On May 26 boys, now men, from St. Joseph School gathered at The Red Maple Restaurant in Gretna to celebrate their 50th graduation from Archbishop Shaw High School. The reunion was held to kick off the 50th anniversary of those St. Joseph students who had gone on to become alumni from Archbishop Shaw Class of 1972.
The Shaw reunion started the next day and was celebrated jointly for two days by the Classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972.
St. Joseph Church in Gretna was founded in 1857 and the St. Joseph Parochial School was underway by 1866. The first nuns in Gretna, the Sisters of Christian Charity were introduced in 1871 as teachers. Thousands of children were educated at the school until its closure in 1992.
“To get to that “Golden Anniversary” of our friendship at St. Joseph School, we had to acknowledge where it all started. So, these men came together to reminisce and laugh and catch up on acquaintances that started long before the celebrated 50 years. This gathering was the starting point of a long-anticipated weekend to commemorate deep-rooted friendships,” Jackie Berthelot, Class of 1972 said.
Men in attendance from St. Joseph School were Aaron Hebert, A. J. Toncrey, Charlie Fink, George Relle, Jackie Berthelot, Ken Parks, Kevin Hotard, Lionel Collins Jr. and Louis Voorhies. To add to the festivities some of St. Joseph’s female students, Jean Ann Manders Hunn, Joanne Winters Grey along with her husband Houston Grey, and Monica Naquin who’s brother Tommy Naquin was in the Shaw Class of 1972 were also in attendance to be a part of the special evening.
“In the crowd were notables such as Lionel R. Collins Jr., son of Jefferson Parish’s first African America Judge, the late Lionel R. Collins Sr. and the late Marcella C. Collins. Lionel (Jr.) started St. Joseph School in Miss Hope Wilcox’s fourth-grade class as the first African American to integrate the school. From the day Lionel and his sisters Edith and Paula arrived in Gretna they were embraced as family and continue to be considered family to this day,” Berthelot said.
“Lionel, an attorney, went on to bigger and better things from starting out as Legislative Assistant for LA U.S. Senator Russell B. Long as a staff member, along with a very brilliant career where he is now the Governmental Director for Jones Walker.
“Also in attendance was Lieutenant Commander Ken “Kilo” Parks, decorated Navy pilot. Ken has had over 1000 carrier landings and nine deployments. During Ken’s years with the Navy, he has earned numerous distinguished awards. Ken is also the younger brother of the late Rev. Jonathan Parks, Salesian of Don Bosco who taught at Shaw.
“Ken received a Gretna Proclamation recognizing his naval career earlier in the year. On the night of the St. Joseph reunion, both Lionel and Ken were recipients of proclamations on behalf of Councilman-At-Large Ricky Templet and the Jefferson Parish Council.”
Jackie Berthelot, District 4 Councilman of Gretna took to the floor to hand out the proclamations for both Collins and Parks along with help from his friend, Kevin Hotard. The evening was filled with merriment and mirth of all in attendance.
Along with the Jefferson Parish proclamations, Berthelot also gave fellow classmates Certificates of Merit from the City of Gretna. As part of the celebration, Berthelot petitioned Shaw’s Civics teacher from 50 years ago, Dennis Coulon, who was recent Shaw Hall of Famer and Green Jacket winner to change Berthelot’s Civics grad to an A since he felt he deserved it. Coulon stated that he still had all his papers from all his students, and he would investigate it. Good friends shared a laugh, told a story, and enjoyed a bond that will last until the end of time.
Guests at the celebration dinner were Rev. Francis Carabello and Reverend Alvin Ford. “Fr. Frank” Carabello is the longtime pastor of St. Joseph Church and Shrine in Gretna and a former Principal of Archbishop Shaw High. Baptist Rev. Alvin Ford is a former 8th Street Gretna resident who worked for Tony Labruzza’s Grocery Store and was the touring drummer for Earth, Wind and Fire, the world-famous innovative band.
On Friday, alumni from the three classes gathered for a crawfish boil at Shaw. Guests included Dennis Coulon, Coach “Z” Joe Zimmerman and Coach Ernie Knobloch
On Saturday, alumni from the Classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972 attended the graduation ceremony for this year’s Class of 2022 which was followed by dinner in the school’s cafeteria. The May 28, 2022 graduation was 50 years to the day that the class of 1972 had graduated!
Some other Gretna notables who started St. Joseph School in the 1959 Kindergarten class included Police Chief Arthur Lawson, Nancy Ehret, great-granddaughter of Gretna’s first Mayor John Ehret, George Relle,
Carol Trauth, Billy Vanderbrook, Julie Trapp, Gus Cramond, Joanne Winters, Carol Benefield, Bobby Bozzelle, Ronnie Evans and his brother, the late Robbie Evans.