Former “Mom” to Many Students Saying Good-bye
After 29 years at Viterbo, the woman affectionately referred to as “mom” or “ma Colbert” by countless students has decided to retire.
“I’ve been here long enough,” Lynda (Colbert) Bahr said. “I’m hoping to go to Texas in the winter months and get away from the cold I can’t stand.”
Bahr began at Viterbo as a cleaning person in the Fine Arts Center in 1977. In 1980, she began working in the girl’s dorm in Marian Hall, where she was quickly and affectionately given the nickname which stuck with her through the years.
“I got along very well with the girls, and one year for Mother’s Day they gave me a T-shirt that said ‘mom,’” she said.
She then moved to the boy’s dorm, a shift she was apprehensive about at first, but one that worked out better than she, or the students, could have hoped.
“I thought they’d be trouble,” Bahr said of the male students, “so the first thing I told them was, ‘When you’re here, I’m your mother and you’ll do as I say!’ After that, they started calling me mom. They were challenging, but they were fun.”
She endured pranks from students who filled her rubber gloves with water or would hide behind the shower curtain, only to jump out to scare her. Endearing moments were also plentiful—gifts like a dozen roses (from a student whose parents owned a funeral home), and a Christmas tree ornament from a student’s mother dated 1985, which she still hangs on her tree. Bahr now has years of wonderful memories of her time with the boys of Marian Hall. There were always plenty of hugs at the end of the year.
“One year for my birthday some of them gave me a bottle of champagne and hired someone to come in and sing like Tom Jones (who she had recently seen in concert),” she laughed. “But he couldn’t sing that well.”
For her part, she would help the male students who didn’t know how to wash clothes, even doing some folding on occasions. She also had the occasional good time with the students at the Wunderbar or the Recovery Room, when the drinking age was age 18 and 19.
“I used to live on the corner of Sixth and Winnebago Streets (near Viterbo) and when the boys would pass my house on the way home from the Ye Olde Style Inn, they’d yell, ‘Ma, we’re going home now.’”
In 1990, she accepted a promotion to custodial supervisor, a position that distanced her from the students she loved. “I liked my job more when there was not as much pressure and I was with the students more,” she said.
Bahr said she would be retired by December, if not before. She plans to spend time with her husband, Lyle, and visiting her brother-in-law in Texas.
“I’m going to miss a lot of people here,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to sleeping in each morning and waking up when it’s light outside.”