Class act Eighty-two alumni raise $44,000 for historical monument

By on October 10, 2012

By: CORY VAN BROOKHOVEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

It all started about five years ago, during planning for the 50th reunion of Warwick High School’s class of 1957.

A 10-person classmate committee, which has planned 11 reunions over the course of 55 years, came up with an idea to give back to both their alma mater and community. An Alumni Garden, now completed in front of the high school entrance, would be their contribution.

This particular class is historical in that they were the very first class to graduate from the “new school” on Orange Street. Prior to the school being built, upperclassmen attended either Warwick Township High School in Rothsville or Lititz High School in downtown Lititz.

The school board during this time decided that all high school students should be under one roof. By Sept. 17, 1956, the building that became Warwick High School was finally in use. On March 24, 1957, a dedication ceremony was held which was led by presiding Board of Education President Wilbur H. Graybill.

Now, 55 years later, the first class to ever graduate from these halls was ready to return the favor, and in a big way. A design was created by Jim Wenger of Derck & Edson Associates, with 82 class members managing to raise close to $44,000 for the project — not a single dime coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.

The project was almost completely a Warwick alumni project. The big “W” in the circle was designed by Richard Gundrum, a 1965 graduate. This design was further refined by Joy Keener Olcott, a class member of 1978; and the construction of the “W” was done by Jim Keener, class of 1979. Finally, Bottom Line Construction, the company that created the wall and concrete work, is owned and operated by two Warwick graduates, Derek Hench and Craig Hasson.

This past Saturday, a dedication ceremony was held with many of the classmates from 1957 in attendance. As members arrived, they each received a red heart to wear on their lapel, and were greeted with hugs and smiles as wonderful recollections from their days at Warwick filled the air.

Mary Lou Balmer was in attendance with her two daughters, Donna and Lynn. Her late husband Larry was a member of the class of 1957, and she and her daughters came on his behalf. On his death bed, Larry made his wife promise him that she would represent him in spirit on this day, and she happily accepted. In tribute, their daughter Lynn wore Larry’s school pork pie hat, as daughter Donna proudly wore his school jacket.

“Larry was very dedicated and proud to be a member of the class of 1957,” Mary Lou said. “He would have been so proud.”

During the ceremony, classmate John Gibble discussed the importance of the day.

“History is very much a part of who we are, and it is always marked by some kind of reminder,” he said. “Although we came as two groups, we graduated as one.”

Classmate Ken Keener gave his thoughts on the day, stating that there were 95 total graduates in his class, and the very first person receiving their diploma was his future wife Alice Gundrum.

After a few more words, Superintendent Dr. April Hershey and school board member Darryl Miller accepted two framed photographs of the Alumni Garden.

Along with the large “W” located in the front, the Alumni Gardens features three plaques. The plaques on the right and left lists the names of all 95 members from the class of 1957. The middle plaque describes why the garden was erected, and also contains the 1957 class poem written by the late Jack Markert, also a classmate.

After the ceremony, the fellowship and memories continued in the high school cafeteria as light refreshments and were served. Fellow classmate Lucy Hall Snavely reflected on the morning by stating, “It’s a good way to bring class and community together. I hope that future generations will know that we wanted to give back to our community.”

Another classmate, Sally Sue Templeton, agreed.

“The friendships that you develop are more than brick and mortar. You’ll draw on these friendships for the rest of your life,” she said proudly.

The Warwick High School class of 1957 is very excited to present this new Alumni Garden, not just to future students, faculty and the staff, but also to the community as a whole. Their gift will be a lasting testament to hard work and dedication, and will serve as evidence as to what can be achieved when people work together toward a common goal. Certainly, their teachers would have been proud of this achievement. More CLASS ACT, page A19