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CCHS Class of 1969 celebrates 50-year reunion over weekend

  • Justin DeVore leads the Charles City High School Class of 1969 on a tour of the Charles City middle school and high school on Saturday. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Justin DeVore leads the Charles City High School Class of 1969 on a tour of the Charles City middle school and high school on Saturday. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • The Charles City High School Class of 1969 pose for a group photo in the high school gymnasium on Saturday. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Dan Damjanovic stands by a mural of Huckleberry Finn that he created as a senior at Charles City High School in 1969. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

Alumni traveled from near and far this week to share in a moment and take the time to remember.

The Charles City High School Class of 1969 celebrated its 50-year reunion this weekend and members of one of the largest graduating classes that ever roamed the halls took a tour of their old school on Saturday.

Marilyn Buttjer, a retired teacher who still lives in Charles City, said the CCHS Class of 1969 was the biggest graduating class in the school’s history at the time with 265 students. Close to 100 former students attended the reunion. She said some came from as far away as Switzerland and Brazil.

Buttjer remembers a moment during her senior year toward the end of the school year when spring cleaning came a little early.

“We cleaned every locker at the end of the year. We washed them inside and out,” laughed Buttjer.

Buttjer said the CCHS Class of 1969 has awarded a $500 scholarship to a deserving student since 2000.

Justin DeVore, communications director for the Charles City Community School District and a 1994 CCHS alum, led the tour. More than 50 members of the 1969 class walked through the new middle school, which adjoins the high school.

Once the tour meandered into Mr. Pittman’s Social Studies room, fellow classmates were able to gaze at relic created from that era of the late 1960s – a Huckleberry Finn mural created by 1969 alum Dan Damjanovic.

The picturesque scene of Huck Finn on his raft overlooking the Mississippi River from the Mark Twain novel of the same name looked almost as vibrant and real as it did 50 years ago. The mural is  preserved on the green chalkboard at the back of the class.

“I was expecting it to be erased the next semester,” said Damjanovic, who moved back to Charles City 11 years ago after running a design studio in the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area.

JIm Biwer, who created a website of the 1969 class about 10 years ago, attended Charles City High School for one year after the closure of the Immaculate Conception High School the year prior in 1968.

“It’s a fun group. Everybody gets along well – a lot of good memories,” said Biwer, who lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

The year 1969 in America was known as the “Summer of Love,” and tension remained high with the Vietnam War still years away from a ceasefire. Biwer, who had recently graduated, remembers viewing the Apollo 11 moon landing when humans first stepped foot on the surface of the moon on July 20.

“I was over at the Clear Lake Surf watching the Box Tops back then. They had a little black and white TV by the bar. So I got to watch them walk on the moon,” said Biwer.

Patty Dunston Presse, along with her husband, Ken, decided to attend the reunion after traveling up to Alaska and traversing around the Pacific Northwest for well over a month while on vacation. They have been married for 46 years and will return to their home about an hour and a half south of Atlanta later this week.

Throughout their adventures, each has chosen to attempt to mark off all 50 states on a bucket list of sorts. Patty, a member of the CCHS Class of 1969 and a former school principal, has walked a 10K race in every state now except four – Hawaii, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Ohio.

Ken knocked out Washington, Oregon and Idaho off his list of trying to fish in every state in America. He had already fished in Alaska prior to the couple’s recent visit to the largest state. He still has Indiana left on the list in addition to the state’s Patty has not competed in yet. He started the list four years ago.

“Once I made the bucket list is when I started counting,” said Ken, who graduated high school in Culver City, Colorado, in 1965.

The pair have already made reservations for a trip to Hawaii in April.

The CCHS Class of 1969 held a social hour, followed by dinner and music, on Saturday night at the Columbus Club.

Biwer said 19 states are represented by the CCHS Class of 1969, as well as graduates who now live in Canada, Taiwan and Italy.