Part of the joy of homecoming at Fife High School is in its bringing together the past and present of the school’s stellar athletic program. As the 2015 Fife Trojans football team prepared on the field to face off against Franklin-Pierce High School that evening, Oct. 9, five outstanding athletes from years past were inducted as the 2015 Trojan Hall of Fame: Garard “Jerry” Gustafson, Angela Jensen, Jeff Jensen, Vince Strojan and Philip Waldner (who was unable to attend that evening).
“It’s pretty cool, and it was a surprise to me,” said Jeff Jensen about being chosen. “It’s an honor to have your community recognize you.”
A graduate of the Class of 1973, Jensen became a volunteer fire fighter for the Fife Fire Department in 1974 and was hired as a full time fire fighter in 1977.
“I started my fire career in Mason County. I grew up there in the summers and I lived out there between my junior and senior year. I joined the volunteer fire department there, and when I came back to Fife, I started with the volunteer department here,” he said. When Fife’s fire department consolidated with Tacoma’s in 1995, Jensen became assistant chief for the Tacoma Fire Department, then deputy chief until 2013, when he retired from the department. Continuing his 40-year career in fire fighting, he still serves the community as a liaison for Fire District 10, which includes Fife and Fife Heights.
Jensen played football and basketball and ran track. In 1987 he was president of the Daffodil Festival. Jensen’s parents both graduated from Fife in 1947 and two of his children also graduated from Fife. His dad, Fred Jensen, served on the Fife School Board as well many years ago. Jeff is a life-long resident of the District and lives in a house built by his grandfather in Fife Heights.
Having established his optometry business at 101 Milton Way in 1972, Dr. Garard “Jerry” Gustafson has seen a lot of changes in the area over the years. “I remember pre-freeway,” he said with a laugh. “We moved here when I started in second grade, about 1952. My dad was a veterinarian in Fife for all those years.”
A fine tennis player, Gustafson graduated from Fife High in 1963, and his four younger brothers also graduated from Fife. He went on to Pacific Lutheran University and received his degree in 1967, then opened his optometry office and is still serving the community 43 years later. His mother graduated from Fife in 1938, and her sisters and brothers were also Fife grads. Gustafson’s sons graduated from Fife, as have many of his nieces and nephews.
Gustafson has been a contributing member of the Fife/Milton community his entire adult life. Like his father, he served on the Fife School Board, from 1974 to 1983. Among many other activities, Gustafson was a member of the Fife Rotary for 30 years and a contributing member of the Fife High School Scholarship Foundation.
As the youngest inductee that evening, Angela Jensen, Class of 2007, is also the most decorated for her athletic prowess. As a student-athlete, Angela earned seven varsity letters – three in volleyball, one in basketball, and three in track. She also wrestled on the girls' team her junior and senior years As a sprinter, Jensen was named 1st team all-league in each of her three years. As a sophomore, she won the Seamount League Championships in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. She placed in both events at the state tournament, finishing second in the 100 and seventh in the 300. She was captain of the track and field team in her junior and senior years, and as a junior, she was the State 3A Champion in the 100-meter dash and the 300-meter hurdles. She also was second in the 100-meter hurdles. In her senior year, Angela did not lose a single race. She was State Champion in the 100-meter dash, the 300-meter hurdles, and the 100-meter hurdles where she set a new 2A State record of 14.3 – the best time of every classification and still the best 2A time, ranking her in the top 1 percent in the nation. She was honored as Tacoma Athletic Commission’s Athlete of the Year and has received an outstanding achievement award from the City of Fife. Angela enjoyed a successful collegiate track career at Washington State University where she received her degree in education and currently teaches at Harrison Prep in the Clover Park School District.
For Vince Strojan, his induction brought memories of his teammates and coaches. “The fellas we had here – my teammates, the coaches – if it all didn’t work right, we wouldn’t have had the success we did, so I’m totally excited, but I accept with all my teammates and coaches,” he said. “We all practiced the same number of hours, we all took the bus rides…for one guy to get acknowledged, I’m very proud of it, but I’m also aware it would never have happened for me if we didn’t have the right coaches and teammates.”
Strojan said Fife had the best coaches in Dave Hall, Ed Pepple and Bob Dinsmore. “Ed Pepple has the most victories of any high school coach in the history of the state. He started here in the late 50s, and I got a chance to play for him up to my junior year,” Strojan said.
Strojan graduated in the Class of 1964. He was the career scoring and rebounding leader when he graduated and helped his team place seventh in the Class A State Basketball Tournament. He turned down offers to play at Division 1 schools and joined his brother at St. Martin’s College where he played four years of basketball on a full scholarship. Once again, Strojan was the all-time leading scorer and rebounder when he graduated from St. Martin’s – earning a tryout with the Seattle Supersonics in 1968. After college, Strojan had a successful career with Boise Cascade.
He married his high school sweetheart Sandy Olson, who was a 1964 Fife Daffodil Princess, and moved onto the family farm in Fife, staying there from 1978 until 2003. Strojan then started Evergreen Paper Company and ran that for 30-some years. Headquartered in Fife, Evergreen Paper Company bought off-quality paper in the U.S. and sold it throughout Asia as an exporter. The Strojans owned the Windmill Saloon in Edgewood for about nine years and also operated J&S Dairy for about five years.
The Strojans raised four boys who all attended Fife. The couple also were foster parents for infants that were damaged at birth or early in their lives. “We had more than 50 foster kids over about a 15-year period of time. That was very rewarding,” Strojan said. “We’ve had six or seven kids graduate Fife High School, so we have a lot of roots in the area.”
Strojan served as president of the Booster Club from 1988 to 1990 and has been a strong supporter of Fife High School. He is a member of the Tacoma Athletic Commission
Philip Waldner, graduated in the Class of 1976. Born and raised in Fife, he worked at the family business, Fife Towing, just like his father and grandfather before him. Today, he, brother Kenton, and son Jason continue to build this fourth generation Fife business and have been serving the community since 1949. After high school, Waldner went on to Pacific Lutheran University earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education. He has served on the Fife Regional Chamber’s Board for 20 years and has been president three times so far. He has also been a major contributor to FBLA and the Fife High School Scholarship Foundation for 20 years.