Graduates of Shepherdstown High School gathered June 8 in the banquet room at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn, each searching for the familiar faces of classmates unseen for many years.
Guests arrived at the tables, their eyes searching the faces of those already seated. Flickers of recognition became wide-eyed surprise, smiles brightened and turned to laughter, the years rolled away, and thoughts and conversations slipped back to earlier times when the little high school of 350, or so, students gave those entering its doors the education and skills to fulfill their dreams.
It was the first Saturday in June, the annual date for the celebration of the birth for the Shepherdstown High School Alumni Association. Sixty-one years later, the organization is still going strong as 200 alumni and their guests turned out this year.
Thomas Banks (1950), association co-president, called the gathering to order and spoke briefly of a time — 1925 — when the high school classes were held in McMurran Hall on the corner of North King and German streets. The high school building, currently the middle school facility, opened in 1930 with the first graduating class leaving in 1931.
In 1972, the building’s years as a high school ended with grades 10-12 moving to the new Jefferson High School.
Vice president Zach Fleming (1962) presented the classes in attendance. Barbara Knott Nickels (1948) told of 20 classmates who graduated that year with a cheerleader squad formed and boys were allowed in the school chorus. Sandra Byers Kiser (1967) mentioned birds in the building and the closeness of her class.
Flowers at the podium were offered in remembrance of those classmates who had died since the 2012 gathering, including Albert F. Kave (1932), Margaret Lowe Binns and Howard Kenneth Daniels (both 1934), Elizabeth Myers Jones (1937), Charles W. Osbourn Jr. (1940), Allene Small Trabert (1950), Patricia Ann Boyd Watson (1952), Thelma Louise White Painter (1954), John F. Hughes Koven (1955), Robert H. French (1957), Larry W. Osbourn (1962), Gerald Stum (1966), Douglas N. Staubs (1959), Suzette M. Snyder (1970) and faculty members J. Kenneth Rentch and Jack Booth.
The Mary Hartzell Dobbins Outstanding Alumnus Award, honoring the woman who was the school guidance counselor and an instructor for many years, is presented each year to an alumnae or alumni who has an outstanding record of service and achievement. The 2013 recipient was 1950 graduate Thomas Banks.
In high school he was active in sports, cheerleading, choir and attended Boys State.
He delivered newspapers and worked in Boswell’s store. Enrolled at Shepherd College, he earned a speech degree and was the “Voice of Shepherd,” the school radio station. WFTR in Front Royal, Va., was his first post-college job. In the Army he became a cryptology expert — a coder and decoder.
The next 21 years he was the director of educational TV in California. Since retiring, Banks has been active in church and volunteer activities. He and his, Rae, have been co-presidents of the SHS Alumni Association for several years.
Scholarships from the association were available to qualifying high school graduates. Three young people were honored: Jorden C. Hose, grandson of Bonna Small Nakopoulos (1960) and a graduate from North Hagerstown High School, will attend Florida Atlantic University in pursuit of a degree in business administration. Tori Weller, the granddaughter of Raymond Weller (1967) and Reba Ryman Weller (1969) and a graduate of Jefferson High School, will attend Shepherd University, majoring in psychology/counseling. Samatha Yates, great-granddaughter of Dr. Bill Wanger and Beth Yates and a graduate of Shepherdstown Junior High School, will pursue a major in English/Secondary Education at McDaniel College.
Selected for two-year terms on the board of directors were Richard Blue (1962), president; Zach Fleming (1962), vice president; Margaret Rose Orndorff Peterson (1966), secretary; Wayne Goodrich (1967), treasurer; and board members Ann Hunter (1970), Donna Weister Fleming (1967), John Lucas (1958) and Tom Banks (1950).
The school song, the traditional ending for this evening of memories, and assurances to “keep in touch” echoing, some folks began their long journeys home while others lingered for that last “remember when” … and a promise of next year.