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A photo of students walking in the hall at Notre Dame Academy

It All Boils Down to This

The following piece was published in the 2020 NDA Winter Magazine.

I hear it all day long on most days: "Happy Anniversary!" Thirty years is a big deal, and as I look around Notre Dame Academy, so much is worthy of celebration.

Through those years, and more, late summer has been my favorite time. The building is pristine with the shining terrazzo floors and the smell of fresh wax lingering in the air.

Come mid-August, I share the bittersweet feelings of students who are returning after a summer without bells and challenging academics. I don't work alone. My sister is awfully chill and has been keeping the building cool. She's a lot younger than I am at 18-years-old. She's growing up and aging quickly, but, compared to mine, her work hours are short.

In August, my hard work is only a few weeks away. With each passing year, I'm increasingly certain that, like summer, my time is coming to an end, too.

For 65 years, my job has been to be quiet, dependable and efficient. But now I'm running out of steam.

Oh, but you should have seen me in 1954 when it all started. I was hot. My oil burners were top-of-the-line, and there are photographs to prove it. You may not know it, but I'm actually triplets. There were three of us. Unfortunately, one was sacrificed for parts in the early 80s when the remaining two of us were converted from oil to gas.

I've had some major surgeries over the years: too many to count. This past summer, one of my gas burners was replaced. I think of it as a heart transplant. A tricky operation since all of my parts are obsolete, and most have to be specially built. Other parts are sagging a bit, too, but I will spare you the details. I am, as they say, "high maintenance."

What does the future look like? My heart has been temporarily fixed, but my arteries (maintenance staff calls them pipes) are weakening, and before long, they will not be able to sustain my heart. In fact, they've been springing leaks for years now, and they may not last through the winter.

The next guy who comes in here will be more efficient and use computers. I let off steam, but he will use pumps and hot water - not quite as volatile as I am. And he's going to have to bring along his brothers to be air handlers. I know my sister won't work with him, so he'll have to bring his own. They will be a little more fragile than I am.  I hope they can be kept out of the snow and cold. Either way, they won't last for 65 years, but they'll probably have good hearts. 

I don't want to give up. Keeping these students warm, helping them to learn and grow is really all that matters to me, but I know my days are numbered. I hope that when the end comes, I am remembered with fondness and for giving everything I had. To ease my passing and in lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy and comfort can be sent to Notre Dame Academy's Buildings and Grounds at 610 Maryhill Drive, Green Bay, WI  54303.

About the Author

Iron Fireman (aka the Notre Dame Academy Boiler) has been steaming away in the basement of the school since 1954. In his spare time, he enjoys conversations with the maintenance staff and relaxing in the sauna. He hopes to retire very, very soon.

Check out the entire 2020 NDA Winter Magazine online.

About Notre Dame Academy: Notre Dame Academy is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is a co-ed Catholic high school founded by the Norbertine Order, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Diocese of Green Bay. NDA’s distinctive history embraces the more than 120-year foundation of St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School. NDA offers a globally focused education with a leading IB Diploma Program. Its high-caliber educational community is focused on outstanding learning and creating a lifetime of opportunity for all students.