They don’t make high school graduates like the used to, and that’s especially true for the Class of ’69 from Our Lady Of Mercy High School in Merced.
As a matter of fact, 1969 marked one of the last graduating classes for OLM seniors because the private Catholic school, founded in 1927, retired its high school program in 1971 after a 16-year run. Today, OLM School features pre-school, elementary and middle school grade levels.
As for those special members of the OLM Class of ’69, it’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since they were high school seniors. Nevertheless, they were all smiles as they gathered last Saturday in Merced for a big reunion.
Back in the day, OLM High was an exciting place to be, and in the late 1960s they had a winning football team that constantly reached the Trans Valley League finals. The team won it all in 1968. Their success was quite remarkable considering they had to use all the young men at school just to fill all the positions on the field.
“We didn’t have a lot of players, but the ones we had were really good,” said Roger Imbrogno, who coached at OLM in the late ’60s when he was in his 20s.
The 77-year-old Imbrogno was excited to attend the class reunion. He pointed out star players including Walker Lee Halloway, who received an incredible full-ride scholarship to Notre Dame; John “Pineapple” Nelson, a fullback who led all Northern California players in rushing yards; and the late Jerry Fletcher, who played on the offensive and defensive lines.
Despite a relatively small graduating class of a little over 50 students, OLM’s Class of ’69 also stands out for its career achievements. There were several medical doctors at the party, and many more with doctorate degrees in various subjects. OLM High grad Sheila Burke went on to become the chief of staff for U.S. Senator Bob Dole for 25 years. She also served as the executive dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. OLM grad Tom King was already a gifted concert pianist at a young age. He went on to become an accomplished medical doctor, and lives in Hawaii. OLM grad R.J. Lorenzi became a successful businessman, helping to create one of the largest maritime insurance firms in the nation.
OLM grad Stephanie Lucich said it wasn’t a surprise everyone in her class ended up doing very well.
“Attending Our Lady of Mercy was a wonderful way to grow up, and it helped us navigate the turbulent ’60s,” she told the Times.