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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 25 2013

VIDEO: 'Wall of History' mural celebrates 133 years of education at St. Joseph’s School

MOORHEAD – The oldest school in the Red River Valley celebrated 133 years of Catholic education Friday.

St. Joseph’s School, opened here in 1880 by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Joseph, Minn., unveiled a “Wall of History” mural covering the high points of the years from its opening to the present.

“Putting it all on the wall and putting it together is a beautiful thing,” said school Superintendent Monsignor Mike Foltz, who blessed the mural and the 50 to 60 adults and students at the ceremony.

Foltz said a lot of blood, sweat and tears took the school from being a 50-student one-room schoolhouse, to a 240-student preschool through eighth-grade facility.

“It’s important for the children to walk by it and realize that they have a connection to a long past of Catholic education,” Foltz said.

The mural is 57 inches high and 20 feet-6 inches wide. It was installed in a hallway between the current school’s 1926 three-story brick building and a 2009 addition. It was created by Fargo artist Karen Bakke, who has painted hundreds of murals in the area, including those at Fargo’s Davies High School and Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, the Fargo Air Museum, Sanford and Essentia hospitals, and many homes and businesses. She started work on the project in August, finishing on Sunday.

The mural’s timeline goes from left to right, starting with the first class in the school in the sepia tones of an old 1880 photograph, gradually switching to black and white for early to mid-20th-century images, to color for the present day.

Bakke includes depictions of the church that was on the third floor of the 1926 St. Joseph’s building; images of the mascots for St. Joseph’s School (Warriors) and St. Francis de Sales School (Tigers), which were consolidated in 1990; and the new St. Joseph’s logo.

It’s all topped by the phrase, “Led by the Spirit.”

“I tried to focus on the kids and the school. Their focus is on (Catholic) education,” Bakke said.

“It was a challenging piece, but it was a fun piece to do,” she said. “It’s fun to be part of this school.”

Valerie Ritland was principal at St. Joseph’s from 2000 to 2008.

“Love it (the mural),” the Moorhead woman said. “I’m just amazed at the skill and the history that is woven into this wall.”

Current principal Toby Biebl also praised the art.“It’s a beautiful piece of artwork that we’re very blessed to have in our school,” he said.

“You know what’s really cool? To be a student here and see that your school stretches all the way back to 1880.”

Biebl said the mural provides something to tie together generations of people who’ve attended or sent their children to St. Joseph’s. “It’s a sense of community at the end,” he said. “It’s something else, isn’t it?”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583