Odell St. Paul High School

Odell St. Paul High School

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Built in 1893 (courtesy of Lucille Goodrich’s “A Livingston County Scrapbook: 1855-1975”)

St. Paul High School Cornerstone

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Cornerstone of the Original Building

The History of Odell St. Paul High School


Odell (population 1,014) is located in upper eastern Illinois in north central Livingston County. The town is situated on Interstate Highway 55 between the towns of Dwight (11 miles northeast) and Pontiac (9 miles southwest). To read more on the history of the town check out the Odell High School page of this site as well.


Odell St. Paul (a Catholic School) opened in 1895 as an all-girls day & boarding school during a depressed time by Rev. Aloysius Selva at $12,000, run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The first graduating class was honored in 1902 with five students receiving diplomas. It was in 1914 that the school became a co-ed facility and the Dominican Sisters from Springfield took over.. 


The school was located on the original historic Highway Route 66 (“The Mother Road”). In 1947, it was decided to relocate Route 66 two blocks to the west. The school’s location in comparison to where a bulk of its students traveled to it caused a safety concern due to the large amount of traffic on the Route 66 roadway. The concern was the basis for a pedestrian tunnel to be built under the Route 66 roadway to insure safe passage to and from the school. This tunnel was constructed in 1937 and ceased use in the 1950’s. It has since been filled up, but was partially recovered in 2006 with a historical sign in front of the tunnel’s entrance describing its history.

Odell Pedestrian Tunnel For Access Under Rt. 66

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Odell St. Paul Pedestrian Tunnel Memorial

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St. Paul High School in Odell was closed in 1966. Finances needed to run a small private school finally took their toll on the parishioners of St. Paul, plus with Odell High School in danger of closing due to a lower than average mandated attendance, it was decided to keep the public school open. 


The school was still going strong though, even at the end. In its last year, the enrollment at St. Paul High was 92 students in grades 9-12. This is in comparison to the enrollment of 59 students at Odell’s public high school that same year.  The two schools, in fact, worked together to share their educational services for the benefit of the Odell children, regardless of which school they attended.

Odell St. Paul Church & Convent 2015

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Odell St. Paul Grade School 2015

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The St. Paul school building was torn down in 1971. All that remains is the building’s cornerstone. The area where the building once stood is now used as a parking lot for the church and grade school, which was built in 1954. The grade school is located across a street from the school, the nun’s residence is located next to the school, and the church is located next to the residence. 


Odell St. Paul High School Quick Facts


Year opened as all-girl’s boarding school:  1895

Year changed to co-ed parochial school:   1914

Year closed:                                               1966

Enrollment in 1959:                                     82

Enrollment final year:                                  89

Year building torn down:                            1971

School nickname:                                      the “Saints”

School colors:                                            Purple & Gold

School Fight Song:                                    unavailable  



The St. Paul High School Saints of Odell had some great seasons in boy’s basketball. The school also offered baseball and track. It is believed that no other sports were offered at Odell St. Paul High. If you have any further information on the athletic program at Odell St. Paul HS, send us an e-mail at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net .


Boys Basketball


The Saints came marching into a lot of gyms in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s and marched right back out with a lot of victories. Remember, this is a school without a home gymnasium. The Saints practiced at the Odell Community Center and played all of their basketball games on the road. The St. Paul Saints won a total of nine District titles and two Regional titles. 


The truly magical year for the school came in the 1950-51 season. It was this year that the Saints, led by future Illinois High School Basketball Coach’s Association Hall of Famer Father Francis J. Casey, that the Saints made it to the Sweet 16 by winning their lone Sectional Championship as well. OSPHS had a total student enrollment of 72 students with only 26 boys!!  The Saints lost their Sweet 16 game to Peoria Woodruff. The starting five for the 1950-51 team included Jack Gassensmith, Jim Gordon, Jim Wolf, Dick Ralph, and Bill Noonan. 


Another great player that later donned the purple and gold for St. Paul in the late 1950’s was 6’9″ center Don ShookShook starred for the Ottawa Falstaffs AAU club in the mid-1960’s. 


The years of the IHSA hardware winning teams of Odell St. Paul are listed below. Unfortunately, only the 1950-51 year includes the team record and coach’s name available.


1941-42                    Cullom District Champions         Coach’s name & record needed

                                 Early Rd Scores Needed

                                 Title Game Beat Braidwood 45-33

                                 Dwight Regional Runner-Up

                                 1st Rd Beat Gardner 47-46

                                 Semi-final Beat Coal City  45-34

                                 Title Game lost to Wilmington 39-38


1942-43                    Piper City District Champions    Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd beat Chatsworth 46-23

                                 Semi-final Beat Cabery 38-27

                                 Title game Beat Piper City 36-35

                                 Dwight Regional Runner-Up

                                 1st Rd Beat Pontiac 45-40

                                 Semi-final Beat Saunemin 43-30

                                 Title game lost to Gardner 35-32


1943-44   Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.


1944-45                    Cullom District Runner-Up           Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd Beat Chatsworth 38-26

                                 Semi-final Beat Forrest 36-30

                                 Title game lost to Cullom 22-21


1945-46                    Cullom District Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd lost to Kempton 61-26

                                 Kempton lost to Cullom in title game


1946-47                    Piper City District Tournament        Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd lost to Saunemin 41-33

                                 Kempton beat Saunemin in semi-final game

                                 Kempton beat Piper City in title game


1947-48                    Forrest District Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd lost to Cullom 47-45

                                 Cullom lost to Forrest in semi-final

                                 Forrest beat Kempton in title game


1948-49                    Cullom District Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd Beat Cornell 55-42

                                 Semi-final lost to Cullom 48-47 (O/T)

                                 Cullom beat Kempton in title game


1949-50                    Piper City District Champions       Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd Beat Piper City 81-45

                                 Semi-final Beat Saunemin 63-52

                                 Title game Beat Cullom 54-34

                                 Dwight Regional Champions

                                 1st Rd Beat Braidwood 57-36

                                 Semi-final Beat Forrest 62-50

                                 Title Game Beat Pontiac 63-61

                                 Bradley Sectional Tournament

                                 Semi-final lost to West Aurora 39-31

WEST AURORA (39): Carney 12, Jo. Blever 10, Binford 6, Mitchler 5, Smith 4, Bricher 2

ODELL ST. PAUL (31): J. Wolf 13, Bellis 9, Ralph 7, Hoegger 2

                                 West Aurora lost to Bradley in title game

                                 Bradley lost to Danville in Elite 8

                                 Danville placed 2nd in IHSA State Tournament 


1950-51     31 – 3      IHSA Sweet 16 Finalist                   Coach Father Francis J. Casey

                                 Chatsworth District Champions

                                 1st Rd Beat Kempton 48-36

                                 Semi-final Beat Odell 53-46

                                 Title Game Beat Cullom 61-58 (O/T)

                                 Pontiac Regional Champions

                                 1st Rd Beat Coal City 63-49

                                 Semi-final Beat Forrest 66-65

                                 Title Game Beat Pontiac 62-52

                                 Ottawa Sectional Champions

                                 Semi-final Beat Morris 71-53

ODELL ST. PAUL (71): Noonan 27, Ralph 16, Wolf 15, Gassensmith 8, Gordon 5.

MORRIS (53): Walker 18, Chesharek 11, Bromberg 11, Perry 6, Gant 4, Monson 3

                                 Title Game Beat DePue 57-53

ODELL ST. PAUL (57): Wolf 32, Ralph 9, Noonan 7, Gassensmith 5, Gordon 4

DEPUE (53): Rios 18, D. Talbot 14, G. Talbot 8, Abbott 8, Casteneda 3, Hensley 2.

                                 IHSA State Finals Sweet 16

                                 1st Rd lost to Peoria Woodruff 76-52

                                 Woodruff lost in Elite 8 Rd to Decatur

                                 Decatur would finish 4th in tournament

St. Paul Saints of 1950-51

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Sweet 16 Finalists

1951-52                    Chatsworth District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

                                 1st Rd Beat Kempton 68-56

                                 Semi-final lost to Saunemin 47-41

                                 Saunemin lost to Odell in title game


1952-53                    Chatsworth District Tournament       Coach: Fr.Marzolf

                                 1st Rd lost to Saunemin 67-59

                                 Saunemin lost to Odell in semi-final

                                 Odell lost to Cullom in title game


1953-54                Postseason scores & record needed    Coach: Fr. Marzolf   


1954-55                    IHSA District Champions                Coach’s name & record needed

                                 District Scores Needed

                                 Wilmington Regional Tournament

                                 1st Rd lost to Coal City 72-51

                                 Coal City lost to Braidwood in semi-final

                                 Braidwood beat Pontiac in title game


1955-56                    Chatsworth District Champions     Coach’s name & record needed 

                                 1st Rd Beat Kempton 66-42

                                 Semi-final Beat Chatworth 78-41

                                 Title Game Beat Saunemin 84-48

                                 Gardner Regional Tournament

                                 1st Rd Beat Braidwood 69-64

                                 Semi-final lost to Pontiac 86-63

                                 Pontiac beat Coal City in title game


1956-57                   Cullom District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed

                                1st Rd Beat Chatsworth 48-45

                                Semi-final lost to Saunemin 62-56

                                Saunemin lost to Cullom in title game


1957-58                   Odell District Runner-Up                   Coach’s name & record needed

                                Semi-final Beat Cullom 48-46

                                Title game lost to Reddick 84-60


1958-59      6 – 20    Chatsworth District Tournament          Coach Bernard Langheim

                                 Season Record Needed

                                 1st Rd lost to Reddick 52-47

                                 Reddick lost to Kempton in title game


1959-60    20 – 8       Cullom District Champions              Coach Bernard Langheim

                                 Season Record Needed

                                 1st Rd Beat Chatsworth 75-57

                                 Semi-final Beat Reddick 77-59

                                 Title Game Beat Cullom 59-56

                                 Gardner Regional Tournament

                                 1st Rd Beat Gardner 91-77 

                                 Semi-final lost to Braidwood 60-51

                                 Braidwood beat Wilmington in title game


1960-61    24 – 6       Odell District Champions                 Coach Bernard Langheim

                                 Season Record Needed

                                 Semi-final Beat Reddick 70-45

                                 Title Game Beat Kempton-Cabery 74-44

                                 Mazon Regional Champions

                                 1st Rd Beat Gardner 36-17

                                 Semi-final Beat Wilmington 78-52

                                 Title Game Beat Braidwood 79-56

ODELL ST. PAUL (79): Schook 24, Rygh 23, D. Vernon 14, Bellis 10, Sullivan 4, Fogarty 2, B. Vernon 2.

BRAIDWOOD (56): Barnett 28, Kriz 13, Frost 10, Nix 4, Field 1.

                                 Blue Island Sectional Tournament

                                 Semi-final lost to Harvey Thornton HS 72-49

THORNTON (72): Banks 20, Clark 17, Dabon 9, Keeling 6, Caress 6, Lindsay 6, Dehnert 4, Henry 2, McKibben 2.

ODELL ST. PAUL (49): Bellis 10, Rygh 9, Schook 7, Stadel 6, Hayner 6, Sullivan 5, Verdun 4, Watson 2.

                                 Thornton Beat Bloom in title game

                                 Thornton placed 2nd in IHSA State Tourney


1961-62    20 – 7      Chatsworth District Champions      Coach Bernard Langheim

                                 Season Record Needed

                                 Semi-final Beat Saunemin 96-47

                                 Title Game Beat Chatsworth 71-50

                                 Pontiac Regional Runner-Up

                                 1st Rd Beat Coal City 57-42

                                 Semi-final Beat Braidwood 70-51

                                 Title Game lost to Pontiac 71-52

PONTIAC (71): Thompson 28, Armbruster 16, Bond 13, Fuss 10, Stamps 2.

ODELL ST. PAUL (52): Bellis 18, Rygh 15, Abry 11, Stadel 5, Watson 3.

                                 Pontiac would win the Sectional, lost in Sweet 16 Round

Photo Taken February 01, 1962

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Submitted by Doug Abry (left click on photo for larger version)

1962-63    19 – 5       Chatsworth District Runner-Up         Coach Bernard Langheim

                                  Season Record Needed

                                  1st Rd Beat Saunemin 78-42

                                  Semi-final Beat Chatsworth 73-52

                                  Title Game lost to Reddick 67-51 


1963-64    14 – 10     Cullom District Runner-Up                 Coach Bernard Langheim

                                  Season Record Needed

                                  Early Rd Scores Needed

                                  Title Game lost to Reddick 60-55


1964-65                     Odell District Champions                   Coach’s name & season record needed

                                  Semi-final Beat Cullom 75-55

                                  Title Game Beat Reddick 72-70

                                  Pontiac Regional Tournament

                                  1st Rd Beat Braidwood 68-61

                                  Semi-final lost to Coal City 61-54

                                  Coal City beat Pontiac in title game


1965-66  School’s final year open. Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.


Memories from Coach Langheim:


“During those years that I coached at St. Paul the student population ranged between 88 to 92. The students on the basketball team came from Odell except for the Hayner brothers, Dick and Mike.  Dick was a Senior my first year at St. Paul and was a starter that year.  Mike was the 6th or 7th man during his 4 years.

In 1958 and years following, the IHSAA had a single class system that pit all schools together for year end playoffs, regardless of student population.  Also, a rule was in place (and maybe still is), that Basketball Practice could not begin before October 1.  Therefore, I started a Cross Country team, simply to begin a conditioning program in prep for the October 1 deadline.  This also gave me some insight into just who wanted to play.  If they worked hard at the running I felt they would be ready to run the floor as well.

My experience as an athlete in High School and College on the importance of conditioning , lead to the need for early season running.  This program did in fact help us in many games with pressing and fast break opportunities.  All of the guys were a bunch working farm boys, that would never give up.  Big Don Schook, John Rygh, Don Verdon, Dave Abry, Clarence Stadel and Mick Bellis were some of real reasons that St. Paul was so  successful.

The St. Paul kids were a great bunch to work with.”



Boys Baseball


There is no IHSA information (www.ihsa.org) available on the Saints’ baseball program. Please contact us if you have any information to share. Jim Campbell advises us that the coach of the Saints baseball team for the 1962-63 school year was Coach Bernie Langheim.


1962-63                  Coach Bernie Langheim


Boys Track & Field


Track and field for the boys was also supported at Odell St. Paul High School. The team of 1962-63 was also coached by Bernie LangheimCoach Langheim had a rule stating if his athletes wanted to play baseball they had to run track.


1962-63                  Coach Bernie Langheim




From former student Jim Campbell:


  “I attended St. Paul from 1961 to 1963. During that time, as memory serves, Sister Mary Benedict was the principal, Father Garahan (later Monsignor, moving to Bloomington, IL) and Father Hoffman were the parish priests, and Bernie Langheim was the lone athletic coach, sometimes assisted by Father Hoffman – who played a mean guitar, as I recall.

  We enjoyed as good an academic program as a school that size would allow, although deficient in comparison to many surrounding public schools. We showed movies in the school basement every Good Friday morning, with drinks and doughnuts served. Of course, we also attended Mass on Holy Days.”


From former student Tom McNamara:


“I read with enjoyment your history of St. Paul’s. he graduation class of 1966 (which was the last class to graduate from St. Paul H.S.) was also the first class to occupy St. Paul’s Grade School built in 1955. Your other correspondent, Jim Campbell, was in second grade and he was my partner for going to/from recess and getting to the bus safely. This was the policy of the grade school teachers all of whom were Dominican nuns. Jim and I remained friends for many years. Had I not moved from Dwight to Elgin in my junior year, I would have spent all 16 years at St. Paul’s.


Because the school was so small, and the budget even smaller, our sports teams had to make do with what they had. St. Paul’s was a basketball powerhouse in the Coal Valley Conference in 1962-63 with the two forwards at 240 and 180 lbs, respectively; the center, Dave Abry, was 265 lbs, and the two guards were in the 160 range. A big team by anyone’s standard at the time. We also had a track and baseball team. The uniforms for the track team were the same ones we used for basketball…I did say we “made do” with what we had. Bernie Langheim was the coach and one of the best I ever had the pleasure to be coached by. Father Hoffman did assist him, as one of the parents, Jack Zogg.


Jim is right…Fr. Hoffman did play a mean guitar, especially at our Friday night square dances in the gym during the fall. Incidentally, that year the basketball team scored the highest amount of point any St. Paul team ever scored at 106. The next day all of the students walked around with a piece of paper pinned to their clothes saying “The 106 Club.” The photo for the Sweet Sixteen team of 1951 is one I have. The player behind number 7 is my uncle, Jerry McNamara

 Thank you for putting the piece together and letting me reminisce.”


Great Coach


*Father Francis J. Casey – Basketball

                                          Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Member

                                          Led 1950-51 Saints to the Sweet 16 & 31 – 3 Record





Out of the 832 students that graduated from St. Paul High School, 29 of them went on to become nuns and priests!



Help Us Remember the Saints


There are many team records and coaches’ names we need to have to fill in the blanks above. There are many other facts about Odell St. Paul that may not be sports-oriented. Please share these with us as well so we can properly document the many successes attained at the school. You can e-mail photos and information to us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net.. You can also write to us via real mail at:


Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.    60631


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