Residents throughout Kankakee County paused Monday to remember the F-4 tornado, with winds up to 260 miles per hour, that left widespread destruction 60 years ago. Among the buildings hardest hit was Olivet Nazarene University — the former St. Viator College — which sustained heavy damage to its Burke Administration Building and Gym, both built by Viatorians.

The original St. Viator College gymnasium

There was only one fatality in that fateful storm, 24-year old Sandra Rivard, who was cradling her 3-month old daughter, Lisa. Miraculously, the infant survived and today lives in Oshkosh, WI.

However in thinking back to that day, there may have been divine intervention that saved the rest of the college buildings — and the life of the infant.

After doing some research, members of the extended Rivard family — of which there are many in the Bourbonnais area — retraced their family roots, to put together that Lisa is the great, great-niece of a Viatorian, Fr. Eugene Rivard, CSV.

Portrait of Fr. Eugene Rivard as Provincial

Fr. Rivard holds a prominent place in the annals of the Viatorian Community, and in the history of St. Viator College. He was the first novice of the American Province of the Clerics of St. Viator, pronouncing his first vows in 1884. He attended St. Viator College, studying philosophy and theology before being ordained to the priesthood in 1885.

It turns out that Fr. Rivard was one of 13 children and among his siblings was Archille Rivard. It was Archille’s grandson, Gerald Rivard, who was married to Sandra and father to Lisa. According to news reports, Gerald Rivard was a carpenter working at what is now the Bradley Royale Health Care Center when the tornado struck. He would later help to rebuild Olivet Nazarene after it sustained so much damage.

Fr. Rivard not only attended St. Viator College, but he taught philosophy and literature there for 30 years. Fr. Rivard ultimately served two years as Provincial of the Viatorians before being named Assistant Superior General in 1923, or 100 years ago.

He passed away in 1929, however, his portrait still hangs in the Viatorian Province Center. He is among the many Viatorians featured in the main hallway, who have led the community as Provincial, since the founding of the province in 1882.