Sunday, January 21, 2018

It's been a long winter.....

It has been a long and difficult winter. It's not just the weather either. After another difficult foot reconstruction surgery (thankfully I only have two of the damn things), and the incredibly cruel winter (and that's only so far - there are still a couple months to go), it is increasingly difficult to go any length of time without visiting the obituaries, but they tend to visit me. I try to stay current on Facebook but if I want to comment I have to post on the Wayne Valley Directory page. Here's the email I got from Rick Sasse today:

Good afternoon.  It is not unusual to read the Providence Journal obituary section and see people I know. In this case it was somehow I had known for over 50 years, Bonnie Crossley.  For no necessary reason we didn’t really get to know each other, but we met at a reunion both knowing we lived in Rhode Island, and became friends. It will be a lonely Wayne Valley ’71-Rhode Island reunion, as I think it would now be Donna Smith (unless she has moved), and Richie Abramson moved to Moodus, CT, in retirement.


So even though I hate to kick start this blog with bad news, I still remain committed to locating and keeping us all up to date with what has happened to members of our class. Here's to a better spring.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Doug Senchak 1949 - 2017

I got a dreaded email from Steve Thomas on August 13, 2017:

With great sadness I write to tell you of the passing yesterday of our friend and classmate, Doug Senchak.  Doug’s health had been failing for a while.  Myself and classmates Arnie Trasente and Andrew Savulich were were en route from our homes when Doug passed.  We all gathered and spent time with with his family yesterday at their farm in upstate NY.

It brought me back to the last time I spoke with Doug. He had called me to let me know of the passing of Peter Isaza, several years ago, and we took the opportunity to catch up. I hadn't spoken to him since I first recontacted him when he was still in the City.

I know that in the process of trying to locate everyone that on more than one occasion I remember thinking that this was an opportunity lost, that this person could have ended up a close friend, with a friendship that would have lasted over the years with many happy memories and many laughs if things had turned out slightly differently. This was certainly true between Doug and me.

Our lives just didn't intersect at acute enough angles. Instead we passed the point and our own momentum just drove us onward. I will always regret that but I am also grateful to Steve, Arnie and Andy for standing in my place in memory of Doug. Even though we never spent that much time together, the time we did was good, his presence was always appreciated, and he will always be remembered by me for his ready wit and smile.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Back on the Trail

Now that we're rested up from our Russian trek, Linda is back on the trail of  our "missing" classmates once again.

Of course, the search reminded me of a street performer we encountered in St. Petersburg who coincidentally was portraying a metallic Sherlock Holmes statue and delighting the kiddies near a church entryway by winking every now and then for a small donation.

The search continues. On the sad side, we discover that David French served in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam only to return to North Carolina in 1968 and succumb to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. It reminded me of John Chichin who was killed in a hit and run accident shortly after graduation, and the sad thought that I had imagined both of them living out long and fulfilling lives only to discover that their lives had been cut short by tragic circumstances.

Joyce Polizzi Porr is still in Wayne, but recently lost her husband of 47 years, Joe Porr. Another classmate hidden in plain sight. Barbara Preusch is in Fredericksburg VA, now married to Michael Lehr. I have an email that I plan to use to see if she is indeed our Barbara Preusch. It just goes to show how fickle these searches can be. We previously had information that led us to believe that she was in Sedona, AZ.

So the search for "lost" classmates continues, for better or worse.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Our World is a Little Bit Smaller

Amid all the Facebook birthday wishes for Charlene DeShaw Norris came a jarring post from Charlene DeShaw Norris's family announcing her passing on May 5th of this year. Our world is a little bit smaller. With each passing our realization that time is moving on continues. All that remains permanent (at least so far) is our memories of a magical time. For me, the hours I spent in the orchestra pit for our high school musicals were some of the most rewarding and enjoyable of my high school career at WVHS. The friendships, the cameraderie, the oneness of the group will not easily be replaced in my affection. Farewell Char, and in the words of C. Tucker, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. I am sure I join with all the other folks from our high school production group in sending our deepest sympathies to Charlene's family.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Old Friend Gone

In the fall of 1964, we gained a new classmate in Mr. Onufer's homeroom (and subsequent Latin classes across the street). He hailed from up North, and his accent was thick of New Hampshire and Vermont and in his leisure, he wore a Bates College sweatshirt. He was bashful, and like all shy people, he tended to overcompensate a little when given the opportunity. I think as a result he was often either overlooked or bullied. He nonetheless persisted. He ended up as our Smoke Signals photographer, and over our high school years, he and I ended up as friends, despite our differences.

This afternoon, I received an email from Rick Sasse, who couldn't exactly remember if Doug Fowler was part of our 7-3/8-4 Anthony Wayne experience, but I was pretty certain that Doug missed out on all that but did share much of what followed. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Rick is right. This is the sort of thing that happens more frequently nowadays. I remember something from back then, and then self doubt asks me if I actually remember that or am I simply remembering the fantasy that I constructed for myself the last time I tried to remember the same series of events.

I do remember speaking to Doug in Nashua NH, as he related the highlights of his life, in which service stations played a major part. In view of my checkered past, I remember listening without judgement, as Doug tried to justify his history and I do distinctly remember telling him that I long ago gave up all judgement about roads not taken, and opportunities missed or life choices that didn't quite work out as we hoped they would. At our way point on the crooked road of life, it long ago stopped mattering; with that ice broken, he regaled me with memories of silly things that we did in gym together and other better times we had. In short, it was another chapter of my search for classmates 5 years ago and another checkmark on my master list of WV grads. It engendered another afternoon of serious soul searching and nostalgic wonderment about how things turned out for another friend with whom I had lost touch.

Here is Doug Fowler's obit for those of you who read this type of thing and think of all that we have done and what we will leave behind:

Douglas H. Fowler, 64, longtime resident of Nashua, died at the Community Hospice House in Merrimack on April 12, 2014, surrounded by members of his loving and devoted family.

Mr. Fowler was born on October 21, 1949, in Massachusetts. He was a son of Patricia (Smith) Fowler of St. Petersburg, FL and the late Donald H. Fowler.

He was the husband of Rosa (Gomes) Fowler, they shared over 12 years of marriage.

Most recently, he had been working with tech support for Comcast. For many years, he was a regional manager for several service stations including Circle K and Shell.

He is remembered as a gentleman who worked hard all his life. He also enjoyed reading. Mr. Fowler loved to challenge his mind with brain games and teasers such as Sudoku. He enjoyed music and dancing.

Mr. Fowler was a veteran of the United States Air Force, having entered after graduating high school, had achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant during his enlistment. His Air Force career brought him all around the world and gave him many life experiences, including a chance to run with the bulls in Spain.

Mr. Fowler cared deeply for his community and was a Master Mason of Lee Lodge No. 30 in Castleton, VT. He was a member of the Scottish Rite Bodies in the Valley of Burlington and the Vermont Consistory 32nd Degree and the Cairo Shriners of Rutland, VT. He was also a member of The American Legion of West Rutland, VT.

SERVICES: A Masonic Funeral Service in his honor will be conducted by the Officers and Members of Ancient York Lodge #89, Nashua at the Masonic Temple, 200 A Main St. (elevator entrance) Nashua on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM. His interment prayers and burial service will be held at a later date in Barre, Vermont at the request of the family.

So farewell, Doug. I'll remember you sitting in the corner of the Smoke Signals office cracking inappropriate jokes and trying to get someone to play chess with you. I'm glad I got a chance to catch up with him before the end.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing, Again.

Maybe it is Reunions that get our digestive juices flowing. I know that many of us believe that reunions allow us to relive our high school glory days, if just for a day. Then again, it also reveals that some of us never really stopped living those days.

For our part, we saw a need and moved to satisfy it: Find our classmates, contact them, and in some unfortunate cases, record their passing. We were led to believe that could be our contribution to the class. To some, it has become an uncomfortable reminder of lost opportunity, to others a reminder of their mortality. To yet others, it is taken in the spirit in which it was offered: cause for celebration and commemoration.

But truth be told, for us, it has become a symbol of how a group of people from so many different backgrounds came together for their high school years to create a unique synergy. Think of the great things we did together; we had athletic teams which hold records still unbroken; we produced all school productions the equals of which I have yet to see in high school; our combined concert band chorale performances were magnificent; our academic achievements still shine in the award displays of the school. Even in classes, the unique collection of teachers we were blessed with provided a real education in spite of our silly selves.  And throughout and above it all, we had fun.

Building the alternative website was not fun. It was a lot of work. But it was necessary. It needed to exist and despite interference from surprising circles, it prevails and serves its purpose. It truly represents a continuing effort to locate living classmates whose whereabouts are unknown, a clearing house for such information; it is also a living dynamic memorial for classmates who have crossed
the veil as told by their families, through obituaries, so that their classmates may be informed about what remarkable lives they led and the loved ones left behind. We have taken great pains, even as we did to secure and encode your emails, to assure that the site cannot be used to steal identities for those of you who fret about such things.

Recently we began replicating our memorial page to expand our efforts to Facebook because of its convenience. Imagine our surprise at the hue and cry this engendered about identity theft and other security concerns ignoring the fact that while the SSDI database was used, social security numbers were deleted. Despite quite a bit of support from our FB classmates directory group, the stridency of the objections raised made us decide that simply providing links and news via this blog was going to have to be sufficient. Members of our class have had from the beginning, a heightened sense of insecurity regarding their cyber presence. Believe me when I say that this is definitely an East Coast phenomenon. So whenever there is something to note, Linda and I will get the news out on FB but the details will be available via links to our website. That way no one will be reminded of the uncomfortable truth that everyday, we get a little bit older and a little bit slower (apologies to the Fab Four) unnecessarily but inquiring minds will still be able to get their class news.

Remember, that we are but a humble clearing house. While we still do find out about classmates passing directly from Vandermay in Wayne and other local NJ funeral homes and other sources, we also rely upon your participation as you travel hither and thither. Again, belated thanks to Marlene Zachok Capraro for letting us know about Pat Schwartz, and Franny Minervini's brother Rick, on the passing of Suzi Loper Lawrence. We also recorded the relatively recent passing of Lynn Tonnesen White. Obits at (

And here's a strange one that highlights human fallibility (i.e., ours). We were under the mistaken impression that Bernice Alexander passed back in 1997. Turns out she lived another 20 years of what looks to have been a great life. Sometimes I'm happy to be wrong.

"So that's all I have to say about that." Forrest Gump

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Way It All Started

For those of you who follow this poor messenger, you all know that this all began as an effort to find everyone with whom we went to school. You also know that for a while, we were finding the so-called "lost" people left and right, and as a matter of course, finding out sadly that many of our number had passed away.

Over the years as we have been working at this, others of us who have had the time or inclination have lent a hand, making the increasingly more difficult search a little easier to take. There are only so many dead ends you explore before you get a little discouraged.

Marlene Zachok Capraro sent me a note the other day that she had found Pat Schwartz Mussen. Sadly it was through the following obituary:

Keeseville - Patricia E. Mussen, 65, of Highlands Road, Keeseville, passed away unexpectedly, Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, NY.
She was born in Passaic, NJ, July 14, 1949, the daughter of Albert G. and Patricia A. (Salmon) Schwartz.
Pat, who always carried a book, was a kind-hearted person that touched everyone she knew. Always putting her family's needs ahead of her own, she took joy in their happiness. Pat's hobby was showing her Great Danes, finishing several Champions and Grand Champions. Some of her closest friends were made through shows.
Pat is survived by her husband of 43 years, Frank Mussen; son Franklin; daughters Nanci (Smith) and Sarah (Case), along with their significant others; grandchildren Zachary, Emileigh, and Abbigail (Smith); mother Patricia A. Schwartz; sisters Pamela Mackey and Nancy DiMeo, and their families. 

It is these discoveries that I hope can convince you to attend our 50th next year. Bob Shepherd and the committee and the suggestions of many classmates have resulted in what looks to be a very different reunion this time round.

For one, we are in a hotel so lodging and festivities are all in one location. We will no longer be subsidizing alcohol, and will be eating a meal. I hope that there is a program of some sort as well.

Not the least of my concerns is that we continue to lose friends to the ravages of time. So I heartily encourage friends in the Midwest and on the West Coast to consider coming to this one, the Big One. To be absolutely and harshly honest, this may be the last opportunity for you to see your friends and to renew old memories. Unfortunately, Father Time is unforgiving and unrelenting.

We buried a classmate of Linda's yesterday, a friend of 60 years, someone who attended every Reitz High School reunion. Her class lost 5 classmates this year. You only have to visit our Wayne Valley 67 Class Directory website and look at the In Memoriam page to realize the sad truth: Time cares not where you went to school, but only how long are spun the threads of Fate, a longer length for which mere mortals can only hope.

Well, on that cheery note, greetings from Southern Indiana. Till next time, it's Milton