Spotlight ArchivePatrick Bonnot
Anthony "Tony" Brenneke
For most folks, memories of their high school begin when they were freshmen. Helias alumni are no exception. Adrienne Jeffries-Wilde, a member of the Helias Class of 1992, isn't most alumni though. Long before her very first day in high school in 1988, she had been a familiar face in the Helias halls.
"Helias was my second home," Wilde said. "It was my playground when I was growing up. Helias was my family."
When you're born into a home with teacher and legendary wrestling and football coach Mike Jeffries as your dad, you're pretty much born to be a Crusader. And you're probably going to spend some time at the school while you're growing up.
"I was born when dad worked here so I've always been here," Wilde said. "Dad was here on weekends and my brother Aaron ('91) and I would run up and down the halls. Dad would have wrestling tournaments on the weekends and mom would be working at Saffee's, so we'd be here in the gym the whole time. We were those kids swinging on the rails underneath the bleachers."
Today Wilde is a senior speech therapist at the Capital Region Healthplex, where she has worked for 21 years. She's married to Eric Wilde, a Jefferson City police officer and member of the Missouri National Guard. They have three children – Gage, a Helias sophomore, and Alex and Bode who both attend St. Francis Xavier in Taos.
Wilde also currently serves as the co-chair for this year's Foundation for the Benefit of Helias Catholic High School "Continue the Legacy" Annual Fund Drive – Bridge the Gap campaign.
When asked what some of her favorite memories were of her time at Helias, Wilde wasn't short for answers.
"Oh my gosh I have so many good memories of growing up here," Wilde said.
On riding in the "Blue Weenie":
"I've got tons of memories from that thing. We would ride to duals outside of town or back home from State with Brother James. Then we'd take it to Knights of Columbus afterwards and it would be one or two in the morning and I'd still be in the floorboard afraid someone would see me riding in it."
"You didn't want to ride in it when it was super hot or super cold because there was a big hole over one of the wheel wells in the back. I mean huge. You could see straight down to the road. And of course all the hot air or cold air would just roll right in through it."
Wilde says that even though the "Blue Weenie" was caught in the recent tornado's fury, she's sure it still looks better than it did when she was a frequent rider.
On being a part of Helias' first softball team:
"I remember my freshman year, Mr. Rockers was still here and our principal. I wasn't very good at volleyball and I was just okay at basketball, but softball was my passion and we didn't have a softball team at Helias. At the beginning of each year I'd always go talk to Mr. Rackers and beg him to let the school have a softball team. He'd always smoke on his pipe a little and say, "Well, we'll think about it…" Finally my senior year we got girls softball. To me it validated my efforts and made me feel like as a student my voice mattered."
On growing up with a Helias coach in the house:
"Aaron and I both went to St. Peter growing up, so when we would get out of school, we'd either walk to Saffee's, walk to Helias, or walk to our house on Pamela Drive. Or if the weather was too bad, dad would send whatever injured wrestler or football player to pick us up in his car. We didn't always know who it was that was picking us up but everyone knew it was someone dad had sent."
"There were always Helias kids there. If they lived too far out of town or their parents couldn't come pick them up after school, they would go to our house and stay until it was time to go back to the school for their game or practice. Our doors were never locked."
Wilde emphasized that no matter how successful her father was as a coach, his pride and joy was being in the classroom.
"Dad was a phenomenal educator; far better than he was a coach despite what all of the banners hanging in the fieldhouse say. He taught kids how to prepare for college – both in and out of the classroom, on and off the field, on and off the mat. That's how he taught. You got the academics, but you got a lot of life lessons along the way."
"He made kids better students. They had to be to succeed in his class. A lot of what he taught didn't come from textbooks; they came from his own research and his lectures. You had to pay attention."
"He was an exceptional history teacher. I'll never forget the lard sandwiches mom would fix us whenever dad got to the "Great Depression" portion of his lesson. But my favorite was when he would get to the "American West" lesson and he would do Indian paint rocks. He would always find the girls who wore the most makeup and have them do the Indian paint because it was very hard to get off. So unless they wanted to wear war paint all day, they'd have to go to the restroom and wash it all off, which of course meant that all of their makeup would get washed off too. He wasn't too big on the makeup thing."
On Helias traditions:
"When I was little, I used to love sitting next to the Peppettes and the "Sea of Gold," or sitting next to the cheerleaders by the wrestling mats and cheering with them."
"I loved going to church with the football or wrestling teams with my family, especially during homecoming. The Sunday after State wrestling we would always go to church as a team and then go out to eat. Those are the memories and traditions that I will never forget. That's why Helias will always mean family to me, in every meaning of the word. I haven't known anything else."
And Wilde's not waxing poetic when she says Helias is family to her, it's also become a family tradition in itself.
"My mom went to Helias, my brother went to Helias, I went to Helias. Now my son goes to Helias, as will my two youngest. My brother's boys will go here," Wilde said. "A Catholic education was always at the center of our lives, and it will continue to be so for our kids."
"We take so much pride in Helias, and it's not just the new athletic facilities," Wilde said, although noting that they are quite proud of the Crusader athletic teams' new homes. "The academic facilities, the clubs, organizations and programs; kids have so many more opportunities here now than we did. You don't have to excel in sports to have your own footprint in this school. Each student matters and everyone has a voice."
-- Kris Wilson / Foundation for the Benefit of Helias Catholic High School
** If you know of any Helias alum who's proud to say they're a #CrusaderforLife, please send their name and contact information to email@example.com.
Each month we'll focus on a new and different member of the Helias family. Whether they passed through these halls 60 years ago or their cap and gown still have that new smell, we want to know all about where life has taken our Crusaders and how their time at Helias helped them along the way!
To nominate someone for the Alumni Spotlight, email firstname.lastname@example.org.