Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Teachers, alumni gather for St. Thomas More’s first all-class reunion
by Andrea Evans, for the Inland Register
(From the Feb. 5, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Three of the alumni of St. Thomas More School who attended the November reunion were, from left, Angie Kassa Sagendorf (class of 1980), Tim Kassa (class of 1981), and Maureen Schmidt Horn (class of 1980). The oldest alumnus there was from the graduating class of 1966, and the youngest was from the graduating class of 2003. (IR photo from St. Thomas More School)
Long-retired teachers and former students of years ago all gathered together Nov. 29, making the first St. Thomas More School reunion a success.
Following the Saturday evening Mass, about 200 people filled the St. Thomas More parish center to enjoy food, drink, displays of photographs of students and teachers throughout the years, and plenty of socialization.
All who attended said they enjoyed the reunion and opportunity to catch up with old classmates and teachers.
“It’s kind of like a family reunion,” said Jennifer Onzay, who graduated from St. Thomas More in 1985.
The idea of the reunion was first discussed about a year ago when the school formed a development committee, said Molly Beyer, who is part of the committee. This was the committee’s first major project.
Beyer said the group wanted to bring the school together to develop community and relationships.
The reunion was planned for Thanksgiving break when many out-of-towners are home for the holiday, and will be held again next year at the same time – the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.
St. Thomas More Principal Doug Banks also was a key proponent and supporter of the reunion, as the school has never had any type of reunion in the past.
“We’re starting to get second and third generations of kids going through here,” Banks said.
In fact, Matt Schmidt, another 1985 graduate, was in attendance with his daughter, who is now in kindergarten at St. Thomas More, and Onzay already has plans to send her 5-month-old daughter there.
Part of what made the reunion a success was the wide range of ages that attended, including current kindergarteners, graduates from as far back as 1966, and a special visit from retired sixth-grade teacher Marge Pettoello, who began her teaching career in 1946 and retired from St. Thomas More in 1971.
All six of Pettoello’s own children, who are now grown, went through St. Thomas More and were students in her sixth-grade class, although she never favored her own children over the other students, she said
For many, the reunion brought back memories of schooldays and people of the past.
“It’s really exciting to see everybody again,” said Josh Thorn, who graduated in 1997.
For Thorn, the reunion sparked memories of all the students he grew up with at St. Thomas More, especially those he had gone to school with from first grade through eighth grade. He also was happy to see some of his old teachers, whom he said were an important part of his education.
“You had a personal relationship with all your teachers,” said Thorn, who is now a student at Eastern Oregon University.
Onzay and Schmidt also both recalled the group of students they spent eight years with at St. Thomas More. They said seeing some of them at the reunion was like seeing family.
Onzay, now a registered nurse, remembers the school as a happy, safe, fun place to be, where she not only received a good religious and academic education, but also connected with many friends.
“It was just an extended family,” Onzay said. The whole school was a supportive community of people, where you knew not only just your classmates, but their entire families as well, she said.
Former student Chris Banks also recalled fond memories of her school days from the ‘60s. She attended the school from 1964 to 1968, back when the school was just for fifth through eighth graders. Things were a bit different back then, she said. There were still nuns teaching who were more strict with the students. She also remembers when the school colors were blue and gold, and the uniforms were brown plaid. The school colors and corresponding uniforms have since been changed to red, white and black.
Schmidt, who is now a veterinarian, said he hopes more people will attend next year, which is exactly how Beyer hopes to make next year’s reunion even more successful.
Banks said their challenge is to create a database of all past students so they can send out mailings notifying them of the reunion. For Banks, making the reunion a bigger success will mean gathering even more people from different eras. Until then, organizers will put the first St. Thomas More School reunion down in history as a success. Not just because of the number of people who attended, but also because of the good memories it brought back for so many.