The following friendship letters were the inspiration for the Tribute to Friendships show at the Old OHS Forever Alumni Reunion Weekend, Sat, June 26. We are grateful to these alumni for sharing their stories with us.
Mark Moffett and I were Junior Marshals for the Baccalaureate Service of the Class of 1952, leading them down the aisle of the OHS auditorium to the strains of the orchestra under the direction of Mr. Capper. Our selection for this honor was determined by our grades. We were good students and respected each other but we did not see each other outside of school. I was nervous that evening, self-conscious in a pretty long white dress that my mother had made for me, and it pleased me very much when Mark told me I looked very nice.
After our graduation from OHS I went to Goshen College in Indiana and Mark attended DePauw and graduated from MIT. Then we both came to live and work in the Cleveland area. Our former Jr. High Social Studies teacher, Virginia Bica, also lived in the area and had kept tabs on her former students. She made sure that we knew of each other’s whereabouts. Five of us, Willeane Beyler, Joyce Kaufmann, Lee Smucker, Mark and I met for dinner one evening for a very pleasant time of catching up. Mark and I started dating and a year and a half later we were walking down another aisle together when we were married at the Mennonite Church on West Market St. on June 17, 1961.
Submitted by Marilyn Liechty Moffett, Class of 53
I lived in the South End when I was growing up. So, I went to Oak Street grade school my first 4 years in school. Dick Genet went there too. I always though he was a nice boy. He was a member of my church & we were in Sunday school together & confirmed together. But we never really became good friends until our freshman year in high school.
At the end of April of my freshman year in 1954, my family moved to the West End (West Market Street). Ron Herman lived down the street a little west of me. That summer he called me & wanted to know if I wanted to play tennis. I had never played before, but Ron taught me how to play & Dick too. For two summers, 1954 & 1955, the three of us had a lot of fun playing the game.
Later, in 1955, I got a job at Fouch’s Grocery & didn’t have as much time to play tennis, but I played whenever I could. Ron, Dick & I ran around together the rest of my high school days. Dick played baseball on Orrville’s team & was an all-star shortstop. He also played in the summer. I enjoyed watching him play.
I bought a ping-pong table my Senior year & the three of us played quite a bit in the summer of 1957. A few other guys from the area played, too.
When we graduated, Ron went to college somewhere in the New England states (I forget where). He still lives there today with his wife in New Hampshire. Dick stayed in Orrville for awhile & he played softball for Orr Parks in 1957 & 1958. In the winter of 1957-1958, Dick & I went to 3 or 5 Cleveland Baron hockey games at the old Cleveland arena. I had never seen hockey before. I also saw my first Cleveland Browns game in November 1957 with Dick & his dad.
October 1958, Dick & his family moved to Arizona. That was the saddest time of my life.
Dick, Ron & I kept in contact with each other by writing letters as the years went on usually just at Christmas. In September 1991, my wife & I flew out to Arizona to see Dick in Show Low, our former pastor & his wife in Phoenix & my wife’s good friend in Tucson. I got Dick’s phone no. & I called him every Christmas & lately after the football games so we can talk about them.
Now with the Internet, we don’t write letters as much. I keep him up to date on the Red Rider teams. He still follows the Indians & Browns. Ron & Dick are still my very good friends. I don’t know what I’d have done without them in high school.
Submitted by Donald Huff, Class of ’57
The horrors of moving to a new town to begin my junior year at Orrville High School in 1960, were quickly transformed into a wonderful life-long friendship!
I had no friends, no roots and I was scared. I quickly realized that the clothing styles in Orrville were quite different than how we dressed in Ada. I stood out like a sore thumb in a red plaid full skirt and red anklets on the first day of school. I truly looked like a dip!
I will never forget, Avril Laibe gave me her big warm friendly smile and invited me to join a group of girls to ride to the football game on Friday night in her Father’s pick up truck! I was thrilled! She will never know how much that invitation meant to me and was the start of a life-long friendship with Avril. I connected with Avril periodically through the years since high school, visited her at OSU and visited her at both homes in Cincinnati. We have the kind of friendship that no matter how long between visits, we can always pick right up from where we left off no matter how many years between visits and feel like we have never missed a beat!
Avril gave me the acceptance, friendship and love I needed when I was most vulnerable and opened the door for many wonderful friendships with Teri Osborne, Molly Johnson, Suzanne Scallon, Judy Falb just to name a few….
In 1994, seventeen “Class of 1962” women met at Chincoteague Island for a long weekend reunion to celebrate our 50th birthdays! What a wonderful experience that was to rekindle old friendships, make new ones, share life experiences, eat pizza and Lurch’s donuts and stay up all night talking! What a treasured memory for us all.
Submitted by Bobbie McElroy-Sigmond, class of ’62
When I saw that “Hold Fast to Friendships Made Here” was the title for the Saturday evening tribute show, I immediately thought of my dear friend Tina Codiano Fellin ’64. We have held fast to our friendship since we met in third grade at Walnut Street School, and now celebrate 56 years of wonderful memories and friendship. Through the ups and downs of elementary school, junior high, high school, and all that came after she has been a constant in my life. Even though she moved to the west coast, married a career Navy man, and lived in lots of places, we have somehow managed to be close friends. I’ve watched her support her husband’s career (including being “mother hen” to Navy wives under Tom’s command) and marvel at the woman she has become. She is strong, independent,loyal, fun, and caring. No matter how long it is between visits, the most wonderful thing occurs when we are together – the conversation begins right where it left off the last time we were together. There aren’t enough words to describe having a true friend like Tina. I know I’m very lucky, and consider her the sister I’ve never had.
Submitteed by Phyllis Mainsel Wiebe, Class of ‘64
It was two hours before guests were to arrive at our 2010 Super Bowl party. My friend Curtis would not be at the party because he now lives in Munich, Germany. My wife, who’s a pediatrician, was seeing patients at the hospital. I was freaking out.
I emailed Curtis. “Things are not going well,” I said. “We got over a foot of snow yesterday and our furnace stopped working. Two hours until guests start arriving and I’m shoveling snow, there’s a repairman tracking dirt through the house, the kitchen’s a mess, and I haven’t had a chance to shower, yet. I’m stressin’. I may break into the Bacardi’s early.”
Curtis promptly wrote back. “No worries, mate,” he said. “You’re dealing with some serious stuff…Screw it, have the rum and have some fun. Geaux Saints! stran”
It was a simple reassurance from an old friend. The shot of Bacardi’s helped, but, believe me, the shot of kind words from an old friend helped a lot more. Curtis Stranathan and I have been helping each other get through the day like this for thirty-nine years, ever since the day we met at Orr Park before our sophomore year. That summer I had introduced Curtis to my other friends, including Jeff Martin, with whom I’ve been friends since junior high, when we often competed for the same spot on the basketball team.
Now back to Super Bowl day, not long after Curtis encouraged me by email to relax and enjoy the party, Jeff arrived at my house. Soon we were playing cards and reveling in the easy laughs that come only with countless shared memories.
After graduating from OHS in 1974, Curtis, Jeff, and I went separate ways to college, Jeff to Indiana, Curtis to Michigan, and me to Maine, but we kept in touch the old fashioned way – with pen and paper. During summers we would reconnect. In the summer of ’77 Jeff and I decided to drive to East Lansing, Michigan where Curtis was working for the summer at a gas station. Was he surprised when we pulled up to the pump and said, “Fill ‘er up with regular”! After the handshakes and backslaps, Curtis told his boss that he was taking the rest of the day off. He hopped in the car and off we went. I don’t remember if he got that job back or not.
By that time we had already been through a lot together, but, amazingly, it was still early in our friendship. From the late seventies through the eighties Curtis, Jeff, and I all lived in the Cleveland area, some of that time in the same apartment building. It would be impossible to list all of the things we did together, but it often involved chess, poker, golf, parties, or following Cleveland sports teams. Sometimes we had heavy discussions about art or girlfriends or the meaning of life. Of course now I realize that we were living the meaning of life.
We hung out at Bob’s Tavern on Mayfield or the Arabica coffee shop on Coventry. We often dashed down to old Municipal Stadium for an Indians game, using public transportation or even our bicycles before we had reliable cars. We had our own seating area in the lower deck, general admission, left field. No need to call in advance, just show up at the ballpark and at least one of our group of friends was sure to be there.
Through our various careers, marriages, and kids, we have held fast to the friendships that we made in Orrville. Jeff Martin became an education administrator for Strongsville schools. He and I still get together whenever we can, usually for a “big game” of some sort.
Curtis Stranathan moved to China in 2003. I visited him there in 2006 and got to meet his fiancée, Cathy Yao, who became his wife six months later. Last year Curtis moved to Germany where he teaches.
I live in Wooster and practice psychiatry, and I am beginning to think ahead to retirement. And now it occurs to me as I write about these old friends – I wonder what fun is to come for us in our leisure years?
Submitted by Denny Helmuth, Class of ’74
All roads that lead to Orrville have beautiful fann land on each side. One of my most treasured memories about growing up here was having the beauty of countryside surrounding this town, and the people who lived there. No matter what the season, some of the most beautiful scenes were all around us, and I want to thank all those farmers whom I consider my dear friends.
Many were in FFA (Future Fanners of America). The yearbook from 1941 ‘stated that “FFA is composed of mainly farm boys, to develop competent, aggressive, rural and agricultural leadership. ” Looking through those yearbooks at the library, I saw pictures of our Dad, Phil Mengert, Bob Hersbey, the Bishops, Roy Steele, and other hometown boys. For about a decade, the yearbook captions said,”Tbe FF A clubhouse is often the scene of many a lively parties.” I wish I knew where that clubhouse was and why it was disbanded! One can only surmise about those country boys!
Through the years, the captions reported hayrides, weenie roasts, sled riding parties, and some service projects which included putting firewood and live chickens in community Christmas baskets! Imagine receiving a live chicken in a gift basket today!
1 think the hayrides stopped when, in the 70′ s, ooe tipped over on the square downtown, and a Yungen boy broke his legl Those FFA boys gave new meaning to the word “wildlife”! They were also the ones who told us Lover’s Lane was a street, not a dirt path in the cornfield!
In FF A, our biggest disagreement was whether Jolm Deere or Massey Ferguson had a bctter manure spreader, or whether Dckalb had the best com for animal or human consumption. Then ofi’we’d go to choir practice to sing America the Beautiful- in my heart, I was singing about my hometown and my mends.
It was a happy day when we returned from the Ohio State fair witb blue ribbons.
We came in 1st place for the milk judging contest. It was an amazing day, too, when we got to witness someone’s cow, borse, or pig give birth- wbo needed sex ed classes when we had livestock, the birds, and the bees to watch!
Who do we have to thank but the FF A boys for filling the quad, over the years, with a wide variety of chickens, pigs, and goats, all boisted over the roofwitb mnn equipment?!
These FF A boys were truly intelligent and fun, and we owe so much to tbem for providing us witb our food, dairy products, and scenic countryside. If you close your eyes and imagine driving to Orrville, what do you see? Wonld it be the Butzer fann with a group ofborses and a little foal in the pasture? Or would you see a flock of sheep at the Markley’s7 How about the rows of com and wbeat at the Weeman’ s or the cows at the Stciners, Troyers, Gochnauers, or Kohler’s? To me, it speaks clearly, the words to Psalm 23.
Whenever I bear songs about the country, I think of Orrville and it’s rolling hills, with every season of God’s beauty, and the people who unknowingly gave me such comforting scenes for a lifetime, to match the songs in my heart.
“Happy trails ….. ”
Run for the Roses ”
“Out in the Country ….. ”
” O Beautiful for spacious skies ”
“God bless tbe broken road ”
Submitted by Jane Sheard, Class of