MANTORVILLE — Well into their 90s, members of the West Concord High School class of 1943 are still maintaining an annual tradition that keeps them close more than seven decades after they graduated from high school.
Every year for the past 76 years, the members of the class have been gathering to reminisce and catch up.
Without the reunions, Lou Ann Maxson said she would never see her classmates, as many live out of town or far away. “I look forward to the reunion every year,” she said.
Now, however, there are only three class members left. Less than a month away from her 93rd birthday, Maxson is one of them.
Thirty names were in the program from that commencement ceremony from years ago. Another surviving member, Burton Iverson, missed the ceremony, but he made this year's reunion.
The nearly 94-year-old said a case of mumps kept him away from commencement in 1943. Iverson was one of four in his graduating class who had been enrolled all 12 years in the West Concord School. He also served as class president for three years before his class let him “have a rest after having the past three terms,” according to the class history included in a souvenir book.
First to the table at the Hubbell House in Mantorville, Maxson and her eldest son, Keith Maxson, waited for her classmates to arrive. When they did, Maxson greeted Iverson with, “We’re getting older, Burt.”
Sitting next to his classmate Rene Adell Jenness, Iverson was quick with a joke when Jenness was asked why she keeps meeting year after year.
“She doesn’t want us to talk about her,” he said.
“We are golden oldies and we need to see each other once a year,” Jenness said.
Now 93 years old, Jenness used to help plan the reunions but has since handed over the reins. Now, the task falls to Joanne Charlton, whose mother, Edna Meyer, graduated with the class of 1943. Charlton arrived with an armful of old reunion books and even a faded memory book from 1943, which included a few pages of prophecies for the graduates.
Very few things came true.
Jenness, then Fenne, was said to have “taken the job as a professional auctioneer at the hat raffle at Skyberg.”
“It didn’t come to pass,” Jenness said laughing.
Instead, she worked as a teacher for 40 years, retiring in 1985. After retirement, Jenness completed a fashion merchandising course at Rochester Community College and earned a liberal arts degree in 1986 and opened The Oak Boutique in 1987.
For Iverson, the future, according to his classmates' predictions, involved him moving to Hollywood and working as a stand-in for Errol Flynn — an actor known as swashbuckling leading man.
“I missed the calling, I think on that. Something happened,” Iverson said. “I tried to do everything to avoid banking, but I wound up in banking.”
After high school, Iverson joined the service and as a result, missed a number of class reunions. He served on the front lines in the 10th Armored Division in General George Patton's Third Army.
Maxson's future was predicted this way by her classmates: “Lou Ann Rossi is still waiting for her sailor to come home. It is rumored that he was last seen at the Hawaiian Islands eating coconuts under a palm tree with a beautiful hula dancer.”
Maxson’s sailor did return — “years later,” she said. The couple met while Maxson was a student in Wanamingo. Maxson joined the West Concord class her junior year because of a border dispute between the communities.
As the group reminisced and waited for lunch to be served, Maxson shared a simple thought with her classmates.
“I’m glad we lived another year,” she said.