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Hagerstown High hosts reunion for class of 1943

Monday - 9/23/2013, 9:09am  ET

JULIE E. GREENE
The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) -- George "Bud" English was a Boy Scout who earned top honors during his sophomore year at Hagerstown High School and worked at Musey & Evans clothing store in downtown Hagerstown.

Pfc. George English, serving in the Third Army of General Patton's 95th Infantry Division, was killed in France on Nov. 18, 1944. He was 19.

The photo that ran with the story that day in The Daily Mail features a young man in uniform, the same young, unblemished face that appeared in the yearbook for Hagerstown High School, from which English graduated about 17 months earlier.

Those two photos now are on the same page in one of six binders that contain obituaries and other biographical information about members of Hagerstown High School's Class of 1943.

Several of English's high school classmates assembled the volumes, which the reunion committee is donating to the John Clinton Frye Western Maryland Room at the new Washington County Free Library in downtown Hagerstown.

The volumes were to be displayed Saturday during the class of 1943's 70-year reunion at Fountain Head Country Club.

The reunion included a scheduled reading of a scroll listing the names of deceased classmates. Reunion committee member Hazel (Stonesifer) Chilcote said she expected Saturday to be the final big reunion for the class, although it probably will have smaller get-togethers.

During the reunion, those attending had an opportunity to write notes about their classmates and those will be added to the biographical volumes, said Chilcote, 88, of Hagerstown.

The volumes, and an accompanying photo album of class members, will be available for research in the Western Maryland Room. The contents of the binders are available online through the library's website at www.washcolibrary.org.

"Any information that we can get on individuals is always good to have because you have a lot of people who do family research," said John Frye, county historian and curator for the Western Maryland Room collection.

"The fact that it's a wartime class makes it rather interesting, too," Frye said.

The Class of 1943 graduated about 18 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and approximately a year before the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.

A dozen classmates weren't on hand to receive their diplomas because they had been called up by the military, while more than 20 more left shortly after graduation for basic training and then the war, according to Herald-Mail archives.

Frye said he didn't know of any other class at any area high school that had done such a project.

"It's a good idea, but it's an awful lot of work," Frye said.

Reunion committee member Ed Cushen, 88, who lives in Chevy Chase, Md., said the collection will refresh classmates' memories, but he also hopes it becomes "grist for somebody's research." Cushen said he would like someone to use it to study the dynamics of a high school class, from beginning to end.

Eloise Shaffer, who lives in the Williamsport area, said she began the first book of classmate obituaries in the late 1980s or early 1990s, when she was secretary of the class reunion committee.

Shaffer said she initially listed the obituaries chronologically, but they have been reorganized to be alphabetical, with women listed alphabetically by their maiden names.

"When we put this together, one of the guys said, 'Does this mean we have to die alphabetically now?'" Chilcote said with a laugh.

The collection will continue to be updated with information about surviving members, Chilcote said.

Hagerstown High School, which once stood on the east side of Potomac Avenue, near Mealey Parkway in Hagerstown's North End, opened in 1926 and became a middle school in 1958. The building was closed in 1979 after Northern Middle School was built, according to Herald-Mail archives. The school was torn down, with work beginning in November 1980, to make way for housing.

It was Ralph Wallace's interest in the military and his classmate English that prompted his cousin, Shaffer, to begin assembling the obituaries for Hagerstown High School's Class of 1943, Shaffer said.

"(Wallace) said he thought we should have a permanent record of our classmates," Shaffer said.

Dorothy "Dot" Martin and Wallace, who died in 2005, helped start the collection, providing Shaffer with copies of classmates' obituaries from local newspapers, Shaffer said.

"They're an interesting crew," said Jill Craig, digitization librarian for the Western Maryland Regional Library.

Craig, with some help from Cushen, scanned the biographical information so it could be available online.

"I always found it fascinating because you've got folks who went on to do great and glorious things," Craig said.

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