Godfrey-Lee — Lee High School’s first graduating class had five students, who received their diplomas during the spring of 1925. They attended what was formerly called the Lee Street School before eleventh and twelfth grades were added; the building opened in 1923.
Born and raised in the surrounding neighborhood, Marilyn (Lutke) Emery and her four sisters all attended Godfrey Elementary School and Lee for junior high and high school.
“My grandpa and grandma lived in the area, so my dad went to Lee and all my aunts went to Lee,” Emery said. “That’s what kept our community so close, that everyone knew everyone and the school was the central focus of everything.”
This week, the district is preparing to celebrate its centennial anniversary with a special Homecoming event on Saturday, Sept. 30. Emery will join 62 other Homecoming kings and queens from Lee High School’s past on the football field for the Lee High Centennial Celebration, organized by the Godfrey-Lee Alumni Group.
This year’s Homecoming king and queen will be crowned during halftime of the football game, which starts at noon.
In addition, the district will host a centennial open house for the public at the high school from 1 to 5 p.m., with guided tours every half hour between 2 and 4 p.m.
‘You can’t look back and not smile’
Emery said she was very involved in high school as a flute player in the symphony band, a majorette for the marching band and Homecoming queen during the fall of her senior year in 1959. She remembers going to the soda bar for cherry Cokes with her 11 best friends and staying in touch long past graduation.
“We were such a close clan and we all still get together, though a few have passed along the way,” she said. “We stuck together and it’s marvelous, learning the elements of friendship growing up.”
Co-author of an upcoming book that shares her and her best friends’ memories of Lee, Emery said one of her favorite memories was having her eighth-grade teacher encourage her to participate in a speech contest.
“We learned the Gettysburg Address and had to recite the entire speech, and I won,” she said. “My teacher suggested that I take a speech class in high school and because she helped me find my interest, I ended up getting a communications degree.”
She added: “That’s what Lee was all about, helping one another.”
The class of 1982’s Homecoming king, Dave Feenstra, said he remembers Lee as a “special place at a special time.”
“I’m so thankful for the people that were there at the time I was there. It was really impactful,” said Feenstra, who worked as a teacher and administrator for 31 years. “You can’t look back and not smile at some of the wonderful things that happened while we were there.”
He said he became an educator because of the teachers he had at Lee High School.
“I knew my teachers had a passion for teaching and really cared about students,” Feenstra said. “They enjoyed teaching and enjoyed the process of developing the whole person.”
Before graduating, Feenstra participated in sports and fine arts and met his now wife of 35 years. Despite being a small school, he said Lee High School has had a big impact on the people who pass through its doors.
“You never forget the impact and the belief your teachers and coaches had on you at the time,” he said. “The school changed my life, profoundly.”
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