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SM Says Farewell to Long-Time Faculty and Staff Retirees


With deep gratitude, Santa Margarita Catholic High School says goodbye to five well-respected faculty and staff members. Throughout the years, these faithful employees have been the heartbeat of SM. We wish them well in their upcoming retirement. 

 

John Fitzpatrick has worked at SMCHS as the associate dean of students and head girls softball coach for the past 15 years. He began as a softball coach and when the dean position opened, he was selected for that role. When asked what he will miss the most about SM, Fitzpatrick said, “Obviously the people at SM, they are a fantastic group, along with the energy you receive on a daily basis from 1700 students!”

His favorite SM memory is watching the many softball players matriculate through the program, graduate and move on to college. A little-known fact about Fitzpatrick is that he and Jerry Holloway, Head Dean of Students, have worked together for 35 years. Fitzpatrick's post-retirement plans include continuing to coach at SM while training softball athletes.

 

Carol Gabbert has worked in the SMCHS bookstore for 25 years. She began volunteering there in 1993, during her son’s freshman year at SM. Gabbert worked alongside two nuns. When one of the nuns died suddenly, she stepped in to help with administrative work, inventory stocking and back-to-school book sales.

Gabbert’s favorite memory is when the seniors pulled a prank and painted the bookstore Pepto-Bismol pink during the night. She will miss the daily interaction with students. “I tried to treat ALL of them as I would like all adults to treat my son,” said Gabbert. She still receives emails and gifts from several graduates. During the pandemic shutdown, she has received many emails from current students wishing her well, which she says means a lot to her.

Some people may not know that Gabbert’s son, Charlie graduated from SM and went on to graduate from the University of Notre Dame. He is now a prominent gastroenterologist specializing in interventional endoscopy. Best of all, he has recently made her a first-time grandmother. Gabbert and her husband, who will be retiring this year also, are planning to move to Scottsdale Arizona to enjoy their golden years together.

 

Doris Gatfield has served SMCHS as a math teacher and program coordinator for 30 years. She and her husband had lived in Westchester, Los Angeles. While it was a great place to live, they wanted to raise their children in an area that catered more to families. Gatfield was then working at a Catholic college in LA. When she heard about SM she and her husband were excited and envisioned it as the perfect place for their family.

Gatfield will miss the SM community the most. “The school has an incredible community feel, not just the faculty, but everyone,” said Gatfield. Her children attended SM and have the same positive memories about it. “There’s a pride in working here and attending here. Everyone looks out for each other, cares about each other, has passion, even after all of these years,” said Gatfield.

Her favorite memory of SM is of the amazing students. Gatfield remembers when the teachers used to do skits during the homecoming rally. One year, the theme was Grease and she was the character, Sandy. They got permission to ride motorcycles (Gatfield was on the back, not the driver) into the gym during the rally. The students loved it. Mr. Basford and Gatfield proceeded to dance as Danny and Sandy on stage, which she admits was extremely out of character for her.

Gatfield marvels at the fact that she taught Mr. Sulick ‘91, SMCHS President, Mr. McIntosh ‘94, Social Studies teacher and Mr. Byszewski ‘91, Assistant Athletic Director and Athletics Manager when they were SM students. Gatfield and her husband will be traveling and spending more time with family. They are planning to take an African Safari, a trip to Rhode Island and attend their daughter’s wedding.

 

John and Sandra Wood began their momentous careers as religion teachers at SMCHS 28 years ago. They moved from Los Angeles to Orange County to be closer to family. They also knew that their friend, Doris Gatfield worked at a new high school in that area. Together, they checked out SM. Shortly after, both were hired in the religion department.

Mrs. Wood said she will miss seeing students the most, “…their joy, humor and sincerity. I really liked teaching them about different ways to pray. It is so easy to love them all!” Mr. Wood will miss teaching social justice to seniors and helping to raise their awareness about global issues. He felt honored to teach on the SM campus, deeming it holy ground because of the innate goodness of the students.

Having students work with clay while studying creation and experiencing their simultaneous creativity and reflection is something Mrs. Wood will forever cherish. Mr. Wood will always fondly remember spending quality time with fellow religion teacher, Brian Cooper and principal emeritus and US government teacher, Ray Dunne, solving the world’s problems and laughing together.

In her previous musical career, Mrs. Wood played in symphonies, live chamber music broadcasts and did studio work in LA. Interestingly, she has a sister who could be mistaken for her twin. When Mr. Wood was in high school, he lived in a small Mississippi railroad town for two years, while his dad ran an assembly plant for Ford Motor Company. There, he learned to play the blues harp on the segregated, non-white side of town. The experience was a shocking reality and a pivotal learning experience for him as a young boy.

Mrs. Wood looks forward to filling her retirement days playing classical music, string quartets, piano and violin duos and a little rock and roll with her electric violin. In addition, she plans to read, garden and spend more time with Sir Nigel Wood, their adorable blond, long haired chihuahua. She also will be writing a daily spiritual meditation book for teenagers. Mr. Wood would like to finish writing a novel about his father’s work in the Detroit automotive industry. He looks forward to endless hours of reading, not for lectures but for his own spiritual and literary development. He will be playing a lot of folk and rock and roll with family and friends while spending more time with their beloved Sir Nigel.