St. Joseph, West St. Paul, says ‘so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye’ to alumna’s Austrian son

| January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments
Sam Seitlinger, center, laughs during class with seventh-grade classmates Nicholas Bettenburg, left, Ethan Safi, Grace Creamer and Lucy Kulhanek.   Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Sam Seitlinger, center, laughs during class with seventh-grade classmates Nicholas Bettenburg, left, Ethan Safi, Grace Creamer and Lucy Kulhanek. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

With the 50th anniversary of the release of the movie musical “The Sound of Music” coming in March, it seemed like the perfect time for St. Joseph School in West St. Paul to put on the play.

The school even had a student from Austria, where the movie was set, to play the role of Capt. Georg von Trapp. Samson Seitlinger, whose mother, Andrea, is from West St. Paul and graduated from St. Joe’s in 1981, was discovered to have a beautiful singing voice.

If only Samson, known as Sam, would be at the school long enough to be in the play.

Instead, he bids farewell Feb. 6 to return to Zell am See, his hometown about 60 miles south of Salzburg.

Seitlinger started the school year at St. Joseph and will stay until the last day of Spirit Week, when the school will hold its annual carnival.

“He has begged and begged and begged to stay,” said principal Jane Nordin, who met with Sam and Andrea in June to discuss the possibility of Sam spending part of the school year at St. Joseph. He has been staying with Andrea’s parents, Keith and Yvonne Sando.

“I think he’s really torn,” Nordin said. “He’d really love to stay here for the rest of the year, but he misses his parents and family. He’s gotten one extension already. Originally, I think we had talked about maybe up until Christmas. He convinced mom to stay a little bit longer.”

After Spirit Week, he will fly back to Austria to rejoin his mother; his father, Gabriel, a native Austrian; and his younger sister, Antonia.

For Seitlinger, the departure will be bittersweet. After singing in the choir at school, he would have liked the chance to put his talent to work in the play, possibly even by singing a song in German.

“It’s sad I can’t be in it,” he said. “I wish I could stay and at least see it.”

He will leave behind about 50 classmates plus a homeroom teacher, Dave Schultz, who enjoyed his first opportunity to teach a foreign student.

“He’s just been a terrific kid. We’re going to miss him,” Schultz said. “From day one, he’s gotten along well with the guys. He played football, so he’s an active guy. Too bad we don’t have a skiing team because I got a feeling he’s probably just a terrific skier, living by the Alps.”

Indeed, he describes the view from his house like a postcard, with the Alps towering in the distance. When he returns, his mother will relish the opportunity he had not only to experience American culture, but also to study in an American school and make new friends.

“I think our biggest surprise is how much he loves choir,” said Andrea, who met Gabriel in Salzburg and married him in 2001. “We have always encouraged him to play an instrument or do something musical, but it was always a no-go until now.

“We are thankful for the positive learning experience that Sam has had at St. Joseph’s,” she added. “Jane Nordin, the office staff and all of Sam’s teachers have been wonderful, both in their teaching and making him feel welcome.”

The obvious question is whether Sam’s sister will also walk St. Joseph’s hallways one day.

“She can if she would like to,” Andrea said. “It’s [too] early to say.”

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Category: Faith and Culture, Featured