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Sergio Garcia (from left), Sonia Ponce and Principal Claudia Mendez listen as retired principal Larry Manetti shares memories of his 24 years at St. Joe's. (Photos by Carol McGowan)

Farewell parade pays tribute to St. Joseph School

By Carol McGowan

It was a warm Saturday, but that didn’t stop parents, children, the community and employees of St. Joseph School in Summit from having a few hours full of memories and celebrate what the 107-year-old school meant to them.

Back in January, the Chicago Archdiocese made the announcement that the elementary school would close its doors at the end of the 20-21 school year, which officially ends June 30. They cited dwindling enrollment.

The morning started out with parents, students, and alumni gathering at Summit Park to decorate vehicles and get ready for the farewell parade that would start rolling at 12:30 p.m. The caravan of Summit Police and Fire units, along with approximately two dozen decorated vehicles made their way out of the park and over the the school.

st joes knight in parade

The St. Joe’s Knight mascot arrived via Mustang convertible.

The staff, parents and students and others were dressed in royal blue, the school color, and many wore a commemorative T-shirt courtesy of the St. Joseph Parents Club. Sonia Ponce, Parent Club President, was on hand. She spoke of what the school meant to her, and expressed gratitude for being part of it.

St. Joe’s Principal Claudia Mendez was touched by the turn out.

“I’m glad we get a chance to say goodbye. It was a great accomplishment for the school to be open the entire year during the pandemic when others weren’t. One of my best memories here will always be ‘Wacky Wednesday.’ It was during the cold winter months and our wellness checkers dressed up in costumes, including a big dinosaur and unicorn to greet them outside and take temperatures before the entered the school. It really cheered everyone up.”

Mendez has spent the last 10 years working with the Archdiocese school system, eight of those as a principal. She started at St. Joe’s last July replacing longtime principal Lawrence Manetti Sr., after he retired. He had been principal at the school for 24 years.

st joes principles and elected officials

Former Principal Larry Manetti, Chicago Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), Summit Trustee Aleco Julius, Summit Trustee Sam Dardovski, Summit Mayor Sergio Rodriguez, St. Joseph Principal Claudia Mendez pose following the parade.

Mendez has four children of her own that have gone to or are currently attending Catholic schools. “I’m very proud of them. It’s great to practice faith while getting a great education.” Mendez will be taking time off this summer, but will be returning to the Archdiocese school system this fall.

Manetti was at the celebration after the parade and shared some memories of the school. One was when he first started, and forgot his lunch. “When one of the parents heard that, they came back with a burger, fries and a drink for me. I knew I was going to like it here.” That gave the crowed a laugh to lighten the mood.

Summit resident, school alum, and former school employee Betty Koran was on hand. She had worked serving lunches at the school for the past 45 years until this year. Besides working at the school, Koran was involved in the Mother’s Club, Ladies of the Rosary. If one was involved in Girl Scouts over the decades in Summit, you know her.

st joes Mrs. Koran

Betty Koran

Not only did Koran work for the school, she was involved with corned beef dinners, pancake breakfasts, and anything the Girl Scouts did out of St. Joe’s. “I went to school here, my children went to school here, and my grandson went to school here. It’s all family to me and there are too many memories to mention.”

 

St. Joseph is one of four schools that the archdiocese is closing this year.

Besides the school closing, St. Joseph Parish will be merging with Summit’s other Catholic church, St. Blase, effective July 1.

The Desplaines Valley News was told the now closed school will be used for the overflow of CCD classes that are currently held at St. Blase.

All of the class graduate photos that adorned the school walls will be archived at the Archbishop Quigley Archives and Records Center in Chicago. The center is also taking all alumni records.

Mendez said many of St. Joe’s curricular resources are designated to go to other Catholic schools, and some of the furniture and sports equipment is going to Catholic schools where students are transferring to.

She said families that need a record of their child’s schooling at St. Joe’s will be able to request it directly from the archdiocese.

All of the sacramental records including weddings, funerals, first communions and baptismal records will go to the new parish, which is being headquartered at St. Blaise.

st joes dolores kids and another parent

Family and friends gather to celebrate St. Joseph School.

 

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