Closed, but not forgotten: faith lives and shines in Detroit

Detroit Lutheran West, my high school.

by Keith Yancy

I recently had a very eye-opening experience.  I went back to high school.

In my case, that would be Detroit Lutheran West High School, home of the Leopards.   My high school was one of many high schools in Detroit, a smaller high school that, like most others, had its highs and lows.  To an outsider, Lutheran West was just another high school; but of course, a kid’s high school is always his or her own, a place of memories (good and bad) and usually a place that has a marked impact on their lives.   Lutheran West did that for me.

But, like so many other high schools in Detroit, Lutheran West didn’t survive.

My high school closed years ago.  Another school moved in for a few years, but the forces of decay and population flight were still present, and it eventually closed too.  Like so many Detroit institutions, the problems of our area were just too large to overcome.  Nowadays, the occasional reunion and a devoted Facebook page keep the memories of my high school alive, with former graduates sharing news, renewing friendships, and trading memories.

It was that Facebook page and the pictures on it that made me decide to take a drive over to school to see it once more.  I confess, I’ve been a poor alumni.  I hadn’t physically been there for at least 20 years (class of 1985), even though it’s only a 20-minute drive from my home.  Only when I saw that the property had been sold to a land developer did I decide to visit, and on this occasion, I had my 10-year-old daughter Clara with me.

Even before I got there, I knew things had changed.  Dramatically.

Just for fun, I intentionally went out of my way to re-create the route I took to school each morning.  And while the street signs bore the same names, the trip was strange and unfamiliar; office buildings (some vacant) had replaced empty fields, old buildings were replaced by new ones; too often, those old buildings were either replaced by empty, weed-wild lots or simply boarded up.  I couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty about how long it had been since I had driven through the area.

All these strange feelings steadily increased as I got closer to where my old school was, and when I saw the familiar railroad tracks across Greenfield Road, I braced myself for what lay beyond.  (I remembered how I — and a lot of other kids — used the “got caught by the train” excuse on more than one occasion to explain why I was tardy for first hour.)  I bumped over the tracks, slowed down my car, and pulled into the parking lot of the school I had attended all those years ago.

It was a sad sight to see.

I stopped my car, and stared so long at the building and grounds that my daughter finally piped up from the backseat, “What is this place, Dad?”  I took a deep breath, exhaled, and finally said, “This was where I went to school, sweetie.”  She paused, gave it some thought, and finally said, “That’s sad.” 

We didn’t say another word while we were there. 

The front driveway. When I went to school there, the tall fence on the left didn’t exist.

Tall fences stood where once was an open parking lot.  Tall grass and weeds were everywhere.  Everything from the concrete driveway to the building was crumbling.  The forlorn school sign, still standing in front of the property, said “Faith lives and shines in Detroit.”  A playscape, added after my school closed, sat silent in a sea of overgrown grass. 

A front view, complete with abandoned playscape (added later). The gymnasium is in the background, with athletic fields behind it.

Time, neglect and scavengers had definitely taken their toll on the building.  Metal fascias had been torn off, doors boarded up, windows broken, awnings sagging.  Fences leaned back and forth.  Broken glass and peeling paint seemed to be everywhere.  The sports fields in back — where we played our games, cheered our teams, and held our phys ed classes — were now silent and empty, overgrown and abandoned.  The windows that remained gave glimpses of what I once knew as our school cafeteria, the band room, classrooms, principal’s office.  All empty, all silent.

The gym locker room entrance, located in the dark hallway toward the right of the photo. Scavengers have torn some of the metalwork off of the outside of the building here, perhaps because this area isn’t visible from the street.

Now, I’m a realistic enough person to know that my school wasn’t perfect.  We had plenty of problems, like all schools do, and while I had many good memories of high school, I have some that aren’t very pleasant, either.  I was neither popular, nor athletic, nor a scholar.  (In fact, I was Napoleon Dynamite before Napoleon Dynamite even existed.)  We had the same cliques, issues and dynamics every high school does.

But Lutheran West taught me a lot of valuable lessons, too.

Lutheran West was the place where I learned that white kids and black kids are, well… kids.  We made friends with each other, could tease each other, laugh with each other, play sports together, occasionally fight with each other, and make up again.  It was a place where I saw teachers and administrators who were characters, but who genuinely cared about the kids they taught, even if that meant running extra laps or getting sent to the back of the lunch line.  It was a place where I learned that a good education could be gained even if we didn’t have all the money and “stuff” that bigger schools had.

The baseball field. The field itself is virtually unrecognizable, except for the backstop. Like the other fields, the players helped care for the field after every practice by picking up stones out of the dirt.

And Lutheran West was, in my opinion, unique.  Instead of today’s fixation with the color black, our school colors were maroon and white — still my favorite color combination.  No one else we played had those colors.  And I don’t ever recall, even a single time, where we played another sports team called the “Leopards.”  That was us, and us only.  We knew we didn’t have as many resources as some other schools, and while we didn’t all have matching uniforms on the JV baseball team (there weren’t enough, so a few of us had older-looking versions), we loved — LOVED — when we beat the “rich kids” from the prep high school with their fancy uniforms and palatial baseball diamond.  We had our rivalries with — who else? — Lutheran East, which eventually closed also.

Religion was, of course, important.  One of the best experiences I had in high school was being required to read the ENTIRE Bible as part of the curriculum.  I’m amazed, even now, at how many Christians haven’t done that.  We studied — with respect — other religions, too, and we had chapel for the entire school every Wednesday morning, no matter what.  Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, this gift was the greatest gift Lutheran West gave to me, and I remain grateful for it every day.

The entrance by the school principal’s office, now boarded shut. If my memory is correct, many of the older class pictures were located just inside on the walls. Several windows were broken in this part of the building, and even from outside, it was evident that the interior damage was extensive.

All those memories came back to me in a flood as I slowly drove around the school.  My daughter and I sat in my car for a long while, staring at the building and listening to the cars driving past.  The entire place seemed utterly forgotten and invisible; it was as if the surrounding neighborhood didn’t even see the school (or us) there at all.  Before I finally pulled out of the driveway to go home, I found myself looking one last time at the school sign out front.

The school sign. This sign used to have the Lutheran West logo on it, before Detroit Urban school moved in after West closed. Eventually, Detroit Urban was forced to close also. The old city school bus depot still exists in the background. Greenfield Road is just to the left of this picture.

“Faith lives and shines in Detroit.”

Whoever put that message on the sign was right. 

The building is empty, the people long gone.  Soon, I suspect, the building will be gone as well.  But the true purpose of Lutheran West lives on, its mission accomplished.  Graduates of all ages — and colors — are productive citizens, in all sorts of professions (many students went on to become teachers and pastors themselves).  Some stayed local, like me, while others moved to Florida, or Texas, or California, or other far away places.  And while it’s sad knowing that my high school is gone, I feel better knowing that the lessons I learned there live on in many other people’s lives as well.

“You can’t go home again.”  Yes, perhaps that’s true.  But maybe you can take home with you.  For those of us from Detroit Lutheran West High School, that’s what we have left: our memories, our friendships, our faith.  And those gifts are greater than any brick and mortar building could ever be.  Faith does live and shine in Detroit, and beyond. 

And no matter where I go, or how old I grow… I’ll always consider myself a Leopard.

Until next time… 🙂


116 comments so far

  1. Martha on

    Loved your blog…the pictures were sad but the memories so wonderful.
    Once a Leopard, always a Leopard!
    Martha Craw – Thomas
    West 1987

    • Denise on


  2. Steve Drohan on

    As always I very much enjoyed another well written peice by you Keith. As you we’re describing your trip taking the route you used to take it brought back memories of your part of my education at LHSW … My daily lesson of the history of The Who … Some of which I have passed along myself.

  3. Rod Hartwig on

    Good one Keith. And a leopard can never change his spots.

  4. Cynthia J. Socull on

    Thank you for this visit to LHW…I was there before Detroit Urban closed and took a trip through the school. It was sad even then. Classmate Valerie Winston was a teacher there and we had a sad talk about the place. Our Memories will never fade.

  5. Helen Yancy on

    Bittersweet, great post, wonderful memories.

  6. Kenneth Palmreuter on

    Thanks, Keith, for a most eloquent blog. I moved on to Denver where I served as principal of Denver LHS and executive director of the Association for 15 years until I retired in 2002.

    LHW has a special place in my heart and in my memories. The teachers were outstanding. The students were smart and caring. The love of God filled the classrooms, hallways, locker rooms, and athletic fields. My own children got their high school education from those teachers. I have more Facebook friends from LHW than any other school where I have served.

    Demographics change. Four of the Lutheran schoold where I have served have closed. They served their purpose during their time of existence. They shared the love of Jesus. They helped raise generations of Christiqn leaders. Now it’s our turn to carry on where they left off.

    Dr. Kenneth Palmreuter
    LHW 1976 – 1978

    • Crystal Stelmachowicz Welter on

      I did my student teaching (English and PE) at LHW in the fall of 1982. Kenneth Palmreuter was the principal, and Coach Tuomi was one of my supervising teachers. What a memorable and valuable start to my teaching career! I now teach and administrate at Living Word Lutheran High in Jackson, Wisconsin. Thank you, Keith, for reminding us of the importance of Christian education. “Faith lives and shines” not only in Detroit because of LHW, but across the country through people who have been touched by their experience at that place.
      P.S. My father, Michael J. Stelmachowicz served as the superintendent of the Lutheran Highs in Detroit in the late 1960’s – mid 70’s. I have awesome memories of all three highs schools during that time (West, East, & North). I attended Mt. Calvary Lutheran school back in the day, which I assume is also now closed. In 1985-6, a taught briefly at East while my husband taught at North. Detroit Lutheran schools have certainly had an impact in my life and on my ministry. I am so grateful.

      Great article, Keith. Thanks for reminiscing and sharing!

      Crystal Stelmachowicz Welter
      (I apologize if this posted twice. I’m kind of new to the “blog world.” 🙂

  7. Stephen Wasner on

    Well done, I have so many memories of my school days at “West” I actually had tears in my eyes as I was reading this and looking at the photos, I met my best friends while attending here. My brother also passed away while running track there back on June 1st 1976….a day that is as fresh in my mind today as if it happened yesterday. I remember keeping an eye out for Mr. Wied..

    • Robert Splittgerber on

      Stephen, I never heard about your brother. What is his name? I’m Bob Splittgerber, ’66.

    • Eric Orr on

      You’re Eric’s brother? Wow, I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was on the track team at that time. Your brother was a good guy. Lot of memories from that school. Well written article Mr. Yancy.

  8. Elise Calhoon on

    Very nice indeed, Keith!
    Our memories will never fade if we keep them alive in our hearts & minds. Thanks for sparking the grey cells again!
    Continuing in His Service,
    Elise Larson-Calhoon LHW 1976-1980

  9. Janet Schmaltz on

    People and places change constantly, but the memories we have will live in our hearts and souls forever. Thanks for reviving those memories and giving me a refreshing new outlook on just how far we have all come because of the dedicated staff that showed us that everything in life is possible if we believe. Class of ’79. Janet Schmaltz

  10. on

    Thank you, Keith. I made the same lap around the “old school” a short time ago. A lot of great memories ooze from surroundings and the knowledge gained there will never be lost.
    Don Sillanpaa

  11. Cindy Werner on

    I grew up in southern Indiana, but had the pleasure of student teaching at Lutheran West in the fall of ’87. There, God was preparing this small town girl for her first call to teach at a Lutheran school in Mt. Vernon, NY (just outside the Bronx). Though I was only a part of the LHW family a few short months, it made a life-long impression on me.

  12. Diane (Duncan) Staples on

    So glad I didn’t miss seeing this gem! Incredibly well written…brought tears to my eyes! We have so many memories indeed. LHW impacted all of our lives and laid the foundation for us. So thankful to have been blessed.

  13. William Loughner on

    I certainly got a good education there and have many great memories. Detroit has changed a lot (the 2 houses I grew up in are now empty – but well-tended – lots). I have good memories of Detroit too.

    Google Maps will give you a street view of Greenfield if you want to walk on by…

    Bill Loughner ’65

  14. William Loughner on

    Wait, wait! That should be: Bill Loughner ’61! Time flies.

  15. Rev. Noel C. Olse on

    Thanks, Keith, for stirring up the memories. I started at Joy Rd. and moved to Greenfield campus later. Graduated in ’61. 7 of the best years of my life! What a joy….eating, study hall, chapel, plays and concerts, pep rallies….all in what would later become the cafeteria. I’ll bet some of my straw wrappers are still stuck in the ceiling! (We didn’t have the gym then.) We had our 50th class reunion in Tampa not long ago. So good to see so many classmates and especially to sing with them directed by Rev. Franzen. All my years of Barbershop quartet, seminary Kanorei, and shower singing can’t compare with those few golden moments. Life is good! And that great gift of God to us all, LHSW, went a long way in making it so. Oh, I’m sure everyone has their magic moments from the past like we do. I’ll surely never forget mine!
    Rev. Noel C. Olse, LHSW, Class of 1961 (Remember, the year reads the same upside down!)

    • Richard H Knee on

      Rev. Franzen – that brought back memories. I dated a girl that sang in the choir and I played tenor sax in the band under Mr. Splitburger (sp). First class to graduate from the new building as I recall – memory is not the best any more Love reading this blog. God Bless
      Dr. Richard H. Knee

      • John Kost on

        I think it was Splitgerber. He was my first home room teacher in 1969.

      • Robert Splittgerber on

        Stephen, I never heard about your brother. What is his name? I’m Bob Splittgerber, ’66.

        I’m totally confused about how this is supposed to work . . . or whether it’s working for me, at all. But if it’s coming thru, you now have the correct spelling. VERY nice to read from someone who knew Joy Rd. Happen to remember a little curly blond fella hanging around? There’s a picture in one of the old Aureole’s of my Dad holding me in one arm, while directing the band at a basketball game with the other. From the Fall of ’52, DLHS and then DLHSW were part of an extended family. I am grateful for this blog, especially reading how special LHSW was for so many, echoing my own sentiments. I walked through those barren halls a few years back. A reminder of the passing of all things with time, that was. But the mission in which, I know, the faculty believed, has borne much fruit. I’ve wondered whether subsequent classes experienced how special this school was, as I and hundreds (thousands?) did before you. It is a happy occasion to stumble on to this site and learn it is so. BTW, I must inquire whether the Rev. Bishop Laverne Franzen still breaths. It is he, a Seward classmate of my Mom and Dad, who got my Dad his job. The Joy of our Risen Lord be with you all.

  16. heather (habkirk) Butterworth on

    Keith I remember you very well. What a nice guy with.a hidden talent of writing! Thank u for helping me remember…well..both the good and the bad of lhw. I was moved when i saw the pix and the passion you shared for that place. i have fond memories for sure and u helped me remember more!

    • Luke Peterson on

      Kind of amazing….after leaving the Detroit area in 86 after graduation….saw the school a few times(also a poor alumni). Took my 3 boys by there in September. All of the legendary stories I told them about I am sure were diminished when they saw the building and grounds. I assured them that that WAS our cafeteria, that it WAS were we beat Servite for homecoming 1985, that is WAS where I jogged to Docs for track practice. That being said, I think it taught them that no matter where they come from, they can and will be successful based on the people that have touched their lives and that it is never underplayed. True piece of education! Thanks for the views!

  17. Richard H Knee on

    I made my journey in Detroit from Bethany, to Joy Road to Lutheran West and this post brought memories and some tears. What I take from the post is “faith lives on” – today at 72 I still cling to my faith and the memories of my journey with Lutheran Schools.
    Dr. Richard H. Knee

  18. Christine (Hooven) MacRae on

    Thank you for this wonderful yet sad trip back to the memories of Lutheran High West (class of ’83). My memories of West are mostly all good but what it really did was to bring me closer to God and strengthen my faith. This has made my life so much more blessed through trials and triumphs. I am so grateful to the many wonderful teachers and friends that made my life better.
    It brought tears to my eyes as I saw the destitute way things look now. Since I live in Lapeer I don’t get down there any more. It was all very bittersweet!

  19. Karen (Moehring) Biskupski LHW '73 on

    Your words spoke so eloquently of the Lutheran West I and my siblings knew and loved! The sacrifices our parents, and so many others, made so that we could have a Christ-centered, excellent education are something we will always cherish.

  20. Claudia Garchow Staude LHW1973 on

    My years at West shaped me into the teacher I am today. Thank you for expressing so well the feelings we have for the place that LHSW hold in our hearts. I am at LHS St. Charles, MO now and I still find myself sharing stories about the school I loved from 1969-1973!

  21. John Kost on

    Like Karen and Claudia above, I was there from 69-73. That was a magical time with the long sought addition of the gym and additional classrooms. We won the state baseball championship under Coach Roger Aumann (who was also our beloved choir leader – with Claudia our organist/pianist and Karen supplying a wonderful soprano voice) so the picture of the baseball field brings back great memories.. What makes your pictures so hard for us from that era is we helped put the finishing touches on raising the money for the gym and literally watched it being built. After all that, to see such decay is depressing. Thanks for sharing. My dad lives not far from there and I do drive by from time to time. It is very depressing but helps give my teenaged kids a better appreciation for what they have here in Virginia.

  22. chris paschke on

    Thanks for a trip down memory lane. Sad to see the pictures of a place that played such a large part of our youth in such a state of disrepair. I also spent more energy avoiding Mr Word over the length of my hair then I ever did on studying. Chris paschke Class of 76

    • dave on

      Chris, doubt that you will ever see this… but hi from the Art teacher with the NYC accent… Dave Waldmann. Wow 40+ years ago… teachers were just pushing to get facial hair acceptable for themselves back then! Be happy, Dave.

  23. Anne Fischer on

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and pictures. Like so many other memories of a childhood in Detroit, it leaves me with a bittersweet taste. The building may be going/gone, but the people and our memories live on.
    – Anne Fischer, class of ’84

  24. Elaine Echols on

    Thanks for rekindling those LHW moments and the trip down memory lane through those “hallowed” halls where faith was exhibited and lived. As in the book of Hebrews which lists those who go before…what great walls …”by faith” we walked and grew. It may be dark now but lights in us still beam to bring LIGHT to others in the way we live out our faith today!
    I recently saw a sign at the Novi Showplace for a “Rosary High School” reunion…oh more stories to go with that “girls school next door” for those who remember our neighbors and patrol dogs at LHW.
    Thanks for the pictures…it is clear but our minds hold the true pictures of each memory and not the forsaken place seen today! What an “investment” our parents made for the next generation…we need to pass the faith too!
    Elaine (Behrendt) Echols, class of ’74

  25. Karen (Stier) Forsyth, class of '73 on

    Sad to see the state of the building and grounds but wonderful to rekindle some of the memories. I’m sorry that I have not stayed connected with my classmates, but am looking forward to our 40th reunion next year thanks to facebook.

  26. George Wind on

    A picture is worth a 1000 words and with the several pics that you’ve provided we have at least 100,000.

    It does move us to see the physical reminders of old memories go to pot. But hopefully many of us still have our yearbooks. I can only think of what my late father would have thought to see his Alma Mater Redford High torn to the ground in order to make way for a Meijer store.

    Still when I saw these pictures I can still hear coach Tuomi say “Take a lap” or the lunch lady cashier call out “Come on down!”

    LHW 1985

  27. Nathan Schoenfeld on

    Well written! I drove by there about a month ago for the 1st time in a while and yet another sad bit of history going down..Great memories of staying there till late into the night working on drama productions, heisting a class composite or 2, running down the hallway and getting clothes lined by Mr Weimer and looking up from my back as he said there is no running in the halls and the later sitting in D-Hall! Watching the football team go undefeated 1 year or Ma Finzel. Coach Tuomi and his Redman getting delivered to his office.
    Nathan Schoenfeld Proudly member of LHW Class of 84

  28. Rick Tertzakian on

    Thanks Kieth for the great article. Funny, I had just done the same thing back in August with my 15 year old daughter while we were in visiting family. Sad to see, but as was said, did bring back so many great memories. Thanks to Tim Haller for letting me know about this article. And great to see some old friends and respected teachers responses here as well. Happy Holidays and God’s Blessings to all.
    Rick T. (LHW Class of 80)

    • Dave Garrow on

      All I can say is, WOW! Those are some sad pictures. Thanks very much, Keith, for taking the time to do this…Outstanding work. I share many of the same feelings already expressed. As for the life changing experiences there, I’m thankful for the lifetime friendships made while there, especially on the athletic fields being coached by Hall of Famer Dennis Tuomi! That picture of the baseball field broke my heart! It was great to get reconnected a couple years ago with Rick Tertzakian and Tim Haller in Dallas (where Rick is the modern day J.R. Ewing) Have a blessed Christmas season! (Class of 1980)

  29. Mike Zeddies on

    I stumbled on this blog entry because, having once taught in a Lutheran school in the Detroit area (St. Paul’s – Farmington Hills) and having an interest in former Lutheran schools in Detroit and their history, I was poking around the interent looking for information about these old fortresses of Christian faith and faithful. Imagine my pleasure at finding this gem of an article!

    Although I did not attend LHW, I was friends with a number of former students and faculty and visited the school on a number of occasions. To an “outsider” such as myself, LHW seemed bigger than life – one of the more renowned Lutheran high schools in the United States and a centerpiece of the lives of its alumni and teachers.

    I, too, am saddened by the pictures and current condition of a once proud and vibrant school. The former students and teachers of LHW, however, can be assured that West was not “just another high school” where friends were made, lessons taught and learned, performances delivered, games won and lost, and adolescence traversed. It was a place where faith and lives were molded and melded in the individuals who walked its halls.

    This story and following replies probably provide as good a eulogy as anyone could have given for the old Detroit Lutheran High West.

    Nice writing!

    • drzeile on

      Mike- I wrote a dissertation on Detroit Lutheran school closings published by Lambert Academic Press, “When Lutheran Schools Close.” Contact me 313.802.1146, or

  30. Karen (Wallinger) Perez on

    A very well written article — while reading it, I could hear the sounds, see the sights, smell the cafeteria food and hear the singing from the chapel service ….. so sad, but thanks for sharing the pictures and all the memories. So many memories, so many friends remain from this alma mater !!!! Proud to be a Leopard !!!! — forever a Leopard.

    Dr. Karen (Wallinger) Perez
    Class 1970

  31. Kirsten Goetze Lichtner on

    Wow. I just read this while on my lunch break at work and the tears jsut started. What powerful writing Keith. I can almost smell the chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria and see Ms. Schmidt directing the band. The memories of good friends and as you all say the good and bad times of high school came flooding back. My daughter will be starting high school this Fall and I have shared with her many times the memories that I have from mine. Even looking at the pictures of the dilapidated buidling now, the good memories are still right there. Remember, a home is not a buidling but the people you share it with. LHW was home for a long time for me having two older sisters who went there as well. We were one of the last classes to graduate before Lutheran Westland came into being. I will always cherish the memories and plan to take a drive by the next time I make it back to Michigan.

    Kirsten Goetze Lichtner
    Class of ’86

  32. Kathleen R on

    Thank you for sharing this. In my mind’s eye, I see the halls filled with kids and the classrooms and other areas full of life. I was one of the “scholars”, with my nose often in a book, but I learned some big things at LHW. What a wonderful base for life lessons!

  33. Kathleen R on

    Class of ’88 – 25 years!

    • June Keogh Uhlig on

      First 3 years of teaching. 77-80. When I am asked where I first taught, I proudly tell them Lutheran West. I am still teaching art, now in Las Vegas, but my years and experiences at West, were life building, life changing, and some of the best memories. I loved teaching there. And still keep in touch with many of the oldies but goody teachers.

      • Denise Darnell Brown on

        I really believe I remember you, Ms. Unlighted. Denise Darnell (Stephens) Brown, PhD ’78

  34. George Vincent on

    Great blog,Keith. I’m from the Class of'”75, same class as your sister, Robin.

    • kdyancy on

      Thanks, George. I really enjoyed writing it, as well as hearing from so many former LHW students and teachers. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about putting my blog on the LHW page, but it was well worth it. As difficult as it was to see the building and grounds in such disrepair, hearing peoples’ memories and feelings about what LHW meant to them reminded me what West’s true legacy was (and is): positively affecting people’s lives to live and grow in Christ. While I wish LHW was still operating and vital, the work completed there lives on — in Detroit, Michigan, and across the country.

      Thanks again to you, George, and to everyone who took the time to read my blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from you all.


  35. Denise Darnell Brown on

    Beautiful photos bringing back great memories.
    Denise Darnell (Stephens) Brown, PhD

  36. Denise Darnell Brown on

    Denise Darnell (Stephens) Brown, PhD is from class of 1978.

  37. Ted Jordan on

    I attended there for 2 years only…I was so shy then, I would barely speak.
    Too many pretty girls in one place at one time 🙂 I was overwhelmed.

    My tennis career started there. I still play (never professionally but wanted to). I wasn’t good enough to make the basketball team.

    I got my first job there as a math tutor, and worked in the library. I think the librarian’s name was Ms. Mitken. Then off to Cass Tech for my last two years.

    Everyone seemed so grown. Now high school kids are….kids 🙂

    I really liked gym class where we even learned to dance and jump rope. We stretched before every activity, and I still stretch before I exercise.

    I remember the Math teacher was a pastor, and ran a tight ship. He was really good. Biology and German class were fun. I felt I got a good education there.

    Class of ’78

    • Phyllis Larson Schroeder on

      I think the Math teacher was Pastor Williams. He was also the part-time assistant pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church where I was a member. I had him for Math my Senior year (1963-64) and my strongest memory of him is that he threw blackboard erasers at those of us he thought weren’t paying attention in class.

      Phyllis Larson Schroeder, 1964

      • Ted Jordan on

        oh yeah, Pastor Williams was tough 🙂

  38. Mary Anne Ryan on

    Just heard that Lutheran West’s neighbor, the former RosaryHigh School, was torn down in the last couple of weeks. It is sad. There are many great memories that live on.
    Rosary Class of ’72

  39. Greg Seltz on

    Many great memories at West…great teachers, great friends, but most of all a faith that bonded us beyond whatever nonsense was going on in the world around us. I really appreciate being “taken back” but in many ways West has never left me. Thanks….Greg Seltz, ’78’

  40. runningerins on

    Thanks Keith for bringing back a lot of memories…Dave Halter sent this to me and my wife (Erin Simons…LHW 78)

    We maried 3 months after she graduated LHW and never returned to the Motor City. We both could not believe what has happened to a special place for both of us. It’s been 36 years since I walked those halls and scrambled to beat the train !!!

    Thanks for bringing back some great memories. We are cheering for Detroit to make a comeback. It still is “home” to us both.

    Ron Rice (77)

  41. Karen Gray on

    Wonderful article. Many memories of a time that molded my life with good friends and adventures. Thank you for inviting us to remember an important journey of our lives.

  42. Karen (Moore)Gray on

    you may remember me as Karen Moore. Now, Karen Gray

  43. Skip Wickham on

    Haunting images. I left in 1983 and haven’t seen the place since.
    Skip Wickham

  44. Dave Tarbet on

    Thank you for doing this. I haven’t been by there since it was still Detroit Urban so was somewhat shocked to see how bad it has fallen into decay. Looking at the pic of the locker room entrance was eerie. I still remember waiting there to get picked up after ball practice. Never taken my kids past West, but I think I might next time we are in the area. They are both in high school now, and hopefully this will show them how things don’t always last forever.

    Dave Tarbet ’87

  45. Elizabeth (Archbold) Nelson on

    Lutheran High West, hats off to thee
    To our colors, true we will ever be…

    Or something like that…

    Thanks for the memories!


  46. Darrell Fox on

    I never write commnets on pages, but this brought back a feeling I had in 2000. Back then my daughter asked me why I didn’t have any family and where I came from. I didn’t realize that I had so completely left my past that I never even talked about it. I took my family back to Detoit in 2000 and showed them where I grew up including LHSW and it turned I felt the same way. I abandoned a lot of real estate in the inner city and I’m not surprised that LHSW fell the same way. I graduated in ’69 and never looked back.

  47. David S. Milz on

    Thanks so much. If only those walls could talk.

    Dave Milz

  48. Jeanie Wright-Headley on

    Wow – class of ’72 here (although we moved to another state my senior year). Sad, but I’m glad I found your blog. Thank you for the memories.

  49. Lisa Taylor (hicks) on

    Class of ’82 here “….hail to maroon and white!”

    • Dave Marion on

      Thank you so much for this post! The school and people changed my life! I try to playit forward on a daily basis! Once a Leopard always a Leopard!

  50. Lynne (Benford) Slaughter on

    LHSW Class of ’84! Beautifully written, brings back so many great memories… I drove past LHW about 5 years ago (I live in GA now) to show my kids where I went to high school and was saddened by what I saw… Thanks for putting my feelings into words…. Thanks for the memories….

  51. Paul Garchow on

    Excellent article – your LHW English teachers would be proud. Thank you for sharing how faith endures the changes we face. Well done, Leopard!

    Paul Garchow
    LHW 1966-1970

  52. Jen Conrad on

    good article. Saw the place a few years ago, still have family in the area. Sad to see it in such disrepair.

    Jen (Radtke) Conrad
    LHSW 85

  53. Rolondo Campbell on

    Hi Leopards! One of your alumni, Rolondo Campbell, has the old Lutheran West High school and we are working diligently to restore it to its former grandeur!!! We have a youth organization Detroit Michigan Panthers Youth Organization and we have completed our inaugural year with a football and cheerleading team. We have a team of engineers doing blueprints now! Stay in touch, FB & Tumblr: Detroit Michigan Panthers Youth Organization; Insta: dmpyo; Twitter: @dmpyo;;

  54. Vicki Torson (Valentine) on

    Thanks for the pictures. Though I was only at West for my senior year (1970-71), it was a refreshing and safe change from the Detroit public schools that I attended all through my childhood. Currently am teaching special education students who are involved in very difficult lifestyles – thanks again for the article.

  55. 68tigers on

    Bob Boyle,’71. I, too, have taken that trip. It breaks my heart that my history is gone, not just LHW but all of Detroit. It was a great school and a great city. I have been sent, over the years, many photos of Detroit in her prime. It is so sad. More damage and loss here than New Orleans after Katrina; where is the help?

    We should all move back, buy our old homes, create jobs, show the world what God can do.

  56. Kelly on

    I was a Leopard for only 2 yrs but I have some good memories. I was there for my freshman and sophomore years, I was in the choir and I was a “Flag girl” which only survived one year that I was in it, I also tried out for the “Highsteppers” but I guess I wasn’t one of the popular blondes so I didn’t make it, which was ok by me. So many memories I have even tho I was only there for 2 yrs. Its very very sad to see how the school has deteriorated. 😦

    • Robert Splittgerber on

      My Dad formed the “Highsteppers” as a precision drill team in the early ’50s, employing his WWII drill experience as he also did with the band. I’m a bit proud that he did this for the girls long before there was a “Title whatever.” My bias is that neither group was ever as good, once a war injury finally confined him to the classroom, where drafting and – for a time – algebra and geometry were taught most excellently. Yes, he had a temper. So did Toscanini. Too, bad, how well I know. But no teacher was more dedicated to his students’ learning. This, too, I knew first hand.

  57. Jean on


    WAHHH WAHHH!!! I loved being a leopard!!! I miss it so much. I was PROUD to be a leopard. I also loved our school colors. So many memories, good or bad as no school is perfect like stated. But I loved it never the less. So sad to see my old school like this. I had someone take my picture outside the double doors when I went there but now I can’t find the picture, but its in my memory for life. Fun football games at night and I remember the train passing by behind the bleachers, I MISS IT ALL 😦

  58. stanleydwilliams on

    In doing research for a book, came across this blog. Tears in my eyes. I had a terrible experience in Jr. High public school, so my folks put me in LHW. We weren’t Lutheran. What a great turn-around for me. A few years ago my wife Pam and I drove around the school and took similar pictures. I got out of the car and just stood there in the fading sun reminiscing about Coach Toumi, Ruth, and Mr. Weid. Great memories. Great place. I still see my locker partner, Phil Bray, for all four years when I go to Los Angles. Stan Williams 1965.

    • kdyancy on

      Thanks for reading, Stan. It’s somehow ironic that you commented on my blog today — I am in a bit of a low place mentally, and seeing your note really gave me a lift. I’m glad my blog affected you, and I have similar memories and opinions about LHW. I hope to start blogging again soon, and I wish you well in your book research.

      • Ted Jordan on

        I was just thinking about the healthy breakfast I had there every morning of moist, hot chocolate chip cookies 🙂

      • I still proudly tell people I graduated from Lutheran High West. Class of ’78…the “Great Escape.” Go Leopards…great memories…

  59. diane perttola on

    I really loved the pics! Brought back some really great memories. Even though I HATED going to a religious school and got suspended several times for the length of my skirt (remember kneeling in front of Rev Williams with his ruler?), I now see how it was the best preparation for life that I could have received. The religion classes were fantastic although I HATED them at the time; I considered them a waste of my time (remember when I stood up in class and announced that I was an atheist?) (no longer true but at the time I was experiencing doubts).
    Diane (Voorman) Perttola class of 1973

  60. Denise on

    Ralph Nitz was the best counselor ever!

  61. Sherri Roman on

    Wow! Love your post….I’m not sure how I came across it but it has moved me as I sit here. I am from the class of 92 from Lutheran East 🙂 My oldest daughter attends Lutheran North now…although you will never see me wear Mustang attire! lol Always an Eagle!!
    So sad to see what has happened to such “real” schools…Real as in we all were real kids living in real life-black-white-rich-poor we all were a family-I whole heartedly believe that Lutheran schools form a bond between kids and teachers too that you never find anywhere else-we stand true to what we believe in and to each other-we were taught these things-we were taught to love where we came from-love each other and always remember that and never forget where you’ve been. I wish these schools would have made it…it’s an end to an eara that so much good was made from. The Lutheran world is so “small” 🙂 love to you and all my fellow Lutheran High School Alumni!

  62. kevin loch on

    Thats just a building in those pictures, what matters is most people who walked in it share a common bond, we all learned how to respect and love one another regardless of our background. This has helped me thur “much”..!!!! I left Detroit many years ago, but it never left me. I hope and pray we all look back and know we our better off for the time we spent in that building, god bless to all….

    Kevin Loch Detroit LHSW ’82

  63. stanleydwilliams on

    Wow, can’t believe all the comments. Must add mine. We had our 50th LHW reunion this past week. 70 of our graduating class showed up plus over 40 spouses. Many fond memories of the place. I’m thinking of trying to gain access to the derelict building to do a short documentary film. Anyone knows who owns the property now? Stan Williams (LHW, 1965) stan AT stanwilliams. DOT com.

  64. Ronald Stringer on

    That was a great written and visual snapshot of some wonderful times. Thank You for the walk down memory lane.
    Ronald Stringer-84

  65. Tracee Glass-Weathersby on

    I really enjoyed this article. You broght back si many memories!
    Tracee Glass-Weathersby class of ’86.

  66. Carole (Schlick) Rasky on

    I was in the first class to graduate from DLHS/West in “1958”. I’ve heard stories of moving day during Christmas break “57” from some of the guys in my class that helped moved furniture. Coming from DLHS on 5040 Joy Rd to DLHS/West on Greenfield was like walking into a castle, huge and sparkling new and to think we didn’t have a gym or a football field back then.The true definition of “teachers” were like my favorites Miss Finzel, Mr. Weid, Mr. Beck, Mr. Ruth and of course Mr. Tuomi. This May, 2016 our class of “1958” from DLHS/East and DLHS/West (we were classmates for three years before East and West opened their doors) will have a “58th” class reunion. Like Keith Yancy that wrote the article the memories of having the privilege to attend school at West are deep. I can still visualize walking through those doors. We may not have had the funds like other schools but we had to be the wealthiest in spirit.

  67. Nancy Johansson Tonkin on

    Nancy Johansson Tonkin, April 4, 2016, from Prescott Valley, AZ…..EXACTLY…once a Leopard always a Leopard…I graduated in 1963. Beautiful thoughts of knowing that there are Christians all over, having come from Lutheran High West!!!

  68. yel01nast on

    It was a sad trip down memory lane that I just took. I was installed as an Elementary teacher at Nativity the same day LHW was dedicated and Nativity proudly hosted your festive dinner in our new gym. For ten years LHW used the gym at Nativity for many activities so we had a very close family feeling for the new school only a mile away.
    Then I was called to LHE and spent 30 years as part of their faculty. Many meetings were held at LHW and so once more the family relationship continued.
    During the last years at LHE I obtained my ED. D. degree and became a fixture on the North Central Committees for many of the high schools within the Detroit area. It was in that capacity that I became part of the decision to close LHW since the faculty came to the realization that the small number of students would no longer allow the school to maintain the high standards that LHW had come to offer you, the gifted alumni.
    So thanks for all your comments and memories. I am sure the faculty is proud to know that their efforts were not in vain.

    Most sincerely in His service,

    Dr. Stanley R. Topel

  69. Stephanie Johnson on

    Great article Keith, it brought back so many memories. I am a Leopard till I die.
    Stephenie Johnson 1986

  70. Robert Splittgerber on

    Well, I have no idea what became of my earlier “replies.” Hope I haven’t entered a web “rabbit hole.” But before I get on with my day, THANK YOU, KIETH, for writing for all the rest of us. I’ll save this and figger out how it works at a later date. The Peace of our Lord be with you all.

  71. drzeile on

    My parents sent me from public school to Lutheran West in 1969. There we were more afraid of the teachers than we were of the bullies (THAT has influenced my philosophy of education ever since!). I came back and taught 1977-80, then returned to Detroit as a pastor/teacher (inspired by the memory of Rev. Henry DaQuin) and have seen 20 Lutheran schools close in Detroit in as many years, and more in the suburbs. But, as you write, Keith, faith continues. Thank you for sharing!

    • Kristina M Myers on

      Whoa Dr. Zeile! I remember you from Zion Lutheran. My sister and I remember you and your family very fondly Just wanted to say hello 🙂

  72. Ted Jordan on

    drzeile, did you teach Algebra? If so, you gave me a great foundation

    • Denise Darnell Brown, PhD on

      Hi Ted, thanks to you for tutoring me in Algebra or I wouldn’t have passed Williams class!!! I’ll never forget…luv u!!!

      • Ted Jordan on

        Oh, the memories … and your parent’s fantastic calculator 🙂

    • Dr. Richard Zeile, Michigan State Board of Education on

      Alas, I taught Bible and Church History…

  73. Brooke M. on

    Aw, this makes me sad. In my memory, our beloved school is alive with industry & laughter, insecurity & bravado, friendship, fun, hard work and late homework excuses. Vivid memories of doing sprints in the hallways for Track and eating way too many snicker bars washed down with Mountain Dew, in the cafe, during “study hall,” abound. The segregation and the integration, the pep rallies and chapel days, Mr. Weimer making us laugh in class and the trip across the railroad tracks each morning, all alive and well in my mind. To see it in decay…sitting quietly, hopelessly left behind.. is a little bit shocking and slightly unbelievable. My memories, I guess, are stronger than the sight of the pictures that prove it’s demise. Thanks for the post. You brought those irreplaceable memories further to the forefront, today. I dare say, none of us will ever forget its former glory.. Hail to Maroon and White! Hail, Hail to Detroit Lutheran Leopards who fight on. 🙂

  74. Jeffery Roy Bruland on

    Great writing. Thanks for posting it. I was a Leopard for only my freshman year, 72-73, but my brother Mark was there from ’69-’73. We had a band that played some of the dances in 1973, but moved to a small town when my brother started at MSU. Such characters and personalities back there. I do wish I could have continued at LHW. — Jeff Bruland

  75. Joan (Schaffer) Jaguszewski on

    This article brought tears to my eyes and I was crying as I read about your experiences and viewed the pictures. I attended Lutheran High on Joy Rd. for my freshmen year and then, we moved to the fantastic new LHW. I graduated in 1960 from LHW (Ford Auditorium) and went on to Concordia, River Forest to become a Lutheran School teacher. Thank You for this!

  76. James on

    I have no connection to “West” whatsoever, but I like what you said near the end of your article because it can be applied to many other closed schools and churches. God used those for the time He chose, to build up Gis people in faith so they could go on to build up others. Your school grounds may be closed and soon gone but it sounds like they may have been replicated many times over by the alumni and former staff. Other ministries were formed and people brought to Christ and so “West” lives on (as do the memories and friendships). So honest your teachers and your God by spreading the faith learned there!

  77. Steven on

    Thanks for the post. I went to the University of Michigan after LHW and loved that they used our fight song. I still hear our lyrics when I watch that team play on Saturdays.

    Steven Ald. ’77

  78. Lawrence Mason, M.D. on


  79. Tim Price on

    On Sunday, July 20, 1975, some members of the Detroit Model Airplane Combat Team (Jim Morway, Dan Hay and Tim Price) put on a model airplane combat flying exhibition. The charity event included Eddie Feigner’s Original 4 Man “King & His Court” Softball Team. The charity benefitted Lutheran High West 8181 Greenfield, Detroit, MI. The stadium was packed with people of all ages enjoying a summer family event. What great memories!

  80. john O heil on

    Keith…..have read this many times! Have visited a few times…..SAD … was more than a building on Greenfield & Joy… breathed LIFE into so many followers of Christ! Have nothing but POSITIVE memories of my years at West (77-91)……LOVE to tell the story…..and part of the STORY was at WEST in years of ministry…..on the field& in the classroom. Retired from the LC-MS in 2013……served in a Lutheran parish after WEST. Have gone back to teaching & coaching at a local Christian academy. WEST ….was the BEST!!!

  81. Charles (Skip) Wickham on

    I just came across an old audio tape that Tom Dubensky, Heidi Flateau, Dan Baldridge and I did for Mr Weire’s class in 1982; we put together a “Radio Show” for his Media class. The flip side of the tape has a 20 minute Choir concert which we performed in the gymnasium the same year and both audio clips still sound great. Brings back some great memories.
    Anyone who’s interested in a copy of these can let me know; I made a digital copy of both.

    Skip Wickham

  82. Robert Splittgerber on

    Bob Splittgerber, checking in once again. Saw my first reply fr. last yr. buried in 2012. Had a ?, then, re Laverne Franzen, who, it seems, conducted voices fr. class of ’61 on its 50th. That’s only 6 yrs. ago. Hoping, if he’s still with us, here, to say, “hello.” Kathy, Frank, you out there?

    • Pastor Bob on

      Hi.  I’m LHSW class of ’66.  Don’t wanna get into subscribing  (if it costs $).  Just corresponding /c students fr. whom I get e-mail.  Best to ya.  RNS

    • Kathryn Franzen Wood on

      Bob, hi! This is Kathy Framzen–though now I am Kate Wood. Thanks to Phyl Larson Schroeder for sending me this link. My dad died last May. The world is a different place without his larger than life presence. We miss him daily. Frank lives in Florida, as does my mom, who is doing really well, all things considered.Hope life has been good to you and yours. Such fond memories of LHW days.

  83. Bill Ruth on

    My uncle, Rev Ruth was the head of the Science department, taught Biology , was Athletic Director, track and cross country coach and came to the school which was organized and founded on West Grand Blvd. I myself never went to the Greenfield location except to teach one class for my uncle on Blood Tecnology for all of his Biology classes since i was a Medical Technologist and had graduated from the school when it was on Joy Road near Grand River in Detroit. I have fond memories of the school and still keep in contact with several students which were in the class of 57.

  84. Bill Ruth on

    My uncle, Rev Ruth was the head of the Science department, taught Biology , was Athletic Director, track and cross country coach and came to the school which was organized and founded on West Grand Blvd. I myself never went to the Greenfield location except to teach one class for my uncle on Blood Tecnology for all of his Biology classes since i was a Medical Technologist and had graduated from the school when it was on Joy Road near Grand River in Detroit. I have fond memories of the school and still keep in contact with several students which were in the class of 57. Thanks Kieth for your nice post.

  85. Bob griffin on

    Unfortunately, these pictures bring my feelings to sad but then great and happy memories.My journey daily was from Dearborn heights to school,then sadly we moved to Romulus my senior year and then I was forced to transfer out of west.The funny thing was I went from a C student to a A student in a flash.To this day the alumni of LW is always continuing to keep the sprit alive and like a family.The sports programs there and was a part of (football) won state championships with players moving on to play in college even division 1. I especially want to thank George Vincent for his continued involvement with the Detroit Lutheran west alumni and even formed a group that keeps everyone involved .waiting fir the next reunion I’m not missing this one! Thanks for the memories..miss the coach to coach toumi!

  86. Kristina M Myers on

    So sad to see this. I graduated from Detroit Urban and my sister attended West but graduated at Lutheran Westland when West closed I believe in her senior year. Not only did I have fond memories of going there in high school but tagging along with my sister to her locker, a school game or going in to pick her up from school. Even with the sadness of how dilapidated it now is (if it’s up at all anymore) it’s great to see the comments here and all the reconnections this post made. Kudos to you.

    • Veda Lambert on

      Very well written article. I have many great memories of West. Running to make it thru the door on time to Mr. Ungers’ algebra class. Coach Tuomis’ indesipherable voice in the hallway…old testament, new testament classes that were more in-depth than most current bible study courses. Although saddened by the photos, i will always have many wonderful memories.

      Class of ’81
      Veda Lambert (Evans)

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