Turlock High School Principal’s Administrative Assistant Mary Venema is officially retiring after 41 years of service to THS, where she started in 1974 in the Activities Office.
Tuesday night she was honored with a ceremony during the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees — and many people were moved to tears.
There is probably no one on earth that bleeds more THS blue and gold than Venema, who graduated from THS in 1970; her husband also graduated from THS and her son, Richie, graduated in 2003.
Current THS Principal Marie Peterson joked that Venema’s encyclopedia-like knowledge of THS history made her the go-to for any questions on campus.
“No Google — just ask Mary,” joked Peterson.
It makes sense, over the past 16 years she’s helped guide principals such as Bob Stammerjohn, Ed Felt, Rod Hollars, Dana Trevethan and Peterson.
Trevethan, who has worked with Venema for 12 years, says she grew up hearing about her as a child and when she took over the reigns as principal she realized who she was.
“I felt like I had acquired a relative I had known all my life. It would take me all evening to talk about how much she has meant to me, but Mary made me a successful principal and a better mom,” said Trevethan, a mother of two college-aged boys.
Over the past 41 years Venema has never tired of her work.
“Every year is different and watching the kids grow has been amazing,” Venema said. “The only sad times are when we lose a kid, which has happened periodically over the years. But I can’t really say that I’ve had a bad work-related day.”
Since 1972, Venema says she has had many career highlights, but mostly she remembers many of the committees and THS traditions she helped launch. She organized the Election Convention tradition in 1990, where students elect student body representatives in a fashion similar to the Republican or Democratic National Conventions, and the first Registration Round-Up, held in 1993.
In 1992, she helped restructure the THS commencement ceremony to its current, much-lauded formal ceremony.
She has served on numerous committees, including the Pitman Committee where she helped pick the school colors and mascot with then-THS Principal and current PHS Principal Rod Hollars. She also served on the Centennial Committee for the 100-year anniversary of THS.
Venema is a massive San Francisco Giants fanatic, and in retirement she looks forward to spending time with her husband, son and her dog Gallagher — while watching the Giants of course and screaming her favorite catch phrase, “Go Giants.”
“Thank you, we love you and go Mary,” said Trevethan.
Mary Venema then and now.