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Centralites reunite

Left to right, Marlene Edwards Case and Gloria Keeler Brunette of the class of '54, Ron Cain of the class of '61 and Pat Higgins of the class of '56 at Central High School in Superior talk about plans for the centennial Central All Class Reunion slated for Tuesday and Wednesday at Wessman Arena. More than 800 alumni of the former Superior high school, and later junior high, are planning to make the trek from as far away as England to reminisce. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

When Central High School opened its doors for the first time in September 1910, few could have imagined the greatness that would come from educating Superior's youth within its walls.

But, a Nobel Laureate recognized for his work in economics last year - Oliver "Ollie" Williamson - is the featured speaker when hundreds of Central alumni head home for one last hurrah on the 100th anniversary of their alma mater.

Williamson donned the Vikings cap and gown with the Central High class of 1950. Next week, he'll address more than 800 alumni when the Central All-class Reunion gathers Tuesday and Wednesday at Wessman Arena.

Former Centralites from 35 states and England are planning to return to Superior to reminisce about the days when Central's basketball team broke records that remain untouched today and Central's football team turned out eventual NFL Hall of Famers.

Among the many thousands of graduates who walked the hallowed halls of Superior's Central High School were sports greats, entertainers, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, academics and numerous heroes who heeded the nation's call and fought to preserve freedom.

One of them is Richard I. Bong, a Medal of Honor recipient recognized as a national hero - America's Ace of Aces - after he shot down 40 enemy aircraft during World War II, a distinction that remains touched.

About 50 of Central's notable alumni will be recognized during the reunion, nominated by their peers, but it's not an all-inclusive list, said Bill Benson of the class of 1947. He thought of two leaders of industry who didn't received nominations, but graduated in 1945 with Bud Grant of Minnesota Vikings fame, a team once owned in part by another famous Central alumnus credited with helping save the NFL.

The idea for the centennial reunion was born out of the success of a similar reunion held in 2004. Then about 1,000 Central alumni came together after school officials demolished the school that gave Sen. John F. Kennedy a place to deliver a speech during his bid to become the nation's 35th president, and served as the summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge.

After that reunion, Marlene Edwards Case said, many people said they should do it again; she heard from many more who regretted missing the opportunity to attend the first one.

"We said 'OK, we're willing to do this again,'" said Case, a member of the class of 1954.

Clarine Smith, also of the class of 1954, said she always attended her class reunions, but she missed the 2004 all-class reunion. In June, she came back to Superior from her home in Florida to lend a hand with planning the all-class reunion, determined to attend the one this year.

"I'll be there if I have to be there on a stretcher," Smith said. After all, she's looking forward to seeing fellow alumni, both those in her graduating class and those who came before and after her.

Ron Cain, class of 1961, tapped the resources of classmate Barb Munic for her ability to dig for memorabilia to be used in a room honoring the school's glory days.

"Some of these people I didn't know before but I've enjoyed immensely working with them," Munic said.

While this year's reunion is smaller than the first, more than 600 of the school's alumni have died since the first all-class reunion said Carol Reasbeck of the class of 1961. She attended the 2004 reunion with her mother, Signe Haagenson Larson of the class of 1929 and sister Marie Larson of the class of 1955. Tears welled in her eyes and her voice cracked as she thought of her mother, 97 when she passed away in 2007, at that first all-class reunion six years ago.

"It really is intergenerational," Reasbeck said. Three generations of her family attended the school.

But if you haven't registered, you're out of luck. Reunion registration was due in June, and Case said she's had to turn some away because they have reached capacity for participation.

There are still some opportunities to mingle with old friends, such as the craft show on North 28th Street on Tuesday and the car show planned by the class of 1959's Dennis Van Alstine outside Wessman Arena planned for Wednesday, Reasbeck said.

The free car show is open to all cars and comers, Van Alstine said.

After all, reunion organizers remember well the sense of community that once lived within Central's walls in Superior.

"With all of the travels we've made, and all of the years of being away for the winter, but you come back to Superior - it's the best place to be," said Phyllis Sayles of the class of 45.

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