By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
It’s been a while since the five Vittetoe siblings attended St. James Catholic School in Washington. Although the youngest graduated more than 65 years ago, their school memories remain fresh.
The siblings reminisced at St. James’s 150th anniversary celebration in October. The Vittetoes graduated from the school, which offered kindergarten through eighth grade at the time, between 1941 and 1951.
The Vittetoe family lived about 2-1/2 miles from the school, recalled Sister Marie Vittetoe, CHM, the oldest of the five siblings at 89. Even though a country school was closer to the house, their parents, Edward and Marcella Vittetoe, insisted that the children receive a Catholic education.
“There were no school buses in those days,” Sr. Marie said. Sometimes the siblings would coordinate rides with another Catholic family in the neighborhood, but if the weather was nice, they walked up the railroad track and through town to the school. Since the farm was on a dirt road that got muddy, the car was left at the corner of the highway pavement and the children took a horse-drawn wagon or buggy the rest of the way.
The students were taught by Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque. “We were taught in a very strict and structured environment,” said Wilfred Vittetoe. The discipline he learned there has helped him succeed in his adult life, he said.
Audrey (Vittetoe) Reed noted that her class was small — four girls and seven boys. She also recalled how the Sisters of Charity “instilled in us a sincere love for our Catholic faith.”
Leo Vittetoe remembered the teachers quizzing the students with catechetical questions. “I still remember the question and answer to ‘Why did God make me? To love, honor, and serve him in this world, and to be with him in the next.’”
The St. James experience isn’t just something the Vittetoe siblings have passed down in anecdotes, though. Out of the 23 children born to the siblings, 20 attended St. James. Thirty grandchildren attended, and currently seven great-grandchildren are enrolled at the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school.
Audrey said, “We are so thankful that our St. James School is available for our offspring to attend and receive formation in the Catholic traditions. We pray that our school will continue to prepare our children in the faith, just as we were.”
Youngest sibling Eileen (Vittetoe) Moeller echoed the sentiment. “I hope that St. James will continue into the future for generations to come.”