Celebrations bring close-knit class back together
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Members of Victoria High School's class of 1960 admit it doesn't take much of a reason for them to get together.
But several classmates recently had two special occasions to celebrate in a span of four weeks.
In honor of the year of them celebrating their 70th birthdays, a group of classmates took a trip to Branson, Mo., in late September.
Then last weekend, a bunch of them got together to celebrate one of their classmates being inducted into the Fort Hays State University Tiger Hall of Fame.
Ken Dreiling -- who started two years at FHSU after transferring from St. Benedict's College in Atchison, which is now Benedictine College -- was the guest of honor at The Library Bar and Grill. He was a senior on Victoria's first undefeated football team in the fall of 1959 that was coached by Tony "Red" Pfeifer.
Dreiling, who now lives in Texas, made the trip home to Ellis County to participate in the Hall of Fame activities, where he was introduced at the Hall of Fame banquet by his best friend and former teammate Ron Schumacher.
Schumacher, who lives in Arvada, Colo., wasn't able to join his classmates in Branson because of a prior commitment but made sure he made it to the Hays area last weekend.
"We had such a fantastic time on our 50th anniversary that I was disappointed I couldn't go (to Branson)," Schumacher said of the VHS class of '60. "This is such a special class, so I was really glad to see some of the classmates Friday night."
Schumacher said he considers himself lucky to have been able to attend college so close to home.
"Next to my parents and my family, Fort Hays was the most influential thing that happened to me in my life," said Schumacher, who went on to serve as a school administrator for more than 25 years in suburban Denver.
"I'm pretty old," said Schumacher, who like the rest of his classmates turned 70 this year. "And I will put that in the top 10 weekends of my life. It was awesome."
Ditto for the weekend in Branson, Dreiling said. Nearly half of the 37 surviving classmates (out of 46 graduates) and other family members and friends met in Branson from various parts of the country to attend shows together and reminisce.
"That was probably the trip of a lifetime for some of us," Dreiling said.
Sheila (Roth) Leiker-Page agreed.
"I'm sure it's the best (reunion) we've ever had," she said. "To a person, they would say that. Whenever we get together, it takes us five minutes to get back to where we left off the last time we saw each other. We were a really close-knit class."
Leiker-Page has learned they still are.
She was vice president of their senior class and has carried organization responsibilities into adulthood and was in charge of reunions through the years.
However, three of Leiker-Page's biggest helpers -- Corrine Dinkel, Everett Braun and Iris Knoll -- all died within the past 10 to 15 years.
"They helped me front and center," Leiker-Page said of that trio. "Now, the other (classmates) have really stepped in and helped me."
Jeanette (Kippes) Dreiling, who like Leiker-Page still lives in Victoria, said she thinks part of the reason the class has remained so close is because "we loved high school so much."
"We were all like brothers and sisters," said Jeanette Dreiling, one of three senior cheerleaders at Victoria during 1959-60 who also played in the band. "We had a great music program, and our band went to state all the time.
"I think it was the work ethic, all the kids coming from farming communities," Jeanette Dreiling added. "And we had great teachers. At the time, we thought they were so strict, but looking back, we were lucky to have the teachers we did."