East Suffolk High School alumni enjoy busy weekend for reminiscing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2002

About 450 students of the former East Suffolk High School gathered in Suffolk this past weekend to celebrate its second reunion.

The skies were threatening rain on Friday, so the picnic that began at 4 p.m. included a program that was held in the auditorium of the East Suffolk Community Center.

Reflections about 1940-1950 were given by Kathleen Owens Simmons from the Class of 1943; Walter Howell, the valedictorian from the first graduating class of 1940, gave the welcome address and nostalgic moments. Reflections about 1950-1960 were given by Clarence West from the Class of 1952; and reflections from 1960-1965 were given by Frank Kahan from the Class of 1965. After the program was over, the classes gathered on the grounds for some good eating, and some good music provided by Benford Hunter. However, Howell stayed inside to reminisce about the first class to graduate from the school.

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Retired in 1985 from the fur industry, Howell now resides in Virginia Beach.

&uot;I remember when we first came to East Suffolk after we had been floating around trying to find a home,&uot; he said. &uot;When we came here, we had four teachers, and there were only 18 seniors in the class. I am very proud of what we went through and the teachers who taught us. This complex that we are standing in right now is where it all began.&uot;

Elizabeth Savage Johnson, the salutatorian from the class of 1940 made similar statements. She is a retired LPN nurse and now resides in Temple Hill, Md. Johnson spent three years at Nansemond Institute before graduating at ESH.

The banquet at Temple Beth-El Saturday evening was an extravagant affair. Before the honorees received their just due, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett brought greetings on behalf of the City of Suffolk.

He also encouraged former students that had not joined the alumni to sign up and for members to keep up their dues. He then explained why this was so important: the East Suffolk Community Center will house an olympic-sized pool, two gymnasiums, each with their own suspended indoor track, a weight and exercise room with the latest equipment, meeting rooms, an aerobics studio, an arts and crafts room, a senior adult area, and a teen game room.

&uot;There is one amenity that I know is of special interest to the alumni association – an African-American Heritage Museum, which will preserve the endeavors of many of your alma mater’s graduates for many generations to come,&uot; Bennett said. &uot;In addition to the city’s financial commitment to the project, there has been a pledge of fundraiser proceeds from the East Suffolk High School Alumni Association as an expression of their commitment of the Historical significance of the facility.&uot;

He also said this will be a joint venture with the East Suffolk High School Alumni Association, the City of Suffolk and the South Hampton Roads Boys’ and Girls Club.

Dr. Milton R. Liverman, superintendent, brought greetings from Suffolk City Schools.

Rosser Turner (1956), Willie Floyd Gary (1954), Janice Howell 1965 and Henry Diggs (1962) presented plaques to the 13 honorees. They were: Ross Boone, Lillian Brinkley, Raymond H. Boone, Col. Fred V. Cherry, Judge Archie Elliott, Lottie Johnson Fenwick, Dr. Bernard Elbert Glover, Councilman Curtis R. Milteer Sr., Dorothy Simmons Rawles, Lorraine Brinkley Skeeter, Dr. Pretlow L. Stevenson, Dr. Margaret Mayo Tolbert, and Dr. Ella Porter Ward.

Ross Boone accepted the thanks on behalf of the honorees and asked everyone that helped honorees to get where they are today to give themselves a hand especially teachers and parents. He drew laughter from the audience with the statement, &uot;Remember all of those who helped you to get where you are because no one makes it by themselves. The only person who ever stands up and says ‘I did it by myself,’ run, because you are dealing with a fool.&uot;

Susie Bennett, alumni treasurer, made a special presentation, certificate of appreciation to committee members for their dedicated service: Amanda R. Rodgers, vice president; Carol B. Diggs, secretary; Marion B. Wright, chairperson; Barbara W. Doughty, financial secretary; Gloria J. Colbert and William H. Goodman.

Other committees:

Program – Dorothy Simmons Rawles, chairperson; Marion B. Wright, the Rev. Dr.Thelma Taylor Norfleet, and Susie Harrell Bennett.

Registration – Barbara Doughty, chairperson; Pearlie Hayslett Blanks, Priscilla Hyman Benn and Gloria J. Colbert.

Picnic, Ground, Set-up – William H. Goodman, chairperson; Rosser Turner,

The East Suffolk High Alumni Association was organized in October 1999.The purpose is three-fold: (1) to unite into one fellowship the graduating classes of 1940-1965, attendees support for greater and more effective service in community building (2) to keep the name and legacy of the school alive; and (3) to encourage intellectual scholarship.

Membership is open to graduates, attendees or supporters of East Suffolk High School; membership fees are $15 annually. The constitution and by-laws also provide for the payment of a one time &uot;Heritage Fee&uot; of $100, which would give you life membership.

You may send your membership fees to Mrs. Susie H. Bennett, treasurer, 2002 Nansemond Parkway, Suffolk, Va. 23434.