By Julie Muhlstein
Keith Krause remembers throwing a snake at his future wife, Millie, at Swan’s Trail Elementary School.
“That’s how she knew I liked her,” said Krause, who married his high school sweetheart in 1946.
The Gold Bar couple were among old friends gathered Wednesday at Hill Park, overlooking Blackmans Lake in Snohomish. Their shared histories stretch back decades, through the Great Depression, World War II and all the years since.
Sitting at picnic tables, they opened sacks and lunchboxes and took out homemade sandwiches. More than a decade after their 60th high school reunion, they prefer a picnic lunch to a fancy gala dinner.
Their get-together was, in fact, the 72nd reunion of Snohomish High School’s Class of 1942. It happened also to be Millie Krause’s 90th birthday. Most of the 13 classmates who made it to the picnic are 90. Some were accompanied by spouses, caregivers, or adult children nearing their own retirement.
“We’re never sure who’s coming,” said June Gregory, 90, a retired teacher who lives with her daughter in the Cathcart area. Gregory has organized the annual reunions for nearly a decade. When they graduated, she said there were 125 students in her Snohomish High class.
“We lost seven of the boys during the war,” Gregory said. Some easily remembered the names of friends lost in wartime, among them Kenny McCready, John Hofstrand and Bob Smith.
Gregory believes there are about nine surviving classmates who didn’t attend the picnic. She hopes to keep the tradition going another 10 years.
“My dad died a few years ago and that was really hard. Now she tries to cram everything in. She never stops,” said Gregory’s daughter, Sue Temairik, who recently accompanied her mother to Camano Island for a zipline adventure.
Military service looms large in their memories. Graduation came just six months after Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
Jim Harkness, of Brier, was 16 when he graduated from Snohomish High in ‘42. At 18, he joined the Army. He served about three years with the Allied forces in Europe. “I lost a lot of buddies,” said Harkness, who took part in the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45.
World War II scuttled his plans to attend Washington State University. Once stateside again, Harkness spent three years farming with his father in South Dakota. “I wanted to get the stink of war off me. There was a lot of quiet out there,” said Harkness, who eventually returned to Snohomish County and a real estate career.
Crystal Johanson earned her teaching degree at Western Washington College of Education, now Western Washington University. By a year after Pearl Harbor, she said, “men had disappeared” from the Bellingham campus. “Many from our class joined up after they graduated,” said Johanson, whose late husband, Erick Johanson, was also a Panther.
Dr. Hugh Minor, a retired Everett ophthalmologist, attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, after graduating from Snohomish High. He served in the Navy until 1949, then graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1954. After an internship in Philadelphia and three years at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he settled in Everett.
Bill Pepperell wonders if failing algebra spared his life. “I had to take it a second time, they put me back,” he said. “Otherwise they would have drafted me.”
He graduated in 1942 rather than ‘41. During the war, he served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman on the USS Bolivar, an attack transport ship. “Algebra probably saved my life,” said Pepperell, who lives on the Snohomish area property where he grew up.
Snohomish alumnus Bob Bisnett’s wife, Elinore, wasn’t a Panther. Several years younger than her husband, she graduated from Everett High School, went to nursing school and served in the Cadet Nurse Corps. In the late 1940s, she was a nurse at Everett’s Providence Hospital during a local polio outbreak.
Gregory is impressed by the resilience of her classmates. Their lives are part of the Greatest Generation story. “They all have such good attitudes. We just keep moving on,” she said.
Before unwrapping sandwiches, the old friends bowed their heads. Bob Bisnett led them in a blessing, a prayer that ended this way: “And with our daily bread impart, thy love and peace to every heart.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.