Alumni gather for Our Lady of Lourdes School reunion

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Alumni gather for Our Lady of Lourdes School reunion

Over 300 alumni, former staff and friends from Our Lady of Lourdes School gathered on June 13, 2021 for a final tour of the halls, former classrooms and share memories and photos with classmates. Our Lady of Lourdes Parish will unite with St. Mary of the Lake on July 1, but the school building which is on the opposite side of Ashland Ashland from the church, closed in 2004. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Carla Iberle (class of 1974) visits with Pat Dalton. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Noel Ferrara, former principal at the school, and Maria Luisa Ugarte (class of 1969) share a memory. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Noel Ferrara, former principal at the school, and Maria Perez (class of 1984) share memories. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Paul Marren shows some old photos to Joe Marren and JoAnne Festle during the school tour. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dennis McDermott, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes, looks over class photos hanging on the walls of the main hallway. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Class of 1936 at Our Lady of Lourdes School (photo provided)
Class of 1934 at Our Lady of Lourdes School (photo provided)

The hallways of Our Lady of Lourdes School, 4641 N. Ashland Ave., rang with greetings and laughter June 12. Alumni, former staff members and friends of the school gathered in the building for what might be the last time, remembering a school that for many of them felt more like a family.

“The school was small, very community-oriented,” said Jessica Jackson, a member of the last graduating class in 2004. She wore her old gym uniform sweatpants and T-shirt, with her eighth grade blue plaid skirt over them.

Jackson caught up with classmates Samantha Maximilian and Chriz Cordero on the third floor, outside the classroom of former teacher Ginger Dalton, who greeted her former pupils with a jar of Jolly Rancher candies. The correct answer to a historical trivia question earned a candy, just like in middle school.

“We’ve all stayed close,” Maximilian said. “We’re all still friends.”

“All of our siblings went here too,” Cordero said. “We all knew people in other grades, we had a lot of mentoring. And it was very diverse.”

The three were among about 300 people who attended the Our Lady of Lourdes Alumni and Friends Farewell Tour June 12, with members of seven decades of graduating classes represented, according to Maria Luisa Ugarte, a member of the class of 1969 and one of the organizers. A similar event on May 22 drew about 200 people.

While Our Lady of Lourdes School closed in 2004, the parish has maintained ownership of the building. On July 1, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish will unite with St. Mary of the Lake Parish, and the former Our Lady of Lourdes school building will likely be sold, Ugarte said.

So she and other alumni decided to create an opportunity for everyone to visit the building. Ugarte and volunteers set up several classrooms, and each room had a large sheet of paper where former students could write the years they were assigned to that room and the teachers they had.

Ugarte posted a video tour of the school on her YouTube channel for those who could not come in person.

JoAnne Festle was there to greet visitors both days. She might have seen more people walk through the doors of Our Lady of Lourdes school than anyone else.

While she didn’t attend school there, she married into one of the school’s early families, and sent all five of her children to the school. For 26 years, she was a school parent, ending when her youngest son graduated in 1988.

“I was in the school a lot, because I used to be a teacher and I was used to kids,” she said. “So I always did a lot.”

She didn’t stop when her children graduated, continuing to substitute teach, serve on the school board and run fundraisers that helped the school stay open as long as it did. In later years, she crossed the street to the parish office, working as an administrative assistant.

Alumni from the 1960s through the 2000s made a point of saying hello to Festle.

“We’re all excited to see each other,” Ugarte said. “We’re excited to be here. Of course we’re sad, too, but if not for the parish merger, we might not have done this. Even people who moved away still feel bonded to us.”

That was the case for Herman Capello, class of 1973. His sixth grade girlfriend moved away in seventh grade, he said. More than 10 years later, he and several other classmates traveled to Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, for her wedding.

“These groups were all pretty close going grade to grade together,” Capello said.

The teachers — during Capello’s time, mostly religious sisters — instilled a sense of right and wrong, he said, and made sure their students learned about their faith.

A little later, Our Lady of Lourdes was the first Catholic elementary school in its area to have a computer lab, said Noel Ferrara, who taught computers before becoming the last principal. Meeting students during the tour, she noticed how many remembered those early computer classes, and how many now work in technology-related fields.

More importantly, Ferrara said, “I haven’t seen one person who’s not a good person.”


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