KINGSTON, Pennsylvania — Sometimes when the old gang gets together, there are fewer members to gather.
Such is the case of the Kingston High School Class of 1959. It's a class that was once 221 members strong and for years prided itself in boasting that their survival rate is much higher than most others.
That's why at the 50th reunion just five years ago, the turnout was good and everybody enjoyed talking about those days of sock hops, football games and running through the halls of the fabled brown brick building on Chester Street that is now the Wyoming Valley West Middle School.
But as the 55th reunion approaches — it will be held Saturday evening at the Hotel at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs — the planning committee is disappointed with the number of reservations, but even more chagrined that several classmates are unable to attend due to health issues.
"We've lost more classmates in the last five years than ever before," said Committee Co-Chairman John Bonczewski. "But 84 percent of our class is still with us."
The committee, co-chaired by Jayne Searfoss Haefele, said 37 KHS '59 class members have passed away. Several more have reported failing health and are unable to make what the committee feels may be their last reunion.
But the committee — also comprised on Barbara Piledggi Volpetti, Sylvia Coslosky Casey, Robert Bomboy, Margaret Hopkins Kistler and Jane Wood — has planned a fun evening for Saturday, and despite a slow response to the invitations, they are hopeful all attending will be pleased.
"It's our history," Kistler said. "We remember our past and we talk about what has happened since the last time we were together."
Volpetti said she is looking forward to renewing friendships and catching up on people she hasn't seen or talked to in years.
"We actually have gotten to know more about each other through these reunions," Bonczewski said. "Many of us have become close friends."
Haefele said the class members — most age 73 or 74 — are at a point in their lives where it's nice to see each other and reminisce.
"We're still here," she said. "And we like to get together to have fun together."
Wood said reunions are a time to reconnect.
"It's very nostalgic," she said. "I like to remember my high school days. I don't think kids today have the same experiences we had."
Kistler said in the 1950s Kingston, the entire town was a neighborhood where everybody knew everybody else.
"You couldn't get away with anything," she said with a chuckle. "We're all survivors and that's why it's so good to get together."
Bomboy, a former Wilkes professor and the author of several books, said he enjoys hearing the stories.
"I want to know what my classmates have been doing for the last 55 years," he said. "And I always hear so many variations on life."
One of Bomboy's books — "Smart Boys Swimming in the River Styx" — is "an ode to the joys of youth, the joys that make life precious at any time" and is set in "Westmoor," which actually is a section of Kingston. It chronicles the fictional lives of five boys and five girls as they travel through life.
"It's been so long since we graduated that a lot of people now don't even realize that there was a Kingston High School," said Haefele, of Dallas. "Almost three generations have passed, and we wind up telling our great-grandchildren about the things we did then."
The committee members are a proud group, calling their beloved Kingston class of 1959 "a powerhouse in its time." They said the school's seniors had a championship football season, and the team's quarterback and class president — Ed Rutkowski — went on to play with the NFL's Buffalo Bills. The class produced doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy, musicians, engineers and scientists. One — Dr. Richard Brandt — appeared frequently on the David Letterman Show to explain the mysteries of the universe; another — Dr. Ronald Pearlman — helped design and innovate stealth aircraft for the Boeing Company.
Bomboy said the class had 110 boys and 111 girls. Its female members graduated just at the moment when women in large numbers would start to take wage-earning jobs outside the home and begin to break through the glass ceiling in many occupations and professions.
"Our classmates live in 29 states, but 54, almost a quarter of the original class, still live in the Valley and in Northeastern Pennsylvania, many of them in the Back Mountain," Bonczewski said. "We hope they'll come to this reunion. It may be our last chance to get together as a group."
Information from: Times Leader, http://www.timesleader.com