ALUMNUS OF THE MONTH
This month’s Alumnus of the Month spotlight belongs to
Mary "Maymie" (Spreen) Bergschneider, Class of 1944.
In conversations with young and old alike, it’s amazing that the values and characteristics of a Routt Catholic High School education have remained constant over time. The fun memories to look back on, the benefits of receiving such a solid education, the morals that come with a faith-based environment… While there may be differences in the lives we live and the careers to which we have dedicated ourselves, one thing that all alumni can agree on is that an education – more so an experience – from Routt Catholic High School is like no other.
Mary “Maymie” Spreen attended Routt High School beginning in the fall of 1940. She was one of six children (three sisters and two brothers) in her family to attend Routt, and she has several fond memories of being at school. A few notable memories:
- Maymie loved to sing in the girls’ choir. They would sing at Mass as well as host concerts throughout the year, and she quickly learned that the music that she loved singing would go on to play a big role in her life.
- For all four years of her high school career, the only teachers in the building were Dominican Nuns. She has fond memories of being taught so many life lessons by these individuals to whom she looked up so dearly.
- There were foreign language requirements different than what we have today. At the time, Routt offered either French or Latin, and students were required to take four years. Some students would choose to take 2 years of each language, while others would take the same language for all 4 years.
- During Maymie’s sophomore year, she was cast as the lead in the production, Miss Caruthers Returns, a musical comedy by Chester Perry.
- She recalls praying the rosary as a school at least once per month.
- “Box Socials” were something that she brought up, explaining that, “two to three times a semester girls would get a box, decorate it, and make food to put in it, and then all of the boys would bid on their favorite box to enjoy the contents as well as the company of the girl who put it together.” Maymie explained that the pairs would go up to the 3rd floor of the old high school together and hang out on the dance floor.
- Every year the Golf Pro at Nichols Park would come to Routt and take all of the girls in the school up to the top floor and teach them different things about the sport of golf – how to hold a club, how to swing, how to act, etc. It was always one of her favorite days and she loved seeing which of her classmates could really hit the ball hard!
- Homecoming and Prom Dances were popular events just as they are today, planned by the students and chaperoned by parents and Dominican Sisters. In that time, rather than going to the YMCA for a school sponsored After Prom event, groups of friends would go to the Café owned by Hamilton’s (yes, the same Hamilton’s that we know today!), where they would offer 10 cent cokes and 15-20 cent hamburgers. It was a great time to be with friends and Maymie enjoyed making so many memories with her classmates.
While at Routt Maymie met several people who were/have been a part of her life since they were teenagers. “There was a closeness at the school that was evident,” says Maymie. “Everyone was very friendly.” To this day, Maymie considers Mary Ellen (Wagner ‘43) Yording one of her dearest friends. For years after high school they would get together to play cards, visit, and spend any time together that they could. Additionally while at Routt, Maymie recalls meeting the late Joseph “Joe” Bergschneider (’42). Joe came from a large Routt family as well; he was also one of six children in his family to attend the school (three brothers and two sisters). While they never arrived at any school dances together as dates, she does recall meeting up with Joe and his friends and spending lots of time laughing, telling stories, and getting to know each other.
After graduating from Routt in 1944, Maymie attended MacMurray College and Joe enrolled at St. Benedict’s Catholic College (now known as Benedictine College) in Atchison, KS. While studying at St. Benedict’s, Joe was drafted by the Army and then spent the next 2 years fighting for the United States in World War II. Among many other accolades, he courageously fought in three major battles, one of which was the Battle of the Bulge. When he returned to the United States, one thing he knew for sure is that he wished to marry Maymie Spreen.
On the morning of January 11, 1947, at 7:30am, the two were married at the Church of Our Saviour. Maymie smiled when asked why they chose to get married at such an early time and recalled that due to the cost of electricity, the Church decided when all weddings would take place and that was the time they chose for the Bergschneider wedding. “It didn’t matter though; the Church was full of people!” Maymie remembers.
Joe and Maymie went on to have seven children of their own: Beth Mraz (‘65), Becky Cogdill (’67), Gretchen Miller (’68), Maureen Brunnler (’72), Katie Hembrough (’77), Lisa Elliott (’81), and Mark Bergschneider (’84). After each of their children graduated from Routt, all have gone on to have successful careers in various parts of the country. Their son, Mark, followed in Joe’s footsteps and now farms on the same ground his father did. All six of their daughters have been successful in all sorts of arenas, ranging from the fields of education to medicine. The family has since grown and there are now 18 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren – with one more great-grandchild on the way! Most of their grandchildren attended Catholic high schools in their respective communities and several graduated from Catholic colleges. The smile on her face when she speaks of them is a testament to how proud Maymie is of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
The Catholic faith has been central in the life of Maymie, and Joe before he passed. They were both active members of Visitation Catholic Church in Alexander and Our Saviour Catholic Church in Jacksonville. For years, Maymie sang in the Adult Choir and entertained hundreds with her beautiful voice. They served as directors for the Diocese in the Office of Rural Life for 16 years. Under their direction, Project Isidore, an interest-free emergency loan program, was instituted to assist farmers throughout the Diocese during the farm crisis of the 1980s. They were awarded the Order of St. Gregory the Great by the Papal Secretary of State in December 2002, an honor that is bestowed upon men and women who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments benefiting the church and society.
When asked why she and Joe chose to send their children to Routt, “we got a good education with good morals” says Maymie. “Overall it was a great start in life. The Dominican Nuns talked all the time about how you should be and what you should do in order to be good people.”
If you know of a Routt graduate who you would like to nominate as a future Alumnus of the Month, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.