Brothers donate uniforms to St. Al in mother’s memoryby Ernest Bowker
When he was a child, Jeff Turcotte would view the old photographs and newspaper clippings in his mother’s scrapbook with awe.
They were simple but powerful memories from a time when a young woman named Katherine Meyer was leading St. Francis Xavier Academy, “The Sisters’ School,” to some of its greatest basketball success.
“Those scrapbooks, to me, were like the coolest thing ever,” Turcotte said. “She was always the athlete in the family.”
His mother’s athletic prowess inspired Turcotte to his own athletic career. He ran track and cross country at the University of New Mexico and has coached the same sports for 20 years at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque. It also is inspiring him to give back to the Catholic school in his mother’s hometown of Vicksburg.
Turcotte, along with his brothers Steve, Greg and Jeff, have donated a set of girls basketball uniforms and $1,000 to St. Aloysius High School in honor of their mother, who died in September.
The uniforms are throwbacks, styled like the ones Katherine Meyer and her teammates wore in the 1958-59 season when they played at O’Beirne Gymnasium on Clay and Adams streets. They’ll be worn for the first time Friday night against Cathedral, then once each season after that.
The $1,000 donation is to start a scholarship fund in the names of Katherine Meyer Turcotte and Roy Turcotte, the patriarch of the family who died three months before his wife of 52 years. Roy Turcotte was a graduate of St. Aloysius, known as “The Brothers’ School.” The family is also donating $2,000 to The Vicksburg Lions Club, of which Roy Turcotte was a member.
On Thursday night, St. Al — a combined school of the Sisters’ and Brothers’ schools — will host a reunion for all former girls basketball players. A potluck supper will begin at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria.
“To spend $2,000 on something that will hopefully build for more and give her friends something to reminisce about, and give our family a reason to get together, it has a lot of different reasons for doing it,” Jeff Turcotte said. “I think the girls will enjoy the game, and it’ll be fun for my mom’s friends. It has so many happy reasons for it. I’m glad it’s all come together.”
Katherine Meyer led the St. Francis Xavier Academy Blue Streaks in 1958-59 to one of their best seasons. She played forward and was the leading scorer on a team that reached the Class B-BB state tournament.
SFXA won the Sub-District 4 championship — the equivalent of a division title to modern teams — before losing by one point to Sebastopol in the District 6 tournament championship game.
St. Francis still was one of six teams to advance to the state tournament, but lost in the first round. Center Hill beat the Blue Streaks 40-38 on a basket in the final 30 seconds.
“That was when we played six girls per team and didn’t cross the line. You had three on defense and three forwards. It was a totally different way of playing,” said Myrtle Loviza Curro Alvarado, a teammate on the 1958-59 team. “Katherine was a great player. She was one of our best scorers.”
Like his brother, Steve Turcotte said there was little doubt who the best athlete — or, at least, the best basketball player — in the family was.
“Dad was a baseball player, but he didn’t do it through high school. We were all runners. All of us were very athletic. When it came to basketball, Mom was the coach to us all,” said Steve Turcotte, who lives in Vicksburg.
Even for a talented player like Meyer, opportunities for girls to play college basketball were practically non-existent at the time. She eventually settled into life and married Roy Turcotte, her high school sweetheart.
Roy Turcotte was in the Navy and the family moved often. The couple had four children, all born in different places, but Vicksburg was always home. The couple settled in Vicksburg for retirement.
“Vicksburg was always home base,” Steve Turcotte said.
Not long after Katherine Turcotte’s death, Jeff Turcotte was thinking of a way to pay tribute to his mother. Inspired by her basketball exploits, he reached out to St. Aloysius officials about donating the uniforms and scholarship money. It was warmly received.
“We’re always looking for a way to link the past and the present and let the kids know what kind of team we had. We were very excited about it,” St. Al athletic director B.J. Smithhart said. “What better way to help the school than to get deserving kids a scholarship? It works out for everybody.”
St. Al’s players have yet to see the retro uniforms. They were shipped over the holiday break, but the school’s office has been closed. Senior forward Ann Garrison Thomas, however, said suiting up in the Columbia Blue throwbacks with buttons on the shorts and retro lettering sounds like fun.
“It sounds like something very interesting. It’ll be a good thing to add to the season every year,” she said. “I think it’ll be something worth coming to watch.”
That sentiment applies not just to casual fans, but alumni and the Turcotte family as well.
Both Jeff and Steve said it was difficult for their scattered family to get together. Steve and Greg Turcotte live in Mississippi, but Jeff is 1,000 miles away, and Tim Turcotte lives in Lexington, Ky. Their parents were the glue that bound the four brothers together.
“We always had a built-in reason to come here,” Jeff Turcotte said.
That reason is gone, but not forgotten. They hope honoring the memories of their parents will provide years of new reasons to come together — and give generations of others their own reason.
“Vicksburg has always been home to our family. Mom and Dad are from there, and their families were from there. We’re hoping it’s a reunion for us brothers,” Jeff Turcotte said. “You always want to keep your folks’ memories alive. I’m sure there will be a lot of tears shed that night.”
Read more: The Vicksburg Post
If you go - St. Aloysius' girls basketball team will wear throwback uniforms for its game Friday against Cathedral, in honor of the 1959 team and former player Katherine Meyer Turcotte. The game starts at 6 p.m., and admission is $5.
Thursday at 6 p.m., St. Al will host a potluck supper in the school cafeteria. All former girls basketball players from St. Al and St. Francis Xavier Academy are invited to attend. For information, call Myrtle Curro Alvarado at 601-661-0847.