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Crafton Elementary School set to celebrate centennial

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When she began writing for a Crafton High School alumni newsletter 10 years ago, 1955 graduate Judy Kueshner researched the history of famous graduates for a regular column.

She discovered a Naval officer, Pete Ferrall, who was portrayed by Cary Grant in “Destination Tokyo,” a movie about the happenings on his submarine. There was John Harris, a 1917 graduate whose father — Sen. John P. Harris — opened the first all-film movie theater in the world. John Harris later went into show business himself and brought the Ice Capades to Pittsburgh.

Her research also uncovered heroes from World War II.

“There were a lot of later people that did rather well-known things, too,” said Kueshner, 75, of Crafton, listing members from her husband's class — future doctors and ministers, as well as a future multi-millionaire and nuclear physicist. “(It goes) on and on, all these people just in this one class.”

Kueshner will tell the stories of Crafton's history at the Crafton Elementary School centennial celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. on April 27 at the school.

School officials began preparing for the event last year and ramped up planning in the past three to four months. They hope to see a good crowd of former students, as well as current and former teachers and administrators.

“This is our first and only centennial, so we weren't really sure what we should be doing,” principal Jacie Maslyk said. “So the staff and I have just kind of been brainstorming.”

Planners settled on having presentations of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in individual classrooms, along with other activities such as a photo scavenger hunt.

Teacher Jim Nagorski planned a luncheon beforehand for local veterans, including many alumni. The veterans can then attend the centennial celebration.

“It will sort of help kick off the (celebration),” said Nagorski, who organized the luncheon through his after-school club Amazing Alternatives. “They're welcome to stay and visit, and since some of them did go to Crafton High, it will be kind of an experience for them, too.”

Maslyk said she worked to find a balance between having programs scheduled while also trying not to overplan.

“I think essentially what people will want to do is just walk around and check things out,” she said. “Maybe I'm wrong, (but) if I was going back to my old school, I would just want to stroll the hallways and reminisce about what I remembered. I don't want everything to be too overscheduled for that day — I just kind of want people to enjoy it.”

The school opened in 1913 as Crafton High School before switching to an elementary school after Carlynton School District formed in the 1970s.

After graduating from Crafton High in 1955, Kueshner became PTA president at two ward elementary schools before becoming the first Crafton Elementary PTA president.

She said she enjoyed her time at the high school.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, things couldn't be that good like (people say) they were in the 1950s,'” she said. “But they actually were, and the big reason was because we were a local school then — everything was in Crafton Borough, which was like 1 mile in diameter, and you could walk everywhere.”

Gifted support teacher Mary Beth Veri began teaching first grade at Crafton Elementary in the 1970s, when the school's addition was being built. She became one of the first people to teach in the addition, which houses early grade levels.

“There hasn't been much change in our school (since then),” she said. “It's (been) painted, (but) the lunchroom is the same, the gym is the same.”

Future improvements are planned for Crafton Elementary as part of Carlynton's renovation project, and Veri said she's glad to see that happen.

“It's been a really good school,” she said. “I think it's really interesting that after all the debate about building a new school that we end up celebrating the 100th anniversary of our old school, and it's going to continue being our school.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or

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