If you went to Althoff Catholic High School, chances are you know an Orlet. If you are up on your Althoff history, you may know that Mr. Bill Orlet joined the faculty as a history teacher in the 1965-1966 school year. The very next school year, his brother, Father Ray Orlet would become the school’s second principal. What you may not know is that before Mr. Orlet and Father Orlet arrived at Althoff Catholic, their parents Jacob and Amanda were quietly serving behind the scenes. Jacob Orlet came to Althoff Catholic High School in the 1964-1965 school year as a member of the custodial staff. His wife, Amanda, would join him the following school year as a member of the food service staff.
In this, the second issue of our Alumni Magazine, we highlight the legacy of our school, and of Catholic education in our community. We tell the stories of people and families who helped make Catholic education what it was, is and will be in the future. With 43 members of the Orlet family walking the halls of Althoff Catholic High School over the last 53 years (spanning four generations), we bring you their legacy story; a story that started with the service and sacrifice of Jacob and Amanda Orlet.
The Catholic faith and family were the two mainstays in the lives of Jacob and Amanda Orlet. “They moved from Paderborn, Illinois to Belleville in 1944 to be closer to my grandfather’s brother, Monsignor Joseph Orlet who had been assigned as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish,” said Julie Orlet ’74.
In the coming years, Jacob and Amanda’s five children would continue their educations at St. Henry’s Seminary, Cathedral High School and Notre Dame Academy.
As with many families there are stories passed down through the generations. There is one story that continues to resonate with Jacob and Amanda’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In the early 1960’s, Jacob came home from work at Bauer Brothers Construction (the company that built Althoff Catholic High School) to inform Amanda that he had decided to donate the equivalence of one-month’s pay to the building fund for the “new” Althoff Catholic High School. It is said that Amanda shed a few tears that day knowing that they lived on a tight budget, with little money to spare . Due to the strong faith she and her husband shared, she knew God would see them through and that making the gift was the right thing to do.
Jacob and Amanda Orlet are remembered by many as hardworking people who were devoted to their Catholic faith and their family. “As a teacher and a coach there were two groups of people you always wanted on your side,” said Coach Glenn Schott, “the custodians and the cooks! Jacob and Amanda were good people. They raised a wonderful family and it was clear that their Catholic faith was very important to them. If you ever needed help, they were the type that would be there for you, no questions asked.”
Coach Schott, along with many of the faculty, staff and students from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s have fond memories of the “hobo stew” prepared by Mrs. Amanda Orlet and the other cooks. “Back then it was real home cooking,” said Coach Schott. “Nothing was brought in, it was all made from scratch and boy was it good!”
Jim Igel, a member of the faculty when the school first opened has fond memories of working alongside, and developing a friendship with Bill Orlet. “Bill Orlet was a good friend of mine,” said Jim Igel. “As a history teacher I remember him having a special dedication to
teaching the Constitution to the very best of his ability. He had such a strong rapport with his students that made it difficult for a substitute teacher to fill his shoes, even for just a day. The kids really liked him.”
Much like Bill, Father Ray was also very well liked and respected by the students, faculty, staff and parents. “Father Ray was a thoughtful person. He weighed pros and cons before making decisions and was very fair. He tried to bring innovation to his job as principal, wanting Althoff Catholic High School to stand out among the other schools,” said John Rensing, long-time Althoff Catholic faculty member. Including Jacob and Amanda, 43 members of their family would later walk the halls of Althoff Catholic High School, including Louise, John and George, three of Jacob and Amanda’s great grandchildren who are current students. The legacy of Orlets in the classroom also continues today with French teacher, Veronique Orlet (granddaughter-in-law to Jacob and Amanda).
“I know that if Jacob and Amanda, Father Ray, Bill and my husband, Andy were alive today, they would be pleased to know that Althoff Catholic High School has remained such an important part of our family,” said Eileen Orlet. “They would be so proud of the advancements made at the school and the difference it has made in the community to this day.”
It is in the sacrifice and service of Jacob and Amanda, the innovative spirit of Father Ray, the passion for educating the next generation demonstrated by Bill and the commitment to the Catholic faith and Catholic education demonstrated by the entire Orlet family that we are reminded of those things necessary to grow and sustain Catholic education in the future.
Learn more about what three of Jacob and Amanda’s great-grandchildren think about their legacy in the Alumni Magazine.