||A sign notes the 85 years of service of Brother Dutton School in Beloit. (Photo courtesy Ed O’Neil)
BELOIT -- Saturday, June 4, 2011 was declared “Brother Dutton School Day throughout the State of Wisconsin.” The proclamation was signed by Governor Scott Walker and also by Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette.
Memories, traditions, and stories of the revered Catholic grade school prevailed at the Brother Dutton School Homecoming and Reunion event celebrating 85 years of quality education and service to St. Jude Parish and the Beloit community. The school ceased operations at the close of the academic year in June.
The school and all associated with it for the past 85 years were honored during a special Mass, tours of classrooms, historical displays and photographs, and social time with a casual dinner attended by more than 500 people. Not only parish families and school students from the past years, but also Beloit area community leaders and the general public attended.
To launch the celebration, an overflow crowd of 450 attended the Mass celebrated by St. Jude Pastor Fr. John Hedrick. Concelebrants were Bishop John McNabb, Brother Dutton alumnus, and former pastor Fr. Steve Kortendick, now pastor of St. Jerome Parish, Columbus, and St. Patrick Parish, Doylestown. St. Jude Deacon James Davis preached the homily. Bishop McNabb, O.S.A., was ordained as a member of the Augustinian Order and long served the Church in Peru, South America, until his retirement.
Deacon Davis shared a message of faith, encouragement, and support based on the day’s Gospel, asking that each person share the light of the Paschal candle, keeping faith alive and radiating all the love around us. “As Oprah said, use your life to serve the world,” he said.
After Mass concluded, Brother Dutton Principal Ed O’Brien proudly presented the proclamation sent from the State of Wisconsin acknowledging Brother Dutton Grade School’s faith and service to Beloit the past 85 years. Mentioned were the quality of the school’s academics and the hundreds of students, the Sisters who once staffed the school, staff, teachers through the years, parents, and volunteers who unselfishly gave service.
Superintendent of Diocesan Schools Michael Lancaster brought greetings on behalf of Bishop Robert C. Morlino. He presented an official commendation to the school and students, noting that many vocations to the priesthood and religious life and one bishop were fostered at Brother Dutton, as well as an exemplary education given to all students. He also expressed appreciation for the priests, Sisters, staff, faculty, parents, and volunteers who have contributed to the school during its long history.
Tour of memorabilia
A well-organized tour through 12 classrooms allowed visitors to view school historical displays, artifacts, and memorabilia beginning with the years after World War I when the first St. Jude pastor Msgr. Joseph Hanz led planning for a parish school. Each Sister and priest who had attended Brother Dutton School was featured on a poster with pictures and information about their respective vocations.
Parishioner Clare J. Landry said the historical displays were made possible by the Exhibits Sub-Committee of the 2008 St. Jude Parish Centennial Celebration three years ago. At that time, Landry, chair of the sub-committee, documented the parish and school history from each year.
Landry said as he arranged and organized all the historical material, it became clearly evident that the school was a focal point for the parish. “Enrollment was in the hundreds, from early days to the present. Our students were a cross section of Beloit and the Stateline area. History shows that parents wanted a parochial Catholic education for their children,” stated Landry. He said that Brother Dutton School was a very prominent educational facility from its early years on, especially in the 1940s, 1950s, to the 1970s when enrollment peaked. The school was well known and respected not only for its academic environment but also for its music, traditions, and involvement in the community. “There was a phenomenal staff of Sisters,” he added.
“From what I kept reading as I arranged the exhibits, pastors called the school a focal point of the parish, the center of the parish. There were, all through the years, many outstanding athletic teams,” stated Landry.
In the display about first pastor and school founder Msgr. Joseph Hanz, a 1946 quote pointed out that he felt the school was “the center of parish activity with an unusual force of unity.”
Highlighting the yearly exhibits were pictures of teachers from the Sisters of St. Agnes who came to the school in 1929. Many visitors commented on the strict discipline demanded by the Sisters, “and we really learned,” repeated many former students.
Prominent also was notable information about the school’s namesake, Brother Joseph Dutton, a “hero” to Father Hanz. It was pointed out that the school is a monument to Brother Dutton who gave courageous devotion and unselfish sacrifice to lepers on the island of Molokai.
The ‘Saint of Molokai’
Brother Dutton was a former Rock County resident and Civil War soldier for the Union who became a member of the Catholic Church when he was 40 years old. He soon dedicated his life tending to lepers on the island of Molokai. Students sent regular greetings to Brother Dutton and have observed his birthday.
At the age of 85, Brother Dutton had spent 43 years of devoted service among the lepers of Molokai and had contributed more than $10,000 to the colony. He was often called a “Samaritan, a comrade, the Saint of Molokai, teacher, according to parish histories. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt paid a tribute to Dutton by ordering the U. S. fleet of 16 battleships to sail off course and travel by the island of Molokai with flags at full staff in honor of Dutton’s service to the lepers.
Generations of students
Longtime parishioner Jackie Landers added her enthusiasm for Brother Dutton School by saying, “Our four children had a wonderful education. They developed wonderful, lasting friendships.” She added that her husband, Bill Landers, on his day off from work, often did lunchroom and playground duty.
Landers added that committees worked in the 1960s to get the school bus bill passed for private schools. “Our school was a forerunner in many areas including offering Spanish lessons. Parents were very involved helping their Catholic school.”
Alumni eagerly searched for class and athletic team pictures as they crowded into the display rooms.
Ed Hicks, a student in 1967, is convinced that it was “people” who made school days memorable. “No doubt about it, I still have good friends. We had an outstanding education and discipline was the name of the game,” he stated with a knowing nod to the fun he had. “I remember our outstanding basketball team, too.”
As she shared memories with several friends, Lynn Perkins of Beloit, a 1977 BD graduate, said, “We were really blessed by this small Catholic environment.”
In a jovial manner, Gary Stoiber, Stratford, recalled, “I had a blast at Brother Dutton. I got into a lot of trouble and the teachers told me I did not come to school to talk.”
Three generations of her family graduated from Brother Dutton School, stated 1970 graduate, Denise Durban Olstead of Beloit. Admitting that it is “heartbreaking” to have the school close, she said, “My mother attended this school and my three children also graduated from here. It had a family atmosphere. Everyone knew one another.”
Memories will live on
While perusing school pictures, 1963 graduate Georgia Watson Quinn, a registered nurse, expressed appreciation for “the way the nuns drilled us in math and spelling. And, we can still add and subtract in our heads. We can spell.
“I felt I had an irreplaceable education,” stated Quinn, adding she often has the opportunity to share memories of Brother Dutton School with patients she cares for.
Joyce Loizzo, a 1937 graduate, expressed her continuing appreciation for Brother Dutton School. Her children also attended the school. “When I was a student, I loved school. I would come to school an hour early almost every day so I could carry books for the nuns. I think memories from the school will live on in hearts of many people,” she said.
Philip Anderson came from Pell City, Ala., for the celebration. With his friend Dick McDonald, South Beloit, Ill., he recalled many school events and the first lay teacher, Florence Ashton while enjoying pictures from 1954.
Principal O’Brien said of the celebration, “We had a nice spirit of sharing. It was wonderful to see all the people celebrating 85 years. And, our Mass, overflowing with worshippers, was nice.”
Pastor Father Hedrick also expressed his pleasure at the “wonderful turnout for the Mass. I feel everyone shared a good spirit and I noted that people stayed around after touring the classrooms and eating. It was good to see so many people celebrate the school’s 85 years,” he said.