Class of 1974 · Inducted 2023
Viola (Wegman) Hessler graduated from Lutheran East in 1974. She attended Valparaiso University, from which she graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. In 1979, she accepted a position with Peat Marwick (now KPMG), at the time one of the “Big 8” accounting firms and over the next seven years rose to the level of Manager, specializing in auditing. In 1986, Viola accepted a position with TransOhio Savings Bank, where she served the next four years as its Servicing Manager in the Mortgage Banking department.
In 1987, Viola was elected to the CLHSA Board of Directors and served in that capacity for the next nine years, six of which she also served as Treasurer. Those were challenging years for the Association, even at times tumultuous, especially for Lutheran East. But through long meetings, facing critical decisions and choices, and with a dogged determination, she refused to give in and was witness to some miraculous twists and turns, ultimately leading to a commitment to the continuing ministry at Lutheran East, together with financial accountability and stability at both schools, with separate budgets, and later separate operating boards, thereby strengthening both schools.
In 1990, Viola “retired” from the business world and dedicated her time and energy to the raising of her and her husband Peter’s four children – Rachel, Aaron, Daniel, and Lydia. Dedicated to Lutheran education, all four children attended Bethany Lutheran School in Parma and Lutheran West. Rachel and Daniel each married their high school sweethearts, Joshua Lyons and Olivia Castro, adding to the long list of Lutheran West graduates who married classmates. Daughter Rachel is now serving on the CLHSA Board of Directors.
In 1999, Viola became the Director of Christian Education at Bethany and over the following 12 years directed that program, including its Sunday School, adult Bible classes, Vacation Bible School, and small group Bible studies. She introduced a dynamic drama program for both the children and adults, consisting of numerous musicals, Christmas programs, Last Supper dramas, Seder Feasts, skits, historical interviews, and period presentations. She pioneered a Children’s Church program, beginning and staffing the church nursery, designing youth and adult studies for all levels with up to 6 class offerings per Sunday and special church wide small group Bible studies including The Purpose Driven Life and The Story. Her commitment to this ministry was demonstrated following the devastating fire in 2001, which destroyed Bethany’s school and much of the church and forced the ministry off site for the following two years. Yet, despite the headwinds, Viola insisted on continuing the Christian education ministry, primarily at Parma Senior High School, and with the participation and dedication of numerous members, the programs not only continued, but grew in numbers and strength. Viola firmly believes that, through what had appeared to be a crippling loss, God had blessed the efforts of his people at Bethany, leaving the church and school in a stronger position than it had enjoyed before the fire.
When Viola accepts an assignment or challenge, there’s no turning back. In December 2007, when Lutheran West had made the decision not to perform a musical in the following Spring, Viola was asked by one of the parents at West if she would direct a musical. Having never undertaken such a challenge, Viola agreed and in the Spring of 2008, directed a successful production of The Music Man. Following the production, one of the long-time supporters of the high schools asked then Principal John Buetow if Viola could coach the football team. She didn’t.
Viola is a Bible study devotee and a prayer warrior. She is always in a prayer group or Bible study, has led a number of them, including Moms In Touch prayer groups at Bethany Lutheran School for 15 years and at Lutheran West for ten, and continues to find inspiration from the Scriptures. She has “invited” numerous people to participate in the Christian education programs she directed at Bethany and is regarded as the most difficult person to say “No” to when asked to participate. She will not allow the anyone to say “No” unless and until they have first gone to God in prayer over the request. It was not a ploy; she firmly believed that a request such as that required God’s direction through prayer. As a result, there are numerous examples of members who undertook roles of service who never felt they had it in them to serve as they did. It changed their lives. God works His will in ways that humans often overlook.
Viola was born and raised in Lyndhurst and and attended St. John South Lutheran Church and School in South Euclid. While at Lutheran East, she was a cheerleader (girls’ sports were not available during those years) and active in the drama program. She was inspired by teachers such as Martha Sauer, who through her English classes and as drama director, left a permanent imprint on Viola – how she approached life, the importance of using her talents, and an emphasis on leadership, teamwork, wisdom, growth, and much more as God designed her path.
Viola says, "Each day is a divine appointment and it is a miracle God can use someone like me to share His Glory in day-to-day life. I desire most of all to get a big hug and a smile from Jesus when I meet him face-to-face and hear him say, "Good job, girl!"