The reunion turnout was great — considering that the former classmates had graduated from Newark’s Weequahic High School 72 years ago. Thirty members of the class of 1939 gathered to reminisce and share memories of times good and tough on June 5 at Pals Cabin in West Orange.
Many of the celebrants — about 400 were in the class in high school — had remained in contact over the years, attending each others’ milestone personal and family events.
The featured guest was 97-year-old Hilda Lutzke of Verona who, after beginning her teaching career at the school in 1937, taught some members of the class of ’39. “Weequahic had a remarkable faculty and its students were joyful to teach, respectful, and diligent in their pursuit of education,” she said. “Many of them progressed to admirable levels of success.”
Phil Yourish of East Orange (class ’64) and Hal Braff of South Orange (class of ’52), executive director and copresident, respectively, of the Weequahic High School Alumni Association, led the group in singing “We’re On Our Way,” the school’s fight song, and thanked those gathered for their support of the association’s efforts to provide scholarships to today’s Weequahic students.
The former predominance of Jews at Weequahic — the school and Newark neighborhood — is well known. In fact, according to Yourish, of those at the reunion, only one was not Jewish.
For some of the attendees, it was evident that age has not limited them. Dr. Milton Luria of North Caldwell announced at the affair that he had just retired as a physician after 53 years. Irving Newman — who had traveled with his wife Bea (class of ’43) from Sarasota, Fla., to attend the reunion — recently wrote his first book, Living on House Money. Dr. William Weiss of Manahawkin, a national authority on allergies, volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. And Betty Krasner of Verona told her classmates she will soon be on her way to Tuscany, Italy, for a new adventure.
It was clear that military service — particularly during World War II — had played a major role in the lives of the members of the class of ’39 as they recounted stories of fellow students and relatives who had been killed in the war, and stories of those who made sacrifices for the American victory.
Luria related a story about another former Weequahic student, Jack Kirsch, who was shot down in a bomber raid on the Ploiesti oil field in Romania and was held in a German POW camp. At the camp, Luria said, Kirsch suddenly saw another prisoner who looked familiar, and said, “I know that guy. He comes from Weequahic High School in Newark.” It was Dave Harrison — a member of the class of ’39, who in another raid on Ploiesti had parachuted to safety, was captured, and was placed in the same cell.
“Following our class would cover the broad spectrum of the history of the city of Newark,” said Newman. “There are strong threads that still bind us together.”
Those threads continue to hold; when event chair Mickee Geffner Lublang of Verona and cochair Frances Feitlinger Kasen of West Orange, conducted a vote to determine if plans should begin for a 73rd reunion next year, the response was a resounding yes.