ILWACO — Alumni from Ilwaco High School will set sail on their annual reunion this weekend with new leadership at the helm.
President David Aase, Class of 1953, is handing over leadership duties of the Ilwaco High School Alumni Association to his daughter, Mary Ann (Aase) Lee, Class of 1979.
And Darlene (Frazier) “Corky” Biggs, Class of 1959, has relinquished her long-held treasurer position to Paula (Saunders) Reagor, Class of 1982.
Reagor, a longtime Bellevue resident now moving back to the north Peninsula, is also taking on the job of secretary being vacated by long-time volunteer Mike Williams, Class of 1960.
Continuing in office is the group’s vice president, Stan Sonntag.
Adm. Jack’s command
The all-school reunion was started in 1990 by Jack Williams, a retired five-star admiral who was a member of the Class of 1942. In addition, Williams started a Wall of Fame to honor Ilwaco grads who excelled in various fields.
However, two years later, when Williams’ health declined, he gave his duties as president of the group to David Aase, Class of 1953. “He called me and I just said, ‘Yes, sir!’” he laughed.
Aase is the son of Peninsula school superintendent Carl P. Aase. After Ilwaco, he studied pharmacy at Oregon State University, returning as owner of the Peninsula drugstores for many years, followed by a second career as a cranberry farmer in Long Beach.
Helping coordinate the annual event these past 25 years has been pleasing for Aase, allowing him to follow the fortunes of his 32 classmates. Survivors marked their 65th anniversary of graduating last year. “It’s really rewarding,” the 83-year-old said. “You get to see some old folks that you only see once a year. A lot are in walkers and wheelchairs. It’s a happy day.”
28th annual event
This year’s 28th annual event will take place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Ilwaco High School football field. The IHS Sports Boosters will sell concessions, including hamburgers, hot dogs, clam chowder, soft drinks and coffee.
The free event is open to all.
A donation jar will be available to help cover the cost of mailing invitation postcards and hosting the event.
Aase said these donations are appreciated. “It costs $500 to $700 for the postcards. People are very cooperative and we break even with a little extra to buy some tables.” He has 20 picnic tables stacked in his warehouse ready for use.
He credits Biggs for her considerable work keeping the mailing list current. “She updated everything when we got computers, so we now have several thousand people listed alphabetically,” he said.
Biggs is an Oysterville resident who is retired from an office position with the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office. In her 26 years as treasurer, record keeping changed with the times.
“We started with hand-written envelopes to send out letters and then we worked on a computerized data base and its has progressed from there,” she said. “We went to the school and looked at the yearbooks and wrote down the names for a list of graduating seniors and every year added to that.”
Next year her Class of 1959 will host its 60-year reunion. “We had big celebrations at 50 and 55; there are five or six from my class who live here permanently.”
What has particularly enthralled Biggs is the community flavor. “The one thing that surprised me was the first time I went to the picnic it was amazing the people who were there.” Many she already knew. “I just thought they were long-time residents of the Peninsula, but they were also Ilwaco grads.”
Many have reversed the much-publicized trend in some small towns where young people graduate from high school, leave for college or jobs and never return to their home community. “There were a lot of people who could hardly wait to get away, but there are a lot of people who went away and came back.”
In Dad’s footsteps
Meanwhile, Mary Ann (Aase) Lee, who works as a nurse in Vancouver, is excited to follow in her father’s footsteps and keep the annual event thriving.
“We try to encourage people to have their class reunions at this time, so they are able to see other people who were in the community when they grew up,” she said. “That’s why people enjoy it so much.”
She was IHS class president in 1979, graduating during the Carter presidency when disco was in vogue. Her brother, Brian, and sisters Melissa and Donna also graduated from IHS, as did her mother, Pat Donnelly of Seaview. “It was a very good place to grow up,” Lee said. “I had good friends in high school and it’s still a very good group — we’ll have our 40th next year!”
The weekend coincides with the Kite Festival, which has grown into one of the biggest events of the Peninsula summer calendar, so she recommends out-of-town attendees make their hotel reservations early for future reunions.
This year, IHS class reunion groups will meet at Chico’s Pizza at various times Friday then gather together Saturday.
“We get 250 to 300 at the picnic,” Lee said. “It’s a great community event.”
• For information, contact Mary Ann (Aase) Lee, Class of 1979, at 360-450-8680. Her email is email@example.com.
Ilwaco High School Alumni Association
All-school reunion and annual picnic.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday Aug. 18.
Ilwaco High School football field.
Contact: Mary Ann (Aase) Lee, Class of 1979, at 360 450-8680 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
‘We get 250 to 300 at the picnic. It’s a great community event.’
— Mary Ann (Aase) Lee
president, IHS Alumni Association