Fall is always a festive season at District 99’s two high schools, and homecoming is a highlight. Reunions are common, but the one planned for October 4 is remarkable: The Downers Grove High School Class of 1944 will gather to celebrate its 75th reunion. Back in 1944, when many students were heading off to serve in World War II, Downers Grove High School was the only public high school serving the community. (Downers Grove South High School opened in 1964.)
“For more than 90 years, these classmates have raised their families, built their businesses, and given back the Downers Grove community,” commented Dr. Hank Thiele, District 99’s superintendent. “District 99 is proud and honored that they continue to celebrate their high school experience and their community.”
THEN: Class of 1944 members planning the 75th reunion include (clockwise from top left): John Prescott, Dr. Floyd Mizener, John Guarnaccia, Edris (nee Myers) Byers, John Mochel, Doris (nee Hawk) Mochel.
NOW: Members of the Downers Grove High School Class of 1944 gather to plan their 75th High School Reunion. Back row (l-r): Jacob Pollack, John Prescott, Dr. Floyd Mizener, John Guarnaccia; First row (l-r): Doris Mochel, John Mochel and Edris Byers
Seven classmates gathered this summer to start planning and searching for fellow classmates. During their meeting, they shared memories of the past.
- “I always remember watching the boys play sports after school,” said Edris Byers (nee Myers), a former grade school teacher at the Washington, which closed in 1978, and Lester Schools. “And I remember most of the men leaving for the war the morning after graduation.”
- Doris Mochel (nee Hawk), who married classmate John Mochel in 1948 after he returned home from the war, said she and Edris had fun times dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom.
- John Mochel, who is a Navy veteran and has attended several Veterans Day events at North High over the years, has also served on several Downers Grove area boards including the YMCA and the Downers Grove Library. Playing football and on the “lightweight” basketball teams were highlights for him.
- “Downers Grove has been good to me,” said Jacob Pollack, who served in the Army and was stationed in Northern Italy for two years.
- After graduation and serving in the Army, John Guarnaccia ran several businesses including carpentry, restaurants and refrigeration. He has also attended several of North High’s Veterans Day events, and his son, John Guarnaccia, Jr. (‘72 alum), was inducted into the North High Athletics Hall of Fame in baseball in 2003. “I remember going to school and going straight to work in order to support my family,” he recalls.
- John Prescott served in the Army and was wounded just as the war ended in 1945. In high school, he played football and basketball and was on the track team, but was also a big fan of the arts. ““I loved watching our classmates on stage in plays and choirs; they were so talented,” he said.
- Dr. Floyd Mizener served in the Marines for two years and became an optometrist. He supports many local organizations including the Lions Club, YMCA, and Good Samaritan Hospital. In 2005, Dr. Mizener received the North High Alumni Award of Excellence. “I’m proud of this school and our community,” Dr. Mizener said. “I hope we can get in touch with more classmates to celebrate our 75 years during homecoming.”
The Class of 1944 plans to attend the school’s homecoming assembly, ride in the parade and cheer on the Trojans in the football game on Friday, October 4 and share a meal the next day. Former classmates who are looking to connect with the Class of 1944 can contact Dr. Floyd Mizener at 630-910-0986 or North High Activities Office at 630-795-8403.