Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991

The 90th Anniversary celebrations of St Joseph's School, Paeroa were held in November 1990.

The celebrations opened with a wine and cheese get-together on Friday evening, 2 November, where some 180 former pupils, teachers and committee personnel gathered. There was a warm convivial atmosphere as former classmates were reunited, most of whom had not seen each other for many years.

Saturday was the feature of the weekend and it opened with a Celebration Mass with the celebrants being Most Rev Edward Gaines D.D. of the Hamilton Diocese and Parish Priest, Father Phil Purcell. The Mass was prepared by Sister Angela, a teacher at the school and it involved past pupils, former teachers and present day pupils.

After a luncheon, provided by the school's PTA, the official programme was commenced at 1.30 pm for which there were almost 300 present. Reunion committee chairman Les Turnbull extended a welcome to those present at the ceremony. He introduced the official party as Most Rev Gaines; Fr Purcell; Hauraki District Mayor Basil Morrison; Sister Patricia Gillard, Provincial Leader Sister of St Joseph of Sacred Heart; chairman of the Parish Council, Neil Clarke; chairman of the Board of Trustees, Willie Lynch; Catholic Integration Officer, Hamilton, David Beirne, and the school principal, Geoff Bright and his wife.

Mayor Morrison, after welcoming all the visitors to Paeroa, said that St Joseph's had a very proud tradition and had made a considerable contribution to Paeroa and district during the 90 years it had been preparing children for their futures.

Bishop Gaines paid tribute to the contribution made by the Sisters who taught at schools for their devoted service to education, not only in Paeroa but also throughout the Diocese. He thanked the Parish Priest and the lay teachers who have played a very important role in the welfare of the school. Noting that the Parish centennial was just four years away, Bishop Gaines said that the early pioneers had done a tremendous job in building the school.

Sister Gillard thanked the Bishop for his complimentary remarks for the Sisters and then went on to recall the early beginnings of the school when three Sisters arrived from Sydney to open the facility.

Mr Lynch congratulated the reunion committee on its organisation of the celebrations and then retraced the early history of the school. He said that today the school was part of the integrated Government system of education and this move enabled the school to continue.

The present principal, Geoff Bright called the roll of those registered between 1900 and 1930 and then former pupils of that era, Norma Graham (nee Norma Carthy) and Ted Hughes, rang the school bell. It was then to the cutting of the excellent cake made by Margaret French and Rose Pennell and iced by June Stewart. This was done by the oldest pupils present, brother and sister Kathleen Benney, who first attended in 1907, and Merv Poland in 1910. [Added by C W Malcolm in Journal 36: "Kathleen died in September 1991. Mervyn and his sister Loma Old, both of Auckland, are the survivors of the family of twelve children of the late Hugh Poland, Independent Member of Parliament for Ohinemuri for many years." - E] Saturday's open-air function was brought to a close with four present day pupils, Susan Gribble, Frano Slavich, Lesley Shaw and Simon Jury planting two elm trees donated by Mike and Jean Camelo. The decade photographs wound up this session and allowed those present a few hours to wander through the new school to view many old photographs, including some of the restored convent which was moved to Huntly. Other memorabilia on display also brought many fond memories rolling back.

Some 230 sat down to the reunion dinner in the War Memorial Hall and after a welcome from Mr Turnbull and Grace said by Fr Purcell, a sumptuous dinner was enjoyed. Heading the toast list was Gordon Shaw, the reunion secretary, with a toast to the Teaching Order and Lay Teachers and this was replied to by Sister Marianne, a past teacher. Then five speakers gave impressions of their years at the school: John Cotter (Pre 1930), Lorraine Cronin (Treanor) (1930-40), Terry Shaw (1940-50), Mike Hayes (1950-60) and Mary Fenton (Clarke) (1960-70). The dinner came to a close with a toast to absent friends by Pat McClinchy. Dancing and socialising continued late into the night.

On Sunday morning there was a very good attendance at the 10.00am Mass, after which there were light refreshments, and the last few minutes to recall memories.