by David Flint
Richard Burns, New Lebanon Central High School Class of 1949, was dismayed a few years back at the low turnouts for the annual Alumni Reunion Dinners. In 2005 he said that of all those who had graduated over the years only 57 showed up for the Reunion. “You could hear an echo in the room,” he said. Something had to be done. So Burns took it upon himself to provide a little incentive. The next year, he declared, the party was on him. He would pay for the Dinner out of his own pocket. That did the trick. In 2006 attendance jumped to 190 and
everybody had a great time. Since then the Alumni Dinner has been an event looked forward to all year, with wonderful food, great entertainment, dancing and lots of good conversation and camaraderie. Attendance has remained at about 190. The 2009 Dinner was held last Saturday, July 25, at the Stephentown Fire Hall with 194 members attending. Burns has now footed the bill for the fourth year. People are in agreement that he has jump started something here and the large turnouts will probably continue even if it isn’t a freebie. But Burns has now committed to one more year – and beyond that, we’ll see. “I like to fill up the hall,” said Burns, who now resides in Shelton, Connecticut.
The 2009 event at the Stephentown Fire Hall was catered by Mike DeBella and his staff from the Hitchin’ Post Restaurant of New Lebanon. Tempting appetizers of all kinds were available as guests entered and mingled for an hour of conversation. The buffet menu featured roast meats and chicken on a biscuit. The dessert table was laid out with a collection of delectable pastries and cakes making it difficult to decide what to choose.
Linda Stall Moshimer and Mary Godfroy Young of the Dinner Committee did the honors as masters of ceremony and introduced all the guests.
The earliest class represented was the Class of 1935 and Bud Schell was its sole representative. Schell is a World War II veteran of the US Army and US Air Force. He was a flight engineer engaged in transporting B-24 and B-25 bombers and a variety of other aircraft to various theaters of operation, though much of his time was spent in the legendary city of Casablanca in Morocco. After the war Schell went back to work for GE in Pittsfield, MA, but later became the owner and operator for many years of the Esso (later Exxon) station on route 22 in New Lebanon.
It was Schell who paid for the music for the evening in the person of “One Man Band” Paul Slusar of Philmont. Slusar is much more than a DJ. He plays a variety of instruments and can mimic a variety of singing styles. He was a wonder to see in operation, whether playing along with the Glen Miller Band or belting out a song à la Louis Armstrong.
The Class of 1936 also had one person attending, well known and well liked Stephentown farmer, Art Koepp. Marjorie Meschi, Class of 1959, travelled the furthest distance, having come from Arizona. The Class of 1959, celebrating 50 years, also had the distinction of having the most class members present with 18.
Celebrating 70 years, the Class of 1939 was represented by Dorothy Pratt. The Class of 1949, celebrating 60 years was represented by Margaret Wemple Lehmuth and Frances (Sarah) Wheeler Waters, in addition to Richard Burns. Ann Southard represented the most recent class at the Reunion, the Class of 1999.
Mary Godfroy Young advised all the alumni that to keep up with what’s happening they most definitely need to subscribe to SEQUAX, the Alumni Newsletter. It’s only $5. Send that along with your name, address and graduating class to Jean Crosby, P.O. Box 525, New Lebanon, New York, 12125.