St. Peter's Catholic School students reunite

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St. Peter’s Catholic School students reunite

Brian Smith
Contributing Writer

 

            On Sunday, Oct. 6, the former students of St. Peter’s Grade School in Clermont came together for a reunion. Jerry Kelly, an alumnus of the school, suggested the idea of having a reunion to mark the 50th anniversary of the school’s closing, which occurred in May 1963. A committee was formed and letters were sent out to those who had attended St. Peter’s. The response to the event was overwhelming, as 135 people (62 of whom were former St. Peter’s students) were in attendance for the 10 a.m. Mass and the catered meal, that followed.

            St. Peter’s Catholic Grade School opened in the fall of 1945 with a total of 21 students. Sister Mary St. Emmelia was the first supervising teacher, and Father Robert Cooney, who was instrumental in starting the school, was the pastor at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Clermont at the time. Students who lived on the east side of Clermont were picked up by a school bus, while students from the west side of town car-pooled to school together. The school added on a new classroom in 1947, due to the increase in numbers, and was still serving 50 students in grades 1-8 as late as the 1960-61 school year. The school closed with a total of 21 students enrolled in 1963.

            Father Daniel Knipper led the St. Peter’s Reunion Mass, assisted by many of the former St. Peter’s students. Sister Virginia Stone (Sister Alice Rose), the only living nun who taught at St. Peter’s in Clermont, was planning to attend the reunion; however, at the last minute she was unable to join the celebration due to a family illness. Father Dale Rausch offered the blessing for the noon meal, which was served by St. Peter’s Confirmation students, who are raising money to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in November.

            Those who attended the reunion were able to explore the old St. Peter’s school building and parish rectory while reminiscing about their old school days in Clermont. The oldest student in attendance was Joan (Gerner) Joyce, now of Colorado, while the youngest student present was Faye Finnegan of Dubuque. Spouses, parents, friends, and students all joined together to celebrate their connection to St. Peter’s. Some of the fond memories recalled included playing on the old merry-go-round, Mrs. Martin’s lunchroom, going on school trips to various places and, of course, trying the nuns’ patience every now and then.

            “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this to happen!” exclaimed Steven Wolf, who was the oldest of four children in the Francis and Hilda Wolf family to attend St. Peter’s.

            “I loved every minute of it. The Mass, the lunch, visiting the school, seeing lots of grade school acquaintances, talking with friends, and just being in Clermont,” proclaimed Georgia Ann Smale, currently of Red Wing, Minn.

            The reunion was planned by a committee that included Bonnie Kelly Rinken, Inez Kelly Oakland, Kathleen McNeil Meyer, and Jeanne Kelly Casterton. Jerry Berns served as an emcee during the festivities, and Phyllis Wolf Quass helped put together a memory book filled with information and stories about St. Peter’s Grade School. Pictures of the reunion have been posted to the following website: http://sdrv.ms/16r2Y57.

            “Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time, and people just came out of the woodwork to pitch in and help make it all possible. We are thankful we had the opportunity to do it,” stated Quass.

             Some say the richness of life is in the memories that we cherish. If this is so, then the students of St. Peter’s Grade School in Clermont are now rich beyond their wildest dreams.

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