JTHS class shows pride in marking 70th reunion
October 26, 2010 11:42AM
Joliet Township High School Class of 1940's 70th reunion are (from left) John Weitendorf Sr., Grant Geuther and Betty Johnson Neiswender. | Submitted photo
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:00AM
By Betty Wirth
Kudos are in order for the Joliet Township High School Class of 1940 for its dedication, its wealth of energy and the enduring friendship of its alumni.
“Everybody knows how old we are,” quipped one committee member at a recent follow-up meeting at the Silver Spoon.
This time the reminiscing was about the 70th reunion held Sept. 25 at Al’s Steak House.
The class of 1940 holds several distinctions, not the least of which is the fact that it is the largest class ever — 647 — to graduate from JTHS. Today, 249 alumni are still living.
The 70th reunion counted 58 reservations, down from the 252 people who attended the 50th. The total number included 38 alumni and their guests, some local and others from around the nation. Thirty-three classmates who could not attend sent letters.
World War II loomed as these graduates received their diplomas. Many of them served their country, and some of them sacrificed their lives. Betty Johnson Neiswender, current reunions chairman, said many distinguished careers followed. There were physicists, doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, public officials, educators, inventors, food manufacturers, bakers, store owners, librarians, land developers, musicians, military, religious leaders, school and other board members, and some “swell” housewives.
The late Leah Borkon Kerr, noted reporter for the Joliet Herald-News, once wrote about her class, “If we seem a bit proud and boastful — we are proud of what we have given to Joliet.”
Their names can be seen on offices and businesses, land developments, and sizeable contributions and name recognition can be found at the Historical Museum, Silver Cross Hospital addition, Family Care Center at MorningStar Mission and Joliet Junior College agricultural land and building, Leah had said.
Betty pointed out, “We got this far, not by luck but by the work of past committees — committee heads Dolly Peterson June, Janet Thurm Jerbi, Arlene Heintzelman and Olive Peterson, then our last chairman, Dan Barr, who is still with us. Thanks Dan.”
She said the class can be especially thankful to Neal Houbolt, who furnished the paper, printing, address labels and the great help of his secretary, Jori, for many years.
At the 50th reunion, John Weitendorf Sr. had said, “I’ll treat everybody for the 75th.” However, since then “reality set in” and his daughter, Holly, said, “Let’s make it the 70th.” His “treat” included the hall, flower centerpieces and flowers for the committee, all the lavish food, the drinks and the cake. And his moral support and the labor of his two daughters, Holly and Sally.
Donald Horschler gave the invocation; William Penn, an accomplished pianist, played all of the “oldies” that the class enjoys most.
Olive, serving most of the last 70 years, still has a major role in the planning. As secretary, she sent 193 letters to alumni whose addresses she still has, with the help of Lynn Lichtenauer, JTHS director of alumni relations and development. Olive said she heard from 69 people, but of those 30 could not attend. Olive also keeps the records and she sends out cards. Mary Burns Mudron is treasurer, and the committee includes Peg Arens Bergman, Elda Hiller Arnold, Velda Hiller Larson, Helen Mandzuk Cabay, Evelyn Ellena MacMillan, Christine Cappetta, Margery Makeever Bisset, Joe Gutierrez, Weitendorf and Houbolt.
Of the original senior class officers, only Frank “T” Wardley of New Hampshire, the vice president, is still living. The others were John Hummel, president; Nero Strappazon, secretary; and Jack Morrisey, treasurer.
But it isn’t over yet. Class members had such a great time, they don’t want to lose touch. They’re hoping for another reunion in the next year.
They’re still going strong. And, like Betty said, “I have my (car) wheels and I can still get around.”
Reach Betty Wirth at firstname.lastname@example.org