Upwards of 1,100 Milford High School alumni and family are expected to gather on the old ball field along West River Street on Saturday to once again reprise its every five-year ritual – an All-Class Reunion.
The June 30 gathering will be the sixth All-Class Reunion since Milford High School was closed in 1983 due to declining enrollment after 142 years – most of those years, 120 in fact – as the only public high school in Milford.
Among those attending the Saturday reunion will be 99-year-old Marilla Rogers Sweet, better known as “Billie” from the MHS Class of 1936.
When asked her favorite Milford High School story, Sweet said, “I was very shy all through high school. I always seemed to know the answers to the teachers’ questions, but I never raised my hand due to my extreme shyness.”
Eighty-two years after she graduated, Sweet, who grew up on rural Wheelers Farm Road, still recalls, “I was always prompt to school and I did the best to my ability. I also looked forward to going home after school to babysit and to do chores on the farm.”
Her best friend in high school was Edith Taylor, and prior to MHS Sweet attended Central Grammar School.
Sweet also has some advice for the high school students of today. “Pay attention, behave, learn and study hard. Most of all, respect all people,” she said, adding, “and never be afraid to speak up in class.”
Sweet, the oldest female graduate expected to attend, will be this year’s All-Class Reunion “Queen,” said Co-Chair Debbie Franco Smith, Class of 1975. The oldest male has still not been determined, said All-Class Co-Chair Win Smith, Class of 1976, and may not be known until Saturday, as several hundred alumni are expected to walk in and register on Saturday. Prior reservations are not required.
Incredibly, though, Sweet is not the oldest surviving Milford High School member of her family. Her sister, Bernice, is 101 and living in Woodbridge with her son. Bernice is MHS Class of 1934, and may be oldest living Milford High graduate.
But while there are many thousands of MHS grads still living today, old age and, for many distance, are distinct hindrances. More than 10,000 attended the first All-Class Reunion in 1983.
Ernest Damon, Class of 1952, is one who wrote to the committee expressing his regrets for not being able to attend and sharing the highlights of his life since graduation, including marrying his wife, Barbara, “63 years ago,” and now having four children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“After high school, I attended Bullard Havens,” he said, becoming a welder and machinist, working 15 years at Eldorado Tool in Milford and then 10 years at UPS.
“In 1980, we moved to Florida and among other things we started a family marina and boatyard,” he said, adding that he eventually sold that and then lived in their summer home on No Name Key, Fl., on the lower Florida Keys. “We sold that and now live in a 55-plus retirement community in Naples, Fl., on the west coast.” He and his wife also lived on their sailboat and previously traveled to 44 states in their RV.
Another writing to express regrets at not being able to attend was Walter Rose of Crosby, Tx., brother of the first All-Class Reunion Chairman Jim Rose, Class of 1933. Walter Rose included an old Milford Citizen newspaper clipping reporting on the first meeting of the 1983 All-Class Reunion Committee.
Meanwhile, another MHS alum, Joan Korach Downing, Class of 1935, wrote to the committee, “I am now 99-years-old and can’t come. But thanks for the invitation,” she added from her home in Pocatello, Id. She included a $25 check for the MHS Scholarship Fund where all proceeds from the reunions have gone.
Downing added in a note, “My brother and sister graduated Milford High in 1939 as twin valedictorians.” Brother Malcolm Korach is 96 years old and living in assisted living in Ohio, she said, while his twin sister died just recently in April in New York City.
Mary Lou Johnson Cooper, Class of 1945, was not able to attend but also sent in a $20 donation for the Scholarship Fund in memory of her mother. Mary Lou was the captain of the 1945 MHS cheerleading squad.
Andrew Wagner, Class of 1959, will be attending and added another $50 to his registration fee “in memory of all 1959 grads who have passed on.”
Closer to home, Mim Wade Blake, Class of 1949, and Bob Blake, Class of 1948, still live in Milford and not too far from the old high school ballfield where the reunion will be held.
Mim recalled that in 2013 she wore her MHS All-Class t-shirt during the reunion, and you can bet Mim will be wearing it again Saturday.
Bob, a long-time Milford schools administrator and one-time candidate for city mayor, said he’d like to attend but at age 87 it’s just too physically demanding.