Class of 1944 remembers challenges of WWII

Last updated: June 28. 2014 11:12PM - 2064 Views
By Geri Gibbons Times Leader correspondent

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PLAINS TWP — When the Coughlin High School class of 1944 gathered on Saturday evening at Isabella Restaurant, it was much more than simply a 70th class reunion.

It was a celebration of shared memories and camaraderie with roots in the unique challenges of being a high school student during World War II.

Rosemary Panzitta, coordinator of the reunion, said many of her male classmates didn’t graduate with their class because they were drafted into the military. Becoming soldiers because of circumstances beyond their control, they were forced to grow up quickly.

“D-Day as June 6, and we graduated on June 15,” said Panzitta.

“I wasn’t at the graduation ceremony. I was on the high seas,” said Augustine Sergi, referring to his service in the Navy at the age of 18.

Jack Stanton was also drafted during his senior year, but because of a case of appendicitis, he was able to defer active service and participate in graduation ceremonies.

Stanton said he considered his military service simply as part of his duty to his country.

Toastmaster Mickey McKeown reminded attendees, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

The entire class certainly did serve, even if with just a spirit of patriotism and understanding of necessary sacrifice.

Seventy years ago, the class of 1944 did not have the opportunity of attending their senior prom.

Saturday night’s event, complete with food, drink and music seemed to provide a chance to recapture a bit of class spirit and fun missed in 1944. Twenty-two members of the class donned their best attire, complete with bit of glitz and glamour, engaged in animated conversation and enjoyed music of the 1940s.

The music elicited memories of not only classrooms and courtships, but the hardship of losing friends to service during wartime.

Margaret Misewich lauded members of the class for a willingness to help each other and the ability to get along. She said she looked forward to lunching with classmates every month.

Most attendees were accompanied by spouses or other family members joining in the celebratory spirit.

“In addition to formal reunions, our class has made it a point to gather together periodically,” said Panzitta. “At our age, time and friendship are rare and precious.”

Class members are especially proud of classmates Thomas McNamara who became a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, and Mendy Rudolph, who was an official in the NBA.

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