A Shamrock’s legacy; Pacelli unveils new gymnasium floor made possible by Bill Christopherson’s family

Published 8:55 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bill Christopherson was always dedicated to Pacelli. Now his family has found a way to give back to the school in his name.

Bill, who passed away after a 22-year battle with cancer in 2012, was a 1949 graduate of Pacelli. He played on the 1948 state champion Shamrock football team where he was all-state and he also played basketball for Pacelli and St. John’s University, where he still holds the school’s record for free throws made in a game.

When Bill’s wife Mary, who is 86 years old, was attending the Catholic schools auction last spring she noticed one of the projects that needed funding was a new gym floor in Pacelli.

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Since sports were so important to Bill, Mary thought that would be a good cause and she stepped forward and gave a donation that helped make the project possible. The new floor was officially unveiled at Tuesday’s volleyball match between Lyle-Pacelli and Houston.

Pacelli President and Elementary School Principal Jean McDermott, left, and middle school and high school princpal Laura Marreel unveil a plaque in honor of Bill Christopherson.

Bill and Mary’s daughter Teresa Judd was sitting next to Mary when she made the decision to chip in on the new gym floor.

“My parents have always been altruistic and they’ve felt the need to give back. I told her this something she could see this process while she’s still on this Earth and she could see the fruits of her contribution,” Judd said. “My dad spent a lot of time on the gym floor and he thought sports were an excellent teaching tool along with the basic education. Sports teach teamwork and self confidence and most of our family members have also been involved in sports as well.”

The new floor was much needed for Pacelli as the previous floor was the original floor that had been in place since the gym was built in 1957.

Bill and Mary’s son Pete Christopherson said that his dad Bill was a humble man who never told his children about the fact that he had been invited to tryouts with the Cleveland Browns and L.A. Rams until they were full grown adults. Bill, an accountant, also did a lot of financial work for Pacelli and St. Augustine’s pro bono over a 17-year stretch, according to Pete.

Lyle-Pacelli’s Kendal Truckenmiller serves during the first athletic event to be played on Pacelli’s new gym floor.

“[Bill’s] mother really impressed upon him the value of a catholic education. He was always thankful for his parents for sacrificing and he wanted that for his kids. He worked hard all of his life so we could go there. It’s kind of a family thing,” Pete said. “I think this was a last present to my dad to say thank you. It would be nice for him to have other kids now playing on that gym floor.”

Judd said the Christopherson family isn’t looking to gain any notoriety, but they’d like to see Pacelli sports thrive with the new gym floor.

“We’re not looking for the honor that’s involved in it,” Judd said. “We’re just looking to create a better environment for the future for the students who are there. We’re just very grateful that our mother is able to do something like this and to see it happen. I think it’s a blessing for her to be able to still contribute at her age. She can make things happen for the benefit of many people.”

Pete said he was glad to see his mother was in a position to be able to give back.

“I’m grateful to see my mother living her faith,” he said. “It’s a testament to her practicing what she’s preaching and to always remember where you came from. That’s some of the stuff that dad always impressed upon us.”

The floor has been dedicated in the memory of Bill as All Saints Arena.

Mary Christopherson, middle, and her son Dan Christopherson and Pacelli President and High School Principal Jean McDermott pray during the dedication of the newly christened gym floor Tuesday night.