WEST PITTSTON — High school reunions take place every couple years, but one group prefers not to wait that long.
Members of the West Pittston High School Class of 1944 have reunited once a month throughout the years, and also get together for Christmas.
“Earlier years, it was every five years,” said Edythe Lombardo Kepics. “Recently, it became every year and those of us still here get together.”
Those still around to meet include West Pittston residents Kepics, Helen Popple Battle and William Ellis as well as John Shoemaker, of Wyoming.
“We’re all old time friends; that’s what it boils down to,” said Ellis. “We love to get together and one thing that hurts us is our crew is diminishing very quickly. There’s only four of us now, but we still try to get together and we’ve gotten to know more about each other’s families. I don’t think any other classes are doing anything like this.”
The graduating class had 104 members, but Kepics said more than 50 have passed away, including Wilkes-Barre resident George A. Baird who died this past September and attended get-togethers until his death.
Everyone else lives too far away to travel.
“Those out of town can’t drive that distance and those around the last time can’t drive now because we’re 89 or 90 years old,” Kepics said.
The four who do get together nowadays have lived fulfilled lives when their high school careers concluded.
Kepics worked as a stenographer, a person who transcribes spoken or recorded speech into written form, for 15 years before spending the next 32 years working the family business of Blue Ribbon Dairy Farms in West Pittston.
She is the widow of John Kepics with whom she had two children — Mary Louise Harris and the late John Frederick Kepics. She also had two granddaughters and two great-grandsons.
Battle married a few years after high school and moved to New Jersey to work for Diehl Corporation which made vacuums for Sears. She and her husband, John, with whom she has one daughter, returned to West Pittston in the 1970s where she worked for the now-defunct Aureus Factory Outlet before retiring in 1990.
Ellis attended Wilkes University after high school but dropped out due to narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes overwhelming drowsiness.
“I would have people sitting behind me in class jabbing me in the ribs to wake me up,” he said.
Ellis attended school in Washington, D.C. for one year before moving to Philadelphia to work for the government. It was in Philadelphia where he met his wife, Beatrice, with whom he has two sons, Paul and Daniel.
After retirement, Ellis and his wife moved back to West Pittston.
Meetings for the class of 1944 occur at different places in the West Pittston area at a time convenient for all of them.
As for what members talk about, it’s all about recalling the good times.
“We just talk about whatever comes up,” said Battle. “We’re still able to talk about a lot. We’re all sound of mind yet.”
Earlier reunions were much larger when members met at places where they could have large gatherings and eat dinner.
“Earlier reunions were very nice with a great turnout and a good amount of people,” Kepics said. “It was always a nice time to see everybody. Old reunions were dinners, but sometimes we’d have a picnic at John Shoemaker’s house over the years, but it was a dinner at a lot of different places.”
Being out of school for several decades, the classmates have seen a lot of changes since 1944.
In terms of present-day education, Kepics is happy there are more college opportunities than when she graduated.
“I was one of seven children and never went to college because there was no money,” she said. “I always regretted it and I think it’s wonderful now that there are grants and loans to help anybody go to school. That wasn’t available when I left high school. I was happy, though; I did very well, but I always regretted it.”
West Pittston High School closed its doors in 1966 and merged with other school districts to form the Wyoming Area School District. The former West Pittston High School building is now the Montgomery Avenue Elementary School.
Although there are other graduating classes to carry on the high school’s memory, Battle will carry her own memories of it until the end.
“West Pittston High School was a very good school,” said Battle. “We had excellent teachers, an excellent superintendent and it was one of the best schools in the area. We just don’t forget what a grand education we got out of that high school.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher