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ALHS Alumni Hall of Fame

The ALHS Alumni Hall of Fame has 92 members to date. If you would like to nominate an accomplished alumnus for the Hall of Fame, please submit your written nomination to Al Graziano c/o Lincoln High School. Please include a detailed description of what the nominee has accomplished since graduating from Lincoln, including career successes, community service, and service to Lincoln High.

Click HERE to download the Hall of Fame Nomination form.
Click HERE to view the 2012 Inductees.

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Congratulations, 2013 Hall of Fame Inductees:

John Hollingsworth, Class of 1942
Sarah Cook Zimmerman, Class of 1958
Gloria Gray, Class of 1966
The Late Robert Keefer, Class of 1935
The Late William Keefer, Class of 1937
The Late John Ortega, Class of 1954


John Hollingsworth
John Hollingsworth – Class of 1942.

On the football page of the January 1942 yearbook, “Johnny Hollingsworth” is described as “Basher” and as hard to block as a greased pig, a man with a fighting heart”. He played football, basketball, and ran track for Lincoln and is prominently pictured in the January and June yearbooks. His “fighting heart” led John to the military enlistment office with friends after graduation but he was rejected because of a blockage in his nose. Playing left guard on offense and defense for Lincoln, before any type of helmet faceguards were in use, surely contributed to John’s broken nose injuries. But he had surgery to correct the nose blockage and the U.S. Army accepted him. He served in the Philippines and with the occupation forces in Japan and had two near death experiences that claimed the lives of thirteen of his fellow soldiers. John was awarded nine medals, most notably the Bronze Star for heroic-meritorious service. He returned home from the war to his high school sweetheart and wife, Jean Keegan, also a 1942 Lincoln graduate. John and Jean had two daughters, Pat and Pam, both Lincoln graduates. John graduated from Drake University in 1950 with a degree in Business Administration and began his career in the insurance industry leading to his own business in 1980, Merit Insurance Services, at the corner of Southwest Ninth and Park Avenue. John was honored to serve as President of the Iowa Underwriters Insurance Association during his career. He sold his company in 1998 and continued working for three more years before retiring in 2001 at the age of seventy-seven. John now has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren with a third due in June. He continues to live on the southwest side of Des Moines and is a familiar face at Alumni Events. His wife Jean died in 2007. In August 2010, John was on an Honor Flight for World War II Veterans to Washington, D.C., planned and sponsored by Hy-Vee, Inc., to visit the war memorials that honor fallen soldiers. John Hollingsworth’s life represents the best of his generation that grew up on the southside, attended Lincoln High School, served his country,
raised his family, and established his business presence in the community.
Sarah Cook Zimmerman – Class of 1958

Sarah remembers Lincoln High School as a place where she “enjoyed people”, where Mr. Chapman made Spanish class “come alive” for her, and where a fellow student once said “Sarah belongs to all of us.” Nancy Foes Ash, classmate of Sarah’s, writes that Sarah “has become an exemplary teacher, lecturer, and business woman”. Sarah stated in the Lincoln Alumni Directory published in 2007 that “life is an adventure, have a good trip!”. Her “trip” after graduation from Lincoln led to the establishment of a school that she named Fountainhead Montessori (in 1972) in Danville, California. Stops along the way included Drake University (1958-1962), Bachelors of Education, N.E. Illinois State College (1966- 1970), Masters of Special Education, and the Montessori Primary Diploma AMS (1972). Prior to the opening of Fountainhead Montessori, Sarah taught Special Education children in Des Moines, IA., Hartford Conn., Gurnee, Ill, and Los Angeles County, CA. Sarah studied the Montessori philosophy about teaching children under the tutelage of her mentor who was trained by Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori philosophy and method of instruction. Fountainhead Montessori has five campuses and the school literature focuses on year-round childcare and programs where the “child learns to choose from a wide variety of academic, cultural, artistic, and self-care activities in an environment designed to stimulate and develop the child’s love of learning”. Sarah expanded her work with young children to teaching adults through lectures, workshops, and courses. Sarah’s professional experiences and service, membership affiliations, community activities, and publications all attest to her career achievements. One of Sarah’s publications is entitled Maria Montessori, A Biography for Children. The book includes pictures selected by students and a brief explanation of why the book was written and how it was illustrated. Another of Sarah’s publications is entitled, The Storm, and includes ideas to try when using the book with children. One of Sarah’s teaching experiences was with Roy Lee “Rocky” Dennis. His life was the basis for the 1985 Academy Award film entitled “Mask”. Sarah lives in Lafayette, California and continues to be active in her work at Fountainhead Montessori, with the American Montessori Society (AMS), the North American Montessori Teacher Association, and the National Association of the Education of Young Children.

Gloria Gray – Class of 1966

Gloria was an active student while at LHS grades seven through twelve, participating in Girls Club, Latin Club, Girls Golf, Loyalty Week, Hospitality and Usher Committee, Student Council, and Welfare Committee. Loyalty Week was a new tradition Gloria’s senior year and she was in charge of organizing activities to help Lincoln students renew their loyalty and take new interest in their school. A picture in the 1966 yearbook shows students gathered on the front lawn for the finale of Loyalty Week, ringing the Victory Bell, and spilling out to SW 9th Street. In the middle of the huge crowd of students is Principal Melvin Bowen, standing arms folded, possibly thinking why he let Gloria Gray talk him into this activity. Gloria would continue to be involved and active as she studied at Iowa State University and Drake University, earning a Degree in Sociology, A Master of Public Administration, and a Doctor of Education Degree. Her career started in Peoria, Illinois with case and social work positions from 1970-75 and then back to Des Moines with Children and Families of Iowa in various managerial/ leadership roles from 1975-88. From 1988-96 Gloria served as Executive Director of Sunbeam Family Services in Oklahoma City and from 1996-2000 was V.P. of Spofford Home in Kansas City. From November 2000 to the present, Gloria has been Director of Programs, Interim Executive Director, and currently is Executive Director of Des Moines based Children and Families of Iowa serving central Iowa from offices in Fort Dodge, Ankeny, Osceola, and Ottumwa. She is responsible for leadership and overall administration and management of CFI as a multi-site private, non-profit human services agency dedicated to restoring hope for victims of domestic violence, helping teens find brighter futures, creating safe homes for children and families in crisis, and empowering people to reshape their lives through a range of services. Gloria is active in her career field professional associations and the Lincoln Alumni Association, having twice served as President as well as Vice President and Recording Secretary terms during the years 2001-2013. All of Gloria’s career to date seems quite natural stemming from her memory of six student years at LHS as “just all good”.


Robert Keefer – January Class of 1935
Bob Keefer distinguished himself at Lincoln on the football, basketball, and track teams. He was selected First Team All-City Quarterback in 1934 and earned Honorable Mention All-State. An article in the Des Moines Tribune stated, “Keefer was almost Lincoln’s whole offensive show during the season. He punted, passed, called signals, ran exceptionally well with the ball and was a perfect tackler”. Bob was President of his Senior Class and involved in Senior English Club, Senior Student Council, the Character Commission, the Iowa High School Press Association, and served as Sports Editor of the Railsplitter. Selected quotes from President Keefer’s Address to the January 1935 Class traced the Acts and Scenes of their six years on stage at Lincoln as follows: “Step by step our act at Lincoln has developed our characters and shaped our lives”. “From the stage of Lincoln High we shall step forth upon other platforms and before other footlights.” “Our country is crying for leaders in the play called life.” Bob received an Honor Award for Athletics and Leadership at the end of his senior semester. He was already fulfilling his message to his fellow students. Bob received a full athletic scholarship to Grinnell College but instead went to work for the railroad in Des Moines. He married Marguerite Bender, June 1935 Lincoln graduate, in 1940 and they raised two children, Karen and Robert II, both future LHS graduates. Military service in the Army took Bob to the European WWII battlefields and the Battle of the Bulge (December, 1944). Bob was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his Army Service. He returned home after the war and resumed his career with the railroad. Brothers Bob and Bill Keefer ventured into the business world as co-owners of Grubb Washer Furniture and Appliances in the late 1950’s located at 3310 S.W. 9th Street. The business would prosper as part of the S.W. 9th – Park Avenue business corridor that served the southside community. Residents (many without cars) could find all essential needs along the corridor. The Keefer brothers were instrumental in their business community and service to the southside of Des Moines before the arrival of the large department stores and suburban shopping malls outside of downtown Des Moines. They were well known for helping young families and individuals establish a credit plan and history through their purchases at Grubb Washer. The business closed in 1981 because of a construction project widening S.W. 9th Street and the removal of several buildings including Grubb Washer. Bob enjoyed his family, golf, and traveling in retirement and was one of the first inductees into the new Lincoln Athletic Hall of Fame. Bob took the lead in organizing his Fiftieth Class Reunion in 1985. Throughout his adult life, Bob participated in Fastpitch Softball and was inducted into three different Softball Hall of Fames in the 1970’s. He died in 2009 at age 93. His wife, Marguerite, died in 2005. Bob’s business legacy lives on in the memories and stories of the many “first purchases” at Grubb Washer Furniture and Appliances.


William Keefer – Class of 1937
Bill Keefer is handsomely pictured on page nine of the June Senior Railsplitter of which he was Associate Advertising Manager. His yearbook biography highlights his participation in senior Student Council, football, basketball, and served as homeroom president. Bill married “the love of his life”, Frances Wilcoxson, June 1938 Lincoln graduate, and they raised three daughters, Sheryle, Sindy, and Sheila, all future LHS graduates. Two sonsin- law also graduated from LHS and the third son-in-law, Thomas R. Drake, served as the fifth Principal of Abraham Lincoln High School from 1989 to 1996. Seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren have also graduated from Lincoln. Bill went to work for J.I. Case, a Farm Implement Company, after high school and was a Navy Veteran of World War II. His Navy service took him to Japan as part of the U.S. Occupation Forces. Bill worked for the J.I. Case Company until 1951 when he started working for Grubb Washer Sales and Service owned by George Grubb. Together with his brother Bob Keefer, Bill ventured into co-ownership in the late 1950’s of what would eventually be named Keefer’s-Grubb Washer Furniture and Appliances. The business was located at 3310 S.W. 9th Street along the S.W. 9th - Park Avenue business corridor serving southside residents. Bill and Bob shared a business card with all the essential information for customers and the name “B.KEEFER” printed at the bottom (Bill or Bob), it worked either way. The business carried Whirlpool, Roper, Westinghouse, and RCA Appliance brands and a complete line of carpeting and furniture. The old Lincoln Movie Theater was located immediately south of Grubb Washer (no connection to the school) and Tursi’s Clothing was located to the north. Neighbor kids loved to make forts and play houses out of the big empty appliance boxes sitting outside the back door of Grubb Washer. Bill and Bob Keefer helped young families establish credit ratings with their purchases and built their business into a prominent retail destination until closing in 1981 when S.W. 9th Street was widened and the building was removed. It is difficult if not impossible, to speak of Bill Keefer and not Bob Keefer and vice versa when presenting the contributions the brothers made to the community where they grew up, went to school, married, served their country, raised their families, and became trusted, responsible, productive, respected businessmen and neighbors. In retirement, Bill enjoyed his family and many friends, played golf, and followed sports. He especially enjoyed Lincoln Girls Softball. Bill died in 2002 at age 83, preceded in death by his wife, Fran. A memorial in his name was designated to the Lincoln Girls Softball Team. Sheryle Keefer Drake expressed in words that her father, Bill Keefer, “would be honored, as is his family, to be inducted into the Lincoln High School Alumni Hall of Fame, an event made even more special when inducted with his brother, Bob Keefer and one of his best friends, John Hollingsworth.”

John Ortega – Class of 1954
John entered Lincoln in 1948 as a seventh grade student. His parents were migrant farm workers from Mexico who came to the United States in 1927 to work in the sugar beet fields of Minnesota and Iowa. John was one of ten children and his parents settled the family in the Des Moines area known as the “Southeast Bottoms” in the 1940’s. A section of the area was also known as “Boxtown” because some residents built homes from packing crates. The Ortega children attended Howe and McKinley Elementary Schools and Lincoln High and many went on to higher education including Harvard University. John played football and was on the Wrestling team at Lincoln and met his future wife, Charlotte Askland, during their ninth grade year. John was scheduled to graduate with his class in June of 1954 but due to personal and family matters he withdrew from school midway through his senior year and joined the Marines. Before leaving for the Marines in December 1953, John married Charlotte, Lincoln’s 1953 Homecoming Queen. He served with the First Marine Division in the Korean War near the 38th Parallel, the line that divides North and South Korea to this day. John earned a GED through the military and upon discharge from the Marines in 1955 he continued his education for the next fifteen years at Drake University, San Diego State University, and Van Norman University, Hollywood California, and passed the California bar exam in 1970. While attending law school, John served as a social worker in Compton, California. He recognized the needs of a community with a lot of troubles and he wanted to represent people who were abused and discriminated against. John opened the doors to his first legal practice in Compton after being admitted to the California State Bar in 1971 and served the community until his retirement in 2002. He was quoted later in his career looking back at his start that “there were hundreds and hundreds of people who needed legal representation, and I was up to my ears in cases. I was needed.” John was the only Latino lawyer in the community at that time and at the height of his legal career he had four attorneys working for him in four offices located in underserved areas of the community. High school seniors were mentored by John and they worked as legal trainees in his offices. Many of the trainees went on to form their own legal profession careers. John experienced the Watts riots of 1965 and the South Los Angeles Riots of 1992. He was pictured in the Los Angeles Daily Journal defending his law office from rioters and looters. John died in 2007 and is survived by his wife Charlotte, his four children, grandchildren, and extended family. He lived to see Compton-based Community Lawyers Inc. launched to urge lawyers to forego working for large firms and instead open up community based practices in underserved communities like Compton. Mr. John Ortega, Class of 1954, was an honored guest at Lincoln’s Commencement, May 23, 1992, on stage after 38 years, in Cap and Gown, to receive his ALHS diploma.

Hall of Fame


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