cerebral Palsy School of Louisville and the Catholic Education Foundation.
In the classroom, she was known for her intellect and genuine concern for students. Outside the classroom, she was known to colleagues and friends for her warm personality.
Her long-time friend and companion Louie Welch remembers Lawler as “a wonderful, brilliant lady.”
“She would light up any room she walked into,” Welch said. “She cheered you up whenever you would see her, just her smile. I sure do miss her.”
“She loved her vocation as a school teacher. She loved everything about it: the kids, Our Lady of Lourdes,” Welch said in an interview last week.
When deciding how to divide her monetary assets, the bulk of which came from her parents, Lawler prioritized three causes in her bequests — education, her faith and care for the poor. Welch said those causes were close to her heart and she cared “a great deal about others.”
“She wanted to give all her money away, to education, to help others. I told her to go for it,” Welch said.
Jeff Beavin, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes, taught alongside Lawler for 10 years before her retirement in 2007. He recalled her “infectious” laugh and care for her colleagues.
“She was an absolutely wonderful human being. She had a laugh that made you laugh right along with her. It was so infectious and she used it often,” he said.
Beavin said Lawler had a “soft voice” but “knew how to use it effectively.”
“She was the definition of a master teacher. She was someone who had her students’ best interest in her heart at all times,” he said.
In a 2005 story in The Record newspaper Record Editor Emeritus Glenn Rutherford reported that Lawler was “born to teach.”
“In her voice you can hear the joy she has for teaching. In her eyes you can see the excitement she feels — and the reverence she knows — for her profession,” wrote Rutherford.
In the article, Lawler said “I wouldn’t change a thing if I could start all over. I’m fortunate; I love what I do so much, and I would do it all over again in an instant.”
“I’ve always realized how lucky I am. I’ve always thought this was what I was supposed to do,” she said.
Even in her retirement, she volunteered in the school office and helped fill in where she could “because she knew everything about the school,” Beavin said.
Outside the classroom, Lawler enjoyed the company of her friends and family and loved to travel.
She and Welch visited every state in the U.S. and traveled internationally to Canada, Germany, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Scotland, Ireland and France. Welch said she loved to visit new places and “learn about the cultures and people.”