From left to right; Kathleen Schnepf, Richard Hill and Holly Lafond pose during the Sheehan Hall of Fame induction ceremony. All three were part of this year's induction class, as well as Richard Lee, who died in 1991. | Andrew Ragali/ Record-Journal Staff
April 24, 2014 11:45AM
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD — The atmosphere was festive Thursday night at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn as four individuals were inducted into the Mark T. Sheehan High School Hall of Fame.
Old classmates were reunited and teachers caught up with their former students during the 18th annual hall of fame ceremony.
“Tonight is a wonderful evening full of all good feelings,” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said during his speech. “These four people have smiled into so many lives, and we appreciate that.”
Three Sheehan graduates and a retired teacher were honored at the ceremony. One inductee notably missing from the ceremony was Richard Lee, of the class of 1972. Lee, who served in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Vietnam in 1973, achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer and became a helicopter pilot. But during another deployment to the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, he was killed when his helicopter went down. In 2009, the Wallingford Post Office was named in Lee’s honor, and every Nov. 11, members of the class of 1972 meet to lay a wreath in front of a monument in his honor at the post office.
The inductees present Thursday night were Holly Lafond, of the class of 1983; Kathleen Schnepf, of the class of 1976; and Richard Hill, who taught at the high school for 35 years until he retired in 2008.
All three have been heavily involved with the high school and have carried on their service to the school into successful, community-based careers.
Hill taught earth science and mathematics during his tenure at the high school. According to Hill, his greatest challenge was helping students who had interest in other fields survive their course work.
“I miss the students,” Hill said.
He was an advisor to the graduating classes of 1979, 1983 and 1988, the student council, and the school’s Students Against Drunk Driving chapter. To be honored “is great,” he said. Hill stays involved with his former employer, as he will be deejaying the class of 1983’s 30th reunion. Now retired, Hill said he and his wife enjoy travel and ballroom dancing.
Among other accomplishments, Lafond was a member of Sheehan’s first girls soccer team. She’s a former employee of the Wallingford town clerk’s office, and served as a legislative aide to state Sen. Brian McDermott. She now works with State Marshal Tim Wall. For years, Lafond has worked to raise awareness and money for the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life in the Meriden-Wallingford area. Alongside Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jim Fitzsimmons, Lafond has helped collect more than 24,000 toys for the Toys for Tots program since 1990 through a joint birthday party the two hold every December.
“It’s just extra special,” Lafond said of being honored. “I had the best four years of my life at Sheehan. To be honored is the best thing ever.”
When Schnepf graduated from Sheehan in 1976, she was quoted in the yearbook as saying her dream was to “see the world as a nurse.”
As a high school student, she volunteered at the Meriden-Wallingford Hospital and was a nursing assistant at Gaylord Rehab Hospital. After graduation, she entered the U.S. Army, and became a medic and licensed nurse. She traveled the world practicing her trade until transferring into the Army Reserves. After graduating college, she joined the Air Force, through which she continued traveling and practicing medicine. After 22 years, she retired from the Air Force as a major, and settled in Vermont. She was a nursing instructor for the past decade in Vermont, but has recently moved to Virginia with her family.
Of being honored, Schnepf said, “It’s kind of unexplainable, to be honest with you.”
“It’s not something you really expect,” she added.
Schnepf traveled by train to Wallingford to attend the hall of fame induction ceremony.
“It’s a nice feeling to be back,” Schnepf said. “I live in Vermont, and now in Virginia, but this will always be home.”
Including this year, 78 people have been inducted into the hall of fame. An induction committee led by Bill Fritz decides who will be inducted every year. The event began in 1996.