Class of 2020: Believe in yourself, we believe in you!

To the Editor:

Graduation season is upon us and thoughts of my own high school graduation from Berne-Knox have flooded my memory.

The year was 1956. Rocky Marciano was the heavyweight champion of the world, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier had recently married, many of us were reading “Peyton Place” or going to the Indian Ladder Drive-in to see James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause,” and Elvis was rocking America!

Out in the bigger world, bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional, military advisors were in Vietnam, and the Hungarians had revolted.

Here at home, our school had joined National Honor Society, boys wondered if they would be drafted, and the Class of ’56 and its many gifted athletes were still basking in the glory of being the Class D Section 11 champions in basketball, proving once again what the entire community knew to be true — “nobody or nothing could beat Berne-Knox.” We were the best! We were  # 1 — athletically and academically!

Proudly we marched into what is now the elementary gym and took our places on stage. Henry Briggs (area superintendent of schools), Walter Schoenborn (principal), Howard Zimmer (treasurer and vice principal), Willsey Sherwin (clerk and business manager), and George Northrup (board president) warmly greeted us. Faculty members for kindergarten through 12th grade attended.

Everyone in that crowded auditorium knew each of us by name and we knew them. Afterwards, the PTA hosted a graduation dance and reception.

Our heads were crammed with thoughts of the upcoming senior trip to New York City on a BK bus driven by the school board president, George Northrup, and chaperoned by Coach Ray “Pete” Shaul. We stayed at the Bristol Hotel for several days and went to see the likes of newcomer Andy Griffin in the Broadway play “No Time for Sergeants” and visited such places as the United Nations, the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall ,and Coney Island.

We were confident that in the words of our Alma Mater “glorious would be our future as in the years gone by.” Indeed, if memory serves, at least nine of our class of 37 attended four-year colleges: Richard Betts (RPI),William Kaehler (Union College), Alberta Litts (Hope College), Hugo Veit (Clarkson), Joe McManama (Paul Smith), Ralph Miller, George Walk, and Rudolph “Ray” Pitcher (Cornell) — with Ray later becoming a Colonel in United States Army, while Jean Wright and myself went to State University of New York colleges. At least four of us went on to earn doctoral degrees.

Other classmates joined the military, got married, and eventually walked different paths. Phil Stevens went on to be a bridge supervisor at the New York State Thruway, John Crosier became the owner of his own real-estate agency, Dave Komjathy went on to supervise many mechanics at the Thruway, three others went on to be lawyers while some like Barbara Filkins Cross, Margie Lendrum Shultes and others were employed by the school district, worked for General Electric, the county, other places, or became homemakers.

Richard Rapp became the superintendent of highways for Albany County with classmate Gene Becker working there, too. Dick later went on to be the Westerlo town supervisor for many years.

Seven of us went on to business or technical schools. Many others traveled a different road as they moved forward and became active working members of our society. As we ventured forward, all of us had the certain knowledge that we came from a close-knit community that wished us well and were behind us 100 percent.

The years have slipped by quickly. Berne-Knox-Westerlo will soon be graduating what I believe to be its 85th class. As our BKW 2020 graduates struggle to make their way in an ever-changing world, I ask each of them to do one thing — believe! Believe in yourself, your friends and family; believe in goals and hard work; believe in making dreams come true.

We believe in you!

Helen Marie Lounsbury


Editor’s note: Helen Marie Lounsbury is a retired BKW teacher and former BKW School Board member.

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