“We all went on to do different things, but our lives have been intertwined,” said Phyllis Scharner, one of 29 graduates attending a 63rd anniversary luncheon last month at Meyer’s Restaurant. “These are all very special people who have gone on to do great things in their professions and their lives.”
The celebration began with a Mass celebrated by Fr. Tim Kitzke, whose father, Leo, attended Notre Dame High School’s predecessor, St. Stanislaus High School. During the event, memorabilia, including yearbooks, was on display.
The Class of 1947 was the first to graduate from the renamed Notre Dame High School at 5th and Mitchell streets. Scharner still remembers the high school assembly, led by Fr. Raymond Punda, announcing the change from St. Stanislaus High School.
Fr. Punda, who had just been appointed president of the high school, said it was being renamed after Our Lady and the nuns who staffed it at Notre Dame.
“The name change launched a new spirit, and the Class of 1947 led the way,” Scharner said. “After graduation, (we) went on to colleges, jobs, marriages and families.”
Plans had been made to have a 60th anniversary celebration, but when that didn’t occur, organizers opted to do a 63rd anniversary celebration.
“After all, when you hit the 80th birthday, you don’t wait too long, especially when almost half of the class have passed on to their eternal reward,” Scharner said. Forty-two members of the class are deceased, and were remembered at the anniversary.
Bette Dulka, who helped organize the get-together with Scharner and three other classmates, said the luncheon was an occasion she will remember fondly.
“The fact we’re the first graduating class is something we’re really proud of,” Dulka said. “We’re still here, in reasonably good health, and that is wonderful. We’re all thankful for the opportunity to get together and talk about what’s been going on in our lives.”
Scharner said she has a special fondness for her high school years.
“It means a lot to see these people, and to have stayed in close contact with them over the years,” Scharner said. “These are people who helped mold my life in some way. At the twilight of our years, it’s so nice to get together and recall those good times.”
Members of Notre Dame’s Class of 1947 went on to a variety of accomplishments, many of which were highlighted at the get-together.
Five served as engineers in the military and at large corporations; two became teachers, one as a nun; one served as founder and organizer of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Wisconsin; one had a pivotal role with the Knights of Columbus; and many contributed to parish work.
Three sets of classmates from that class remain married: Bob and Florence (nee Hrycyna) Wiczynski; Thomas and Lorraine (nee Radowicz) Michel and James and Rosemarie (nee Strykowski) Hopefl.
Dulka said she anticipates further get-togethers, though they will likely be more low-key from some of the more grandiose anniversaries from years past.
“They say as people age, they get mellow; I guess that’s taking place,” Dulka said. “For our 65th, we’ll probably make a few phone calls and meet at a restaurant. It probably won’t be anything fancy, but we’ll enjoy each other’s company.”
Notre Dame High School closed in 1988. An independently run school not affiliated with the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Notre Dame II, preceded the closure but only lasted one year.