OHS inducts 5 new members into Hall of Achievement

May 14, 2022 | 12:08 am

Updated May 15, 2022 | 1:06 pm

Photo by Josh Kelly

Owensboro High School inducted its newest members into the Hall of Achievement Friday afternoon, including Patti Acquisto (’56), Rodney Berry (’71), Jack T. Wells (’73), John A. Mattingly (’76) and Stephen Ham (’00).

The school had a full day planned for the inductees hosted at their alma mater. They participated in roundtable discussions with current students, a school tour, and the playing of their school fight song.

Acquisto, a 1956 graduate of OHS, went on to open up Owensboro’s first consignment shop in 1971. While at first the idea of wearing secondhand clothing was not the easiest to buy into the community, through her hard work she was able to build a strong clientele before closing its doors in 2017.

She later served as the president of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops for two terms. Through the organization, she was able to travel the country and lead workshops helping other people start and support their own consignment shops.

Acquisto said that while she is 66 years out of high school now, hearing the fight song it reminds her of being at OHS.

“I will always be a loyal [Red] Devil. When you hear the fight song it’s interesting. It’s been so many years since I’ve been out of school obviously, I graduated in 1956, but all of these people that show pride out of my class, I don’t see them as they are now, I see them just like we looked when we walked the halls,” she said.

Berry, a 1971 graduate of OHS, was honored in the Hall after passing earlier this year in February. His son Joseph Berry accepted the award in his honor.

Rodney Berry came to OHS during his sophomore year of high school, according to his son. He was a standout athlete on the baseball team and the basketball teams and was heavily involved in the yearbook staff and school spirit organization.

Joseph said when his father came back to Owensboro he was determined to make an impact on the city, so he got plugged into several community organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and being the first director of Downtown Owensboro Inc.

Through the latter, Berry was involved in helping support children in the arts and giving toward rural parks. It also provided a chance for him to be an instrumental part of the downtown revitalization.

Joseph said his father had conversations with community stakeholders and helped decide the future for the City of Owensboro.

“What do you want the community to look like over the next generation? What are the priorities? In that discussion, the number one priority that came out of that activity was that the citizens of ours were wanting to invest and rebuild our downtown,” Joseph said.

Wells, a 1973 graduate, was honored also Friday after passing in 2020. His lifelong friends Mike Simpson and Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education Chairman Jeremy Edge accepted the award in Wells’ honor.

Wells was an active member in high school and Edge said because of the encouragement he received from the staff and teachers, Wells wanted to give back to the community if possible.

“That’s why he’s always [giving], it reflects back he gave that money to Foust, made a big donation to the playground deal, which was awesome,” Edge said.

Wells graduated from OHS and went on to Kentucky Wesleyan College where he graduated with a nursing administration degree, according to Edge. He went on to purchase his first nursing home, The Hermitage, before continuing on a chain of health care facilities. He later bought Canteen, a food service organization.

Edge said that Wells was instrumental in the development of downtown as well as helping form the revitalization of the city.

Mattingly was a 1976 graduate of OHS who went on to be one of the first Black Kentuckians to go through West Point.

He said he was heavily involved in ROTC as a high school student and was approached by his teachers about West Point and after a few recommendations by his teacher he applied to the prestigious military academy.

After West Point, he enlisted in the Airborne Army where he worked on the capture of Manuel Noriega of Panama. During that time, he arranged the plans for the capture of Noriega.

At that time in the Force, female leaders were not a general practice. But during the capture, Mattingly arranged for a female veteran to be in charge of the combat station.

“While she was there, I activated the rank and then jumped in, captured Noriega, once they captured him, it became a police action. Therefore, we made her the officer in charge of the police action. So we indirectly put a female in charge of a combat situation,” he said.

Aside from his time on the battlefield, he spent time as a recruiting company commander, enlisting 200 to 250 members every month.

Ham is a 2000 graduate who went on to work most notably with Jane Goodall. He now works with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

When Ham was in high school, he wrote a letter to Goodall as part of a class — that turned into him meeting her and doing work alongside Goodall.

Ham said when he was in school, he was known as the kid that caught turtles, snakes, and other animals and brought them to class for others to see. That love for wildlife turned into a passion to travel the world — and especially to Africa numerous times.

“I went everywhere in Antarctica, hundreds of trips to Africa, all through Asia. Two places left to go really go on top of the bucket list: this summer we’re going to go to the Arctic to see walruses and polar bears and then at some point I’ve got to get back to my last continent which is Australia,” he said.

Now he works in wildlife conservation and learning about the different animals of the world and how to better protect them.

May 14, 2022 | 12:08 am

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