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No reunions for the last of the class

Pandemic takes away county man’s chance to attend 80 th reunion

“That’s Sam Straub. He lived over here,” said Glen Stalder as he pointed out one of the 11 pictures of the Hannibal High School graduating class of 1940.

Stalder remembers each of the members of his graduating class.

Each of them has a story.

One was a doctor’s son and became a doctor as well.

Another moved away to Marion. Another lived just outside of Woodsfield and died some time ago.

“John Henry Litman, his wife is still living,” Stalder said. “Forrest Howell, he was a teacher and then got to be a superintendent.

Of the 11, only one remains.

“They’re all gone,” Stalder said.

Had they been living, 2020 was supposed to be a celebratory year for the Hannibal High School Class of 1940. When the annual reunion came around on the third Sat-urday in June, it was to be their 80th reunion. 

But that reunion didn’t happen.

Like many other events, the Hannibal High School Reunion had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the end of May, we decided to cancel,” said Stalder’s daughter Connie Frye, who helps organize the annual reunion with Twila Potts, a Hannibal High School graduate. “Everyone knew how it would be. At that time, everything was being canceled. Everything is still being canceled.”

The pandemic took away the opportunity to gather with a group that is dwindling as time takes its toll.

“Every year it gets a little smaller,” Frye said. Hannibal High School was established in 1895, with its last class graduating in 1954.

The school was located on State Route 536 in Hannibal but is “long gone” as Stalder put it.

Frye said there were still 46 surviving graduates from Hannibal High School.

This year, in addition to Stalder’s class, the classes of 1945 and 1950 were to be recognized.

There are no members of the Hannibal Class of 1945, while eight remain from the Class of 1950: Paul Bauman, Elizabeth Lively, Josephine Fankhauser, Belva Wickes, Ruth Snyder, Glen Potts, Florence Straub and Doris Byers.

Those who passed away over the past year are also recognized. This year the group lost Elda Litman, of the Class of 1942, and Clinton Reusser, of the Class of 1951.

Stalder is not the only Monroe County resident to miss out on his 80th reunion.

The Martins Ferry Times Leader published a story entitled “A Trip Down Memory Lane” in its June 6 edition about Edward Ackerman, of Lewisville.

Ackerman graduated from Lewisville High School in 1940. Like Stalder, he is likely the only surviving member of his class.

According to the story, Ackerman never missed a reunion.

It was a similar situation for Stalder.

The Hannibal High School reunions started being held in 1986. Over the years, they have been held at different locations. Reunions were held at Swiss Hills Career Center before being moved to the Court at Quinet’s Restaurant in New Martinsville, West Virginia.

Frye only remembered one other time when a reunion had to cancel due to there not being any electricity at Swiss Hills. That is until this year.

That is until this year.

The virus took away the chance for Stalder to “see some of the younger fellas,” and did the same for Ackerman.

Stalder did see other graduates at Zion United Church of Christ or playing euchre at the Hilltop Community Center, but both are canceled right now due to the virus.

That leaves limited options for older residents like Stalder and Ackerman.

Stalder misses the regular events but gets by with visits from his six children, whom he raised at the family farm on State Route 536 with his wife of 61 years, Juanita, who passed away in 2010.

“I read a lot, but I’m on a leash,” Stalder said with a smile, referring to the cord connecting him to his oxygen tank.

Frye hoped to continue the annual tradition of holding the family get-together for Stalder’s birthday on Nov. 6, when many of his 16 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren meet to wish him well.

But, unless things improve, Frye is unsure if that will be able to happen for Stalder’s 99th birthday in November.

Stalder has seen a lot in his life. He served in the U.S. Army during the tail end of World War II, arriving in the Pacific theater after the atomic bomb was dropped.

But he said he can’t remember seeing anything like the COVID-19 pandemic.

For her part, Frye hopes to hold her father’s birthday party, and she plans on recognizing him and the surviving members of the Hannibal High School Class of 1950 at next year’s reunion.

Stalder, meanwhile, will enjoy life as best as he can during this unusual time.

Instead of a large family gathering on July 4, he enjoyed cake and ice cream with his daughter and son-in-law and his son, Dave, and his pal, Buddy, the dog.

Buddy sent a few slight barks at his owner, wanting to help Stalder with the cake and ice cream.

But he didn’t jump up, as his jumping-up days are limited these days.

“Old Buddy,” Stalder said. “In dog years, he’s the same age as I am.”