Bulkeley High School's Class Of 1944 To Hold 65th And Final Reunion
September 26, 2009
HARTFORD — - The Bulkeley High School Class of 1944 may have started out a little slow in the annual reunion department — but it's sure finishing strong.
"We probably had one at five years, and then we stopped for a number of years," said Frank Scelza, 83, chairman of the reunion committee. "Eventually we said, 'What's going on here?' and Dan and I restarted it."
Dan DiGalbo, also 83, and Scelza figure that the reunion push came around the 35-year mark, which began an unbroken string of Class of '44 reunions every five years. Later, starting with the 55th reunion, began a 10-year streak of annual reunions.
This Sunday's reunion at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford will mark the 65th — and final — formal reunion for the group.
"Sixty-five years is a long time, Scelza said. "People move away, people get home-bound or become ill. "We felt this might be a good time."
Although the reunions are ending, Scelza said there are no regrets.
"How many classes can claim a 65th reunion?" Scelza said. "Not many. This is going to be a celebration without sadness."
Planning the reunions has been a labor of love for Scelza, who after graduating from Bulkeley taught 38 years in Hartford schools, including 21 as vice principal of his alma mater.
"Of all my loves, Bulkeley has to fit in there," he said. "I have a close affinity to Bulkeley."
The same can be said of DiGalbo, the reunion committee's secretary and treasurer who created the class list he uses to send out invitations.
"I love it. I enjoy it," Digalbo said. "When I started, I did everything with a pencil. It was a tough job, but then I got a computer."
DiGalbo's list contains the names of 175 of the 415 graduates of the class. The rest have either died or can't be found. As of Friday, DiGalbo said, 35 classmates and 15 guests were expected to attend the reunion. The travelers coming farthest are from Washington state, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Constance Sapia, 82, who has attended eight of the last nine reunions, will make the trip from her home in Old Lyme.
Next to Sapia's picture in the Class of 1944 yearbook is a notation about her arriving at the school as a junior and at first not liking it. The caption then says, "But as with most people, Bulkeley got under her skin and she soon loved it as we do."
Sapia, whose maiden name was Duperry, said her affinity for the school has remained with her through the years, prompting her to attend as many reunions as she could.
"It feels like something you have to do," she said, adding that the late-blooming streak of reunions wouldn't have been possible without Scelza and DiGalbo.
"Their effort has been wonderful. That's what kept it going," she said.
Scelza and DiGalbo are reluctant to take any credit for doing something that brings back good memories.
"We had some great people," Scelza said.
For DiGalbo, Bill Berry, who died in December, is at the top of that list. DiGalbo and Berry entered the Army together after graduation and Berry went on to a decorated career that would include serving in Korea and Vietnam. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.
"We got out of school on June 14, 1944, went home and waited for our one and only letter from FDR," DiGalbo said.
As for Sunday's reunion, the two men say they want to make the grand finale "extra special." DiGalbo said everyone who attends will be given a copy of his class list in case they want to reach a class member. Scelza has planned a few surprises, as well.
And even though there won't be any more official reunions, DiGalbo expects to see his fellow members of the Class of '44 in the future.
"We'll find a reason to do something," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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