From Jerry McGowan, Son of Joseph McGowan, Class of ’26:
My father, Joe McGowan grew up in West Philadelphia in a very strong Catholic Family. When it came time for high school, he attended West Catholic his freshman year. His father who owned a bar in Philadelphia then decided to move the family to Atlantic City and open up a bar there. His parents moved the family temporarily to Mays Landing the same time that Holy Spirit was starting the new high school in Atlantic City. My father really wanted to continue his catholic school education so he opted to repeat 9th grade in order to attend the new school. To make this possible, he had to take a train from Mays Landing into Atlantic City to be part of the new school. They eventually relocated to Atlantic City and my father spent all 4 years as part of the first graduating class of Holy Spirit High School in 1926. I remember him telling me many stories about his time there including when he would swim in the ocean out around the Steel Pier. Also, during his junior year, their first football team was undefeated and unscored upon, although I believe they may have tied with ACHS 0-0 that year. He remained an active HSHS alumni, helping to organize many class reunions over the years. I think that it is absolutely incredible that he was able to preserve a lot of his Holy Spirit memorabilia through all these years. Although he died in 1992 at the age of 84, my family continued to keep his Holy Spirit memorabilia as an heirloom. Holy Spirit played such a significant part throughout his life. He loved sharing his many memories with family and friends over the years and he would be very proud to share them with the school he loved so much during its 100th Anniversary.
My time at Holy Spirit High School has had a huge positive impact on my life. During my four years as a student, the faculty, staff and coaches at the school helped to not only reinforce my parent’s teachings about being a good person, they continued to expand upon that with a great education and lessons of moral values, community service, hard work and effort in the classroom and on the field, and most importantly overcoming obstacles and setbacks in your life.
When it came time for my two children to enroll in high school, there was no doubt where they would be going. Both Erin and AJ received a quality education and parlayed the continued lessons they were taught into successful careers. After graduating from Florida State University in 2016, Erin is working as a Certified Athletic Trainer at the Florida Orthopedic Institute in Tampa. AJ, a Stockton University graduate in 2019, is working for the United States Navy as a Procurement Specialist in Philadelphia.
As a parent, your hopes and dreams start and end with your children finding their way in life; having them become good, honest, caring, moral and productive citizens. Holy Spirit helped set the path and opened doors for my family to be able to do that. And I am not ashamed to say that the Russo Family is Spartan Proud!
When I began as a freshman at Holy Spirit in September of 1966, I had no idea that I would be spending most of my life here. It’s sometimes difficult for non-Spartans to truly understand what it means to be part of this wonderful family tradition. Returning to teach and coach at Spirit became my ultimate dream and goal. Forty-three years later and I have never regretted coming back. Now, if only I can figure out how to be here to celebrate our 200th birthday!