They graduated together. They worked together.

And 20 years later, when they reunited, they began dating—and soon married.

Jim and Loretto Coogan will be among the gathering at the St. Cajetan Elementary School all-school reunion on Sept. 28.

The celebration will include students from many decades, and for the Coogans, it will be another joyous reunion.

When both were on the committee to plan the 20-year reunion for the St. Cajetan Class of 1976, they reunited at a meeting at Beverly Woods Restaurant—where they once worked together.

Sparks flew—the rest is history.

“He walked in, and it was love at first sight,” Loretto said. “Needless to say, we dated a year or two, got married, and we’ve been married ever since.”

The Coogans now live in Mt. Greenwood, and they’re looking forward to the upcoming reunion, which will begin at 4 p.m. with a Mass celebrated by the Rev. Tom Hurley—a 1981 St. Cajetan graduate—followed by a party on campus featuring food, refreshments and music.

Tickets range from $60-$65 and are available on the St. Cajetan website.

Jim Coogan and his family moved from Roseland into St. Cajetan parish when he was in seventh grade, and he and Loretto (Heywood) later worked together at Beverly Woods. The two enjoyed some romantic moments in high school, Loretto said, but Jim left Beverly Woods to work at The Original Pancake House-Beverly.

In 1996, they met again at Beverly Woods to plan the class reunion. To Loretto’s pleasant surprise, Jim had filled out his frame and grown a foot.

She had an affectionate—but straightforward—reaction to seeing him.

“I said, ‘Damn, Jim, you’re all grown up!’”

At the next committee meeting, Loretto recalled, the Beverly Woods owner teased her because she looked all dressed up to catch Jim’s eye.

The couple began dating in April 1996 and married in June 1998.

Two classmates were by their side—Lauren Blaney, the maid of honor, and Griff Ehrenstrom, the best man.

Loretto said she and her husband share similar backgrounds, and that’s why they get along.

“He’s such a great guy,” she said. “We worked in the neighborhood our whole lives. We know a lot of people. It makes it easy in life when you marry somebody that comes from your heritage. ... We still hang out with a lot of the guys and girls we grew up with at St. Cajetan.”

Jim cited a classic adage to explain the key to their successful marriage.

“Happy wife, happy life.”

Loretto has fond memories from her eighth-grade year, including the volleyball team winning eight tournaments and becoming city champions. Another memory is of her and her classmates walking to nearby Red’s Drive-Inn to get a cup of coffee for a faculty member. 

Memorabilia from each graduating class will be on display in the parish gym at the reunion from 5 to 9 p.m., and the party will begin in the parking lot at 5 p.m.

The school will be open for walk-throughs from 5 to 7 p.m., and Chuck’s BBQ will be served from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The Ron Burgundys, a local band, will perform from 8 to 11 p.m.

Loretto said many of her classmates still live locally and will attend the reunion.

St. Cajetan Principal Michelle Nitsche, whose four children attend the school and whose husband, Marty, is a graduate, began formulating plans for the reunion over a year ago. She met with the school board and a St. Cajetan graduate to discuss “how we could bring this Warrior pride-filled community back together.”

Knowing that alumni always comment on the positive impact the school had on them, they formed a 10-member committee and got to work.

Graduates from the Class of 1942 are also expected to attend.

St. Cajetan last held an all-school reunion in its parking lot in 2002. Nitsche said the upcoming gathering will show alumni that the school remains in good hands.

“One outcome we hope for from this event,” she said, “is to reconnect with our alumni more frequently so they are updated with the awesome things happening at St. Cajetan.”

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