HAGERSTOWN, Maryland — George “Bud” English was a Boy Scout who earned top honors during his sophomore year at Hagerstown High School and worked at Musey & Evans clothing store in downtown Hagerstown.
Pfc. George English, serving in the Third Army of General Patton’s 95th Infantry Division, was killed in France on Nov. 18, 1944. He was 19.
The photo that ran with the story that day in The Daily Mail features a young man in uniform, the same young, unblemished face that appeared in the yearbook for Hagerstown High School, from which English graduated about 17 months earlier.
Those two photos now are on the same page in one of six binders that contain obituaries and other biographical information about members of Hagerstown High School’s Class of 1943.
Several of English’s high school classmates assembled the volumes, which the reunion committee is donating to the John Clinton Frye Western Maryland Room at the new Washington County Free Library in downtown Hagerstown.
The volumes were to be displayed Saturday during the class of 1943′s 70-year reunion at Fountain Head Country Club.
The reunion included a scheduled reading of a scroll listing the names of deceased classmates. Reunion committee member Hazel (Stonesifer) Chilcote said she expected Saturday to be the final big reunion for the class, although it probably will have smaller get-togethers.
During the reunion, those attending had an opportunity to write notes about their classmates and those will be added to the biographical volumes, said Chilcote, 88, of Hagerstown.
The volumes, and an accompanying photo album of class members, will be available for research in the Western Maryland Room. The contents of the binders are available online through the library’s website at www.washcolibrary.org.
“Any information that we can get on individuals is always good to have because you have a lot of people who do family research,” said John Frye, county historian and curator for the Western Maryland Room collection.
“The fact that it’s a wartime class makes it rather interesting, too,” Frye said.
The Class of 1943 graduated about 18 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and approximately a year before the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.
A dozen classmates weren’t on hand to receive their diplomas because they had been called up by the military, while more than 20 more left shortly after graduation for basic training and then the war, according to Herald-Mail archives.
Frye said he didn’t know of any other class at any area high school that had done such a project.
“It’s a good idea, but it’s an awful lot of work,” Frye said.
Reunion committee member Ed Cushen, 88, who lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, said the collection will refresh classmates’ memories, but he also hopes it becomes “grist for somebody’s research.” Cushen said he would like someone to use it to study the dynamics of a high school class, from beginning to end.
Eloise Shaffer, who lives in the Williamsport area, said she began the first book of classmate obituaries in the late 1980s or early 1990s, when she was secretary of the class reunion committee.
Shaffer said she initially listed the obituaries chronologically, but they have been reorganized to be alphabetical, with women listed alphabetically by their maiden names.
“When we put this together, one of the guys said, ‘Does this mean we have to die alphabetically now?’” Chilcote said with a laugh.
The collection will continue to be updated with information about surviving members, Chilcote said.
Hagerstown High School, which once stood on the east side of Potomac Avenue, near Mealey Parkway in Hagerstown’s North End, opened in 1926 and became a middle school in 1958. The building was closed in 1979 after Northern Middle School was built, according to Herald-Mail archives. The school was torn down, with work beginning in November 1980, to make way for housing.
It was Ralph Wallace’s interest in the military and his classmate English that prompted his cousin, Shaffer, to begin assembling the obituaries for Hagerstown High School’s Class of 1943, Shaffer said.
“(Wallace) said he thought we should have a permanent record of our classmates,” Shaffer said.
Dorothy “Dot” Martin and Wallace, who died in 2005, helped start the collection, providing Shaffer with copies of classmates’ obituaries from local newspapers, Shaffer said.
“They’re an interesting crew,” said Jill Craig, digitization librarian for the Western Maryland Regional Library.
Craig, with some help from Cushen, scanned the biographical information so it could be available online.
“I always found it fascinating because you’ve got folks who went on to do great and glorious things,” Craig said.
“There was quite a group of prominent people in that Class of ’43,” Frye said.
The class included the late John R. “Jack” Hershey Jr., a local philanthropist and leader in the financial community, and the late Hugh Brandenburg, a college professor who often volunteered at the Western Maryland Hospital Center and received the Washington County Most Wonderful Person Award in 1998.
Donald E. Zombro’s obituary notes he was a World War II veteran who was active with youth and adult sport leagues from Little League to bowling. He served on both the Washington County Planning Commission and the county election board.
The surviving class members include Donovan R. Beachley, of Beachley Furniture, and Jacob “Jack” Berkson, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates.
There’s a newspaper clipping about the death of Phyllis Clem, a classmate who died at age 17 when she was struck by an automobile in front of her home as she walked to a school bus.
There are people who worked at Fairchild and Letterkenny Army Depot, and people who owned their own businesses, such as Ruth (Sarikas) Tedrick, who co-owned a home improvement business with her late husband.
There’s the late “Mattie” (Snyder) O’Brien, who was a crossing guard in Halfway for 21 years, and Catherine (Deibert) Delauter, who was active in church and was a great cook known for her pies and cakes.
There are more than 200 names in the volumes that include biographies of class members who did not graduate from Hagerstown High School for various reasons. Some students died before graduation, and some dropped out or transferred to other schools.
In addition to Phyllis Clem’s death, Benjamin Robert Schindel died at age 15 when he was struck by an automobile near his home, according to a Nov. 29, 1940, clipping.
In addition to obituaries, the volumes contain other newspaper clippings, photos and other documents.
For instance, there is a copy of Brandenburg’s funeral service program, which features a picture he took of two bluebirds.
Brandenburg was known as “the bird man” because he would sit for hours to take a photo of a bird, Shaffer said.
For English, there are letters related to Lorraine American Cemetery in France, where he is buried. One letter was from Dick Miller, who wrote to Wallace, describing his trip to English’s grave site. The letter includes the photo he sent Wallace of the grave site.
Along with the six binders containing clear sleeves filled with classmate biographical information, there is a photo album that includes images of the classmates during their high school years.
In one black-and-white close-up image, a bespectacled teenage boy is eating a slice of pizza.
In another photo, three young men stand behind three young women sitting in front of them outdoors. The head of one of the men has been cut out in a heart shape.
“The only thing I can figure is I cut it out and I put it in a locket,” said Becky Elgin, who donated the photo album to the collection.
“I had forgotten I had done that,” Elgin said of the heart-shaped cutout that bore the face of her high school sweetheart and husband of 67 years, Bill Elgin.
After graduating from high school, Bill Elgin joined the Navy while she, then Becky Bowers, entered training to be a nurse, Becky Elgin said.
She worked at Washington County Hospital and he worked for Potomac Edison. They lived in Guam and Northern Virginia before moving to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, in 1988 to be close to their children, Becky Elgin said.
Elgin, who put the high school yearbook photos on the classmate pages in the biographies collection, said she thinks the collection is a wonderful idea.
“Hopefully, people would be able to see what these old fogeys did in the past,” she said.
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Maryland, www.herald-mail.com
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