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St. Isabella School family celebrates half-century of graduates

09 5.25.17_St. Isabella Ratto Family PAGESt. Isabella School celebrated 50 years since its first class graduated in 1967 on May 12. Pictured are members of the Ratto family of San Rafael, whose 23rd member graduates in June. Top row, from left: Colleen Nelson, Shane Graham. Bottom row: Debbie Epidendio, Paige Graham, (matriarch) Dorothy Ratto, Cathi Matsumura, Sissy Ratto. (Courtesy photo)

May 25, 2017
Christina Gray

St. Isabella School eighth grader Anthony Ratto’s graduation on June 2 marks an historic moment for himself, his family and the San Rafael school itself.

Anthony will be the 23rd Ratto family member to graduate from St. Isabella School, leaving the school without a Ratto for the first time in a span of over 50 years.

This year also marks 50 years since the first St. Isabella School class graduated in 1967. The K-8 school in San Rafael’s Terra Linda section opened with grades one through four in 1962 under the direction of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and added grades in later years. A kindergarten class was added in 1996.

The school and the Ratto family celebrated their combined histories with a barbecue at the parish school property on May 13, Mother’s Day weekend.

In September 1964, Frankie Ratto,’72, the first of 11 Ratto family siblings, started first grade at St. Isabella School. His 10 siblings – Sissy, ’73; Debbie, ’74; Anthony, ’75; Troy, ’76; Cathi, ’80; Evie, ’82; Bubba, ’86; Kevin, ’88; Dino, ’91; and Derek, ’94 – all followed.

In 1988, the first of the second generation of Rattos entered St. Isabella, starting with Frankie’s daughters Shelby, ’96; Sissy’s son Neal, ’97; Jenna, ’98; Shane, ’01; Troy, ’01; Dominic; ’04, Paige, ’07; Mikayla, ’12; Sydney, ’14; and Anthony, ’17.

Having multiple generations from one family at the school at the same time made for some interesting dynamics, St. Isabella Kindercare and office aide Kathy Ferguson said in an email.

“Sissy Ratto’s children were students at the school at the same time her younger brothers Dino and Derek were there and got to call the ‘uncle’ on the playground,” Ferguson said. Grandma Dorothy “Nonni” Ratto worked the hot lunch program, serving her sons and grandchildren at the same time, with Sissy Ratto, who served her brothers, sons, nieces and nephews.

Ferguson said that Father Michael Keane, who was pastor of St. Isabella for 19 years, joked that St. Isabella School would have to close when the last Ratto graduated.

“Debbie Ratto, ’74, is employed as a kindergarten aide, thank goodness!” Ferguson said.

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