Skip to main content


May 2021

Volume 6 | Number 3

Welcome to Rise

Welcome to the May, 2021, edition of Rise Grand Island the alumni newsletter for Grand Island Senior High published every other month by the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. Rise is where we connect with thousands of Islanders across the globe, keeping you and them informed on what’s happening in Purple and Gold land, and reminiscing a little bit as well.

This is Volume 6Number 3, as we hit our stride in year six as the official publication for alums of Islander Nation. Thanks for reading us and for your comments and support.

We really enjoy hearing from those of you who find Rise in your inbox every other month. Give us a shout, especially if you or a GISH alum you know has done something new, newsy, or newsworthy. You can reach us at

Please check out our new section, (e) Mail Bag, which is our letters to the editor. We have been getting some great feedback from Islanders across the country, so we decided to share a few of those with you. We also encourage you to write as well. As you’ll see, we provide only the letter writer’s name and class.

Our At the Top lead story this issue announces the date for the rededication of the new Memorial Stadium — Our Grand Legacy. While many readers will not be able to join us because of geography, we invite all local Islanders to this special community celebration.

From the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation office, Executive Director, Traci Skalberg, covers Staff Campaign numbers in her Shaking the World piece. She’ll also update you on May’s Go Big Give campaign in Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

Milestones spotlights Hall of Honor member Doug Frey and his work with the The Nature Conservancy, including a new parcel of land set aside in his parents’ names.

On the Island correspondent, Jackie Ruiz, introduces us to e-sports at GISH, a new club gaming team that already has a win under its belt this season.

Our Distant Mirror correspondent, Mike Monk, Class of 1967, reminisces about his family’s close ties to thoroughbred racing, especially at Fonner Park. His piece is filled with many anecdotes, including a couple hilarious ones.

My I’ve Been Thinking revisits my first trip to Memorial Stadium for a Senior High football game. Many years later my memory was refreshed while covering a Husker game at Notre Dame Stadium. Read why in my column.

Our Class Reunion Update lets you know who is going to party and when, in case your class is on deck or maybe you just want to crash another class’s soiree and see a few old friends.

As usual we’ll see what songs were popular on the radio, what movies were wooing us to the big screen, what novels we were reading, and what television shows entertained us from each decade during March.

Finally, as we do every issue, we honor those Islanders who passed away the last couple months in our In Memoriam section.

We hope you find this Rise to your liking.

Remember Islanders: Keep pushing on.

George Ayoub, Class of 1968
Editor, Rise Grand Island

(e) Mail Bag

E-Mails to the Editor


Kral Tough but Caring
I was saddened to belatedly learn of Mr. Kral’s passing.  As (he was for Mr. Monk), he was for me one of those few teachers who was outstanding. Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts in the GIPS Foundation newsletter. Permit me to also share my thoughts and esteem for Mr. Kral with you since you knew and admired him.

I have often thought about how language is a tool for expressing thought and therefore mastering its use is empowering. Mr. Kral’s skill and tenacity in teaching students to write correctly was sometimes intimidating. Ultimately, I believe nearly all of us recognized how his teaching enriched and empowered us and we are grateful to have been in his class.

Through my college and graduate studies I became fluent in French. Learning French grammar further sharpened my English grammar. I found that learning a new language to be rather a form of cerebral gymnastics, and I wondered if Mr Kral spoke a second language. I thought he might have spoken a bit of Czech.

I would have liked to have had the opportunity to have coffee with Mr Kral and thank him for being such a terrific teacher. I’d let him know my mom was also an English teacher. Like her, I correct my children on their grammar and applaud them when they use the subjunctive correctly. They roll their eyes at me. Over coffee I would tell him that I told my kids about him and explained that it is often the teachers who are the toughest that in fact care the most about their students.

Miranda (Otradovsky) Weeks
Class of 1982


Hallway Lesson Learned Quickly
I enjoyed your article about Mr. Kral and thought you might appreciate one more memory.       

English was always one of my favorite subjects, so the challenge of trying to meet Mr. Kral’s high standards was pretty exciting. As you mentioned, I was always seated in the high performance row, but for some reason I just couldn’t resist talking in class. I guess I thought my good grades would smooth over a little mischief; however, Mr. Kral was indeed a strict disciplinarian, and he decided I should move my desk out into the hall to think things over. I was so embarrassed, I definitely did not require a second lesson on classroom etiquette.

On another note, as a freshman at Nebraska Wesleyan, I breezed through my first honors course in English literature, and I realized then how lucky we were to have a teacher of his caliber in high school.

Connie (Smeaton) Wolfman
Class of 1968


Principal’s Daughter Also a Principal
We all enjoy “Rise,” and thank you for all your efforts to produce it. I hope you’ll keep her going for many years to come.

I love the story about (Mike Monk’s) classmate and her desk in the hallway. Ironically, I just retired after 36 years in public education, and I too, was a principal. That was not my plan, but who was I to tell the good Lord “no.” Unfortunately, a teacher wouldn’t get by with that action these days because we have too many parents coming to rescue their children from lessons that need to be learned early in life. Our society would be a lot better off if we still allowed educators to do what they do best – teach and mold students into productive, positive citizens. That’s just my two cents worth.

And, what wonderful comments about my dad (Gene Miller). I/We too, hear many wonderful things about the job he did at Senior High. As always, I’m not sure people always understand the value of what they have when it’s right in front of them, but more sure have realized it as time has passed.

Lynne Miller
Class of 1979


Miller’s Leadership Appreciated
Thank you for your article and kind comments of my principal, Dr. Miller. I started my teaching career in the fall of 1970 (along with Jim Casey and Jerry Stuckert). Dr. Miller, as you described, ran a tight ship. I appreciated the man and his tactics. As the years went along, I began to fully understand how a large, comprehensive high school is supposed to be run. I felt lucky to have such a special professional teaching experience. 

Fletcher Shields
Former GISH teacher


GISH Education Key to Career Success
I didn't have Mr. Kral (for English); I had Ms. Bonnie Owens. Mr. Lee Witters was one of my most favorite instructors and later became my main advisor when I was working on my PhD at UNL. 

I appreciate Rise. It has been a long time since I have been back to Grand Island. I did move back after my service in the Air Force and was employed by GIPS for many years but missed being around aviation so joined the NEANG. I have a rather wild and checkered career in education as well as the USAF. I ended up going back on active duty and finally retired after 31 years in the Air Force. My sister Vicky Shanks-Sok did move back. I did make it to my 55th reunion. Thanks for all your hard work. 

The excellent education I received from the GIPS was so instrumental in my successes in life. 

Bob Shanks 
Class of 1959


You can email the editor at

At the Top

Memorial Stadium Rededication Set

The rededication of Grand Island’s Memorial Stadium — Our Grand Legacy — is set for Sunday evening August 22. The festivities for this special community celebration will include tours, marching bands and short program that will begin at 7 p.m. The doors to the stadium will open at 6 p.m. so the public can tour the magnificent new facility.

The celebration, like many other community events, was delayed a year because of the pandemic.

On hand will be a number of community and state leaders and those prominent in fundraising for the Our Grand Legacy project, including Lanny Martin, Senior High Class of 1964, whose initial $10 million gift was the driving force behind the new stadium.

Memorial Stadium was originally dedicated on Sept. 16, 1947, with 4,000 in attendance. Three days later the Islander football team trounced Norfolk 45-0 in the first football game played at Memorial Stadium. The win was the first in an undefeated season for GISH. Click here for more on the history of how Memorial Stadium came to grace the southwest corner of North Lafayette and College streets.

Two areas of the stadium will be of particular interest to those in attendance on August 22: the Veterans Memorial Wall, under the East Stadium and the Donor Wall under the West Stadium.

The Veterans Memorial Wall will list fallen veterans from Hall County. An interactive touchscreen display will provide service information, awards and stories of our fallen veterans. A series of stories running in The Independent on Saturdays highlights ten of these heroes. That series concludes Memorial Day weekend.

The Donor Wall lists the names of those who donated at least $2,500 toward the Our Grand Legacy project. The Donor Wall will be prominent as visitors walk through the main gates on the stadium’s west side.

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, who spearheaded the Our Grand Legacy project, is still accepting donations for those who want to be part of a “new history” for the community of Grand Island. That information is below.



Donations can also be mailed to:
Memorial Stadium Campaign
Grand Island Public Schools Foundation
P.O. Box 4904 
Grand Island, NE  68802-4904


Top Rated Television Shows

from many a May 15th ago
  • 1951

    “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” starring Arthur Godfrey

  • 1961

    “Wagon Train” starring James Arness

  • 1971

    “All in the Family” starring Carroll O’Connor

  • 1981

    “Dallas” starring Larry Hagman

  • 1991

    “60 Minutes” starring Mike Wallace

  • 2001

    “Friends” starring Jennifer Aniston

  • 2011

    “Sunday Night Football” starring Al Michaels

Source: Nielsen Media Research

Shaking the World

EXTRAORDINARY Dollars Raised Via the 2021 GIPS Staff Campaign

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation released a video news conference live, with the results of their “Extraordinary Times Staff Campaign” via their Facebook page on Monday, May 10.

The video news release featured GIPS Staff Campaign Co-Chairs sharing the results of the campaign.

The campaign was indeed extraordinary as the GIPS Staff and Board Members gave a total of $102,714. Nearly 1,300 people participated. 2021 is the first year that this campaign has topped $100,000.

This year’s campaign was themed “Extraordinary Times. Extraordinary Resilience. Extraordinary Opportunities.” The campaign included a $5,027 challenge gift from the Sam Foltz Foundation.

The Foltz Dream Big Challenge Gift was used to encourage staff to give new or increased gifts to the campaign. Jill and Gerald Foltz were a part of the Facebook Live event to celebrate the extraordinary giving of GIPS Staff.

The campaign included several competitions to make it fun. The winners of these contests were also announced.   

The campaign ran from March 23 – April 16. Foundation Director Traci Skalberg said, “This year we crossed another extraordinary milestone with staff giving.  The environment was so challenging, and yet, our educators showed up with their big hearts for students. They weren’t about to quit on students. It is really remarkable what happened here.” Skalberg called the campaign “a source of pride for Grand Island. This should not go unnoticed. It is just one of the many reasons that Grand Island is a great place for our kids.”

Last year (2020) staff and board members of Grand Island Public Schools and GIPS Foundation raised more than $98,000 for the benefit of school district students.  

Proceeds from the campaign are used to expand Foundation programs such as the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship program and the Teacher of the Year program. The funds are also used to support Foundation operations and endowment and the Classroom Mini-Grant program.est

Foltz Dream Big Challenge Gift


The campaign included a $5,027 challenge gift from Gerald and Jill in memory of GISH Alum Sam Foltz to encourage the staff and students of Grand Island to "Dream Big" in all their endeavors. 

The Foltz Dream Big Challenge Gift was used to encourage staff to give new or increased gifts to the campaign.

582 staff donors qualified for this matching opportunity. This was 46% of the gifts received. 

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

The 1970’s Called. They Want Their Crown Back!

After sharing the street cred crown last year with the 1940’s, the 1970’s have bounced back stronger than ever sweeping this year’s Decade Challenge. There isn’t any sharing going on in 2021, as the 1970’s swept with most gifts and highest dollar amount. Overall, the online giving day Go Big Give, was a good day for our students.  

We are proud of the effort from our alumni and supporters who went big and gave to our students through the 2021 Go Big Give effort. Our totals that day grew to $14,454 from 53 donors. Of that total, $4,529.25 was given to the Stadium Project and $9,924.75 was given to our general campaign. $9.271.50 came from alumni with seven decades represented. We added $2,196 to the Purple and Gold Fund as this was the amount that was given by alumni and not restricted to a specific project such as scholarships or the stadium. Watch for grants over the next year from the Purple and Gold Fund. 


          Here is how the day shook out:

          1940’s – 1 gift for $1,500

          1950’s – 3 gifts for $1,625

          1960’s – 5 gifts for $1,740

          1970’s – 10 gifts for $3,125

          1980’s – 3 gifts for $221

          1990’s – 5 gifts for $787.50

          2000’s – 4 gift for $167.50


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for supporting opportunities for our students!

Top Rated Songs

from many a May 15th ago
  • 1941

    “Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)” by Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra

  • 1951

    “How High the Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford

  • 1961

    “Runaway” by Del Shannon

  • 1971

    “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night

  • 1981

    “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton

  • 1991

    “Joyride” by Roxette

  • 2001

    “All for You’ by Janet Jackson

  • 2011

    “E.T.” by Katy Perry featuring Kanye West


Pushing On | Milestones

Frey Completes Leadership Role at Ducks Unlimited, Donates To the Nature Conservancy

Doug Frey

Grand Island Senior High Hall of Honor member Doug Frey completed his three-year term as Ducks Unlimited’s Senior Vice President of Development. 

As VP for Development, Frey led the Rescue Our Wetlands Fundraising campaign that raised an astounding $2.34 Billion dollars for Continental Conservation. Closer to home he and his wife Allison’s generous donation to The Nature Conservancy to established a preserve of additional critical marsh acreage for the Sandhill Cranes.

The Nature Conservancy recently acquired the critical parcel adjacent to other TNC properties and the Crane Trust lands near Grand Island, Nebraska. The area will be dedicated to Calvin P. And Erna L. Frey. The parcel is composed of moist soil meadow, one of the most threatened of all land types. Such land is at great risk of drainage and conversion to grain crop land with little chance of ever being returned to native prairie. Cranes are especially dependent on such moist soil meadows for a critical portion of their diet. They cannot live by grain alone. The land will be permanently protected and preserved for the benefit of the Sandhill Cranes and all other creatures that need wild places. 

Fiction Bestsellers

from many a May 15th ago
  • 1941

    “This Above” All by Eric Knight

  • 1951

    “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones

  • 1961

    “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone

  • 1971

    “The Passions of the Mind” by Irving Stone

  • 1981

    “Noble House“by James Clavell

  • 1991

    “Loves Music, Love to Dance” by Mary Higgins Clark

  • 2001

    “On the Street Where You Live” by Mary Higgins Clark

  • 2011

    “Dead Reckoning” by Charlaine Harris


On the Island

E-Sports Teams Enter the Ring

Jacqueline Ruiz-Rodriguez, Class of 2023

Competitive gaming, also known as e-sports, opens up new opportunities for students at Senior High who take interest in the gaming community.

Carlos Felipe Vargas Castano is a para who works for the English Language Arts (ELA) department. Vargas is also the new sponsor for the e-sports team. He will not be the sponsor next year as he is going to be moved to a different building, but is looking forward to seeing how far he can take the team this year.

“This is a competitive club where the main objective is to compete via video games. We hope that this is a place where future students can get involved in the school,” he said.

The e-sports team formed about two months ago. The team consists of about 10 students but as many as 20 applied to get in. Currently there is a limit to the number of students who can join, but the more games the team has, the more people can get involved.

E-sports teams are also able to get scholarships for college, which can help students who want to be involved in school activities and are interested in competitive gaming.

 Vargas said that their main goal is to be on an equal standing with sports. Being in e-sports “gives students a community where they can share the same goals.”

He added that e-sports can also teach students how to deal with negative environments and people. It also allows students to work with the people around them as a team.

“We teach them how to play video games for physical benefits, faster reflexes and better analytical thinking,” Vargas said.

Competitions have already started for the team with games against Northwest and other schools. The goal is to get as many tournaments as they can, so that they can join the leagues and get into the State Championship.

“We have to get into a league by the end of this month,” said Vargas.

The team took home a victory after winning 3-0 against Northwest on March 4.

“After we won we felt good and relieved because it was not easy. We also felt accomplished because we put a lot of time into our practices,” said Aiden Robinson, a junior on the team.

Robinson said he first took an interest in video games watching his older brother and father play at home. 

“It was a great way to interact with old friends and make new ones. I've played video games since I was 12. I was interested because my father and brother played video games in front of me when I was younger.”

Jeff Gilbertson, executive principal at GISH, said he is excited that he was given the opportunity to see students who are excited to join the e-sports community.

“We have students that are eager enough to create a club that has the growth and potential to grow. It’s an excellent example of a startup club that has a target and wants to reach that target as a team,” Gilbertson said. “Overall I am really excited and interested to see where this club goes.” 

He added that e-sports are just as important to the school as physical sports are, saying that they should not be compared, since they are both different.

“One difference is that the e-sports club is going to require some fundraising while sports have district funding. Nebraska State Activities Association (NSAA) has chosen not to sponsor it yet, but (it) is also looking into e-sports,” said Gilbertson.

He compares e-sports to soccer as he explains that soccer used to not be considered a school sport in his school days.

“The interest in soccer really helped grow the club, and it is now considered a sport among everyone.”

E-sports and sports may never be considered the same, but students and staff agree that both are important for students who take interest in those communities. 

Vargas said he would like everyone to, “Keep their eyes open for future games. We really hope to grow this into something big for the school.”

A Distant Mirror

Nebraska Horse Racing in the 1950’s and 1960’s

Today we gaze into the Distant Mirror and see back to 1958, where we can examine the vibrant world of thoroughbred horse racing in Nebraska, particularly at Fonner Park. 

In the late 1950’s, there were three television channels to watch: KOLN Lincoln, KHAS Hastings and a station from Kearney. There was one televised baseball game each week, one college football game each Saturday, and one pro football game per week. This was long before cable television, the internet, cell phones and TikTok.

In this environment, when the horse races came to Fonner Park from late February to early April, the town was pumped with excitement.  

There was pageantry galore. There were beautiful horses, a well-manicured race track, colorful silks worn by the jockeys, the excitement of the paddock area and the thrill of seeing your horse thundering down the stretch.  

Racing occurred every day but Sunday and Monday (I think), it was a real social scene. At the track you would see friends, neighbors, teachers, bankers, laborers, doctors, farmers, business owners, and people from every realm of Grand Island society. For a $2 bet you could get a true adrenaline rush and maybe make some money. 

Once school let out in the afternoon, some high school students and even some teachers would rush to the track for the remaining races. In addition to Fonner Park, in the 1950’s there were thriving race tracks in Columbus, Madison, South Sioux City, Lincoln and Omaha.

My family was particularly intertwined with the racing scene. My late great uncle Bud Bly owned horses for years. My uncle John Garroutte, who sadly passed away a few weeks ago, was involved with horse racing for over 70 years. As a young boy he rode horses in match races and at county fairs before his career as a professional jockey, riding in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana, New Orleans and New York. John then became an owner and trainer of horses. My late stepfather, Leon Hall, was also first a jockey, then a trainer and owner. Leon achieved some early fame as leading jockey at a Chicago track at age 14, having lied about his age to be able to ride. Leon’s father, Omar Hall, my brother Doug Hall’s grandfather, was an owner and had a stable of very successful horses. Leon Hall and Omar Hall have both been inducted into the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame. Many a Sunday dinner at our home would include horse racing people as guests. 

My uncle Bud would also take us to the barns where the horses were stabled, and we would chat with both the high and low of the business. When one of Bud’s or John’s or Leon’s horses won a race, we kids would get to go onto the track and join them in the picture taken of the winning horse, jockey astride, surrounded by the owner, trainer and family. The picture you see is from 1958, after a race won by Uncle Bud’s horse Bird Shooter. In the picture, from the far left, are my six-year old cousin Randy Garroutte (GISH Class of 1970), my six-year old sister Pat Wagoner (GISH Class of 1970), and nine-year old me, with Grandma behind us. My Uncle Bud is the bald fellow to the right of the man on crutches.

Before he became an accountant for the state of Colorado, my cousin Randy served as a Steward at Centennial Race Track in Denver. Stewards are the highest ranking officials at a track, and make the difficult decisions when fouls are claimed by jockeys and owners.    

In addition to the joy of horse racing, I also saw some real tragedies. My uncle Bud had some very successful horses, including Bird Shooter and Heart Action, but his most prized and promising horse was Prince Dan. Just as Prince Dan was establishing himself as a true star horse, there was a horrific accident during a race in which Prince Dan ran into a fence and had to be euthanized. I know this brought tears to my Uncle Bud’s eyes. Also, my stepfather’s dad, Omar Hall, had a number of outstanding horses that perished in a stable fire, and the loss was devastating to him.   

My grandparents, Doris and Raymond Dubbs, were horse racing fanatics. My grandfather worked long days as a section foreman repairing railroad tracks for the Union Pacific railroad, but my grandmother, Bud Bly’s sister, would usually go to Fonner each day of racing and bet my grandfather’s standard daily double bet of 5 and 7. On most Saturdays during the racing season, my grandmother, grandfather, sister Pat, cousin Randy, aunt Cindy and I would pile into one car and drive to Columbus, Madison or Lincoln to spend a day at the races.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Monk

As kids, we loved it. We would go to the paddock and watch the horses get saddled and watch the jockeys mount their horses. We would make bets and be thrilled when a bet made money. And a day at the track also meant popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, candy and Cokes. My grandmother sharpened my math skills when she taught me to read a racing form at about age 9. We would always get a program, then examine the horses entered, the jockeys and trainers and the “morning line” of betting odds. While I think the betting age was 21, as kids we would always have Grandma make our bets for us. The excitement of getting back $3.80 on a $2 bet was enormous.                              

Lots of kids would also pick up discarded tickets, since the occasional bettor would not realize that a show ticket had a payoff not only if the horse won, but also if the horse finished second or third. And some bettors mistakenly threw away good tickets. Every once in a while, one of us would find a good ticket, and that was manna from heaven. 

Grandma told a story about one afternoon when she was driving to Fonner Park to make the first race and was stopped for speeding. The officer asked her why she was in such a hurry, and she replied, “I have to get to the track in time to bet the damn daily double.” The officer laughed, but wrote her a ticket, and she missed the daily double. Grandma always said the horse she wanted to bet in the first race that day was named “Stop Speeding.”

As kids, we could sit with the grownups and enjoy the excitement and be part of the fun. The track we least liked to visit was Omaha’s Aksarben (Nebraska spelled backwards), since at the Omaha track kids could not sit with those of betting age, but were confined to the children’s section, called the “Jr. Jockey Club,” but somewhat like a jail. We called it the “pig pen.”  

When I got older, in high school, many of my friends would join me at the track, and the group generally centered on my wrinkled, but beaming Grandma. She would hold court for a group that often included Mike Parmley, George Ayoub, Mike Gearhart, Jeff Greenberger, my cousin Randy, and my sister Pat. Years later, my younger brother Doug Hall (GISH, class of 1978), Leon’s son, and my younger cousin Jay Garroutte (GISH Class of 1978), John’s son, would join the group. Since Grandma’s brother Bud and her two sons-in-law were involved with racing, she gained a reputation as an “insider” who would have a good “tip.” My friends would pump her for information, and she loved it. Grandma would opine, “Well that Fred Ecoffey is a great jockey and you are taking a chance to bet against him. But I saw “Bold Accent” run in Lincoln last year, and that horse can run. And watch that horse owned by the Kemling brothers! Their horses always do well.”  

Grandma would often say something positive about nearly every horse in the race. And when the race was over, she would say, “Didn’t I talk about that horse?” I would think to myself, “Yes, Grandma, but you talked about all the horses.”

Grandma would occasionally bet on two, three, or even four horses in the same race. Then if one of her bets won, she would proudly pull the winning ticket out of her purse (not mentioning her losing tickets) and wave it high, with a big smile, saying, “I had that one!”  

Superstitions abounded. Some bettors favored a particular number or a particular jockey or trainer or a particular color of horse. My grandmother would often bet any “gray” horse in a race.  

My cousin Randy Garroutte, even in junior high, was also deemed to be an insider who could provide a tip. One day when Randy was in class at Walnut, he was called down to the Principal’s office. Randy asked Agnes Ayoub (George’s mother), then secretary at Walnut, if he was in trouble. Aggie just said Johnny Hendricks, a counselor, wanted to see him. Randy walked into his office and Mr. Hendricks immediately pulled out a racing form for that day at Fonner. He told Randy he needed help picking the second half of the daily double. He asked Randy, “Who do you like in the second race?” 

In my high school and college years, a group of friends and I would pool our money and do a “parlay,” where any money we won would be placed back on a new bet. There were times where each of us might win $10 or so, a fortune to us. Then we would go together to Dreisbach’s and eat like kings and queens with steak, chicken, fries, coleslaw and other delights. 

This early experience with horse racing and the jockeys, owners and trainers taught me some important lessons. The first and foremost was that, in the long run, you cannot win with gambling. The obvious fiscal reality that more money is bet than is returned in winnings was part of it. But also, I saw the people who knew these horses well, and who knew all the intrigues of the business and the local jockeys, trainers and owners. But I saw vividly that while some of these “insiders” did well, most were generally not getting rich, and indeed some lived very modest lives, even sleeping on cots in the stables near the horses. I thought if these people can’t figure out who will win, then how can the attentive and studious bettor make money.        

The way I like to approach gambling at the race track is first to identify an amount I am prepared to lose, assume I will lose it and view that as payment for the thrill I get from the action and the fun of rooting for a horse. If I make bets and actually break even, I have had all the fun of the action for free. Even better, if I win money, I enjoy that even more pleasing thrill of the chase and winning money. With this mindset, betting can be a lot of fun.

The world of horse racing has encountered financial difficulties in recent decades, but it is still alive. The new Nebraska legislation allowing casino gambling at tracks will be a boon to Fonner Park. It should provide bigger purses and reinvigorate the industry. The joy of a day at the track, with family, friends, the pageantry, the betting and the beauty of the horses and surroundings is something to treasure. So embrace Fonner Park and enjoy the Sport of Kings!  

Top Rated Movies

from many a May 15th ago
  • 1941

    “Meet John Doe” starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick

  • 1951

    “At War with the Army” starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis

  • 1961

    “Parrish” starring Troy Donahue and Claudette Colbert

  • 1971

    “Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song” starring Melvin Van Peebles

  • 1981

    “Happy Birthday to Me“ starring Melissa Sue Anderson

  • 1991

    “What About Bob?” starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss

  • 2001

    “Shrek” voices including Eddie Murray and Cameron Diaz

  • 2011

    “Limitless” starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro


I've Been Thinking

Many Chapters Connect to Memorial Stadium

My first visit to Grand Island’s Memorial Stadium was a postcard fall evening in Central Nebraska: a slight nip to the air; a brilliant orange sunset giving way to purples and reds; the smell of burning leaves wafting about; an itchy wool sweater against my neck.

The Islanders were playing football against Fremont. I was not more than 8 or 9 years old, but the memory is seared in my mind. Perhaps the pageantry and the play of sports painted such an indelible mark. Maybe the sheer size of everything — the stadium, the crowd, the football players — fixed my recollection firmly. Or it could have been that to get to our seats, we had to walk through the cool, thick grass of the north end zone, like walking on a magic carpet to this starstruck kid. More likely, however, the entire stew of senses from the feel and smell of the night to the noise and passion of the crowd to the racing up and down of our heroes in purple and gold simmered perfectly to create my memory.

As you’ve read elsewhere in this issue of Rise, Memorial Stadium will be rededicated with a grand community celebration the evening of August 22.

The new stadium is worth a look, not simply as a place to play football and soccer or host marching band competitions. The remake honors, appropriately, Hall County’s fallen veterans with an interactive display under the East Stadium.

On the west side, underneath the stands, a donor wall will be prominent, sporting the names of those who gave $2,500 or more toward the $17 million project. Of course our own Lanny Martin, Class of 1964, fueled the “Our Grand Legacy Project” with his gift of $10 million. 

Throw in new turf, new seating in the East Stadium and a new big screen scoreboard jam-packed with bells and whistles enough so you’d notice … every time the Islanders score a touchdown or make a goal or want to send a message.

In short, Memorial Stadium is bigger, better, and surely rebirthed into the beauty in the minds of those who conceived the idea of a community stadium at a coffee shop in the Yancey Hotel in downtown Grand Island in spring of 1945. When the stadium was finished two years later, many in Grand Island said no other stadium between Denver and Lincoln could compare.

That was two years before I was born and about a decade earlier than my memorable first evening in the stadium. But my history is inextricably tied to Memorial Stadium, where my father once joined dozens of others scooping snow so the Islander game could go on; where my Howard School pals and I competed in the Football Jamboree and Charlie Sheffield’s Annual Grade School Track Meet, an extravaganza that had to be seen in person to be appreciated; where I played in the Barr/Walnut football game, an annual rite of passage for thousands of young men in Grand Island; where I was taken along with the entire student body during an evacuation because of a bomb scare in the fall of 1968; where I graduated from high school, nine months later; where I watched my son score the first Islander touchdown on the stadium’s new synthetic turf in 2009; and where this Sunday, graduation once again graces Memorial Stadium, this time for GISH Class of 2021.

I was unaware of the power of a particular memory until a lightning bolt from my past illuminated a warm evening at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

I was in South Bend in early September of 2000 to cover the Husker football game vs. Notre Dame. After the last hurrah (the Huskers hung on to win in OT 27-24) and I had filed my column, I headed to my car. I must have taken a wrong turn because when I got downstairs, I found myself inside the stadium instead of where I had come in. So I headed across the field to an open gate. 

As I walked through the deep, cool grass of the north end zone in the fading light of dusk, I was suddenly rocketed back to my childhood … to a special fall night: My first football game with my dad, my first trip to Grand Island’s Memorial Stadium and the first chapter of many in which the stadium has been a part of my family’s life.

Alumni Reunions

Planning a class reunion?

We can help get you started!
Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion. We will post it to our website.

Kari Price, Alumni Coordinator
308.385.5525 ext. 201148

NOTE: Reunion information in this newsletter is current as of the publication date. To see Reunion updates and additions go to our Alumni Reunions page or check with the contact person for more details.


Grand Island Senior High Reunions/Gatherings


Class of 1951

The Class of 1951 Reunion is scheduled for October 2, 2020 at the Saddle Club. Please direct any inquiries to Jim Marsh at (702) 946-1000.

Class of 1956

The Class of 1956 wishes to extend an invitation to fellow classmates to join them at their monthly gathering. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Midtown Holiday Inn at 6:00 pm.

Decades of the 60's

UPDATE: The Decades of the 60’s breakfast continues to be held the second Saturday of each month at Tommy’s, 8:30 a.m. This is a great opportunity to reconnect over a cup of coffee and/or breakfast. We would love to have you join us!

UPDATE: The Decades of the 60's annual potluck picnic will be September 19, 2021 at Hall County Park. Winston Witwer, class of '65, has reserved the south pavilion as you enter the park. Meet around noon, paper products provided, but please bring food!

Class of 1960

UPDATE: The gathering of Class of 1960 on the 1st Wednesday of each month at TOMMY'S Restaurant has be cancelled until further notice.

UPDATE: The Class of 1960 Reunion Cancelled
With regret, the Class of 1960 has cancelled their reunion planned for September until further notice. Stay well and we will meet again! Rogene Bainbridge, (308) 384-6904.

Class of 1961

UPDATE: Class reunion will be held on October 22-24, 2021 with an informal meeting on Friday evening, dinner at the Saddle Club on Saturday and a brunch on Sunday morning. Please contact Sandy Sevy at (308) 383-3818 for more information.

Class of 1965

The Class of 1965 Reunion Committee is planning their 55th Class Reunion on August 28, 29 & 30, 2020. Friday August 28, 2020 they plan to tour Grand Island Senior High and attend the Grand Island /Kearney football game with the dedication of the new GISH stadium. Saturday August 29, 2020 at the Liederkranz for an informal “meet & greet” to renew old acquaintances. Sunday August 30, 2020 they plan to close out the weekend with the annual Class of the 60’s picnic at Stolley Park. For more information, please contact Loretta Catlett at

Class of 1966

The class of ‘66 meets for lunch the third Wednesday of each month at the Platt Duetsche, 12 noon. Please join us!

UPDATE: The class of ‘66 will celebrate their 55th year on September 18, 2021, with a banquet at Riverside. The price will $26. More information will be forthcoming about other activities that weekend.

Class of 1970

UPDATE: The GISH Class of 1970 Reunion Committee had a meeting of the minds and we have decided to postpone our 50th High School Reunion until next year 2022. We want everyone to be able to come and enjoy themselves and be able to interact with their classmates. We want the most members of the Class of 1970 to attend as possible and we just don’t think that will happen this year. The Reunion Committee will get together early in 2022 and make any decisions then. Please share this with as many of our classmates as you can. I will also email each of our classmates that we have a current email for. Those of you that haven’t contacted us with your current information, please do so now. DO NOT just post it on facebook, email your Name, Maiden Name, Mailing Address, Phone# to - Craig Paro.

Class of 1971

UPDATE: A Re"Zoom"ion!
The "local committee" has wisely decided that trying to plan an "in person" event in the middle of a pandemic is not a good idea. So, we are postponing that for now -- maybe figure out a "Class of '71 Homecoming" event when it's safe to meet in GI. However, don't despair! We are going to add a virtual component to the reunion. We're making plans for several virtual events (probably via Zoom). 

Please watch for and respond to emails and we look forward to getting in touch with each other! Thank you.

Class of 1985

Class of 1985 35th Reunion to be held July 30th and July 31st. An informal gathering will be held Friday night from 6 pm to close at the Wave Pizza Co. A tour of GISH is scheduled for Saturday at 11 am, with a dinner reception to be held at Riverside Golf Club from 6 pm to 10 pm. For more information, see GISH Class of 1985 35th Class Reunion Facebook page or contact Jim Gustafson at gusto85@gmail.comClass of 1985 Reunion Form

Class of 1990

UPDATE: Class 1990 Reunion Postponed
The 30th Class Reunion for the Class of 1990 has been postponed until 2021. Join the facebook group at GISH Class of 1990, 30 year reunion for updates and to connect with classmates.

Class of 2000

UPDATE: Class 2000 Reunion Postponed
The 20th Class Reunion for the Class of 2000 has been postponed until June 5, 2021. Join the facebook group at Class of 2000 GISH. For more information please contact Elizabeth Patterson at or Erica Wilkinson at


In Memoriam

March and April memorial list of GISH Alumni

E. A. KRAL, Longtime teacher at Senior High, died January 22, 2021, in Wilber. He was 85.

DICK MITTON, Class of 1951, died February 24, 2021, in Thousand Oaks CA. He was 87. 

LARRY HETTLER, Class of 1966, died March 3, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 72. 

BECKY LARSON, Class of 1982, died March 4, 2021. She was 56. 

MIKE CONLEY, Class of 1966, died March 8, 2021, in Lincoln. Mike lived in Kearney. He was 72. 

GREGORY ZORNES, Class of 1977, died March 8, 2021 in Chapman. He was 62. 

FLORINDA PETERSEN, Class of 1976, died March 11, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 62. 

LEO METTENBRINK, Class of 1952, died March 14, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 86. 

M.J. GOSCH, Class of 1998, died March 15, 2021, in Council Bluffs, IA. He was 40. 

JAMES SCHIRKOFSKY, Class of 1963, died March 19, 2021, in Golden, CO. He was 76.

STEVEN KRUSE, Class of 1964, died March, 27, 2021, in North Platte. He was 75. 

DAVID OLSON, Class of 1959, died March 27, 2021, in Rockville, MD. He was 79. 

VIRGINIA (MURPHY) NEHLS, Class of 1962, died March 27, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 76. 

JOYCE (STEFFEN) NOAKES, Class of 1963, died March 29, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 76. 

CHARLES JUDGE, Class of 1979, died April 3, 2021, in El Segundo, CA. He was 59.

MIKE MORENO, Class of 1965, died April 4, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 76. 

THOMAS MURPHY, GISH Graduate, died April 5, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 49.  

DAVID MUNDT, Class of 1963, died April 7, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 78.  

RICHARD BERGMAN, Class of 1968, died April 8, 2021, in Inverness, FL. He was 70. 

WARREN ANTILLON, GISH Graduate, died April 14, 2021, in Kearney. He was 55. 

CANDY (QUAIFE) SCHANK, Class of 1966, died April 21, 2021 in Central City. She was 73.

JOAN (ZLOMKE) CHARRON, Class of 1947, died April 22, 2021, in Ravenna. She was 91.  

BRAD NEWCOMBE, Class of 1974, died April 23, 2021, in Kearney. He was 65. 

PATRICIA (BREINER) KNOX, Class of 1949, died April 25, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 89.


To report an alumni death since April 30, 2021, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to

© 2024 Grand Island Public Schools Foundation

Powered by Firespring