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It's About Tradition: The Pope Family

The Pople Family (5 Generations)

It is safe to say that our community would not be the same without the Pope family. One of the greatest traditions in Mariemont City Schools is the generational involvement that many families have in our school district. And in this sense, the Pope family is Tradition. Each family member not only builds on the traditions of our district, but they also remember the traditions fondly.

“My family has had five generations at the school system: my grandmother taught at Terrace Park Elementary; my aunt, uncle and mother went to Mariemont High School; both my wife and I were members of the class of 1965 at Mariemont High School; our two daughters attended Terrace Park Elementary, Mariemont Junior High and Mariemont High School; and now I have three grandchildren at Terrace Park Elementary. I think that this is probably a record,” said Michael Pope.

It is true – this family has a story that spans decades and generations in the Mariemont City School District. Frederic Grove, who is a member of the second generation in the area, went to kindergarten at Dale Park and high school at Plainville High School. His family was one of the original families in the area in 1926.

“My dad built five houses in Mariemont on Indian View Avenue, Mt. Vernon Avenue, Miami Road and two on Murray Avenue. I used to follow him around and help; it’s how I learned to build,” said Frederic. His mom – Gertrude Grove – taught at Terrace Park in the 40s and 50s.

He graduated in 1944 with 34 other seniors and went into the army the next day. He served in the Pacific as part of the 7th Air Force. After serving in the Air Force, Frederic worked for Cincinnati Public Schools, which was ranked #2 in the country when he worked there, and then started his own business as a builder.

His sister, and Michael Pope’s mom, Jean Grove Pope also attended school in the district from kindergarten until graduation in 1945. Some of her fondest memories include running track, playing tennis and serving as a Civil Air Patrol cadet. She got her pilot’s license at 16, and she worked at Streetman’s (now Kellogg’s) to earn money to go flying. “There weren’t a lot of planes around then – mostly gliders.” After graduation, Jean attended Purdue University for aeronautical engineering and later in life she received her Doctorate of Psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

Kay and Michael Pope graduated Mariemont High School, where they were high school sweethearts. “He sat behind me in freshman English and the rest is history,” said Kay Steigerwald Pope. “Mike was the junior class president and I was the junior class vice president. I was in charge of prom, which is a great experience in our school district.” Other traditions they remember fondly are the Indian Hill bonfire at the Terrace Park log cabin, Homecoming and participating in sports. Mike was one of the best basketball players to come out of Mariemont High School and he still holds the scoring record of 48 points in a game, in a game against Deer Park. Kay was salutatorian of her class, and their class (the class of 1965) is very active with reunions and a lot of graduates still live in the area – another great tradition of our school district.

Leslie Pope Willett is part of the 4th generation of the Pope family living in the school district. She graduated in 1996 and met her husband Jason at Mariemont High School.  Both have many fond memories from high school. Leslie was big into sports and singing, performing in musicals such as Godspell and Bye Bye Birdie. They both love that a lot of the experiences they had as students still exist for their children, such as the Terrace Park Labor Day parade, Camp Kern and participating in sports. “One of the best things about Mariemont High School is that I was only a so-so athlete but I had the chance to try everything,” said Leslie.

Leslie and Jason purchased their house from Leslie’s parents in 2011, so three generations have now lived in the family house.

“Many people from my class and Jason’s class have come back to live here because of the school district. And a lot of the kids are buying their parents’ homes, so the homes are staying with the family. Another thing that’s cool is that we have had teachers that have spanned the generations, such as Doc Kusel, Mrs. Messner, Mrs. Rupe and Mr. Turner.”

Leslie’s sister, Cindy Pope Portelinha, graduated from Mariemont High School in 1989 and feels that the writing and language skills she acquired during high school enabled her to succeed at the University of South Carolina, which eventually led to her current position as the head of the geography department at Central Connecticut University.  During high school, Cindy was active as well – involved in rowing, volleyball and AFS International Exchange Club, through which she traveled to Venezuela.

The 5th generation includes Matthew, Delaney and Ella Willett. All three attend school at Terrace Park Elementary. Delaney, who is a second grade student, says “the best thing about second grade is learning cursive writing…and I like to write and read…and the holiday concerts are my favorite.”  Ella is in fourth grade and she loves art and math, recently tackling multiplication. She also loves how they can walk, ride their bikes or catch a ride with mom or on the bus to go to school. Matthew is in kindergarten and already excels in academics, sports and Legos.

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