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Delphos St John

2004 Hall of Fame Inductees

Biographies by Sue (Klausing) Gerker, Class of 1984

Service to St. John's

Mary Jeannette (Nolte) Menke, Class of 1943

Mary Jeannette Menke became an alumnus of St. John's High School in 1943. More than 60 years later, she is among the first class of the school's Hall of Fame inductees in the service category due to her diligence in tracking the thousands of graduates who came after her.

Mary Jeannette (Nolte) Menke was statistician of the St. John's Alumni Association from 1961 until 2002, when her health forced her from the volunteer work she describes as nothing but a joy. Next to raising and enjoying her own family, the widowed mother of six children, grandmother and great-grandmother, says keeping track of those who have passed through the halls of St. John’s is her best source of joy. When she wasn't spending her extra hours recording addresses and compiling information, Mary Jeannette still had St. John's on her mind. She was the auxiliary clerk/secretary at the elementary school and part-time secretary at the church for 18 years. The annual Children's Festival ran under her guidance for 27 years.

Over the years, she has served on school council, RICA team, liturgy committee, mission team, Renew core team, St. John’s welcoming team, baptism team, diocesan vocation committee and the hospital visitation team. She ministered to shut-ins, is a member of the Associates of Sisters of Notre Dame and Church Women United and is a Eucharistic Minister. The Catholic Daughters of the Americas has been part of her life since 1943, and she served two terms as Regent for the organization, as well as many other positions.

Mary Jeannette was chosen Tri-County Woman of the Year in 1999. No matter which group or committee she was helping that day, Menke says she enjoyed every activity. ”I didn't think of it as service,” she said. “I did it out of love.” At one time, May Jeannette considered no longer collecting the data on the alumni and publishing the newsletter, thinking that the information wasn't useful to anyone. But some words of wisdom from a priest put it all in perspective: He said, “We can’t drop it because it's the only contact with God some people have.”

Menke, 79, likes it that she has been able to provide St. John's graduates with a source of information that helps them be proud of their alma mater. “ If there’s any good I can do - I always intend to do it,” she said.

Service to Mankind

John Nomina, Class of 1969

Helping without wanting anything back, that's how John Nomina defines service. The St. John’s Hall of Fame 2004 honoree in the Service to Mankind category personifies those words.

Nomina is a 1969 graduate of St. John's High School. After pursuing his secondary education at Miami University and then the University of Findlay, he attained his Certified Public Accountant's license and opened a business in Delphos with his wife, Arlene. When he isn't crunching numbers or farming, he devotes his time to one of the many committees on which he serves.

The current president of the St. John's Foundation also serves on the School’s finance committee and is a trustee on the Delphos Stadium Club. He assisted the Interfaith Thrift Shop in its rebuilding project and has served twice on an advisory board for the city school district. "There can't be a committee unless I'm on it," he jokes. Nomina, 53, said his dedication to service has much to do with his experience at St. John's.

"Just look at the amount of people involved at the school. There's so many people who donate an extreme amount of their time. Service is something you witness in the people there," he said.

The community has greatly benefited from many of the projects Nomina has assisted in, especially efforts by the Stadium Club, but he said he isn’t involved for the recognition.

"I stay involved to keep things flowing forward. I'm not in it for the splash," he said. The father of two and grandfather of one said watching his boys attend St. John's, and playing football when he was in school, are some of the best memories of his alma mater. He thinks the creation of the Hall of Fame is a good idea. "In a group of people who do nothing but give, it's hard to pick one person, you could pick hundreds of people," he said. Nomina likens service to that of ice cream - once you get people to try it they want more.

"When people give their time they get a taste of the pleasure they get inside and they want more. Once you get volunteers it's easy to keep them coming back because of the feeling they get," he said.

"Service completes something. It's easy to be a spectator in this world, but when you jump in and do projects and be a creator instead of a spectator you accomplish completeness."

Athletic Achievement

Frank Garza, Jr., Class of 1970

It takes devotion, tenacity and a furious energy to excel to the top of a sport. Those are some of the qualities Delphos native Frank Garza, Jr. admires in his all-time favorite professional boxer, Roberto Duran. Garza has shown similar traits in his ascent to the top of the sport of boxing as a world-class referee and judge.

The 1970 St. John’s graduate pursued his interest in boxing when his job with Buckeye Pipeline took him to the Detroit area, the “mecca of professional boxing” in Garza's opinion. He joined a gym and began working out with the boxers, eventually representing some of them as a coach. Following a dispute with an official over the outcome of a match, the official dared Garza to read the rule book. He did. In 1983, he became a professional boxing official for the state of Michigan and entered the international ranks shortly thereafter. Over 20 years later, he has quite a resume under his belt, including officiating championship bouts for 11 organizations in 19 states and nine countries. He has served on international boards and committees and was a co-author of a rules and regulations handbook for Michigan boxing officials, work which earned him a special tribute from Michigan Governor John Engler.

In 2002, he was rated sixth in a listing of best referees by The Ring, the “Bible of boxing,” and was inducted into the Lincoln Park Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. He worked as a judge in the first world championship bout held in Beijing, China. Some of Garza's favorite fights he officiated or judged include: Mike Tyson vs. Andrew Golota, Erik Morales vs. Wayne McCullough and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Phillip Ndou. With all of the accolades, and honors he has earned, Garza said the kindness and recognition he has received from his peers mean the most. Garza's full-time job is with Buckeye Pipeline. He also is a sports columnist/reporter for El Central Hispanic News and The Michigan Chronicle. He is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Although he hasn’t lived in Delphos since his graduation, Garza said the thorough education he received at St. John’s gave him a strong work ethic and good communication skills. He’s honored to be among the first class of the St. John¹s Hall of Fame.

”I didn’t expect to be one of the first inductees. This is really an accomplishment,” he said. Garza said the Hall of Fame is going to show that St. John's doesn't just exist in Delphos; it's out in the world. "I think people are going to be surprised at what people who grew up in Delphos accomplished when they left, ”he said. His favorite memory from St. John's was his class play, “Mame”, because “the senior class really melted together as one group.” “I consider myself very fortunate to have done the things I’ve accomplished. I’m grateful for where I've come from and I wish others could experience what I’ve experienced,” he said.

Garza is now living in Lincoln Park, Mich. with his wife, Ondrayah.

Professional Achievement

Dr. Kevin Hemker, Class of 1980

Dr. Kevin Hemker has gone far from Delphos, literally and figuratively, but the St. John¹s alumnus hasn't forgotten his roots. After graduating high school in 1980, Hemker was top in his class at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a degree in Metallurgical Engineering. In the next five years, he earned two more degrees from Stanford, a Masters of Science in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 1990.

He was a post doctoral fellow at Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, for three years before serving as an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Today, he's a Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins with secondary appointments in the Departments of Materials Science & Engineering and Earth & Planetary Sciences.

"It's very exciting to teach at a world-class university and to be able to conduct research at the cutting edge of technology" he said.

His research interests focus on the mechanical behavior of advanced materials, especially at high temperatures. To date, Hemker has received over $10 million in federal research grants and has advised more than 20 graduate students and post doctoral fellows and scores of Hopkins undergraduates. He has published over 100 scientific articles, edited four books, is principal editor of the journal Scripta Materialia and has delivered more than 100 invited seminars and lectures in countries around the world. He has been an Invited Professor in Switzerland and France, was named a National Science Foundation Young Investigator and received the American Society of Materials Silver Medal in 2001.

He's not all work; however, Hemker plays golf and has sailed along the California and Maryland coasts and in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas. While in Switzerland, he played semi-pro basketball and hiked and skied in the Alps.

"Getting an education has opened doors for me that I never knew existed," Hemker, 42, said. He wants to use the opportunity of being inducted into the Hall of Fame to share that sense of adventure with students. "I've been fortunate to be able to do a lot of amazing things I didn't even dream was possible when I was growing up in Delphos. Hopefully, by example I can show students that those opportunities are available to them, too."

Religion and service are also important. He was a volunteer Catholic Chaplain at the Stanford Children's Hospital for four years and at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center for two years. He's currently an active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Baltimore.

At the forefront of Hemker's life is his family. He attributes his success to the strong foundation and support provided by his parents, Mary Ellen (Hemker) Deffenbaugh and James Hemker, now deceased. His wife, Maria Oliva-Hemker, is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist and the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center on Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States with her parents when she was 2 years old.

"She is the talented member of the family and it's been an exciting adventure balancing two demanding careers and raising children at the same time," Hemker said. The couple has two sons, James and Michael, under the age of 5. "I like to think of life as a series of adventures, and being a husband and father has been the best one by far."
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