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Memories remain fresh for two JCHS classes

Memories remain fresh for two JCHS classes

September 17th, 2017 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

Pride in their accomplishments and celebrating their continued friendships.

Those were the themes for this weekend's reunions of the Jefferson City High School classes of 1952 and 1957.

Among those attending the 65th reunion of the class of 1952 was Dr. Donlin Long, who many in his class said was their most distinguished classmate.

Long was head of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he still lives. He recruited a young Dr. Ben Carson to join him at Johns Hopkins. In 1987, the two jointly performed the first separation of Siamese twins joined at the head. Long gave his protege the opportunity to finish the surgery, which catapulted Carson to national headlines and ultimately led to his 2016 bid to become the Republican nominee for president.

"The two biggest things that helped me in my life were the insistence of my family to get an education and the other was the school system here in Jefferson City, along with the state-supported school system," Long said. "Here in Jefferson City, we had a unique system that you could take college courses while you were still in high school and get credit for both. As a result, I was able to start at the University of Missouri as a second semester sophomore."

Class of '52 member Dr. Walter Schroeder was recipient of the Jefferson City Public Schools Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005. He now lives in Columbia and keeps close ties with Jefferson City. For several years he has been working to help in the revitalization of Ole Munichburg, the southside Capital City neighborhood where he was born and raised.

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"My father made it through eighth grade, and he was proud of it in rural Franklin County," Schroeder said. "He would do anything, anything so that his three sons would achieve in academics. He would not allow me to go out for track in high school because he said your studies came first before sports.

"After I went to the University of Missouri, I wrote letters back to some of my teachers in Jefferson City praising them for how well prepared I was compared to my classmates. Ms. Ruth Dixon was a fantastic French teacher. She enabled me to get a free ride to the University of Paris because I was so good in French."

Long, who received the distinguished alumni award in 1978, said there was a real advantage to growing up in Jefferson City.

"It was a broadly middle class town and while some were richer there were very few really rich people," he said. "They shared the same moral, ethical beliefs. What you got was an understanding of how you should live your life. As I've gone through life, I've found that I never had any concerns about my background in Jefferson City. I was proud of it and never thought about wishing I had grown up somewhere else."

"The people agreed upon the moral and ethical ways of living, but it wasn't written down," Schroeder added. "We had our rules and we knew how to abide by them. I regret we don't have that kind of social cohesion around an agreed upon, but unwritten, way to live."

Members of the the class of 1957 were also talking about the accomplishments of their classmates. Some went to St. Mary's Hospital to see the Stella Maris, conceived and drawn by their classmate, the late artist Sabra Egan.

The class of '57 was also the first JCH graduating class to include African Americans.

"Our former football coach, John Griffith, was special to all of us," class member Nancy Thompson said. "We had an exceptional football team. Three class members went on to play professional football, Mel West, Don Webb and Stanley Kirschman."

Class members attending the weekend events came in from Ohio, Kansas, Arizona, California, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and Nebraska.

Alex and Linda Willis, who live in Overland Park, could not get over how much had changed in Jefferson City.

"We were high school sweethearts," Alex said. "I started going out with her when I was a senior in high school and we've been married for 57 years. Jefferson City was a great place to grow up. It was challenging enough in school. It was a different time because we had more respect for each other and all institutions."

Alex said he still has hope for the kids coming up since he sees a bright future for his grandchildren.

"You still find a lot of really good kids around, but it seems like respect for institutions has fallen apart among a lot of them," he said. "I say, 'You got what we handed you. Now let's see what you make of it.'"

"I have so many found memories of growing up here and being able to keep up with so many of my class for 60 years," class member Al Guyot said. "I think what's so special about our class is we had a lot of different social and economic levels and intellectual curiosity levels. We had athletes and non-athletes got along with each other. I don't know if all that exists in schools nowadays."

CORRECTION- The Class of '55 was the first class at Jefferson City High School with an African American graduate. Class members identified her as Barbara Blue.