Alumni Update Archives: Alum Lost in Trade Center Tragedy

When the World Trade Center was attacked, the grief hit home for one family in Arlington Heights, as well as the entire Saint Viator community. 

Mary Catherine Lenz Wieman ’76 has been missing since Sept. 11, when a jet struck the south tower where she worked. 

She is survived by her husband, Marc Wieman, three children, Christopher, 12, Allison, 8, and Mary Julia, 6; her parents, Lionel and Marianne Lenz; and her brother, Lionel Lenz ’75, and Thomas Lenz ’77. 

“She did a wonderful job of balancing work and home and motherhood and life,” her father, Lionel Lenz, told the Daily Herald.

Mary, 43, grew up in Arlington Heights, attending Our Lady of the Wayside grade school and Sacred Heart of Mary. She majored in marketing at the University of Dayton, where she met her husband. The couple lived in New York on Long Island for 20 years. 

Mary worked for Aon and had just landed the Pfizer Company as a big account. She was hosting a meeting the morning of Sept. 11 to brief other executives on the news.

Joe Dittmar, an Aurora insurance executive who flew in for the occasion, ran into her in the meeting room on the 105th floor an hour before the meeting was to start. He saw Mary with Murphy’s Oil Soap. “Mary was busy polishing the furniture because it was dusty,” he said. “She just wanted the place to look nice.” 

Around 8:45 a.m., they were instructed to evacuate the building after the first plane struck. Mary was the last to leave the room. Dittmar last saw her on the 78th floor:

“She’s there, and in typical Mary fashion, saying, ‘Come on, come on, Joe, let’s get in the elevator. You don’t want to go down all those stairs.’ I’m sure Mary was thinking, ’Shoot, why am I going to walk all the way down there?’” 

The second plane hit minutes later. It took Dittmar 50 minutes to walk down the stairs. 

A memorial service was held on Oct. 8 at Wayside, and her New York friends mourned her at another service Oct. 13. 

Her loved ones remember her as a spirited friend and leader with an amazing zest for life. Gary Marchietello, a 20-year friend of Mary’s and a colleague, delivered a eulogy that spoke of her hard work, her bright smile, her great parties, and her favorite phrase: “Fun is where you find it.” 

Mary’s former classmates put together memory books for her family, and collages that included a photo of Mary as “Luella” from “All My Students,” one of many skits put on by their close-knit class. 

Earlier, Father Thomas von Behren, C.S.V., in response to the attacks, urged the community to get past their anger: “We must look to the gospel of Jesus Chris for guidance, where we find a message that speaks consistently and boldly speaks of love, of the creation of a just society, and a world where violent acts against innocent are condemned—no matter where the innocent live.” 

At the service, Marchietello said he hoped Mary’s legacy would be lasting. 

“Mary would want, and it would be a fitting tribute, for each of us to find a little more joy and love within us, to make up for the void left by Mary’s loss,” he said. “She would do the same for us.” 

Saint Viator High School

Located in Arlington Heights, IL, Saint Viator High School is a private, co-ed, Catholic school for grades 9-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.