Becky Gebert Gregory is a woman on a mission.
The 1964 graduate of Pierceton High School and current president of the PHS Alumni Association is intent on raising over $30,000 to construct a memorial tribute to the recently demolished 1923 high school on the campus of the new Pierceton Elementary School.
Gregory said the memorial tribute will incorporate some of the design elements of the old school building as well as many of the actual limestone decorative features that adorned the building. The association, numbering over 700 past graduates of PHS, hopes to preserve the memories of the school, not just for the graduates, but also for the communities around Pierceton.
Fort Wayne architectural firm Barton-Coe-Vilamaa is providing pro bono design services and the Whitko School Corporation Superintendent Steve Clason has approved a plan to feature the tribute prominently on the new elementary school campus. HClason says the tribute will be erected at the end of the driveway onto the property, giving prominence to the rich heritage of past Pierceton schools.
A sketch for the tribute will be unveiled at the PHS Alumni Banquet on June 6.
Gregory appears undaunted by the more than $30,000 in materials and labor that will be needed to erect the tribute. She is appealing to alumni and local businesses to raise the funds, pointing out that only 60 donors, each contributing $500, are needed to reach the goal.
“Every PHS graduate is now retirement age or older, and most of us appreciate the heritage of the school and are eager to preserve that heritage,” she maintains. Even some of the early Whitko graduates who attended their first few years of high school at Pierceton, have expressed interest in helping with the project.
Gregory says the alumni association is applying for IRS status as a 501(3)(c) corporation, which could provide some tax benefits to contributors. When approved, the status will also allow the association to work closely with other organizations seeking to preserve historical records of entities in Kosciusko and Whitley Counties.
The project is being designed to allow the association to build the structure on the campus as soon as funds are available, without creating logistical or design problems for the school corporation. Gregory hopes to have the funds in hand to start construction by this fall.
The association is also working to preserve class photos of Pierceton graduates from 1912 through the final graduating class of 1971, when Pierceton joined Sidney, Larwill, and South Whitley to form the Whitko School Corporation.
Gregory said that several alumni have already provided funds to remove the photos from the hallways of the old school, evaluate them for restoration needs, and photo-scan them for posterity. The photos are being preserved until a new home can be identified.
Gregory believes after the restoration projects are completed, the association may want to fund scholarships for Whitko graduates along with other worthwhile community endeavors.
The association holds a banquet every summer in June, which is attended by about 300 PHS graduates. While most attendees live in Indiana, many travel each year from all across the US to share a meal and memories with old high school friends.
Gregory is in the second year of her two-year term as association president, and can be contacted at (260) 402-1489, or 10119 Isle Pine Drive, Fort Wayne.