True to their schoolLake Wilson School alumni work together to build memorial
By: Kari Lucin, Worthington Daily Globe
LAKE WILSON — Lake Wilson High School, which operated from 1923 until it closed in 1972, was always a small school, with small classes of students who became almost like family to each other.
This year, the family reunited to facilitate the building of the Lake Wilson School Memorial where the school once stood, commemorating the years of fellowship and education the old building helped provide.
“We started out with a plan of putting a rock at the spot saying ‘This site was the site of Lake Wilson Public School,’” said Judy Reese Grove of Strongsville, Ohio, a Lake Wilson alumna. “We just wanted to say we were here, because it was a small school … it was a pretty tight family-centered school.”
The interest from other Lake Wilson alumni turned out to be much greater than anyone had thought it would be, and a more elaborate, two-phase memorial plan came together under the leadership of the Raider Memorial Team — Grove, Helen Anderson Brinks, a 1967 graduate, Charlene Helmke Steensma, a 1969 graduate and Dennis Miller, a 1962 graduate.
The first phase of the memorial was completed and dedicated in June, and includes a decorative brick arch made from the bricks of the old building and a plaque offering information about the school and a picture of it.
The half-circle recalls the two half-circles above the main entrance to the old building, and the peak above it recalls the peak on the front entrance of the school. The sandstone below it came from a windowsill.
The second phase of the memorial, which will include colored, stamped cement around it, two benches and two evergreen trees, has yet to be built.
The idea began in 2005, when a committee gathered together to plan a class reunion of 13 classes of Lake Wilson students. The committee decided it wanted to mark the place where the school had stood from 1908 to 1990, when it was razed to the ground. The high school was gone and the elementary had become a call center.
“There was no hint that we ever existed at that spot,” Grove said.
The school closed and consolidated with Chandler in 1972, and after that, students graduated from the Chandler-Lake Wilson School.
The elementary portion of the Lake Wilson building was utilized as the district’s elementary school until 1992, when the tornado came through and the districts merged with Slayton to form Murray County Central. The elementary part of the building was still in use until 1999.
But the Lake Wilson graduates wanted to memorialize their much-loved high school and decided to do so, asking for donations from former graduates.
“We got a lot of comments that we will always be home, and we did get many donations from those who moved away,” Grove said.
Graduates who had moved far from Lake Wilson contributed money for the memorial and about 400 of them also visited their old stomping grounds for the memorial’s dedication in June, which occurred in the school’s old gymnasium.
“We were happy with the turnout and it just brought a lot of years back for us, to be able to see people we hadn’t seen in years,” Grove recalled. “Many classmates came back from my class who hadn’t been home for 40 years.”
Even students who didn’t graduate but had attended the school came to the event, commemorating the first phase of the building of the memorial. Composite senior class pictures, salvaged from a building hit by the tornado, were on display at the event.
Former superintendent Sidney Felber spoke, noting how he used to tell the school board that he should pay them to work in Lake Wilson instead of the other way around.
The first part of the memorial cost $7,000, all of which came from donations. Cost estimates haven’t been completed for the second phase of the project, Grove said.
LWHS alumni have also completed a 92-page booklet about the old school, compiled from information from community newspapers and books. The book contains photographs and lists of faculty and alumni as well as articles about the school’s activities and sports. It also contains about 30 pages of people’s memories of the school.
The booklet is available in limited quantities at Virginia’s Beauty Shop and Jack’s Barber Shop in Lake Wilson or at the historical museum in Slayton. Grove cautioned anyone interested in purchasing a booklet to act quickly, because it is available in limited quantities and will not be reprinted.
All proceeds from the sale of the book will go toward the second phase of the memorial and any future Lake Wilson alumni events.
To place a book order or donate funds for the memorial, send information or checks to LWHS Memorial Fund, c/o Helen Brinks, 1577 U.S. Hwy. 59, Slayton, 56172. Checks should be payable to the Lake Wilson Memorial Fund.