Pella Chronicle

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

August 26, 2013

A 60-year celebration

OTTUMWA — Very few Ottumwans remember when Central Catholic High School stood next to St. Mary's Catholic Church, where the parking lot is now.

The 10 remaining graduates of the Class of 1953, the last class to graduate, gathered this weekend to revive those memories.

The all-boys Catholic school started in the 1930s with the top floors housing the high school and the St. Mary's grade school on the bottom floors. When the building was deemed no longer sound, it was torn down and Walsh High School was founded. The 21 seniors of 1953 were the last boys to graduate from CCHS.

Of those 21, 10 men are still living but have spread all across the country. They have become farmers, doctors, businessmen, husbands, fathers and grandfathers. Many have kept in touch, and knowing there are fewer and fewer of them as time passes, they decided to reunite in Ottumwa.

This was the first time they held a reuinion just for them - that special, historic last class. Five of the remaining 10 men living brought their wives and spent two days remembering, enjoying and remembering some more.

"We're in our 70s now, and we decided we'd better have one before it's too late," John Reardon explained. "There were several who wished they could have been here, and we've lost quite a few."

Pat Larkin, Dick Emry, Reardon, Jim Rater, Lewis (Lew) Gray and their wives gathered for the Friday night fish fry at the Knights of Columbus hall and dinner at Roe's Restaurant Saturday night.

The other five still living — Joe Conroy, John Howard, Larry Dawson, Don McKillip and John Yochum — were talked about with smiles, knowing they would have been there if they could.

Since there were only about 60 boys in grades 9-12, they were all very close, Reardon, who stayed in town for many years at KBIZ Radio, explained.

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