August 19 2010 - 2010 Friends Of Saint Mary's Award
2010 Friends of Saint Mary’s Award
Provided by Saint Mary's Catholic School - Longview, Texas
By PAUL L. WALKER
Drs. Karen L. Roberts and James E. Repasky have been named Friends of St. Mary’s Catholic School.
They will be formally recognized at the school’s annual fundraiser, Wunderfall, Sept. 18 at Maude Cobb Convention and Activities Center. Wunderfall features a German meal, dancing, a raffle and a silent auction to raise operating funds for the Catholic school. Wunderfall is open to the public.
Roberts is a pediatrician affiliated with Diagnostic Clinic of Longview and her husband Jim is a family practice physician affiliated with Trinity Clinic in Kilgore. Roberts and Repasky are lifelong Catholics and parishioners at Christ the King Catholic Church in Kilgore.
Their two children are graduates of St. Mary’s (grades pre-K through eight). Rebecca (Becca) graduated from St. Mary’s in 1996, Kilgore High School in 2000 and Texas Christian University in 2004. She married Cole Luke last year and will begin her second year of medical school this fall at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Ft. Worth.
Becca’s brother Gregory graduated from St. Mary’s in 2002, Longview High School, and TCU this spring. He will pursue his master’s degree in psychology this fall and ultimately seeks a Ph.D. in psychology.
Karen is a native of Monroe, Louisiana and Jim is from Ohio. He attended TCU as an undergraduate and Karen attended Duke University. They met in medical school at UT Southwestern, Dallas, and married in their second year of medical school. In 1983 they opened their medical practices in Kilgore and Karen moved her practice to Longview within a few years.
Both are products of Catholic education. Jim graduated from St. John’s High School in Ashtabula, Ohio, and Karen attended Catholic schools in Monroe.
Their decision to put their children in Catholic school was easy, Repasky said. While they wanted a good education for their children, they preferred a Catholic education. St. Mary’s was a good choice, he said.
One of St. Mary’s greatest attributes is that it teaches children to work as a family, Karen said. By the mentoring of younger students, older students learn to be big brothers and sisters whether they are such in their own families or not. When you go to St. Mary’s, you learn how to raise kids.
In turn, students’ frequent visits to area nursing homes teach the youngsters to be comfortable and happy around older people and to be of service to them, she added.
Karen believes that elementary schools do best for students when they are neighborhood schools. Although St. Mary’s is not a neighborhood school in the geographic sense, it is a spiritual community, she said, and that affects (student) behavior in many positive ways.
St. Mary’s is not just a protected environment, she said, because children from diverse backgrounds learn to work together, she said. They also learn that part of being Catholic is looking at your faults and admitting them - whether in the confessional or in the world - and saying you’re sorry you made a mistake, she said.
The Rev. Gavin Vaverek, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School, believes the Repaskys have their own strong sense of service.
The two good Catholic doctors moved to East Texas with a strong missionary sense. When they came to East Texas, it was underserved medically and certainly the Catholic presence was a much more silent minority.
Their lives exemplify a commitment to be public witnesses for Christ as well as for the Church. Throughout the years they not only supported their own children’s benefiting from Catholic school education, but helped many other children as well. Their involvement with their parish, Christ the King, and the Kilgore community, is a testimony to the service St. Mary’s Catholic School provides to the parishes in the area, Vaverek said.
Finding the time to assist or promote the school never seemed to be a problem for the two physicians. For many years, they have been generous financial sponsors for the annual Wunderfall fundraiser held each September. What might have gone unnoticed by some is their quiet but sustained involvement in the daily workings of the school.
For years, Jim assisted Lucy Knotts, then the only physical education teacher and coach for the schools team, the Knights. Jim loves coaching soccer and, according to Karen, if he had to choose another profession, he would be a soccer coach.
For a number of years he coached soccer alongside Knotts. Dr. Repasky was a fine coach. He was always calm, and very supportive. It didn’t matter if the student had no knowledge of the game, he was always patient and encouraging and very positive. The kids responded to that, Knotts said.
She recalls he was always at practice, usually dressed in his work clothes because he came directly from his office.
He also has coached soccer in the Kilgore leagues - 22 of the past 24 years, but not just for his children’s teams. He continued to volunteer working with youngsters on whichever team they can’t find a coach for, he said.
Rebecca played soccer at Kilgore High and then for the TCU Horn Frogs. When Greg began college at TCU, Rebecca and he played together on a coed team.
St. Mary’s School seventh grade students for years heard the Roberts/Repasky team give the talk. The couple would bring books and pictures and their medical knowledge to ensure the students left St. Mary’s armed with basic knowledge about sex and procreation and the ramifications of sex outside marriage. Jim talked to the boys and Karen to the girls.
I showed them the horror pictures, Repasky said. I wanted the boys to understand what they were getting into. This is what happens when you have sex with someone who is not clean, he said. Boys and girls are naturally curious, and we wanted to give them a good solid background, he said.
The Repaskys didn’t just tend to students’ needs. Each year Roberts sends enough influenza vaccine to inoculate everyone on staff. St. Mary’s Principal Amy Allen attests to their contributions.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Drs. Karen and Jim for many years both personally and professionally. I can honestly say that this couple exhibits love in action. They are truly Christ in our community. Karen makes sure that our teachers get flu shots each year at no cost to them. She also refers children to the school that she feels need our love and guidance.
She takes our used uniforms on mission trips (Bolivia) to help the underprivileged, Allen said. She is our resident advisor for the ‘What if’ questions you never ask another pediatrician for fear of sounding ridiculous. She never judges, but don’t ask her a question you don’t want the answer to - she will tell the truth.
I will never forget when I saw a truck backing up to the playground loaded with shredded tires, Allen said. I asked, ‘What is all this?’ Rumor had it that Dr. Roberts was tired of broken arms on the playground so she provided some padding. Needless to say, it was 12 years before there was another broken arm. We didn’t have the heart to tell her how many vacuums were ruined in the process.
I think that abstinence on the part of many an SMS young man is primarily the result of Dr. Jim's "7th grade talks". I still don't know what he tells the boys, but I know they don't want much to do with sex after they are through. That in itself is noteworthy, Allen said.
Most importantly, not only is it their countless monetary contributions that are often made in silence or their countless hours of talent contribution that make them our friends. It is the fact that they are role models for all. They are a loving, caring couple who live out the Gospel message. It is our hope that one day, we can all be like our friends Karen and Jim.
Karen remembers assisting with the Halloween haunted house and filling rubber gloves filled with Jell-o for ghoulish handshakes and once providing apple slices and carrots for healthy snacks at a seventh grade-sponsored dance. She recalls the concession stand sold three bags of apple slices and no carrots. I had to try, she said. You can’t change behavior unless you give them an opportunity to change.
Jim’s philosophy of giving back to the school and the East Texas community is fairly simple, and Biblically based: The more God has given you, the more He expects from you, he said. Karen loves the togetherness of the school.
It’s (St. Mary’s) that small school where everyone supports each other, she said. When kids are a part of a community, it affects them in many positive ways. It’s part of Catholicism, she said. You look at yourself and examine your conscience. That’s important.
The couple still wonders why they are being honored with the annual award. Neither one of us feel we deserve this honor. There are people who have done way more for St. Mary’s than we have, Karen said. I feel like we’re in the company of saints.