One Chicago family connection to Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana – For some, school is more than just a place to learn. For some, it is about legacy.

Richard Marshall Cronin was a freshman at the University of Notre Dame in 1945.

“He saw that medium coming toward him and said, ‘I’m not going to let him pass me,’” says Claire Cronin, matriarch of the Cronin family.

It was a memory my grandfather told over and over about the day he went out for the soccer team.

But Dick Cronin’s greatest contribution to Notre Dame football wasn’t on the field. In fact, his football career was long over, when he received a phone call one spring day in 1964.

“Ara [Parseghian] He was telling him that his star player, John Hoarty, had injured his shoulder and they were about to operate on him at Notre Dame,” Ms. Cronin recalls.

“It was his freshman year, in spring training, he was injured,” adds John Cronin, Dick Cronin’s youngest son and a 1992 graduate of the College of Notre Dame.

“he is [Ara] “Send it to Chicago to my friend Dick Cronin,” said Mrs. Cronin.

Cronin, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries, agreed to visit him.

ABC57 reached out to John Hoarty, legendary Notre Dame quarterback and 1964 Heisman Trophy winner.

During a spring scrimmage, Huarte says defensive end Jerry Long tackled him cleanly, but he landed a tackle on his right shoulder, driving it to the Notre Dame 50-yard line.

“The collarbone that goes in on the outside of the shoulder was separated, and then two doctors said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do surgery,'” Huarte recalled. “The hell they are!” Ara Parseghian said.

So, Huarte says, he and backfield coach Tom Bagna flew to Chicago.

“There I met Dr. Cronin,” Huarte says. “He had me grab two sandbags, face the camera, and I took the pictures straight ahead, and he could see the separator. And he said, ‘Just leave it alone.’”

“I worked on it very patiently; swimming and handball,” Huarte recalls. “And after about six weeks, it was back to normal and it didn’t bother me during the ’64 season.”

John Huarte says looking back, the surgery would have ended his career.

But she didn’t… far from it…

John Huarte would go on to have a season in the record books, throwing for over 2,000 yards with 114 completions on his way to the Heisman Trophy. At that point, no Irish midfielder had completed more than 100 passes in a season. His passing efficiency rating at Notre Dame remains among the best in the record books.

“[I’m] Dr. Cronin made the call, he’s very lucky, and simply saving my career is what he did,” Huarte says.

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But while this is the story that gets all the attention, it was just another day for Dr. Cronin.

“He would treat everyone everywhere and wouldn’t charge anyone until they came into the office,” Ms. Cronin recalled, describing it as unusual, especially since expensive medical debts were rising.

On Saturdays, my grandmother describes an open house with high school football players, friends, and what appear to be strangers being checked into the living room…a line outside the door.

“He was never rich [sic] practicing medicine,” says Ms. Cronin.

Dick Cronin passed away in 2016 at the age of 89 from complications of dementia. But what he left behind was hope for a life full of purpose.

Some of us picked up where we left off.

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“It’s always been my dream to go to college,” says Michael Cahill, Dick Cronin’s grandson.

“As with so many wonderful men with Alzheimer’s [disease]Anyway, he hadn’t spoken in months and months,” Ms. Cronin recalls. “Michael Cahill came in and said, ‘Grandpa, I’m going to Notre Dame,’ and he said, ‘Go Irish.'”

For dementia sufferers, near the end, what is left is said to be what they really liked most. But what disease took away was Michael Cahill’s drive.

“My grandfather, the way he treated patients and the way he told his family about his love for medicine, definitely inspired me, too,” says Cahill.

Cahill graduated from Notre Dame and now teaches at Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. But he dreams of returning to South Bend.

“Being the team’s orthopedic surgeon would be my dream,” Cahill says, his eyes bright with a wide smile spilling across his face.

Maybe he’s a calling, or a bridge between two generations, but whatever the case, he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps…and he’s not the only one, either.

A double-digit number of Dick and Claire Cronin’s children and grandchildren attended Notre Dame or became doctors.

Therefore, for some, school is more than just a place to learn. For the extended Cronin family, it’s all about tradition.

“It was in our blood,” says Ms. Cronin.

“It was something we shared, and I think he was very proud of me, too,” John Cronin adds.

“It was really God, the Country and Notre Dame,” says Ms. Cronin, 95, who watches every game and has been a devoted fan since the 1940s, proudly.

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