BKW graduates ‘remember when’ and share life’s bounties

To the Editor:
Recently, my husband and I attended the Berne-Knox-Westerlo reunion. We sat with members of the Class of 1956: Bill Kaehler; Barb Filkins Cross and her husband, Gerry (Class of ’57); and John Garry and his wife, Tish.

1956! That was 65 years ago! Yet to us it seemed like yesterday.

The world then was a very different place. Elvis Presley had his first hit with “Heartbreak Hotel,” and Eisenhower had signed the Federal Aid Highway Act into law, authorizing the creation of the interstate highway system. 1956 was the year when the first hard disc was invented by IBM, and the USA carried out H-bomb tests on Bikini Atoll.

The average annual wages were $ 4,450, a gallon of gas was 22 cents, and 1956 was the year that one in three high school graduates were going off to college — many from our class. Our conversations touched on none of the above.

Instead, we focused on what a great education we had received at Berne-Knox and how much we enjoyed our classmates. All agreed our teachers were outstanding and even took time to help us fill out applications, prepare for entrance exams, and in some cases even drove us to our interviews.

Many teachers were spoken of with love and respect but the one revered by all was Frank Mustico. For a short time, the past had become the present and we were young again. Our sentences all started with “Remember when.” Then we moved on and told of our lives since we left the hallowed halls of Berne.

Gerry Cross, son of Arthur M. Cross and Evelyn Porter, was the first to share. He was proud to say he was born in Berne up Sickle Hill on Partridge Run and has lived in Berne his whole life except for the three years he proudly served in the U.S. Army both stateside and 13 months in South Korea.

Gerry had three siblings (all graduates of BK): Lois (née Cross) Dittmar, Garland M. Cross (deceased) and Anna May (née Cross) Atkins (deceased). Gerry and his wife, Barbara, celebrated 63 years of a great marriage and had three children (all graduates of BKW):  Wade and his wife, Cheryl, reside in Santa Clarita, California and have four children, Kelly (née Cross) Myers (deceased) who had a daughter Meredith, and Geri Lynn (née Cross) Teta who has two children and resides in Glens Falls.

After graduation, Gerry was accepted into the General Electric apprentice program, which he rejoined  after he completed his military service. He spent the next 40 years as a G.E. employee.

On the home front, he was elected in November 1983 as the Berne town supervisor. Later, he served on the town board for eight years.

Over the years, Gerry has been a dedicated community volunteer. He served as a 60-year member of the Berne Fire Company and Helderberg Ambulance squad with 50 of those years as an emergency medical technician.

This year, he was selected as New York State EMT of the year — one of many prestigious awards he has received. Gerry emphasizes all of his awards were the result of a whole team working hard together.

He says the greatest reward is always when the patient or the family turns to you and says, “Thank you so much for being here.” He urges people to step forward and join the squad. They need EMTs, drivers, attendants, and clerical people. Please answer the call!

Ralph Miller, Class of 1956, says that Cornell, Berne, and agriculture influenced his life the most.

At Cornell, he met Jan, his wife of almost 62 years; made a lifetime of friends; gained a comprehensive knowledge of agriculture; served in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps as a second lieutenant; and received an education about the world outside of Berne.

Many generations of his ancestors were born and raised in Berne. Except for Cornell, military service, and one year in England, Ralph has never lived more than a quarter-mile from the house where he was born.

However, over time, Ralph has traveled extensively to all 50 states and 20 countries.

He states, “We have two daughters, six grandchildren, a great-grandchild, and two more on the way, all of whom I am inordinately proud. All are college graduates, gainfully employed, and share my love of our country and willingness to share our bounty. What more could one ask?”

Next week more about BKW alums!

Helen M. Lounsbury Galicki


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