Preserving history to ensure the future: Laneri High School graduates celebrate school's legacy
FORT WORTH — Memories dominated the conversations, and, for many of those attending, Nov. 18 marked their first visit to Fort Worth’s old Laneri Catholic High School building since 1962 or earlier.
“The lockers look familiar, but the rest doesn't,” Laneri Class of '56 graduate Larry Zeske said as he and fellow alumni toured the building, which now houses Cassata Catholic High School.
“This used to be the library,” another graduate pointed out, motioning toward a classroom.
The school has long since updated windows that used to open, graduate Charles Haggard added.
“I actually opened this window and climbed outside once,” Haggard said while enjoying the view from the third floor.
The graduates, all 70-plus years of age, quickly reverted to teenage mindsets sharing stories of their fondness for nearby Our Lady of Victory Catholic School, then an all-girls school; firecrackers set off in Laneri hallways; and the now-gone handball courts and gymnasium behind the school. The nearby Paris Coffee Shop, still there, was a great place to catch a bite, several added.
On a more serious note, alumni reflected on the positive impacts Laneri and the Benedictine priests who taught there had on their lives and Catholic faith. Several spoke of their fathers who attended Laneri before them during the 1920s and ‘30s.
Class of ‘56 graduate James Farek said his father worked hard at Armour & Co. packing plant to afford Laneri’s $7-a-month tuition.
“That was a big jump from Mt. Carmel [Academy] where I went for elementary,” Farek said. “That was $1 a month.”
Zeske added that he and several Laneri graduates still meet monthly for lunch and golf. He added that those numbers have grown smaller over the years.
Laneri, the Diocese of Fort Worth’s former all-boys high school, operated from 1921 to 1962 at which point it, OLV, and other schools merged to form Nolan Catholic High School.
The unfortunate fact, many present said, is that Laneri, despite its rich legacy, is little remembered today. Officials from the Advancement Foundation and others organized the Nov. 18 gathering in part to address that issue.
“This was a wonderful school for us,” Class of ‘62 graduate Walter Welborn said. “It’s been great tonight meeting people older than me and trading stories, but a big reason we’re here is to figure out how to bring the Laneri name and history forward.”
Welborn’s wife, Rose Hall Welborn, shared much of that history starting with Giovanni “John” Laneri who immigrated from Italy to America in 1882 at the age of 15. Laneri in 1899 cofounded Fort Worth’s O.B. Macaroni Company and went on to donate generously to nearby St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church as well as found Laneri High School.
“This year this building is 100 years old,” Hall Welborn said. “Next year it will be 60 years since the last graduating class. You were all formed by Laneri and your Catholic grade schools, which is why we want to capture your ideas on how each of us can let the Laneri name live on.”
Advancement Foundation President Clint Weber agreed.
“Catholic education is alive and well in the Diocese of Fort Worth,” Weber said. “But we can’t get where we’re going without remembering what our past is. The Laneri story must be integrated into the future of Catholic education. I don’t know exactly what that is and wouldn’t presume that I have the answers, but I think you in this room do.
“Ultimately, what we want to do is create a series of events like this, bring more of your old classmates in to have discussions and get some ideas.”
Weber cited the school’s 1953 football awards banquet, which attracted more than 400 attendees including Texas Christian University Publicity Director Amos Melton and Notre Dame University Athletic Director Ed “Moose” Krause.
Cassata Principal Maggie Harrison spoke of the former Laneri building’s continuation as a non-traditional Catholic high school offering morning and evening classes to meet the needs of students who “for whatever reasons don’t do well in traditional high school settings.”
Cassata senior Gumseng Lamau called Cassata a perfect fit, given that he was too old to attend a traditional high school in 2017 when he immigrated to America.
“It isn’t the boys’ high school that it used to be,” Dr. Harrison said. “But I think you will be proud of what we do and the fact that students are still very much at the heart of our school.
“We help students not because they’re Catholic but because we’re Catholic and it’s our responsibility,” she continued.
Laneri Class of ‘57 graduate Jimmy Lyons agreed.
“The most important thing about any Catholic institution is formulating trust and faith in Jesus Christ,” Lyons said. “There’s too much going on in the world that’s not Christian, but you see how that’s guarded here with Laneri and now Cassata.”