By Chris Stach
The largest reunion of graduates ever seen at St. Barbara School occurred on Saturday evening, Oct. 12. At that time, a best estimate of 368 former students converged upon their old school, once again haunting the halls of their alma mater. And even that total wasn't final. There were walk-ins not counted.
They came from all over the United States. Anne Tyree (Zoll), Class of 1960, flew in from Hawaii. According to St. Barbara's pastor, the Rev. Robert Casey, others hailed "from Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, New York and Virginia."
Some had shorter trips to make, as they were still living in Brookfield or surrounding communities.
St. Barbara School first graduated students in 1925, but none of the total of four girls and two boys was in attendance. However, according to Angela Lawler, business manager at St. Barbara's, and Maura Cahill (Weldzius), Class of 1970, Irene Spahn (Halligan) was the earliest former graduate at this reunion. She graduated in 1938 — 75 years ago. To put that into perspective, the current St. Barbara School building wouldn't be built for 13 or 14 years after she graduated.
Other early classes represented were from 1940, 1944, 1945 and 1947. The most recent grad attending was Jacquie Skokna, Class of 2010. Two years later, the school closed.
This "All Class Reunion" was in the planning for months and seems to have been first advertised at the St. Barbara All Alumni Picnic on Aug. 4. Information was being gathered at that time, and more than 20 advance tickets were sold on that day alone.
Further news and discussion of the reunion was most evident on the St. Barbara Alumni Brookfield Facebook site. Photos were posted, memories were published and friends reunited way in advance of the event.
Come the time of the reunion, the school filled up rapidly. In the basement, otherwise known as the Windemere Room, crowds gathered and talked until they had to shout over the roar.
Live music was provided by The Redmonds, Michael and Katie; Tony Caponi (singing Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs); and Larry Dvorak, doing his best Michael Jackson impersonation. However, the music was not easy to hear most of the time.
Grads wandered all around the school, touring classrooms dedicated to their grad years. The years 1968 and 1969 shared a classroom. Larry Baron ('69) daringly pinned two of his report cards up. In 1970's room, Paula Parz brought her old cheerleading sweater letters ("We are the BOMBERS, the mighty, mighty BOMBERS!!"), as well as her blue and gold class ribbon and mortarboard tassle.
Along the hallways, class pictures had been copied and taped up. These got a lot of attention, as former students found themselves and friends looking so much younger. Even some nuns and former teachers attending the event could be seen looking at the pictures.
The principal's office, once a place never to be sent to, was wide open, and few could resist the urge to see what it looked like. Others may still have remembered too well. Some even located the black button that sounded the school bell, and every once in a while it sounded all over the school, giving audio shivers from the past.
But all was not fun and happy memories. Outside, around the flagpole, illuminated bags bore the names of students who had passed on.
Angela Lawler recalls that "the event ended at 11 p.m. with many alumni continuing the celebration at the local establishments," such as The Grand Tavern, one of the sponsors of the reunion. Other sponsors were La Cabanita and Tischler's Finer Foods.
The next morning, after the Masses, some alumni trickled in to tour the school and dredged up still more memories. One student was younger than most.
"We started cleaning up between 11 and noon," said Anna Feely, Class of 1976, "and this cute little girl of only 7 or 8 years old was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up. She told me 'I have so many memories of this place.'"
Apparently St. Barbara School students of any age are deeply moved to remember their time here.