SIDNEY — The late James Patrick McClain, who coordinated the merger of Holy Angels High School in Sidney and Piqua Catholic High School to form Lehman Catholic High School in 1970, will be inducted into the Lehman Hall of Fame.
McClain, who also served as the school’s first board president, will be one of five inductees honored at the 10th annual ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 6. The other honorees are Sister Patricia Mirsberger, John Frantz, Frank Gilardi Jr., and the Rev. Dennis Jaspers.
The evening will begin with Mass at 5:15 p.m. in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Chapel on campus, concelebrated by Rev. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, a former Lehman chaplain who currently serves as Rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, and Rev. Jaspers. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6 p.m. with dinner catered by The Spot at 6:30 p.m. in the Cianciolo Family Gymnasium.
Born in 1927 in Sidney, McClain was the seventh of 10 children. As the country slipped into the Great Depression, his characteristic drive developed as a result of growing up in a highly moral, strong, industrious, and independent family unit that was determined to survive the struggles of the time.
McClain completed nine years of school at Holy Angels, then finished at Sidney High School. Like many of his friends, he enlisted in the Navy in 1945, but he was still in training when the war ended. He returned to Sidney and obtained a degree from Miami Jacobs Business College in Dayton.
McClain was employed at Aeroproducts in Vandalia for 12 years. It was there that he met his wife-to-be, Blanche Roeder. They were married in 1954. When Aeroproducts moved its operation to Indianapolis, McClain decided to stay in Sidney and began work at Westinghouse Air Brake Company, which later became LeROI. In 1971, he was promoted to Manager, Control and Finance. In this position, he was responsible for the overall cost and financial control of the division until his untimely death in 1974.
McClain was an active member of Holy Angels Church and was one of the first lectors when the Mass changed from Latin to English. From 1966 to 1969, he served as the charter president of the Holy Angels Parochial School Board after the “new” high school built in 1954 was expanded in 1965. His role in that organization paved the way for the consolidation that would become Lehman.
“For many today, it is difficult to comprehend how daunting a task this really was,” said daughter Connie McClain in nominating her father for the Hall of Fame. “Imagine Sidney and Piqua or any archrivals consolidating into one school … It (was) a tense time with strong emotions. Hard to believe it now, but many people felt it wouldn’t last more than a few years.”
Working closely with the late Rev. Robert Monnin who would become Lehman’s first principal, McClain coordinated all the merger activities between Piqua Catholic and Holy Angels. As a result, he was appointed as the first president of the Lehman school board, serving from 1970-1972. A decade later, his widow Blanche followed in his footsteps and served on the Lehman board from 1982-1984.
“Perhaps Jim’s greatest accomplishment is that his children remember him as an active and involved father,” said Connie. “While there are memories of nighttime meetings, there are many, many more of family time – Saturday night game night, Sunday dinners, family reunions … Jim and Blanche provided a balanced, loving family life based in education and the Catholic faith that serves their children still today.”
Active in the Jaycees and athletics all his life, McClain truly lived the Jaycee creed that says, “Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life … and service to humanity is the best work of life.”
Jim McClain died at the young age of 47, yet his legacy lives on in the impact he made on the Sidney community in general and Lehman Catholic High School in particular. Due to his vision and efforts, Lehman not only survived, but has thrived. Its many graduates and generations of students yet to come have James Patrick McClain to thank for his contribution to preserving Catholic education in the northern area of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
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