BOUNTIFUL - Saint Olaf Elementary and Middle School celebrated 50 years of history and the Daughters of Charity who served the school for 35 years over the weekend of June 5-6.
Graduates came from as far away as California, Washington and New Hampshire to celebrate. The weekend began with a golf scramble at Lakeside Golf Course sponsored by the St. Olaf Knights of Columbus, followed by a luncheon barbecue and a dinner in the McNamara Center. The event concluded with the annual parish picnic.
"It was a great gathering and good to see old friends reminiscing and teachers who had taught in the school years ago," said St. Olaf Principal JoAnn Emery. "It was fun to see people going through the pictures, pointing out friends and remembering stories and to see people staying around moving from group to group visiting."
St. Olaf School became a reality when construction began in the spring of 1959 under the direction of then Father Robert Pollock. The school opened with five grades and a kindergarten in the fall of 1960 with three Daughters of Charity and two lay teachers. During the following three years, grades 6th through 8th were added.
However, in 1995, after three years of discernment, the Daughters of Charity withdrew from St. Olaf School seeking to be more faithful to their call to serve the materially poor.
"During the last Mass (in 1995), Sr. Julie Kubasak and I were singing ‘joy, joy, joy,' with the kids but tears were streaming down our faces," said Daughter of Charity Sister Stella Marie Zahner, who came as the 6th grade teacher in 1976. "I taught 6th grade for four years and then I started teaching 8th grade when Sr. Cecilia left, and I was scared to death. Of course I knew the kids, but still... and then I became the principal for 11 years until we left the school."
Sr. Cecilia Van Zandt taught 8th grade for four years and 6th grade for two years. "It's amazing to see what the kids you taught are doing now," she said.
Kelly Fagen grew up to be a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and has served for 23 years. He graduated from St. Olaf in 1979 and said the best part about St. Olaf were his friends and recess. He traveled from New Hampshire for the celebration.
Roxanne Smith said the friendships she made were good, influential and have remained strong throughout all these years. "I have been friends with some of these people for 39 years," she said. "Our families were friends and involved in what we were doing."
"I taught here for 22 years," said St. Olaf Parishioner Jane Hipley, who was selected as teacher of the year during 2001-2002. She taught 4th grade for 18 years and 2nd grade for four years. "I was teaching in the public school and got a call from Sr. Barbara, who asked me if I would come to St. Olaf. I said ‘OK,' and she set down the phone and told the other sisters they could stop praying. "
"What I remember most about St. Olaf is Sr. Stella," said Robert Ortega, who graduated in 1981. "She is my favorite now, but not then. If she hadn't scared me to death I don't think I would have survived moving to Boston and starting my own business."
St. Olaf School and Parish have started a capital campaign to build a library and media center and a cafeteria. They have set a goal to raise $650,000 as their contribution to the project.