On a perfect fall weekend, several area schools welcomed classes back for homecomings and reunions.
Perhaps no reunion was as special as the La Monte Class of 1960 reunion and dinner hosted at the high school Saturday.
Fifty-five years later, through wars, 10 presidents, marriages and births of their children as well as countless other milestone events, there is one thing the members of that class have not faced: the death of a classmate.
Of the 21 young men and women who walked across the stage, all of the graduates are still living.
“I’m not really sure how or why we’re all still here,” Tom Files said. “When you think about it there have been a lot of things that have happened to us, military service, car accidents, health concerns, but we did not succumb to any of those things.
“Maybe it’s mostly luck,” he added. “I really think it’s our small town upbringing; that’s one of the keys.”
Some members of the class have moved across the United States, living as far away as California, Florida and Texas, while others never moved from La Monte. Nine still live in the area.
“It’s a lot different now then the world we grew up in,” Clark Payne, class vice president, said. “When we were in school the boys would get in trouble and were sent to the office for not wearing a belt.”
“Today it’s changed,” Larry Patton said. “We were all raised with the same family values; it was a good clean way of living and that has helped us still be here.”
Although the two are separated by the miles, Clark talks daily to his friend Patton by phone.
“I traveled with my job,” Patton said. “I work for Boeing and I live in Kansas, but I still talk to Clark every day. I think keeping in touch is still a part of it.”
Many of the 10 graduates who attended the dinner commented on the closeness of the class.
“We were all neighbors together and we stuck together as friends,” Payne said. “Except for one or two people in our class we still keep in touch with one another.”
Six of the students began their education together in first grade at the school, as they did not have a kindergarten class.
“We all grew up together and did everything together,” Mary Beth DeMotte said.
A graduate of the class of 1961, she married a member of the class of 1960, James DeMotte. Both attended, but his health made it difficult for James DeMotte to speak.
“They would set up a screen outdoors and we all watched movies outside for a dime,” Mary Beth DeMotte said. “The boys may have been a little ornery back then but several of us married local boys,” she added as she took her husband’s hand.
Payne added that the Sedalia boys used to try to come up and steal the La Monte women, but it did not work that often.
“We all got on the KC Southern train one day for our senior trip,” Payne said. “We rode the train all night to New Orleans.
“When we got there we wandered around the city all day, got back on the train that night and were home the next morning,” Payne added. “It may not seem like a good trip, but it was.”
Files commented that much of what the class learned they gained from one another and their families.
There was another influence on the class that has had a lasting impact on the students.
“Mrs. Hollenbeck (Ellen) was our English teacher,” Files said. “She was an institution here, a great teacher, and she instilled a love of learning into every kid.
“She cared about every one of us, and taught us to do the same for each other,” he said. “Sadly she passed away in 1960 during our senior year, but her lessons never did leave us.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484