Friends of Renton High to present Wall of Fame honors

Friends of Renton High School board members Don Custer, Roxanna Johnson and Stephen Clymer are happy to present this year
Friends of Renton High School board members Don Custer, Roxanna Johnson and Stephen Clymer are happy to present this year's Wall of Fame recipients at the Oct. 5 ceremony.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

Friends of Renton High School will honor alumni, with the hopes of providing new role models to students at the school.

The non-profit will induct 12 new names into their Wall of Honor, which includes the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the Athletic Hall of Fame Award and the Friends of Renton High School Awards.

The awards program is at 3 p.m. Oct. 5, in Renton High School’s commons, admission is by invitation only.

The honorees represent nearly the whole span of the high school’s existence, from the class of 1919 to the class of 1980, and have a variety of achievements and backgrounds.

The Distinguished Alumni honorees are Frank Aliment, class of 1927; Gary Brinson, of 1961, Dr. Leland Burnett, of 1952; Alex and Norma Cugini, classes 1945 and 1946; Ronald Hicklin, of 1956 and Bertram Thomas, of 1919.

Patricia (Van Volvelaere) Weirich, of the 1968 class, will be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

The 2013 Friends of Renton High School Awards will go to Richard Houser, Irvin Leifer, Randall Rockhill, Joe and Loretta Starkovich and about 11 members of the McLendon family, from graduating classes 1941 through 1980.

Board members Don Custer, Roxanna Johnson and Stephen Clymer shared insight on the winners with the Renton Reporter.

Each have different reasons for why they think Renton High is great, but all three referred to the school’s values of pride, tradition and excellence.

“For me, probably (it’s) the tradition part of it,” said Clymer, a 1969 grad. “Our family was here before it (the city) was Renton. I was a third-generation Renton High (grad) and I have tons of relatives that went there before I did. So it was just a big part of growing up.”

Clymer graduated with the last large Renton class, before Hazen High School opened.

“We were extremely successful in all the sports, the bands, the activities,” he said. “We had such a draw of kids that performance was excellent.”

Former Renton Mayor Don Custer is a 1953 grad. His family has a “whole mess of Renton grads too,” he said. He’s proud of the school’s first state championship basketball team and the diversity that was represented when he went to the school.

“The immigrants, who grew up in Renton and proceeded us at school, for them, Renton was the great leveler, the great mixer,” Custer said. “It was a thing that brought the community together through the young people.”

Johnson, Renton class of 1980, calls the school community a family.

“It was scary and thrilling all at the same time,” she said of attending the school for the first time. “And I stepped off the bus and met what I consider family, some of the greatest people who are still my friends.”

The board members note that the school doesn’t get the credit it deserves for the students and programs it has.

“I don’t know what the right word is, if it’s prejudice or whatever,” said Clymer. “There was a lot of people who …left town, left the whole area. They seemed to want to dump on the high school and Renton kind of became an image for that, I think.”

Clymer notes the students at the school as being “excellent.” He’s heard discussions, however, about real estate values being effected, based on whether or not you live in Renton, he said, noting people’s reactions to the school’s diverse student body and the change in the city’s population that represents.

“Our group has to figure out ways to overcome some of that and what we try to do is accentuate the goodness of what’s going on, and forget about talking about bitterness that people might have going on.”

The 2013 award winners are a diverse selection of honorees in professions, but not necessarily gender. There are three women on the list this year: Patricia (Van Volvelaere) Weirich, Norma Cugini and Loretta Starkovich.

“The women are astounding to me,” said Johnson. “I’m hoping these women on here - they mean a lot to me - I’m hoping that they’ll mean an awful lot to the girls at Renton High Schools.”

Sally Jewel, US Secretary of the Interior and former Chief Executive Officer of REI, as well as US Olympian Aretha (Hill) Thurmond, were honorees of the inaugural Friends of Renton High awards.

“We got into this Wall of Honor thing to set some role models, again, for the kids and let them know that regardless of (someone’s) ethnic background, we’ve had some successes,” said Custer. “We’ve have representation outside of sports too. So, it’s good, we think, for kids to look up on the wall and see people with the same color faces they have.”

Custer said their efforts are done with great consideration.

“We’re not do-gooders, we just think that’s the way things should be.”

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