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Whitewater High School reunion is bringing old friends back together

By Makenna Mays, Staff Writer

Friends and family of the Whitewater High School alumni gathered at the Holy Guardian Angel school building on Saturday, August 10 for an all-high school reunion.

Whitewater High School was built on four acres acquired from Michael and Mary Fohl, and located in Whitewater Township on the corner of School and Elkhorn roads. The first graduating class in 1924 consisted of three students: Lena Strohmier, Amy Willey and Dorothy Wiwi.

Ernest Clark served as principal from 1923-1959 (with an absence of three years), and John Lane served as principal from 1960-1975. Strohmier, a 1924 graduate, returned to teach at Whitewater after graduating from college. She finished her teaching career at Southwest Local Schools.

From 1924-1974, there were 941 graduates, with Rosemary Elizabeth Wiwi being the last student to receive a diploma from Whitewater High School.

Because of the often-small classes at Whitewater High School, the atmosphere was described as very close-knit, so it makes sense the reunions from this high school were well-attended. In fact, it was at one of these reunions the idea from an all-high school reunion was created.

Mary Jo Schmidt, Class of '61, and a committee of other alumna got together to start planning the all-high school reunions. In 2017, Schmidt made a Facebook post to see if anyone would be interested in forming a planning committee, and 15 people showed up.

Jim Glascock, Class of '46, who attended the high school and taught there for many years after college, had a list of all the graduates from Whitewater High School beginning in 1924 through 1975. From that list, Schmidt started contacting people she knew.

They sent out 94 e-mail and 400 hard-copy invitations. In total, 114 alumnae showed up to the first all-high school reunion held at the Franklin County Park.

“It was amazing,” said Schmidt.

In the second year of the bi-annual event, Schmidt said they expected about 90 people to show to the reunion.

“Some of these people I haven't seen in 50 years,” said Schmidt.

And that seemed to be what the event was all about, reliving the memories and reforming connections.

Mildred Kunkel graduated in 1946. She attended the reunion two years ago where they took a picture of her, which still hangs in her kitchen to this day. Kunkel recalled some of the best memories from high school, which included hanging out with her best friends.

Donald Knecht also graduated with the Class of '46. Knecht said he had an application for a factory job ready to go when graduation approach-ed, and a week after graduation, he was working in a factory in Connersville for 80 cents an hour.

Some of his other memories of Whitewater High School include basketball, the only sport that existed at the school. Knecht played basketball for four years and can recall when the gym was built around 1941-1942.

“I played in the first basketball game that was ever played in that high school in that new gym,” said Knecht.

Unfortunately, they did not win that first game.

Gary Stokes was part of the Class of 1963. He attended Whitewater High School all 12 years, and even returned to teach there for three years.

“I enjoyed going back to where I had gone to high school,” said Stokes.

Stokes described the school atmosphere as close-knit. They had 34 students in their graduating class.

“I think small schools still have a lot to offer,” said Stokes.

Sandy Sacksteder, Class of 1962, joined Whitewater High School her freshman year. One of her favorite memories was attending the senior class trip. The class took a train from Cincinnati to Washington D.C., and from there took a bus to New York City.

Similarly, Schmidt recalled her class trip. Schmidt's class went to Washington and Harper's Ferry in West Virginia. Back then, students raised money for both their graduation and class trip. Schmidt said their class was quite industrious and raised money for the school by selling anything from pecans to lightbulbs to magazine subscriptions. Because of their hard work, they were able to put on one of the first school plays and even make a donation to the school.

Schmidt said everyone on the committee has worked very hard to put the reunion together, and it is because events like this, memories and friendships are preserved.

“Getting together and getting back old friendships it what it's all about,” said Schmidt.