Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Joshua Dillen


The Class of 1943 took a cruise down memory lane as vintage cars prowled Baker City over the weekend.

A dozen Baker High School alumni made it to the reunion that was seven decades in the making. There are 25 surviving members out of 103 who graduated.

About 40 friends and family along with the classmates filled the banquet room at the Sunridge Inn on Saturday.

There was also a reception on Friday and a Sunday morning breakfast. Those in attendance came from all over the country.

Many of the graduates served in the military. Sue Schwee, one of the reunion organizers and daughter of Paul Thomason, who is a member of the class, said they were a great group of patriotic people.

"They were absolutely behind World War 2," Schwee said.

She said the graduates from 1943 represented many professions, including religion, engineering, teaching, writing and community leadership. Baker High School had a lot to do with that.

"They are very adamant about what Baker High School teachers did to set them up for life," Schwee said. "The fabric of the community of Baker is in them."

Thomason, 88, retired from Cooper Nuclear Station in 1991 as its plant manager. He traveled from Scott's Valley, Calif., to be at the reunion. Thomason grew up in Wingville.

Thomason was a radio operator on the USS Guadalcanal when he served in the Navy. While serving on the submarine-chasing ship, he was witness to an historical event.

"We captured a German sub - the U505 - it was the first U.S. capture since the early 1800s," Thomason said.

He served in the Navy for three and a half years.

Clarene (Powell) Rohner, who was born in Durkee and has been a Baker City resident since she was 14, joked about her memories of Thomason.

"He's one of those Wingville boys, but he wasn't one of those local troublemakers - they were older," she said.

Rohner, 89, said she loves visiting with all of her old classmates. That was a common thread among the octogenarians. Eugene Wolfe, a retired Episcopal priest agreed with her.

"It's wonderful to be here among the survivors of our class," he said.

Wolfe also served in the Second World War. He served two years in Germany. In the Army, he was a member of the Scouts and Raiders Platoon of the 44th Infantry, 22nd Regiment.

Wolfe remembered how he and his friends loved to play handball at a makeshift court in the corner of one of the Baker High School buildings.

"One of the fondest memories of high school was climbing on top of the building to get the lost handballs," Wolfe said

Dwight Riggs, another lifelong resident of Baker City, was manager of the high school basketball team for two years. Another veteran, he fought in World War II and Korea for a total of 13 years of service. Seeing his classmates was just as important to him as to the others.

"I haven't missed a single reunion in all the years we've had them," Riggs said.

The celebration included a lunch, amusing skits and a presentation about William Tebeau, a 1943 BHS graduate who died last month.

It included a film that was made when Tebeau received the Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers Trailblazer Award in 2008. Tebeau was the first African American man to graduate from Oregon State University.

In the film, Tebeau talked about his years at OSU and joked about one instructor who could never pronounce his name correctly. He said it sounded like T-bow steak.

"From then on, he called me 'Sirloin,' " Tebeau said in the film as the crowd in the banquet room laughed.

Many of his family members were present and have been avid organizers of past reunion that the class has had.

Morgan Jemerson, Tebeau's granddaughter was the official photographer for the reunion. With a photo printer, she worked throughout the event to make sure everyone in attendance received copies of the pictures that she took.