Old friends, lots of laughter at Dartmouth High’s 65-year reunion

Sep 7, 2019

Smiles and laughter abounded as the Dartmouth High School Class of 1954 met with warm handshakes and witty retorts at the Wamsutta Club in New Bedford on Saturday for their 65-year reunion.

Twenty-five people came from as far afield as California and Florida to catch up with old friends on the occasion.

The now-octogenarian class members chatted and reminisced together before sitting down to a three-course luncheon.

“We only had eighty-something in the class, like 83,” said Round Hill resident Marge Souza. “We knew everybody. There were only maybe 2,000 kids in the whole school.”

She noted that it was a very tight-knit group, which helped them all keep in touch through the years. “It was wonderful,” she said.

Souza and husband Ron will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. 

Ron was also in the same class at Dartmouth High. 

“I married my high school sweetheart,” he said with a grin. “And she’s still my sweetheart.”

Eileen (Gaspar) Fenton started organizing the reunions years ago when she was on the reunion committee, and just kept going. For a while they had reunions every year, but now it’s usually every five years.

“It’s just getting everybody back together, and reminiscing,” she said. “Just seeing what’s happening in their lives.”

“We’re all so fortunate to make it into our 80s,” she added. 

Richard Galligo is the oldest class member at 89 years old. A veteran of the Korean war, he came back to Dartmouth afterwards to graduate high school.

“Why do we get together? Beats the heck out of me!” he joked. “We get together because this is a lovely group we graduated with. Everybody was friendly, we knew each other, we loved each other. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people.”

Sue Gulbranson, wife of class member Gary Gulbranson, noted that everyone was very welcoming. 

“As a spouse, whenever I come to these — and I’ve been to a lot of them over the years — I feel like I’m part of the group,” she said.

Her husband Gary was quick to explain why he likes coming to the reunions. 

“Friendship,” he said simply.

“We haven’t seen these people in 65 years, some of them,” said class member George Rebello. 

Gary shook his head. “This is the 40th anniversary of my 25th reunion,” he said. “I don’t like big numbers.”

Clusters of friends were talking and laughing about teachers from decades ago and remembering stories.

“Every time we see her, Wayne [Haskell] brings up the fact she blew up a chemistry lab,” laughed Gary, nodding at Geraldine (DeMello) Frates, who was sitting on a sofa nearby.

Frates raised her brows in mock horror before rolling her eyes. “I think I’m off the hook,” she said.

Before lunch, Fenton gave a brief speech of welcome, read letters from classmates who were unable to make it, and listed the names of classmates who had passed, with a moment of silence held in their honor.

During the speech she extended a special welcome to Ellie (Haskell) Whitman, who lives in California. 

“It took her 65 years to get here,” she noted to general laughter, after which a classmate shouted “Better late than never!”

Organizers Fenton and Louise (Heyliger) Travers said that they’re not sure if they will plan any more reunions in the future. 

“I don’t know if we would do every five years. Because let’s face it, most of us are 83,” Travers said. “We’ll see how our health is, and maybe do one every other year or so. But it depends.”

Priscilla (Tavares) Mosher, who left straight from high school to work for the town of Dartmouth and stayed there for 37 years, said that her goal was to attend the 70th reunion.

Philip “Russ” Cornell agreed. “We’ll keep coming right down to the last one!” he said.