SIDNEY — A Holy Angels graduate is one of four inductees into the Lehman Catholic High School Alumni Association’s 2015 Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees include two former educators, a retired cook and a Holy Angels High School graduate who was instrumental in merging Holy Angels and Piqua Catholic High School to form Lehman.
The four individuals – Sister Dorothy William Englert, Elaine Schweller-Snyder, Esther Bensman, and Bill Custenborder — will be honored at Lehman Hall of Fame festivities on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.
One inductee of the 2015 Hall of Fame is Bill Custenborder, a 1946 graduate of Sidney Holy Angels High School who passed away in 2011. Nominated by his friend, John L. Wagner, Custenborder was always proud of his involvement in the merging of his alma mater and Piqua Catholic High School to form Lehman in 1970.
At the time of the merger, Custenborder was serving as president of the Holy Angels School Board. Consolidating two high schools that had been bitter rivals on the basketball court was no easy task. Concessions needed to be made to both communities located only 10 miles apart in distance, but much further apart when it came to building new traditions.
Staff members at the new school remember the first year of the merger as a balancing act. Equal numbers of students from Sidney and Piqua were placed on the prom court, the student council, and the cheerleading squad. Since the new school would be in the Holy Angels building in Sidney, the mascot and colors were from Piqua Catholic.
Despite the fears surrounding the consolidation, differences and rivalries soon faded. It is obvious that two became one rather quickly when looking at the number of marriages between Sidney and Piqua graduates of early Lehman classes.
The challenges that Custenborder faced in helping to merge two schools pale in comparison to the challenges he faced in his own life. His high school sweetheart and first wife Frances (Fritz) Bouquet had multiple sclerosis.
“Not many men in their 20s would have the character to marry, knowing this situation, understanding the debilitation that could follow,” said Wagner. “Bill ‘handicapped’ the house, and then cared for Fritz at home when she was bedridden, until she passed away in 1967 … (He) was deeply involved with raising their two children, Carol and Doug. It seems to me that this says it all about what kind of a man we had in Bill Custenborder.”
In his later years, Custenborder dealt with his own blindness for almost 10 years, yet according to Wagner, he rarely complained.
“I knew Bill for 76 years. We were together all through grade and high school at Holy Angels. To say we knew each other inside and out would be a large understatement,” he said.
Named Most Valuable Holy Angels Athlete in 1946, Custenborder served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean War. He began his banking career at City Loan in Sidney and then joined the Citizens Baughman National Bank as a loan officer. He worked there for 17 years, the last 10 years as vice president and manager of the Russia branch.
In 1970, Custenborder was named the chief executive officer of the Versailles Savings and Loan Co., retiring in 1992 as president, and continuing as chairman of the board for another year. During his lifetime, Custenborder served on many boards and organizations, including Sidney Jaycees, American Legion, Russia Civic Association, Versailles Development Association, Versailles Swimming Pool Board, Worch Memorial Public Library Board of Trustees, Board of Trustees of the Ohio Savings and Loan League, Versailles Area Foundation Fund, and Versailles Lions Club. With his second wife, Kate, he was honored as grand marshal of the Versailles Poultry Days Parade after his retirement from banking.
Always true to his Catholic faith, Custenborder was a longtime lector at St. Denis Catholic Church in Versailles and a member of the Senior Servers.
The Hall of Fame evening will begin with Mass at 5:15 p.m. in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Chapel on campus. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow at 6:30 in the Cianciolo Family Gymnasium.
For tickets to the Hall of Fame dinner, contact Shelley Vanskiver at 937-726-2510 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Jenny Weber at Lehman at 937-498-1161 or 937-773-8747.