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A fond look back at high school's glory days

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Yearbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, maps and other displays highlighting Jefferson High School in Alexandria were a popular attraction at Sunday’s open house, which was held to celebrate the school’s retirement at the end of this academic year. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)2 / 7
Sheree Oberg with District 206 scooped up ice cream after serving Dawn (Knowles) Raguse at Sunday’s ice cream social.3 / 7
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A group of Jefferson High School alumni gathered for an informal group photo at the school gym Sunday afternoon.6 / 7
Patti Weinberg, a 1971 Jefferson High School graduate, showed a little one a photo of the school while walking down the hallway.7 / 7

By Al Edenloff and Annie Harman

Ice cream and memories were served up at Jefferson High School Sunday afternoon.

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District 206 hosted the open house to celebrate Jefferson High School’s retirement at the end of this school year.

Former graduates from 1959, the school’s first year, on up to the present day came from all over the country to reminisce and wander the hallways and classrooms one last time.

Among them was a 1980 graduate, Dawn Raguse of Lester Prairie. When asked why she was attending, Ruguse had a quick response: “To be here with my dad.”

Her father is John Knowles, principal at the school in the 1980s.

When asked what his favorite memory of Jefferson was, Knowles was also quick to respond: “The kids.”

Knowles started to list names of students he formed close bonds with and stopped. “There were just a million of them,” he said.

“We did some good things here,” said Knowles, who is now a resident at Grand Arbor, which is located across the road from the new high school that will replace Jefferson. “We were always strong in academics. And I think we had a good population of people in Alexandria who were keenly interested in education. That made my job go a little easier.”

Marty Schultz, JHS class of 1993, and Dave Schultz, class of 1960, were another family combo at Sunday’s event. Marty fondly recalled basketball games and other events in the school gym. When asked for his favorite memory, Dave joked, “The day I got my diploma!”

Dave remembers that when he was attending the old Central School at the elementary level, it became so crowded, students went to classes in the basement of the public library and at the Congregational Church.

Schools were also crowded when Marty went to school. When Lincoln Elementary filled up, students were brought to Jefferson. “I remember looking up at all these high school kids passing by me in hallways and thinking how tall they all were,” Marty said.

Ben and Cheryl Wille started dating in 1967, during their junior year at Jefferson High School. At the open house, they smiled and laughed while reminiscing about Ben asking a friend to talk to Cheryl for him during school.

It worked out, though, as they have been married for 43 years. Quite a few couples from the Willes’ graduating class are married, having all met and fallen in love in the halls of JHS.

Sisters giggled like school girls during their visit and final goodbye to JHS. Shawn Wacholz, class of 1979, and Kim Pearson, class of 1981, felt like they were back in school as they looked for their lockers and remembered their time as the Kalland sisters of JHS.

Passing through the halls they remembered classrooms, teachers and friends and wonder what their alma mater will become.

Terry Quist, former superintendent of District 206 who retired in 2012 and is also a 1971 JHS graduate, had a big smile on his face while chatting with old classmates and teachers.

“It’s fun to see all the connections,” he said. “I’ve visited with close to a dozen people from our class. It was great!”

Friends from the class of 1973, Kim (Haaven) Dingwall and Terri (McCabe) Steidl, remembered their wrestling cheerleader days and how Tom McCabe, class of 1974, stood on his head during graduation ceremonies – a stunt he recreated at Sunday’s event. Steidl has photos proving it.

Ken Martinson, 1985 graduate, who is now living in Nashville, Tennessee, rekindled memories by visiting the classroom where Steve Hanzlik taught typing.

His favorite memory, though, happened during Spring Fever Week in 1985. “We brought in a big name band, The Metros,” he said. “[Teacher] Bill Riggs said it was the largest attendance of any school dance. It was a great way to end our senior year.”