Family has long history with Kennedy Middle School By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN

Like a lot of other people in Hays, Cecilia Budke will be attending Friday’s final graduation ceremonies of Kennedy Middle School, which will close its doors at the end of this school year.

Family ties run deep for many people, but it will be hard to find anyone who matches Budke’s list of graduates from her immediate family.

Budke had 12 of her own children graduate from KMS — five boys and seven girls — as well as 11 grandchildren, a number that also will equal a dozen after Friday. Tanner Hallagin, the youngest son of one of her daughters, Mary Hallagin, is in the Irish graduating class of 2012.

Kennedy’s last graduation is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center of Fort Hays State University’s Sheridan Hall.

Budke admits Friday’s ceremony will be special, as have all Kennedy graduations of her family members, a list that spans six decades.

In fact, she said her children’s days in the old two-story building on Ash Street were something she holds near and dear to her heart.

“All of us have many special memories of Kennedy that we will cherish in our hearts forever,” she said.

The Budkes’ oldest of 14 children, Marilyn Werth, was the first Budke sibling to graduate from Kennedy, then known as Jefferson West, in 1967. Eleven more of Werth’s siblings would follow her through Kennedy, as did all three of her children.

“It’s been a really good school, one where teachers and coaches were employed for a long time,” Budke said, “which gave it the great reputation it had in the community.”

Although Kennedy is a public school, Budke said it was handy for her children to walk across the parking lot to St. Joseph Catholic Church for Mass once a week.

After Kennedy, the Budke siblings went to Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, where their father, Charles Budke, taught for nearly 40 years.

“As parents, we knew our children were getting the highest quality education available with their middle school experience before entering TMP,” Cecilia Budke said.

Students attending public middle school will go to Felten Middle School, whose name will be changed to Hays Middle School, next year. And Hays Catholic Schools will open a new junior high at TMP.

“God bless everyone with a memory of Kennedy Middle School,” she said, “and may they keep them special in their hearts.”