45-Year Reunion Speech!
Presented August 26, 2000 by Mary K. (Smith) Kase

Good evening and welcome to the forty-fifth anniversary of the Class of 1955.

 It was a very warm evening, that June night 45 years ago when some three hundred thirty some fresh-faced kids wearing gray caps and gowns received diplomas from Mishawaka High School.

This graduating class of 1955 (all of us) were Depression kids, born in the 30’s to parents who had been struggling with life and fortune for some years.  We were born to families where values were a simple fact of daily life – not a phrase reserved for politicians anxious for a sound bite on the evening news.  We entered the world in a troubled time and our early childhood years were marked by a terrible war that we really could not comprehend.  But we did know that this war, this terrible thing, took our dads, older brothers, uncles away from family and put them in harm’s way.  We did not know where these places were: these places with strange names, Guam, St. Lo, Saipan, Normandy, Guadacanal.  We did know that the grown-ups around us became sobered as they listened intently for the latest news from the front.  When it was over some of us had dads, older brothers, uncles who did not come home.  Our families, our young lives were forever marked by this experience. 

Most of us started 1st grade in the fall of 1942.  The war carried itself to the classroom as we saved our dime cards to buy War Bonds and packed soap and toothbrushes into Red Cross boxes for distribution to refugee kids overseas. 

Whether we attended public or parochial schools, our grade school years were pretty much the same.  Teachers or nuns – we were there to be taught—to be molded into something that would be acceptable to society at large.  At least that was their hope.  We weren’t thinking about those kinds of things.  We had other things to concern us:


Mishawaka, Indiana: A city that typified small-town, middle class, Midwest America.  Ethnically diverse, we treasure our European heritages.  Some of us are children of immigrants.  Others had grandparents who were a part of the great European immigration of the early part of the twentieth century.

When we came together that fall of 1951 as the freshman class of Mishawaka High School, we were known and always will be known as the Class of 1955.  We were proud of our ethnicity.  When the United Nations was in its infancy in 1955, Mishawaka High School was already a miniature United Nations and had been for some time.  Look at the way it is reflected in our Miskodeed:  Zappia, Weinkauf, Zirille, Werbrouck, Katterheinrich, Rossi, and we had our Smiths and Millers as well. (No Jones’s though – at least not in our class)

We developed a strong work ethic.  This a legacy from our parents who provided the manpower for local industry.  Ball Band, Dodge, Wheelabrator, Bendix and Studebaker put dinner on the table in many Mishawaka homes.  As a community we had yet to experience the upsetting effects of a local economy shifting from an industrial employment base to one of service and commerce.

We began our lives as members of the Class of 1955 as timid freshmen.  We struggled with our class load as the homework grew harder.  We struggled with ourselves as well as we tried new ideas and new interests, seeking to find something that fit comfortably into our adolescent skins.  We looked for acceptance from our peers and quickly adopted the fads and the fashion of the day:


Four years passed as a heartbeat and with proud families looking on we graduated that June as the Class of 1955.  We would never again be together as that same group.  As we took our first tentative steps to adulthood we went in many separate ways.  We looked ahead to ‘making it’.  We took jobs, went to trade school or college or the military.  We became skilled tradesmen, teachers, secretaries, business owners, bankers, artists and artisans, musicians, college professors, farmers, ministers, retail clerks, doctors and nurses. 

We married and became moms and dads as we formed our own new families.  Mom and Dad who had given us so much, now became Grandma and Grandpa and continued to take pride in us as we assumed these new responsibilities.  As our parent’s struggles became our own, we began to recognize something of the sacrifices they had made as we were now called upon to do the same. 

Our own children are now grown and face the responsibilities of marriage and parenting.  Families and family pressures are now very different.  Many of us have seen our kids marry, divorce, and remarry. Very recently a dear friend commented, “Mary K., I have three sons and have been to seven weddings.”  As grandparents we often provide an anchor both for our grown children and for their children as well.  If this is our role, then we must play it well.  Support without pointing fingers.

Life is what happens to us while we are busy planning other things. Turn around twice and all of a sudden you realize that the word ‘senior’ applies to you.  We can plan for tomorrow, but we cannot guarantee that tomorrow will be there for us to enjoy.  We cannot guarantee that our spouse and kids will be there to enjoy it with us. Life can be full of left hooks and right jabs and sometimes we cannot avoid the knockout punch.  The only moment in time we can be absolutely sure of is  NOW – TODAY – THIS MOMENT.  Live in the moment, treasure it, savor it, wrap yourself and those you love within it and hold on tight. 

I would leave you this evening with the closing lines from a play by Joseph Patrick, The Teahouse of the August Moon.  The character Sakini speaks…

History of world unfinished.

Lovely ladies…kind gentlemen —

Go home to ponder.

What was true at the beginning remains true.

Pain makes man think.

Thought makes man wise.

Wisdom makes life endurable.

Our play has ended.

May August moon bring gentle sleep.

Mary K. (Smith) Kase
August 26, 2000