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St. Paul's School turns 100

THE ORIGINAL ST. PAUL's Lutheran School in Perham. St. Paul's School celebrates 100 years of educating area students this Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25.

PERHAM -- There are 80 and 90-year-olds living in Perham who fondly recall their elementary days at St. Paul's. Now marking 100 years of providing a Christian education for area children, St. Paul's Lutheran School will celebrate its centennial this Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25.

The two-day celebration is open to the public, with a school open house from 3 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The school's mission is to "touch lives forever spiritually, academically, physically and emotionally with the love of Jesus." This mission has impacted countless Perham area children over the past century.

Bonnie Stohs, the current St. Paul's principal, says, "I would guess over the years we've had 1,500 students in the school."

The school is open to children in preschool through 6th grade.

Former St. Paul's students and their families are encouraged to attend the weekend celebration, along with the general public. According to Stohs, several former St. Paul's teachers will be in attendance at the centennial event.

On Saturday, July 24, a 5 p.m. worship service is planned. Rev. Orville Walz, Rev. Del Stohs, and Rev. Carl Noble will each take part in the special service. Rev. Walz and Rev. Stohs both have the distinction of having served as former principals at St. Paul's School.

After the service food will be served at 6:30 p.m., with a free will offering taken up for the meal. The night will also include fellowship, games for kids, and music in the church parking lot. Some of the evening highlights include a live band and inflatables for the children.

In case of rain, the event will be held in the school gymnasium.

The following day, Sunday, July 25, the school's centennial celebration will officially start with a 9 a.m. worship service with Rev. Walz and Rev. Noble. Rolls and coffee will be served after the service. Tours of the school will be offered during both days of the St. Paul's open house.

Letters of congratulations, donations, or questions may be sent to the school at 500 6th Avenue SW, Perham, MN 56573 or to

Although St. Paul's Lutheran School is nearing its centennial, the church itself is 40 years older. "The first teacher was called in 1910," says Principal Stohs.

Three years ago, St. Paul's School moved from its former location by the Perham Police Department to its present location attached to St. Paul's Church. The church has been at the 6th Ave. SW location since 1970.

In a time when there are fewer and fewer Lutheran schools, St. Paul's continues to remain strong. Principal Stohs reported that there are only nine Lutheran schools still operating in Minnesota North (a region that includes the entire northern portion of the state).

Stohs believes it's the sense of ownership the St. Paul's congregation has in the school that has helped the institution maintain its vitality. She says church members take pride in the fact that St. Paul's School is owned by St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

It is rare that a single church is able to support an entire school. Most Lutheran schools are the result of a combined effort of area churches.

According to information compiled on the history of St. Paul's Church, at first, the local pastors taught the Christian day school, but in 1910 Mr. Richard Matwich, a seminary graduate from Addison, Ill., was called as a regular teacher.

He was installed in September 1910 and began school with 42 pupils in eight grades. Under his administration the number of pupils increased. Mr. Matwich served as teacher faithfully until the fall of 1918 when he was drafted into the army in World War I.

A portable classroom was constructed in the summer of 1977 at a cost of $11,000 to serve as a third classroom. One of the former classrooms was converted to a library.

A preschool and kindergarten was started in 1987 in the Fellowship Hall. In an effect to save money, the congregation voted in 1989 to drop the seventh and eighth grades. Another building project was begun in 1991 when it was decided to add a 40 x 60 addition to the fellowship hall for the preschool and kindergarten-which at that time had an enrollment of between 70 and 80 students.

In 2001, St. Paul's School became accredited by the National Lutheran School Accreditation. In 1970, when the new St. Paul's Church was built, plans were also drawn up to build a school onto the new church. In 2007, this dream became a reality.

In April 2006, the congregation voted to build a $2.1 million addition onto the church. A $350,000 memorial had been given to the school years before for the purpose of a school.

Other donations had come in over the years. The congregational vote said that the building could be started when $500,000 more had been raised. The donations came in and the building was started in October. The new building houses offices for the church, five classrooms, a library, a computer lab, school offices, and a multipurpose room.

In April 2007, St. Paul's School was reaccredited and in June 2007 the school was moved to its new location. St. Paul's School currently has five full-time teachers, two part-time teachers, and two paraprofessionals.

Principals who have served St. Paul's include: Richard Matwich, 1910-18; H.C. Brase, 1920-46; John Robinson, 1946; Helen Bauck, 1946; A. Stahlke, 1947; Delbert Mey, 1947-48; Stuart Firnhaber, 1948-52; Richard Grunze, 1952-59; Elaine Sieling/Helen Bauck, 1959-60; Robert Krajewski, 1960-61; Orville Walz, 1961-66; Raymond Flesch, 1966-69; Richard Homann, 1969-72; Roger Matz, 1972-73; Dennis Werner, 1973-75; Roger Matz, 1975; Delton Stohs, 1975-95; John Gottschalk, 1995-97; Judy Frasz/Martin Brutlag, 1997-98; Bonnie Stohs, 1998-present.