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Reunion brings hundreds back to Kenmare

Kenmare High School graduates representing 80 years of the school’s history were back in town to relive the memories of their youth, memories that surprising to many have not faded over time.

7/06/17 (Thu)

Kenmare High School graduates representing 80 years of the school’s history were back in town to relive the memories of their youth, memories that surprising to many have not faded over time.

At least 400 alumni were engaged in numerous class reunions around town. The largest was the Kenmare Area Community Foundation banquet held in the high school gym Friday night with 210 registered guests.

That banquet alone, represented 33 graduating classes of Kenmare High School, from Walt Christensen in 1943 to Rocky Landers in 2012.

Class reunions from 1947-1952 were held at the One Stop Burger Shop with about 50 people in attendance. It featured early ‘50s music by Joe Ethen and a nostalgic decor in the restaurant.

Graduates from 1959 through 1965 met at the Kenmare Fire Hall with a crowd estimated at about 50 and several other smaller reunions were held at the country club and in people’s homes.

It was a time to visit and bring back the old high school days. Some grads hadn’t seen each other in as many as 50 years so initial reunions created a lot of emotion.

But it was also a time for fun and games, silly humor and laughter not seen since graduation day.

Charlotte (Thompson) Martin is a 1960 graduate who came from Seattle with her husband Bob, a 1959 graduate of Bowbells High School.

Bob said he left Bowbells right out of high school for a job at Boeing and hasn’t been back since. Charlotte joined him in Washington four years later and hasn’t returned until last weekend. The couple has been married 54 years.

According to Charlotte, they just came back for the reunion since they no longer have family here.

They stayed in the hotel in Bowbells because she said there were no rooms available in Kenmare and she checked months ago.

Following the reunion at the fire hall, the Martins were looking forward to Saturday’s parade and visiting others.

“I’m so glad I grew up here,” Charlotte said. “It was great growing up in a small town because you can’t do the things in a city like Seattle what you can do here.”

Lloyd Mickelsen, 1949, lives in Billings, Mont., but gets back occasionally. He was home approximately three years ago for a reunion. He said the class decided to have the next one in five years, but this All-School Reunion came up so they decided to get together.

“I’ve been in Billings since 1958,” Mickelsen said. “It’s always a pleasure to come back and make acquaintances with classmates and townspeople. And, it’s a good day to celebrate my birthday.”

Audrey Hanson, 1950, who lives in Stanley, grew up in Niobe and said her last reunion was the 60th. She saw a lot of friends then and wanted to reunite with them again this past weekend.

Lorraine (Jessen) Johnson, who lives in Kenmare, graduated in 1945 and said she didn’t think there was anyone older in the building. However, she was enjoying the time nonetheless, chatting with the “underclassmen.”

LaVerne Jessen, Dickinson, a 1949 alum, said his day was like being back in high school. “I even took out my class ring,” he said. “But it didn’t fit.”

Lillian (Lucke) Norwick, a 1948 graduate from Moses Lake, Wash., loves reunions because it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out who everyone is.

She said Lloyd Mickelsen was her savior, picking her up at the train station in Minot and making sure she had accommodations at the reunion.

“1988 was the last time I was in Kenmare,” she said. “I couldn’t find people’s homes. They’ve been torn down and replaced.”

Dick Hanson graduated in 1958. One of his memories was being on an FFA trip in Fargo when a tornado hit damaging 100 blocks of North Fargo and killing 12 people.

After high school, Hanson spent some time at North Dakota State University, became an Army pilot and spent a career with Sperry Rand and a career with the federal government. He now lives in Bismarck.

“I wanted to be a coach in the worst way,” Hanson said. “But we got caught in a blizzard after a basketball game in Bottineau. It took five hours to get to Kenmare. After that I said there has to be a better way.”

Allan Essler, ‘54 and his wife Twila, ‘57, Kenmare, were mixing it up with classmates and friends during the social before the banquet. Both were beaming as if they were 18 years old again.

Brenda Christensen, a 1978 graduate living in Wichita, Kan., said she gets back once a year to see family, but was looking forward to the reunion to catch up with old friends she may not have seen in a long time.

Pat (Frederick) Lautenschlager, 1957, lives in Stanley and attends her reunion every 10 years. In addition, she sees a few of her classmates occasionally but still likes to meet everyone to visit.

One of her classmates, Janis Melin, Kenmare, is also a ‘57 grad. She has lived in Kenmare all her life and said she sees several of her classmates regularly.

“It’s just fun to see everyone,” she said. “We don’t see each other often enough.”

Bob Buzzell, also ‘57, did the impossible and was in two places at one time! Buzzell, Federal Way, Wash., was on hand at the banquet to celebrate with his classmates.

But he was also hanging out at the Kenmare Country Club in the form of a full-sized cardboard cutout of him from his sophomore or junior year in high school.

“I was in high school and I was in a dark suit with a top hat,” he said. “I don’t remember, but I think it was announcements or a program or something.”

Buzzell made a challenge to see if anyone visiting the country club could remember who or what the cut-out figure was about.

The reunion had many other features including the Schweyen siblings and father and son Ron and Ryan Rauschenberger.

It was a weekend to remember, a weekend these graduates will be talking about a long time... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!