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Reflections from the Class of 1948

Former Roosevelt High School students gather for reunion in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS — In 1948, Babe Ruth died, Harry S. Truman was elected president and Israel was recognized by the United States as a country.

World War II was over and 121 students from Roosevelt High School’s senior class began a new chapter in their lives.

Nearly seven decades later, 13 members of the Class of 1948, gathered for a reunion on July 22 at the Best Western Plus Longbranch Hotel in Cedar Rapids to reconnect and celebrate the 68 years since they attended school together.

Roosevelt — now a middle school in the Cedar Rapids Community School District — graduated 121 students from its June class and 48 from its January class in 1948. More than 70 alumni are still living around the country.

Norine Powell Jelinek, 84, of Cedar Rapids, was among the youngest in her class, having graduated high school at age 16. She and fellow alumna Beverly Heaton, 85, of Cedar Rapids, organized the lunch, saying it was important for the classmates to have a chance to reconnect.

A lot has changed over the years class members took time to reflect on those changes and share some nuggets of wisdom. Here’s what they had to say:

TECHNOLOGY

Technology and the advent of social media are the most notable changes members of the Class of 1948 have witnessed.

Fred Mally, of Solon, said while he sees technology as an opportunity for criminal activity, it also amazes him how quickly individuals can communicate.

POLITICS

In 1948, Truman defeated Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey and third-party candidate Strom Thurmond. Even though 18-year-olds couldn’t vote in 1948, they knew Truman — who became president in 1945 after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt — was popular, Jelinek said.

“With Truman, there was more hype, but not as much as there is now,” she said, noting the upcoming race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

STATE OF THE WORLD

The former Roosevelt students acknowledged many of the current challenges facing the world, but said they remember similar turmoil back when they were coming through school.

“It is a highly divided partisan country, but at that time, the issue was the communists,” said John Petro, 85, of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The country was in the first years of the Cold War as the Roosevelt High students left school, a time in which the country was dealing with postwar McCarthyism and anti-communism.

However, Petro said he sees similarities to the anti-communism movement to today’s world with the “fearmongering going on with the immigrants, Islam and Muslims.”

“We’ve always got to have some bad guy,” Petro said.

SECRET OF LIFE

Many of the former students — now all in their mid-80s — say the secret to a good life is a combination of many things, including a loving family, a healthy lifestyle, good genes and spirituality.

Beverly Heaton, 85, of Cedar Rapids, said her advice is simply to be happy.

“I think that’s the secret,” she said, “having a positive attitude and enjoying life.”

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