Grads reunite after 70 years

Advocate staff photo by Darlene Denstorff -- Graduates of the Dutchtown High School Class of 1943 and two of their surviving teachers met Saturday for their 70th class reunion, first row from left, Justine Hoyer Brunson and Adrienne McHardy Percy; and second row, Elwood Gautreau, Willa Mire Aldridge Bishop, Ray DeLaune, Gwendolyn Webb, Gladys Kendrick and Stafford Braud.
Advocate staff photo by Darlene Denstorff -- Graduates of the Dutchtown High School Class of 1943 and two of their surviving teachers met Saturday for their 70th class reunion, first row from left, Justine Hoyer Brunson and Adrienne McHardy Percy; and second row, Elwood Gautreau, Willa Mire Aldridge Bishop, Ray DeLaune, Gwendolyn Webb, Gladys Kendrick and Stafford Braud.

Willa Mire Aldridge Bishop still remembers the silk suit she wore to her high school graduation ceremony 70 years ago.

That suit was sewn in a Dutchtown High School home economics class taught by Justine Hoyer Brunson.

Brunson and Bishop chatted about that suit, graduation, football and basketball teams, the school’s carnival balls, World War II and other memories Saturday during a reunion attended by six of the 10 surviving members of the Class of 1943 and two former teachers.

Brunson, 99, and Adrienne McHardy Percy, 91, started their teaching careers at Dutchtown High School in the 1940s.

They lived at the school’s teacherage, or residence on campus. Today, both women live in an assisted living facility in Gonzales.

Despite their age, the two retired teachers reminisced about their days living and teaching at the high school.

Percy, who was known to the students as “Miss McHardy,” taught math and physical education.

Reunion organizers Bishop, who was the class vice president, and Gwendolyn Webb, who served as class treasurer, said they were happy that their two former teachers could join the luncheon.

“They were such great teachers and we owe them so much,” Bishop said.

Percy’s daughter Sara Katherine Janes said her mother “just loved teaching ... and talked about her days at Dutchtown often.”

Bishop and her classmates graduated after finishing the 11th grade.

While many admitted they couldn’t remember much about recent events, they had vivid memories about graduation day.

Gladys Kendrick recalled that she worked hard to get the class to graduate in caps and gowns, the first graduating class to do so at the school.

Kendrick said she “cried and cried” on graduation night when classmates Herman Decoteau and Alvin Braud appeared on stage in their military uniforms.

Stafford Braud, who traveled from Washington for the reunion, said 13 members of the class had volunteered for military duty because they could pick their branch of service if they volunteered.

“They could send you anywhere if you were drafted,” Braud said.

“Graduation night was the first suit I owned in my life,” Braud said. “I kept it for years.”

Braud, Elwood Gautreau and Ray DeLaune reminisced about their days in the service.

They remembered a championship football team during their tenure at the school, but couldn’t agree on which year the team won the championship. But they all knew Brunson’s husband was the coach.

The former classmates also remembered the school’s annual Carnival balls.

Bishop recalled her role as the Statue of Liberty at one Carnival ball.

Kendrick remembered sewing three table scarves for the popular annual event.

“We had to make everything we wore,” Kendrick said.

Brunson remembered Kendrick’s sewing skills and praised her for her work back then.

“We had a good time then, didn’t we?” Brunson said.

“Yes ma’am, you taught us everyday things we needed to know,” Kendrick replied.

Kendrick talked about her days in the band playing trombone — the only girl in Ascension Parish to play the trombone back then. Webb played clarinet.

The six classmates looked at photos from their school years and remembered the classmates that have died.

The Class of 1943 included 35 members: 22 are deceased and three are unaccounted for, Bishop said.

“We were a close group and getting together is special today,” Bishop said.