CINCINNATI – Betty Jasper and hundreds of other Mother of Mercy alumnae and students came to visit the classrooms and walk the hallways one last time Saturday.
They took one last stroll down Memory Lane before the 103-year-old school closed for good.
"They were good times. The nuns took care of us," said Jasper, Mercy class of 1944, as relatives pushed her in a wheelchair through the historic building with its familiar stained glass.
"They were all fun days,” Jasper said. “I remember going down the hall one time after school. We'd stay after school and dance in the lobby.”
There were 31 students in her class, Jasper recalled, and she knew right where to look for her class picture. She's been back a time or two since graduating 74 years ago. The building has been like a magnet to many alums, pulling them back again and again.
"Actually, I came back on my wedding day," she said.
Several generations of her family were there among 1,000 or so who attended a 6 p.m. ceremony, including Abby Chermely, Mercy class of 2007.
"My grandma went to Mercy, my aunts went to Mercy, my mom went to Mercy, my sister went to Mercy, my cousins went to Mercy," said Chermely.
It was hard to say goodbye, Jasper said.
"I'm sorry to see it go. There are so many wonderful memories here," she said.
That’s what everybody thought as the ceremony ended and the doors were shut and locked in Westwood.
A 103-year-old time capsule closed.
But the Mercy spirit will live on in all of them, said Julie Raleigh, Mercy class of 1982.
"It's about the spirit that's inside, and that's created and put inside us,” said Raleigh. “Mercy made us all who we are today."
Mary Obrecht, Mercy class of ’83, wishes they could have saved it. But the Sisters of Mercy said high costs and dwindling enrollment at both schools forced them to close one.
"I think a lot of girls are going to go to Seton or Oak Hills because McAuley is farther away,” Obrecht said.
“I know it's old," she said of the Mercy building, a neighborhood treasure. "They said it needs windows, needs a furnace."
Cincinnati Public Schools expressed interest in buying the iconic Westwood building on Werk Road, but the Sisters of Mercy haven't said publicly what they will do with it.
In August, Mercy students will transition to a combined Mercy McAuley High School at McAuley’s College Hill campus. But the Mercy spirit - and the memories - will carry on, the alums said.
"That's the nice part about it,” Jasper said. “They're all good memories. How lucky we are.”