Homeroom 209 at the former Rosary High School in Spanish Lake — also known as the religion resource room — holds a special memory for Patti Childress Sgroi and her now-husband Tony Sgroi.
They used to “smooch,” as she called it, in the room before school began. So at a farewell party and open house June 26 at the school, later known as Trinity High School, the 1979 Rosary grads re-enacted their before-school antics as high school sweethearts. “I’m going to end up marrying and having his babies,” said the mother of three, thinking back to those teenage years.
Renamed Trinity Catholic High School after a merger, the class of 2021 was the last graduating class for the school, closed due to enrollment trends and infrastructure needs. The farewell party featured food, drink and music and a chance for alums to walk the halls a final time and share their memories. An estimated 3,000 people attended, according to organizers. A collection of nonperishable food for local food pantries was sought and filled the back of a van.
The building opened in 1961 as Rosary High School in collaboration with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, educating young men and women. It merged in 2003 with St. Thomas Aquinas-Mercy to become Trinity Catholic High School on the Rosary campus. Aquinas had opened in 1954 in a building at Sacred Heart Parish in Florissant. Four years later, the school led by the Sisters of St. Joseph moved to its permanent location on Dunn road in Florissant. Mercy, which was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy in University City, ran it for nearly 40 years until it merged with Aquinas in 1985.
The Sgrois, parishioners of Ascension in Chesterfield, appreciated the school’s faith focus and quality education, adding that they wouldn’t trade it for anything. The family atmosphere was just that for Patti — she took a science class in which her sister was the teacher.
Bill Grosch, Rosary class of 1973, got the ball rolling for the farewell party with the sponsorship of the Titan Alumni Players. “We hoped it would be a good turnout and a lot of fun, and it’s everything we had hoped for,” Grosch said in between accepting thanks from attendees such as Karen Starke, Rosary class of 1981, who stopped to take a selfie with him.
Taking part in a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” his senior year provided Grosch with self-confidence that he had lacked until then. “My life changed a whole lot because of that play,” he explained.
In 2000, the alums who were part of that cast performed the play again as a fundraiser to restart a theater program for students, and the the alumni thespians had a 21-year run.
The faith aspect of the school meant a lot to Grosch, especially for his pro-life outlook. “My values were supported by the school,” said the parishioner of St. Robert Bellarmine in St. Charles.
Bob Thalhammer of the Rosary High School class of 1972 volunteered at the farewell party to help guide people to available parking spots. He wasn’t involved in a lot of activities at the school except for the track team, but he enjoyed the camaraderie made possible by a much smaller enrollment than the public school in his neighborhood, Hazelwood Central.
A St. Norbert parishioner and member of the Knights of Columbus, Thalhammer and his wife, Terri, raised their children in the Catholic faith. They appreciate Catholic education because of its emphasis on religion. The closing of the school “leaves a little bit of a hole,” he said.
Lisa (Sekyra) Stocker, Rosary class of 1984, also served as a volunteer at the party. “I never imagined it would be this big. People are coming in with their families, including grandkids,” she said.
The parishioner of Assumption in O’Fallon called the closing “an end of an era.” The education backed up the values she was taught as a child, and that’s why she made sure her son went to a faith-based high school, St. Dominic in O’Fallon.
Chris (Boschert) Harmon picked up yearbooks from her time at Aquinas, where she is a 1978 graduate. It provided her an excellent education, she said, and “got me ready for the future. It meant a lot. I learned my religion better, to understand it and live it as well as I can.”
Hylle (Simmons) Shepard, Mercy class of 1982, said her education “kept me guided.” The party “is a nice feeling but also sad,” with only memories left, said the parishioner of St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist.
Ken Adler, Rosary class of 1983, stood in front of the school talking with Sean Reape, Rosary class of 1983, later joined by a larger group. He attended Our Lady of Loretto grade school next door. “It was a great time to grow up here,” Adler said, joking about how difficult it was to avoid talking in class and getting in trouble.
His Catholic faith came naturally, and he’s passed the teachings on to his children. “I look back and feel privileged to go a Catholic school,” the Ascension in Chesterfield parishioner said. “You appreciate it more when you’re older. It’s what you learned from your Catholic faith that helps you in tough times. Everybody can survive the good times.”
Joe Burkard, a 2008 graduate of Trinity, drove in from Kansas City for the party. Trinity kept all the traditions of the merged schools alive, he said. An actor in high school and college, he performed in off-Broadway shows in New York before switching to the technical and design side of theater. He was involved in a number of activities and sports at Trinity and said that was a benefit of the school: “You could try anything, and if it wasn’t for you, you could go on to something else.”
Don Wilhelm, a 1969 Rosary grad, loves to sing but admits he’s hard on the ears. He was in the glee club for two weeks at Rosary before being urged to try something else. Wilhelm took art for four years, receiving a medal from the school for it, and had a 50-year career as a graphic artist. A parishioner at St. Joseph in Cottleville, he said the school “taught me how to live.”
>> Trinity’s legacy
The decision to close Trinity Catholic High School, an archdiocesan co-ed high school in north St. Louis County, was announced in February after archdiocesan leaders completed a financial feasibility study of the school. The incoming freshman class was projected to be 37 students. The 2021 graduating class had 77 students. Enrollment was 284.
The closing ended the 18-year history of Trinity and more than 70 years of Catholic education at its predecessor schools, beginning with Mercy in 1948. Dan Grumich, president of Trinity and a 1982 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, wrote when the closing was announced, that in the areas of faith, academics, athletics, service and character, “our students have made a difference, and will continue to make a difference, in the world around them. The guidance given them by dedicated faculty and staff members has pointed them in the right direction, and the legacy provided by our rich history and successful alums has been invaluable.”
While the school closed, “what will never be erased, however, are the thoughts and memories all of us hold in our hearts and minds forever,” Grummich wrote. “Thousands of people share a common, unbreakable bond through Mercy, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rosary, St. Thomas Aquinas-Mercy and Trinity Catholic High Schools.”
Plans are for the historic records, yearbooks and student transcripts of Trinity High School to be preserved in the Archives Office of the archdiocese. Efforts are underway to include various records of the predecessor schools also.
There are 25 Catholic high schools operating in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Last year’s total enrollment was 10,386. For information on the schools, visit archstlschools.org.