Hampshire High survivors share stories of lives lived well
By Denise Moran For The Courier-News June 23, 2012 10:24PM
1949 graduates Tom Fitzpatrick, left, of Downers Grove, and Whitey Reiser, of Hampshire, look over old photos during a Hampshire High School "survivors reunion" at St. John's Lutheran Church in Burlington, Ill., on Saturday, June 23, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: July 26, 2012 6:18AM
BURLINGTON — The second annual Hampshire High School Survivors Reunion on Saturday afternoon at St. John Lutheran Church, 13N535 French Road, drew a crowd of 84.
This year’s event organizers included: Charles and Shirley Herrmann of Burlington; Don Widmayer of Hendersonville, N.C.; Jim Dickson of Neenah, Wis.; Hampshire couple Dale and Jackie Melms, and Leola Widmayer, also of Hampshire.
The Melmses handled all of the correspondence. Jackie said it was fun to check the mail every day to find out who was coming to the reunion.
“The first Survivors Reunion last year was attended by 54 people,” said Dickson. “We had such a good time. There’s something about a reunion that takes you back to your formative years. You realize that your classmates and teachers were family. To see them later, you have an instant bond.
“This reunion needs to be continued. I have no doubt there will be 100 attendees next year. I plan on coming to the reunions every year.”
After lunch, catered by Francine Mills & Family Catering of Clinton, Wis., representatives of Hampshire High classes from 1942 to 1952 each offered memories of their lives during and after high school.
“I drove 722 miles to be here,” Don Widmayer said. “It gave me the opportunity to do a lot of contemplation along the way. After high school graduation, I went into the Army. I later graduated from Illinois State University and taught school in Galesburg. I worked in sales for 20 years for Lippincott Publishing.
“My wife, Mari, and I were going to settle in Hampshire. We built a house here in 1958. Our youngest son, Kirk, was born at Sherman Hospital. Lippincott wanted me to work out east, so we moved to Cherry Hill, N.J., in 1963. I retired in 1994 and moved to Hendersonville. My wife died three years ago. I have three grown children and seven grandchildren.”
Hampshire resident Gloria Ream graduated with the Hampshire High Class of 1948. She married Bruce Ream, who once worked as a depot agent for Milwaukee Railroad. Bruce Ream Memorial Park in Hampshire is named after him.
“I came to Hampshire from the Cicero/Berwyn area,” Gloria said. “Going to Hampshire High School was like going to school with relatives. Everyone was so friendly.”
Hampshire High class sizes were generally small from 1942 to 1952.
The Class of 1942 had 23 graduates. Three of those graduates came to the reunion on Saturday.
Class of 1944 alum Bob Conro said: “We started with a class of 33 students and had 17 graduates. During our 25th reunion, all of our classmates were there. As the years go by, we’re thinning out the herd.”
Class of 1952 graduate Charles Herrmann said: “Our class is the youngest class here. We were the last ones to graduate from the school on the hill (near Seyller Park). There were 24 graduates in our class. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been out of high school for 60 years. Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Bill Doty of Genoa graduated from Hampshire High in 1942. He met his wife, Caroline, for the first time during a wedding at the Blue Moon dance hall in Elgin. Sherman West nursing home now occupies the site where the hall once stood.
Rod Rolston of South Bend, Ind., graduated from Hampshire High in 1949. He spent 30 years teaching at Purdue University and 20 years working as a correctional educator at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Today, he delivers Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
“One of the people I bring meals to is 100 years old and lives alone,” Rolston said. “He always likes to talk when I visit him.”
Hampshire resident Denny Thurow, Class of 1971, brought his parents, Bob and Pat, to the reunion. Bob graduated from Hampshire High in 1942 and Pat graduated in 1945.
Marie Doty graduated from Hampshire High in 1944. She once worked for The Courier-News as a full-time columnist from 1988 to 1992 and as a freelance writer until 2008. She now has a blog called “The Back Fence,” which was also the name of her column.
Hampshire resident Harold Bahe graduated from Hampshire High in 1946. He was a veterinarian in Hampshire for 36 years.
His advice for living a long, healthy life: “Stay active and stay young.”