Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 36, September 1992
By Phil Mulhern
There was much to celebrate when approximately 250 past pupils, Sisters of Mercy, priests, teachers and parents came together for the St Joseph's School 90 year jubilee in March 1992.
The reunion, which had been over a year in the planning, was most successful. The great feature was the attendance on Saturday of 1902 first day pupil Dick Colbrook and four overseas pupils -one from England and three from Australia. The celebrations began with a get together social evening on Friday in the form of a wine and cheese function. Past pupils were delighted to see Waihi Memorial Hall decorated so wonderfully in St Joseph's School memorabilia. Early school photographs were set up around the walls and cartoons depicting humorous scenes of school life were drawn by Doug Ranga.
Saturday's functions began at 10 am, with all past pupils assembling at the Drill Hall. Following the Waihi Federal Band, led by past pupil Lisa Peake, they marched along Upper Seddon Street and down Mueller Street to St Joseph's School. Each decade was led by a pair of senior pupils carrying that decade's banner. Awaiting the marchers at the school were the rest of the pupils, who formed a guard of honour along the edge of the asphalt, as the band led the marchers into the school grounds.
Mr Colbrook held the attention of his audience, recounting conditions of the early days and what the early teachers had to put up with. Other speeches were from Father Hoogeveen representing the Parish, Sister Mary Foy for the Sisters of Mercy, John Anderson from the Board of Trustees and Phil Mulhern as school principal and reunion chairman. The official functions ended with the ringing of the bell by Mr Colbrook, a roll call, by three Sisters of Mercy, of early pupils and the cutting of the school reunion cake by Bonnie Pipe. She was helped by the youngest boy and girl at the school Ryan Cocks and Melissa Kane. Decade photographs and lunch followed under the umbrellas on the lawn between the church and the school, where more than 100 reunion members enjoyed a set lunch prepared by the school PTA. Two buses then took reunion gatherers on a tour of the mine.
In the evening the reunion dinner was at the Memorial Hall and about 240 people were present, with the Master of Ceremonies Rex Dillimore. Bishop Gaines was present and he began the evening with some amusing accounts of early priests in the Waihi parish and also gave tribute to the late Father Von Rotter. Bob McHardy toasted the Sisters of Mercy and the lay teachers. Sister Breda Burke, in reply, mentioned the great work done by early teachers and the loyal support always given to the teachers by the parents. Among the decade speakers were Sister Erin O'Dwyer and Father Geoff Broad, while Frank Walsh, speaking of the 1950 era, had many in tears with his humorous memoirs. Throughout all the speeches came the message of the great dedication by the Sisters of Mercy and the gift of two wonderful priests to serve Waihi - Father Von Rotter in the 1930's and 1940's and Father Felix Donnelly in the 1950's. Father Felix spoke on behalf of absent friends.
On Sunday there was a reunion mass at 10 am, with Bishop Edward as celebrant and Father Hoogeveen and Father Broad as co-celebrants. Following the mass a tree was planted in memory of the 88 years of service by the Sisters of Mercy. The reunion then ended with a farewell cup of tea in the classrooms.