Published On: Thu, Jun 15th, 2017

St. Frances grads reunite, reminisce

RANDOLPH —  The 1967 senior class from St. Frances de Chantal High School in Randolph gathered at Hilltop last Friday evening.
Eighteen out of the 24 students were on hand to celebrate their 50th class reunion.
St. Frances School in Randolph closed in 1970 after serving the community for nearly 70 years. The building was sold to the Randolph Public School District.
Each of the former graduates told what they had been doing for the last 50 years and also shared a few memories from attending St. Frances High School and living in northeast Nebraska.
The former students talked about their class trips, plays, prom, games and other school activities along with some of the fun the classmates experienced.
One man said he “didn’t know how the Sisters at the school put up with them.”

The St. Frances de Chantal Class of 1967 recently got together for their 50th class reunion. Those present include, (back row) Charles Sukup, Dan Schneiders, Steve Arens, Gene Sullivan; (third row) Charles Winkelbauer, Barry Caster, Bob Winkelbauer, Michael Huwaldt; (second row) Jim Korth, Doris Haselhorst Lewis, Colleen Mannion Rhoades, Bill Kollars, Lani Brandl Constable; (front) Anne Korth Morris, LaDonna Biernbaum Leiting, Judy Thieman Curtis and Diane Schneiders-Charles.

Students spent time looking through photos and school year books. A classmate’s high school diploma, a small “St. Frances Blue Jay’s” banner and other items were on display.
The school’s colors were blue and white. The motto for the class of 1967 was “Full use of today is the best preparation for tomorrow.”
The 1967 class valedictorian was Mike Huwaldt and Doris Haselhorst earned the honor of being the salutatorian.
Officers for the senior class included President, Mike Huwaldt; Vice-president, Jack Munter; Secretary, Roseanne Johnson; and Treasurer, Barry Caster.
A sign posted near the tables where the classmates were seated showed some of the pride the students had for St. Frances de Chantal High School:  Champs, Class of 1967. St. Frances Blue Jays.
The class of ’67 proved to be a very patriotic class. A large number of the former classmates served in the military. Many of those in attendance shared memories of their years with the Army or Navy and being sent overseas due to the Vietnam War.
Gene Sullivan asked those in attendance to give a round of applause for their classmates and others who were in the military and had served overseas.
“They are the ones who helped keep this country free,” he said.
Michael Huwaldt, who had organized the 50th class reunion for the St. Frances High School class of 1967, was surprised at the large number of former classmates who attended the reunion.
“This is a great group. I had no idea so many would be here,” he said.
A lot was happening across the country during the high school years for the class of ’67.
“I think we are all grateful for the times that we grew up in,” Huwaldt said. “There were some tough times in a lot of ways, but also a lot of opportunities.”
The Vietnam War was going on. The mid-1960s was also a period of protests, riots, a civil rights movement, a pop culture and the Beatles.
Huwaldt laughed as he reminded his classmates, “The year we graduated – was the summer of love.”
Huwaldt who now makes his home in Wheat Ridge, Colo., which is in the Denver area, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and spent three years in the Army. He furthered his education at the University of California-Berkeley. Huwaldt, an instructional engineer and a university professor, is now retired.
Huwaldt has lots of memories of growing up in Randolph. He spent a lot of time at the gas station located along Hwy. 20 in Randolph that was owned by his father.
“I started working there when I was four years old and continued through my high school years,” he said. “My dad sold the station before I graduated. I still worked there for the new owner the summer after I graduated.”
Huwaldt developed a strong work ethic and learned a lot during those years, and he enjoyed some of the advantages that come with living in a small town.
“I had a passion for being outdoors,” he said. “When I wasn’t working, I rode my bike, went swimming, played baseball and explored the creek.”
Huwaldt tries to make it back to Randolph a couple times each year for a visit.
Gene Sullivan started farming within a short time after he graduated from high school.
“I live just two miles over the hill from where I grew up. I still have the same zip code,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan has lots of good memories of growing up and attending school in the Randolph area.
“We had some great times,” he said.
There were also some hard times during the 60s with the fighting going on in Vietnam.
“I lost several friends over in Vietnam,” he said.
Sullivan joined the National Guard right after high school and put in six years of military service.
Barry Caster shared the best memory he has of growing up and living in the Randolph area.
“I met my wife (Carol Schnieders) at the Randolph Ballroom,” he said. “We have been married for 44 years.”
Caster’s family lived on a farm up until he was 16 years old and then his family moved into town.
Growing up in a small community like Randolph was a very good experience, according to Caster.
There is nothing quite like going to a small school in a rural area. A strong bond can form among the residents and between the kids at school.
“It taught me a lot,” he said. “It was good. I was always with this class.”
After his high school graduation, Caster joined the Navy and ended up in Vietnam.
Caster and his wife now make their home in Millard, which is part of Omaha.
Their daughters attended school at Millard South.
“The classes at Millard can be large with as many as 700 students in a class,” Caster said.
The larger schools in the city provide a different life from what students experience when attending a small school, according to Caster.
“We sent our youngest daughter to a smaller school and we could see the difference it made,” he said.
Steve Arens left Randolph after his high school graduation but eventually made his way back to his home community. After graduating from St. Frances High School, he earned a degree in animal science at UNL and then lived in Hastings for 10 years. He moved back to Randolph in 1982, when the opportunity came for him to farm.
“I grew up on the farm. I am farm boy,” he said. “When you are farming you can be independent. You work hard, but you can take a day off if you want.”
Doris Haselhorst Lewis came all the way from Houston, Texas, to meet up with some of her high school classmates.
Traveling is something Lewis loves to do. Lewis worked for International Airlines for several years after she graduated from St. Frances High School. Before she married, she had made several trips overseas which included visits to Amsterdam, Hawaii, the Bahamas, and a few other countries.
Lewis lived in the Denver area after she had finished her training for the airline.
During that time she had lived with three friends who had also been from Randolph: Colleen Roberts, Carmen Bakker and Kathy Pock.
“We had some crazy times. We used to go out to places where there was dancing,” she said. “If you grew up in Nebraska – you knew how to dance.”
Lewis shared a few of her memories of growing up on a farm and going to high school in Randolph.
“We lived about eight miles from Randolph. I had a learner’s permit so I could drive to school,” she said.
Lewis was out of high school 10 years before she was married. The man she married was a pilot.
Lewis and her husband had two sons who worked in aviation.
“Both boys are now living on an acreage,” Lewis said. “I loved living in the country on a farm. It must be in the genes.”
Charles Sukup, who now lives in Navarre, Fla., did not let the long distance keep him away from his 50th class reunion.
Sukup, who had grown up on a farm between Osmond and Wausa, attended St. Frances School during some of his elementary years and then completed his junior and senior year at St. Frances High School.
Sukup has some great memories of going to school in Randolph.
He met his wife, Linda Viergutz, while he was a student at St. Frances. Her father, Vance Viergutz, had been the publisher of the Randolph Times. Linda graduated one year ahead of Sukup.
Sukup said he enjoyed living in a rural community and the close relationships that can develop when living in small towns.
“We moved to Florida four years ago. I still miss some of the small town benefits although we have some of that small town atmosphere in the community where we live in Florida,” he said. “There are several military bases in the area. I think people at the bases are wanting to develop some friendships.”
Sukup, who had previously served as a deacon at the Randolph and Osmond Catholic Church parishes for six years, is now serving as a deacon at the church in Florida.
“It is a huge parish,” he said.
A memory of Randolph that Diane Schnieders-Charles, who now lives in St. Louis, Mo., still carries with her provided a little humor for the evening even though the incident involved a car accident.
“I was driving my twin brother’s car on Main Street in Randolph. It was a 1957 Ford. I had stopped alongside of another car on Main Street and we both opened our door so we could talk to each other,” she said. “I hadn’t shut my car door when we both started to drive off and the door on my brother’s car was torn off. He wasn’t too happy.”
Schnieders-Charles, who grew up on a farm west of Randolph, attended the St. Frances School from fourth grade through high school.
“It was in the 1960s – it was a blessing to be able to grow up in those times. It gave us a strong work ethic and gave us a code of honesty,” she said. “If we got into trouble at school, the teachers would tell our parents. We learned there would be consequences for our actions. It was a small community and all the neighbors and others in the community would all know what we had done.”
Attending a small school in a rural area provided some distinct advantages for the students in the Class of 1967, they said.