Alumni celebrate the past, present and future

The 126th Annual Wilton High School Alumni Reunion held Saturday, April 6, with over 250 attendees


Looking to the Future, Honoring the Past

“It didn’t take long to get here,” jokes Bruce Rabedeaux, Class of 1974. “It’s hard to believe that 50 years have gone by so fast.”

“It’s enjoyable, seeing people I haven’t seen since I went to high school,” he adds. “I’m proud to come from Wilton; it’s a nice badge to wear.”

The 126th Annual Wilton High School Alumni Reunion rocked the Wilton Community Center on Saturday, April 6, with over 250 attendees.

Organized by the Wilton High School Alumni Association, alumni from here, there and everywhere gathered to honor the Wilton High School Class of 2024, their future alumni.

“We want the seniors, they are our guests,” says Ted Marolf, organizer, and Class of 1971. “We celebrate and give a tribute to them and to the milestone classes.”

Revamped 10 years ago, the Wilton High School Alumni Reunion puts the seniors front and center, literally and figuratively, for the evening celebration and buffet.

Meanwhile, generations of alumni fill out the rest of the event center, with special seating for the class celebrating its 50th reunion; this year it was the class of 1974.

“People come, and they like to see old friends in an environment that’s like a party,” says Marolf. “We’re really just throwing a party and honoring our graduating students.”

Upbeat music buoyed the lively conversation among alumni, intermittently interrupted by presentations, awards and slideshows. Quite a night to be a Beaver.

During the evening, the Wilton High School Alumni Association gave away over $30,000 in scholarships to 14 seniors, who were called up to the stage to receive their awards.

In fact, since 2015, the Wilton High School Alumni Association has awarded over $185,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors.

It’s been quite a leap from 2015 to now, when the Association first rebooted the reunion. Back then, the Association only gave away two scholarships.

One of those original recipients, Cole Grings, took the stage with Marolf. Class of 2015, he said it was an honor to receive the scholarship nearly 10 years ago.

“It really was a big deal to me,” said the ISU graduate. “My entire family is from Wilton; I’ve grown up in Wilton. It really meant a lot being the first one to get that; it was a great honor.”

As the Wilton High School Alumni Association has found its footing over the last decade, the number of scholarships they have awarded has gone up.

Now, they’ve established the Wilton High School Endowment Fund.

“We’re very blessed to have the scholarship money donated by the alumni,” said Ben Brown, Association organizer, and member of the Class of 1986.

“Now we’ve got an endowment fund set up and we're looking to solicit donations for that as well,” he said. The endowment will become a perpetual base of money for scholarships.

“Many generations of people have come through this school, and a large number of those generations have stuck around. We have this school as a common thread,” he says.

“We’ve been blessed with large numbers of attendees, and we think this organization will persevere,” he adds of the Wilton High School Alumni Association.

During the big evening, the milestone classes of 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1989, 1999, and 2009 were honored. One member from each class took time to speak.

The evening also included a special tribute to alumni who passed away this year, showing the names and faces of over 40 Wilton High School graduates that have passed on.

The evening's presentation kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance and a rousing rendition of Wilton High School’s fight song, which brought the crowd to their feet as they clapped along.

After a few announcements from Wilton High School Alumni Association President Lynn Ochiltree, Class of 1986, he invited Janine Arnold, Class of 1993, to welcome the crowd.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here today addressing all of you about to graduate from high school,” she said to the seniors up front.

“I’m here to tell you that you are ready,” she said. “Keep an open mind, stay curious, and never stop pursuing your passions.”

“So, congratulations again,” she added. “Make the alumni, your community and your family proud. Go, Beavers!”

The response to her welcome came from none other than her own daughter, Cecelia Robinson, one of the members of the class of 2024.

“As the class of 2024 stands on the cusp of a new beginning,” she responded. “We are filled with a deep sense of gratitude from the warm welcomes you’ve extended to us. Thank you for considering us for your scholarships.”

Of course, no alumni celebration would be complete without a few shoutouts and awards to the hardworking staff of Wilton High School and the alumni.

Specifically, this year the Most Valuable Teacher/Staff Award was given to Jill Proctor, secretary for the Wilton Community School District.

“We all know the principal really isn’t in charge; the secretary is,” joked Wilton High School Alumni Association President Ochiltree.

“They have the keys to the kingdom: the classrooms, the janitor’s closet, the vending machines, and certainly keys to the students’ hearts,” he said, presenting the award to Proctor.

Finally, Anita Arnold, Class of 1963, got on stage to find the oldest alumnus in attendance that evening. That distinction went to Bill Lenker, Class of 1951.

“I figured it was going to be me,” he said later while chuckling. “I’m the only one from my class; no one else bothered to show up.”

“There’s a lot of folks here I haven’t seen in a long time,” he added. “I just keep living every day.”

The 126th Annual Wilton High School Alumni Reunion was a special evening with special people, celebrating the entirety of a student body.

“I’d like to just say thank you to all of you for being here; without you, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” said Alumni Association President Ochiltree.

“We have a great group of people who have put in a lot of hours and a lot of time,” he added of the Association.

The 2024 Alumni Scholarship Recipients included Landyn Putman, Calli Langley (Cheryl Johannsen Scholarship), Casen Reid (Bobby Johannsen Scholarship), Hope Lock, Eve Watkins-Schoenig, Cecelia Robinson (Meinke Scholarship), Addison Hartsch, Catherine Hook (Meinke Scholarship), Imogen Jirak, Keira Polman, Benjamin Marine, Lillian Shuger, Abigail Hugunin, and Ava Barrett.

The 2024 Alumni Banquet Organizing Committee included Becky (Van Atta) Allgood, Joy Gehrls, Cindy (Beinke) Tietz, Ted Marolf, Becky (Maurer) Hansen, Debbie (Garvin) Marolf, Terri (Birkhofer) Denkman, Pam (Hawkins) Freeland, Ben Brown, Anita (Ploen) Arnold, Fred Grunder, Terri (Steffen) Stanley, Lynn Ochiltree, Jane (Williams) Owens, and Jeanette (Taylor) Sherwood.