Christine Radachi is a member of the Wellington High School Class of 1971 — the last to graduate before the building was rechristened as McCormick Middle School.
And she was among the first to turn out Thursday morning to pick up a brick to remember the old building by.
“When they first said it was coming down, that was the first thing that went through my mind: ‘I want a piece of my school,’” Radachi told the Enterprise, cradling a mortar-dusted block in her arm on Dickson Street.
Radachi’s parents attended the school. So did her children.
So the brick, which she intends to keep on a bookshelf along with her yearbooks, is full of memories.
She remembers basketball games on the old McCormick stage, construction projects that changed the shape and tone of the building over the years, and the faces of old friends.
But most striking in Radachi’s mind, she said, was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She recalls exactly where she was sitting — a classroom one door down from the restroom on the third floor of the then-high school.
“The teacher came in and told us the president had been shot,” she said. “It was quite the shock.”
A host of others turned out through the morning, seeking memorial bricks for themselves and far-flung friends.
Kay Carpenter Swesey, whose grandfather, parents, siblings, and children all attended the school, said she plans to keep her brick in her mother’s iris garden.
She shared fond memories of principal Ray McCormick and his tough love approach, which Swesey said was applied more than once to her husband, who as a student was a Dukes football star.
Jeff Brown, a 1975 Wellington graduate, said his family also has three generations who passed through McCormick hallways and classrooms. He remembers walking the few blocks from 4th Street to school every day as a child.
He plans to use his brick as a doorstop.
Kristopher Wertz, project engineer for Ozanne Construction, which handled demolition, stood watch over bins of bricks put out for the public. He said about 30 or 40 people grabbed their keepsakes between 7 and 9 a.m.
That number grew steadily throughout the day as Ozanne workers prepared the old school’s exterior walls to come down.
The process is expected to take about another seven to eight weeks.
When finished, paved and playground areas along Dickson will remain, as will some fencing. The rest of the property will be flat and seeded with grass, Wertz said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Wellington Enterprise Christine Radachi was part of the last class to graduate from McCormick when it was still Wellington High School in 1971. She turned out Thursday to grab a piece of the building.