Family, friends and many others who were touched by the legacy of Louise Marchant gathered outside the newly-renovated girls’ gym at Turlock High School Saturday morning, eager to see the unveiling of its new name: the Louise Marchant Gymnasium. A special dedication ceremony was held, formally naming the campus’ renovated building after a former Bulldog who truly bled blue and gold.
“Your presence here confirms the impact that Louise had on many,” said Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Trevethan to the large crowd.
Louise graduated from THS with the famous Class of 1944, who accepted their diplomas on June 6 – the same day that the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II. Louise served as a City of Turlock Planning Commissioner and was a reliable booster and donor to THS sports, Turlock Little League and Turlock Youth Football. She was also known as the “mother of Turlock Youth Football” during the 1990s.
During her years at THS, Louise was a song leader and was also heavily involved in efforts to see that the THS Auditorium, now the Turlock Community Theater, was restored. She is also the only member of the THS Hall of Fame who was not an athlete and was named honorary homecoming queen by the school in 1994.
The Louise Marchant Legacy Committee asked the TUSD Board of Trustees in April to rename the girls’ gymnasium after Louise. At the time, it was clear that the Board agreed with the suggestion.
“We’ve got to be careful when we name buildings after somebody,” said Board Member Bob Weaver in April, “but you won’t be able to find anything bad about Louise Marchant. She has been the greatest cheerleader for Turlock High School, and I know we’re not voting on this yet but it’s a no-brainer.”
The Board unanimously elected to rename the gym after Louise at the Aug. 2 Board meeting, and Board President Frank Lima reflected on the gym’s renovations and renaming at Saturday’s ceremony.
“Louise was my neighbor and friend,” said Lima. “She was committed to making our community a better place to live. This bond was passed 10 years ago and this was the last of the funds, but it couldn’t have been used in a better way.”
In attendance at the dedication ceremony were many of the late Marchant’s family and friends, including her friend of 45 years and legacy committee member Janice Virgo. Virgo shared what she believed Louise’s thoughts on the honor would be.
“She would be thrilled,” said Virgo. “She was the best cheerleader for THS.”
A common theme throughout each speaker’s comments at the ceremony was Louise’s humble nature. Despite all she did for the community, she never asked for recognition or thanks, said legacy committee member Joe Fagundes.
“The Marchant family should be so proud of their grandmother, mother, aunt, because I’ll tell you what, that was a lady who didn’t do things for herself. She did things behind the scenes,” said Fagundes.
“I know mom would’ve been totally humbled by this dedication, but it also would’ve been her proudest moment,” said Louise’s son, Alan Marchant. “She wasn’t a person to brag about anything and didn’t want any recognition, but this totally would have put her in tears. She bled blue and gold.”
The Louise Marchant Gymnasium’s new exterior is fittingly adorned with blue and gold mosaic tiles, which compliment the surrounding bricks. Director of Maintenance and Operations Scott Richardson explained that the renovations focused on bringing the gym’s original features back to life, rather than replacing them.
“Because it’s a historic building, we left a lot of things that designers would want to change,” said Richardson.
The gym was originally built in 1930, and the first official basketball game was played there on Dec. 13 of that year. The district had been searching for a way to restore the building for over 20 years until the passing of the Measure Y Bond in 2006, which finally granted them the opportunity.
The renovation began in 2014 and encountered multiple setbacks – severe dry rot and termite damage – before being completed. The only brand new features to the building are the new elevator shaft, which takes passengers to the upstairs bleacher area, wheelchair lifts and wheelchair ramps. New windows were also installed, which underwent quite a bit of time and planning, ensuring they resembled the building’s original windows.
The other interior features of the gym were simply refurbished, said Richardson, such as the bleachers and floors. In an attempt to avoid replacing the worn out, old bleacher seats that were in the gym, construction crews simply flipped over the 85-year-old redwood seats and a local cabinet shop sanded them, bringing them back to their former glory.
“They just look beautiful,” said Richardson.
The wooden floors at the top of the bleachers still hold a bit of history as well, with physical education games like shuffleboard painted onto their surface.
“They were going to sand it down and make it new again, but we said, ‘Let’s leave that history there. It’s been there since 1930; we don’t want to get rid of that,’” said Richardson.
Tours of the gym were given to first the Marchant family, then to other guests at the dedication ceremony. Fagundes, who had known Louise since childhood, stood teary-eyed in the middle of the basketball court.
“It’s beautiful and it’s so beautiful that it’s fitting for the lady whose name is above its front doors,” he said.