Denfeld News

July 27, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

School's luminaries to attend Denfeld centennial celebration

The Denfeld Hall of Fame inducation ceremony will include some of the school's most notable graduates.

They include a Hollywood actress, five millionaires, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and teachers. Soon, each will be inducted into the Hunter Hall of Fame.

Ten graduates will be given the honor when the Duluth high school celebrates 100 years of graduates Saturday with a centennial celebration. The event includes a Hall of Fame induction ceremony and an all-class dance.

“This is going to be a huge deal; it’s been a couple years in the making,” said Joe Vukelich of the Denfeld Alumni Association. “We’ve got some of the big guns coming back for this.”

This is only the fourth time the school has added graduates to the Hall of Fame. The first group was inducted in 1966, the second in 1970 and the third in 1996. Vukelich said he hopes this year’s event will go well enough to turn the induction ceremony into an annual tradition.

“If we do this right, it will be like the Academy Awards. … If we screw it up, people will say: ‘I’d rather go fishing,’ ” he said.

To ensure the former, the Denfeld Alumni Association lined up a star-studded group of alumni that include graduates from the 1920s all the way to the 1970s for this year’s ceremony.

Included is Mike Colalillo, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for his service in World War II.

Colalillo received the medal at age 19 in 1945 for leading his men on an attack of enemy defenses in Germany despite facing heavy artillery, mortar and machine gun fire.

“It’s not something that everyone gets. … You just have to be at the right place at the right time,” Colalillo said of the medal.

The Denfeld alum said he is honored his accomplishments earned him a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame.

David Karpeles is flying in from California for the event. Karpeles, a 1953 graduate, has the largest private collection of important manuscripts and documents in the world, including an early version of the Bill of Rights and original music from Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.

“Back in those days there was no television so we had to do something. … I resorted to collecting stamps and then graduated to coins, then finally many years later to autographs and manuscripts.”

Karpeles, who owns more than a million historical documents, credits his chemistry, math and Spanish teachers at Denfeld for teaching him organization, logic and compassion, he said. He is looking forward to returning to his alma mater.

“Back when I was there, I hated it with a passion because it was so cold I almost wanted to cry. … But now, from warm Santa Barbara, I think very fondly of Duluth — especially of Denfeld,” he said.

This year’s inductees will be joined by most of the past 29 inductees and their families, Vukelich said. About 1,000 people are expected to attend, including the Denfeld and Hunting families and several local political figures. Mini-biographies will be read of all the honorees and each will be presented with a plaque.

The 10 honorees from the 20th century will be escorted to their seats at the Denfeld Auditorium by students of the 21st century — including this year’s graduates — as a way to “pass the torch,” Vukelich said.

“It’s going to be a really special night,” said Christina Borich, a 2009 graduate involved in the ceremony. “It’s motivating to be around people who have done so much for our school and the community. … I am honored to be a part of that.”

When: 2-4 p.m. Saturday in the Denfeld Auditorium
Admission: Free
Parking: Get there early, because construction related to the school district’s long-range facilities plan will make parking scarce. A drop-off spot for physically challenged attendees will be set up between the flag pole and the auditorium on 44th Avenue West.


Al Amatuzio (1942)

Invented the world’s first synthetic motor oil under his company’s name, Amsoil. The company, headquartered in Superior, was founded by Amatuzio, who serves as president.

Dorothy Arnold (1935)

Now deceased, Arnold appeared in 15 Hollywood films during the 1930s including “House of Fear” and “The Phantom Creeps.”

She married hall-of-fame baseball player Joe DiMaggio in 1939 and had his only child. The two later divorced.

Born Dorothy Arnoldine Olson, she changed her last name to Arnold when she decided to pursue acting.

Mike Colalillo (1947)

Colalillo was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his military service during World War II.

The honor, which has only been given to about 3,500 people, was presented to him by former President Harry Truman at the White House in 1946. Only 97 recipients of the medal are alive today.

David Karpeles (1953)

After enjoying tremendous success as a real estate investor in California, Karpeles went on to become the world’s largest private holder of important original manuscripts and documents. He owns just over 1 million, including an early proposed draft of the Bill of Rights, the Nazi surrender agreement at the end of World War II, and letters from Abraham Lincoln. The documents are spread across the 10 museums he owns nationwide, including the Karpeles Manuscript Library in Duluth.

Duane Kerin (1960)

As president of H.A. Holden Inc., Kerin, who has multiple sclerosis, built a local distributorship into a national organization. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1966 to 1972 and was president of Minneapolis Sheet Metal Works Inc. for seven years.

In retirement he has established a charitable fund with his family.

Helen (Vitich) Lind (1947)

Lind has been a passionate advocate for West Duluth for years. She has helped rehabilitate more than 400 homes, initiated Project H.O.P.E., and was involved in the streetscape plan that designed Central Avenue.

She was also a part of the Spirit Mountain master plan committee and designed the Rose Garden in Leif Erickson Park and the Enger Park gardens.

Jack Moon (1946)

Moon was a successful real estate developer and attorney in Duluth.

When he died, $4 million was donated in his name to start a scholarship program for Denfeld students interested in pursuing vocational and technical careers.

Marie Saltwick (1945)

She taught biology at Denfeld from 1929 to 1971. Her tenure makes her one of Denfeld’s longest-serving teachers.

When she died, $2.7 million was donated in her name to start a scholarship program for Denfeld students.

Gail Sederski (1976)

Sederski was the first female athlete to play a Division I sport after the passage of Title IX in 1972. She played basketball and fast-pitch softball for the University of Minnesota.

Lenore Snodgrass (teacher)

Snodgrass taught English at Denfeld from 1918 to 1953, when she died suddenly.

Her death inspired her colleagues and students to start the Greater Denfeld Scholarship Fund in her memory. It has grown into one of the largest high school scholarship funds in the nation.

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