Gross High turns 50 years old; three generations of one family have called it home
By Joe Dejka / World-Herald staff writer
Sep 13, 2018 Updated Sep 14, 2018
When freshmen softball players Jenna and Jordan Skradski stepped onto the diamond this fall, they had their grandma to thank for their bright blue and orange uniforms.
Fifty years ago, the twins’ grandmother helped pick out the school colors for Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School.
The Archdiocese of Omaha school in Bellevue was brand new, and Mary Beth Skradski and fellow freshmen in the graduating Class of 1972 had the honor of selecting the colors, mascot and motto.
This week, the blue and orange will be flying high as Gross High’s faithful celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.
The Skradski family, three generations of whom attended Gross, will be joining the revelry.
Skradski, 63, said she feels a special connection to the school.
“You look back 50 years and say ‘We did that. We picked those colors. We picked the Cougar as the mascot.’ We kind of got the seedling started.”
Although the school has changed over the years — even the blue and orange were tweaked a bit last year to modernize the hues — one thing has stayed the same, she said.
The Gross High community is “one big family,” she said.
“We still hang out with people that I went to school with,” Skradski said.
The anniversary celebration will start with a pregame tailgate before Friday’s homecoming game against Schuyler Central High School.
On Saturday, there’s the homecoming dance and coronation for students. Alumni will celebrate at the Bellevue Berry Farm.
An anniversary Mass is set for Sunday.
Mary Beth Skradski’s four children — Joe, twins James and Matt, and Jennifer — and Joe’s wife, Jody, are among the 8,300 alumni who’ve worn the blue and orange.
Joe and Jody’s kids — Jenna, Jordan and their sophomore brother, Jacob — are enrolled today.
Yes, that’s a lot of J’s and M’s.
The clan got its start when Mary Beth, whose maiden name was Vetock, took a liking to a boy who attended Omaha South High School.
In those days, kids cruised in their cars.
During lunchtime at Gross, Joe Skradski and his buddies from South would drive their souped up cars through the Gross parking lot.
He drove a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda with a copper paint job.
Mary Beth would watch from inside the school as her boyfriend revved up their love.
The school’s first principal, Brother Leo Willett, knew what was going on, she said.
“Brother Leo never said anything. He would just stand out there with his arms folded and smile. But he knew. He let them do it.”
Mary Beth and Joe married in 1974.
Their son, Joe, and Jody, whose maiden name was Coniglio, were high school sweethearts in the Gross High Class of 1996.
They were married in 2001.
Jody and Joe enrolled their kids at Gross “because this is home,” Jody said.
“This is where we feel comfortable. It’s got a family environment where you know kids are safe.”
The Catholic faith is important to them, she said.
“It gives kids a sense of where they come from, who they are, what they believe in — trying to teach them to be the best people possible,” she said.
Joe added, “It’s comforting knowing the other kids going here are getting the same thing. You’ve got kids who’ve got morals.”