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Family-A Mercy Legacy

May 03, 2017
By Deb Daley

When something is right---it usually lasts and is passed down from generation to generation. Woven through the fabric of Mercy High School’s history, is the legacy of families who have gone to the school. The stories and uniforms may be different, the curriculum changed, the cost of living higher, but the pride and support of a Mercy education remains the same. This year’s May 18 commencement will feature a fourth-generation legacy when Alyssa Turnquist crosses that stage to graduate. Her mother, Lynda Caniglia Turnquist ’83 went to Mercy, her grandmother, Loretta Smejkal Canigila SJ ‘50 went to St. John’s and her great grandmother, Mary Haller Caniglia SJ’30, now deceased, also graduated from St. John’s. She will also be amongst many other family members who are Mercy alumnae, which includes her older sister, aunts, great aunts and numerous cousins. Her great great aunt, Sr. Mary Theodore RSM, was a Sister of Mercy.

“There was really no question that Alyssa would go to Mercy. Our family knows that Mercy is an excellent school. Its size allows for individualized attention by teachers, and your classmates become life-long friends. And the traditions are memorable events that forever stay with you, “ said Lynda.

Alyssa’s grandmother (Lorettta Smejkal Caniglia SJ ’50) recalls with fondness her years at St. John’s, one of the schools consolidated into Mercy High School, now at 48th and Leavenworth. She took typing, other business courses ,French and remembers singing “A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts ” at school. There were dances every noon in the hallways as well as on Friday nights. In fact that is how she met her husband Joe who went to Creighton Prep. At that time both schools were located on the current site of Creighton University. The couple is celebrating their 66th anniversary this year.

Her daughter, Lynda, was active in concert choir, Pep Band (where they literally played pots and pans), theatre and one of the loudest Bleacher cheerers. Traditions were an integral part of her high school memories and she was a Nocturne Queen. She also thought the May Crowning in the courtyard was beautiful and recalled the year her class formed a heart during the ceremony. Student opinions and insights were encouraged and Town Hall Meetings were held every quarter to support dialogue with leadership and teachers. Lynda worked for 25 years with a local family business and currently works for Kubat Pharmacy, which is only a few blocks away from Mercy. She attended both the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) as well as the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).

Following in the family tradition, Alyssa will join her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and sister Katelyn Turnquist’s ‘14 footsteps when she graduates. She made Varsity all four years as pitcher on the softball team, a member of the National Honor Society and was a Queen candidate on this year’s Prom Court. She plans to attend UNO to study architecture/interior design.

“Mercy made me who I am today and has helped me understand how important it is to take care of others in a compassionate world,” Alyssa said.

The family is extremely grateful to the school.

“Our girls benefitted from the Negotiated Tuition Program which assures accessibility to the school for those that deserve to go here. We are proud of our Mercy heritage and would not have sent our daughters anywhere else. I wanted my daughters to experience all the traditions that I experienced during my years at Mercy. Some of those traditions that are still the same are the Welcome Day picnic, Big Sister/Little Sister program, PA (Prom Announcement), clues in the corner of the blackboard to guess which senior was chosen to represent Mother McCauley, Mercy Day, Farewell Day, the class retreats, hey loddie loddies in the lunchroom, the Blessing prayer, Mercy dances, pack the house for sports and decorating lockers. Things that I wish the student's would still do is sing the school song and the Mercy honk.,"she added.

Every year during commencement ceremonies, the names of students who are part of a family legacy are read out loud. This year the Caniglia/Turnquist family will be standing proud.