A last goodbye for a Shively landmark - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

A last goodbye for a Shively landmark

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The St. Helen school building (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News) The St. Helen school building (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Steve Winters (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News) Steve Winters (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Dottie Ledington (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News) Dottie Ledington (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Fr. Thomas Gentile (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News) Fr. Thomas Gentile (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Steam tables in the cafeteria of St. Helen School. (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News) Steam tables in the cafeteria of St. Helen School. (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For more than a century St. Helen School has been a fixture in the Shively community. It has been a close knit parish and community, serving many purposes for its neighbors and its members. But so much has changed in just the last decade. On Sunday, Aug. 10, the school will open its doors for the final time to allow folks to come in and look around before the building is torn down, leaving only memories.

“I don't cry much," said Steve Winters, a student and former coach at St. Helen, "but there'll probably be a lot of tears. There are already people crying on Facebook right now.”

[SLIDESHOW: St. Helen Elementary School through the years

A Facebook group called St. Helen Memories has been set up to give decades of alumni a chance to share their school pictures, memories, laughs and sorrows.

“The parish was created in 1897, so that’s a lot of history,” said Winters.

School began at St. Helen in 1898. For 116 years the building has served a lot of students and families.

“It's amazing to see the same walls, the same ceiling," said Winters while laughing as he looked around. "Nothing changed.”

Dottie Muenninghoff Ledington, a 1964 graduate, joined in the laughter saying, “Absolutely nothing has changed nothing has changed.”

The changes came in 2004.

“We took two different schools and put them together into one and that was a challenge,” said Rev. Thomas Gentile.

The schools of St. Helen merged with St. Lawrence and St. Dennis to create Notre Dame Academy. Father Tom, as he is affectionately called, stressed, “Our school is Notre Dame Academy. Part of our collection every week goes to support Notre Dame Academy. It's still our kids. It's just they're off campus.”

The old school at the old campus, St. Helen, will come down. Father Tom sighed before saying, “We're letting folks walk through the whole place for the last time”

Friends, parishioners, former students and faculty are all invited to walk the halls of the old St. Helen School one last time before the building comes down in late September or October and a parking lot and green space takes its place.

“My kids all went here," said Ledington with great pride. "My brothers and my sisters went here many years before me.”

“That's the same piano that was sitting there when I started kindergarten in '79,” said a laughing Winters.

Winters and Muenninghoff Ledington love the nostalgia, but appreciate the progress.

“It's a building," Ledington said. "We have the memories and everything.”

“There are mixed feelings about it," said Winters, "but after all it's only a building.”

It is only a building but if walls could talk these walls spout generation’s family and community history. Fr. Tom expressed the sentiment of many.

"People spent, you figure, 7, 8, 9 years in this building," he said. "It’s part of them. When we closed this school I had one parent come up to me and say, 'My son who is leaving here to go to Notre Dame is the 4th generation to go through this school.'

The old St. Helen School building has been empty for seven years. St. Helen Parish merged with St. Denis and St. Mathis to become Mary Queen of Peace.

“Older folks are still here," Father Tom said softly. "Their kids have all moved away and there are not as many kids as there was.”

For one more day the halls of St. Helen School will be filled one more time with the sound of students.

“People who haven't been here in years are coming back again," said Winters. "It's gonna be great.”

Everyone is welcomed to walk through the memory filled halls after the 11 a.m. Mass at Mary Queen of Peace, the old St. Helen at 4005 Dixie Highway. A reception will follow in the newly acquired Community Center next door.

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