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By Victoria LaFave
Charlie Cretens, who was the janitor at Holy Name Catholic School when it opened its doors as a high school in 1954 until he retired in 1987, will be posthumously honored at Holy Name on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at a special re-dedication ceremony of the school’s gymnasium.
Students who have gone through Holy Name High School and Holy Name Central Grade School will likely have stories to tell of the school janitor and the great care he took with the school, especially the gym floor. They are invited to gather together to honor Cretens at the special re-dedication ceremony of the school gym, which is named the “Charlie Cretens Gymnasium” in his honor.
Former students, staff, and friends of Charlie Cretens are invited to attend this Sept. 5th reception starting with refreshments in the multi-purpose room at 5 p.m, followed by the re-dedication and blessing of “The Charlie Cretens Gymnasium” at 5:45 p.m., where Cretens’ family members will be presented with a special framed picture in memory of Charlie. The first girls’ home basketball game will follow at 6 p.m.
This ceremony will be especially appropriate because Holy Name Catholic School recently had the gymnasium floor professionally refinished and repainted this past summer, complete with a special “Charlie Cretens Gymnasium” emblem surrounded by the old Holy Name Catholic School logo painted on the floor in the school’s colors.
Charlie’s greatest pride and accomplishment was the Holy Name gym floor. Charlie’s daughter Susan Cretens said the gym floor was “absolutely beautiful, and guarded with the utmost love and care.”
He took such great care of the school that Carolyn remembers Holy Name School being referred to as “Charlie’s Palace.”
Working in his “palace,” was right where he wanted to be. According to Susan, her father’s occupation was a perfect fit for him. “He was proud to be part of the team, and his dedication went above and beyond,” she said. “The position gave him purpose. He felt alive, needed and important.”
Charlie was married to Margie Rivers, who died in 2013. Charlie has two daughters, Susan and Carolyn. His two sons Charles and Steven have passed away. He also has many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Charlie died in 1999.
His daughters Susan and Carolyn remembered their father as a joy to be around. “Staff and students were drawn to his personality,” Susan said. “Not only was he a pleasure to be around, he also supported and encouraged others.”
“I remember a coach once saying when you are a new employee,” Susan reminisced, “the person you want as a friend is the janitor. He can open many doors for you (no pun intended), and this is true in the case of my father.”
Charlie also showed his love for his career in how he cared for the students and by “opening new doors” for them. He would often help kids who were struggling with affording tuition by finding work for them to help pay their way. He would also help students by driving them to sporting events in his “Crusader” bus.
In a Daily Press news article by Christine Provo about Charlie retiring in 1987, Charlie was quoted as saying: “I used to be on the road at 4:30 a.m. to take the kids to a basketball game and wouldn’t be back until 3 p.m.”
In the article, a former staff member of Charlie’s also reminisced about him. John Butrymowicz, former athletic director, basketball coach and teacher at Holy Name, was principal at the school in 1970. He shared some of his memories of Charlie: “It would almost be an impossible task to count the number of hours and days he devoted to that place,” It wasn’t Monday through Friday. It was a seven-day-a week deal. He was there early in the morning and would come back at night if needed.”
Butrymowicz recently said of Charlie’s dedication to Holy Name: “Charlie was an A-one guy. Kids could come to him with anything. He was visible and got his work done.”
Another one of Charlie’s friends, Dennis Grall, said he remembers Charlie treating the Holy Name gym floor as a shrine, always keeping the school clean and spotless. “He was a first-class gentleman,” Grall reminisced,” and everyone respected him.”
Charlie was grateful for the loyalty and love he received from the students of Holy Name High and Holy Name Central Grade School. Over the years, he was mentioned with appreciation in numerous monthly Crusader school newspapers.
Charlie’s spirit, caring personality, and dedication to the school and students will live on not only in the gym, but in the hallways of Holy Name for many years to come.
For more information on Holy Name Catholic School, located at 409 So. 22nd Street, please call the school office at 786-7550. Holy Name is currently accepting registrations for new students for the 2017-2018 school year.