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All-day festivities mark Rogers High renewal

Rogers High School ran out of pirate swords long before enthusiastic alumni finished dedicating a multimillion-dollar renovation of their alma mater Saturday.

“That seems to be the hot item today,” said student body adviser Karrie Docterman, who was selling plastic swords, pompoms and school sweatshirts.

By 1 p.m., though, there were still plenty of free hot dogs – though 1,800 had been served.

Events began at 10:30 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting, climaxed with a formal dedication ceremony at 1:30 p.m. and wrapped up about 5 p.m., when officials closed the doors on informal trips down memory lane.

“Very beautiful,” said 1976 graduate Matt Ymer. “It brings back memories. I recognize parts of it, and parts of it I don’t.”

Joe Burrell, class of 1954, and his wife, Pat Burrell, class of 1957, also were delighted with the Rogers renovation, part of a $168 million bond measure to remodel five Spokane schools.

“We were high school sweethearts,” Joe Burrell said. “We got started right here.”

Students “should be very proud to be here,” he said. “They should excel.”

But Rogers was always a great place to be, he said.

“I would have liked to have flunked so I could stay another year,” Burrell said.

He said art teacher Bill Aller inspired his own 30-year career as an art teacher at Sunnyside High School in Sunnyside, Wash.

Saturday’s all-day celebration featured a classic car show, where people posed with paddles next to Joe Mauro’s 1960s-vintage Amphicar, which doubles as a boat. Mauro graduated in 1977 and now lives in Spokane Valley.

On the Rex Menke football field, three skydivers delivered a U.S. flag for the dedication ceremony.

“He didn’t even fall down,” a boy marveled as the parachutist literally hit the ground running.

Spirits were undampened when the field’s irrigation system came on while the crowd – and the color guard – were making their way back into the school.

Jason Davis, class of ’80, his brother, Lincoln Davis, class of ’84, and Lincoln’s son, Mt. Spokane High School sophomore Skyler Davis, blocked the sprinklers with their feet.

Not counting members of the Spokane Youth Orchestra, about 250 people attended the ceremony in the Tuffy Ellingsen gymnasium.

Dressed in a pirate outfit, the Rev. Happy Watkins said Hillyard residents “looked through the telescope of eternity” when they ponied up $400,000 during the Great Depression to show that education and pride “were for everybody.”

Dozens of photographs along the hall between the gymnasium and the soaring atrium of the school commons testified to the school’s successes. The “hall of fame” includes teachers, coaches and principals, a community college president, business executives and owners, a surgeon, a physicist, a social worker, journalists, civic leaders and a couple of concert pianists.

The school also has produced a number of military officers.

Fred Shiosaki, of Rogers’ first wartime graduating class in 1942, accepted a U.S. flag from the school’s Air Force Junior ROTC.

Shiosaki went to war with four siblings and numerous classmates.

“I lost many friends,” he said. “God grant you peace.”

Renovating the school that shaped their lives is “one of the most wondrous things that has happened,” Shiosaki said.

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