When Weymouth High School’s Class of 1943 held a reunion this summer, the classmates, in their 80s, expected it would be their last. There were 15 people, out of an original class of 352. But then the happy memories and optimism prevailed.
The last reunion – that’s what they thought it would be. The surviving members of Weymouth High School Class of 1943 feel fortunate to have lasted this long, but they don’t want to push their luck.
Until, after lunch, Bill Horsch of Rockland, the only man, stands up. “Oct. 7?” he asks, holding up a calendar book. Optimism wins the day. Oct. 7 it will be. The next reunion. Why wait? After all, their class motto was “Not Finished – Just Begun.”
Every five years since 1943, they have gathered faithfully, but the ranks are shrinking fast.
“We went from being this large (wide-arm stretch) to this large (hands cupped),” said Mary Calnan McKinney.
There are 15 classmates present, ages 83 or 84, out of an original class of 352. Claire Plourde calls them “the reliables” and the room at Christina’s Restaurant in Pembroke is filled with their laughter, stories and a few tears.
“We are just happy to be able to come and sit and talk and be upright and mobile,” says Lucy Siroonian Kalaijian.
The night before, Dorothy McKinnon looked at her old yearbook, the 1943 Reflector, and thought, “I'm not going to know anybody.” Now it really doesn’t matter.
“We sit here and chew the fat and try to remember why we know one another,” she says jokingly.
Antonetta Caccavale Malcolm smiles. “Some I remember, some I don’t,” she says.
The Class of 1943 came of age during World War II, when young men enlisted the day after graduation, a class essay was titled “The Strategy of Global War, ” the class history was written in terms of military life, and the football banquet was canceled because of rationing.
It was a time when education after high school was not popular and few women went on to college. But Plourde became a nurse and McKinney and Marie Corbo Ortiz took the train together to Boston – McKinney to Fishers Secretarial School and Ortiz and Kalaijian, both retired teachers, to Boston University.
Each reunion now brings some bad news – those who have passed away, struggle with illness, or care for a sick spouse.
“There is also a sadness because we remember people who aren't here, but we have lots of happy memories,” Ortiz said. For two women whose husbands have Alzheimer’s, this is a rare chance to get out. They talk and laugh and it does them good.
They were a close-knit class in a town known for its school system.
“I always felt like I had to give back,” says Kalaijian.
As the afternoon unfolds, forgotten details come back and people they didn’t recognize ring true.
“Most of us maintain the same characteristics as when we were younger, only more mature,” Ortiz says. “We support each other, we laugh together, we reminisce – and for this, I am grateful.”
Reach Patriot Ledger writer Sue Scheible at email@example.com, 617-786-7044, or The Patriot Ledger, Box 699159, Quincy 02269-9159. Read her Good Age blog on our Web site.