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Sharp minds, sharper wits abound at Ronan’s class of 1942 reunion

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RONAN — In a beautiful home with Mission Mountain views less than a hundred yards from Ronan’s golf course, six members of Ronan High School’s class of 1942 came together for the first time in five years. 

The six former classmates sat together in Don Olson’s living room and exchanged stories more than 70 years in the making. Ed Bratton, Bill Hocker, Phil Maxwell, Lloyd Ingram, Don Olson and Clara Miller laughed and smiled often as they remembered friends and events of the distant past. 

“Look at all these old guys,” Olson said with a laugh as he surveyed the room. 

“No, Don. You always said we were just now middle-aged,” came Maxwell’s quick retort. “Just the same, I think Bill’s held his age better than the rest of us.”

“That’s because he didn’t chase girls and drink beer.”

“No, not at that time I didn’t.”

“Yea, he was the smart one.”

The quick jabs and good-natured ribbing flew across the room with dizzying speed and made the attribution of jokes and clever remarks nearly impossible to catalog. Always accompanied by a laugh and authentic smile, it was clear that these individuals hadn’t missed a step or forgotten a single moment in their storied lives. 

According to Ingram, at least five members of that year’s class became millionaires, and more than one-third of the class remains happy and healthy: Six graduates were unable to attend as they no longer live in the valley. Twelve of the original 33 students students of Ronan’s class of 1942 survive. 

Theirs is the greatest generation. Graduating in 1942, they heard firsthand about the attacks on Pearl Harbor. They knew they would step out of a cap and gown and into a combat uniform. Each and every one of them served in World War II, and amazingly, they didn’t lose a single classmate. 

“We sure did get out of high school at the perfect time to go to war, didn’t we?” Bratton laughed. 

All recalled fond memories of free drinks and lots of credit in area bars before graduation. The bar owners knew the young people might not come back from overseas. 

Thankfully, all made it home. Each individual pursued a different career, but the common denominator of the group seemed to be success in every walk of life. 

Bratton became the county agricultural agent; Ingram and Olson became lawyers; and Ingram is still licensed to practice law in the state of Montana. He takes the bar exam every year and passes with ease. Maxwell became a real estate agent and rancher, while Hocker became a certified potato grower. Clara Miller married Pat Miller and became what Maxwell lovingly referred to as “a farmer’s wife.”

As the afternoon began to wind down, a comfortable silence fell over the room — the kind of contented hush only a reunion with long lost friends can inspire. 

After a few seconds, Ingram raised his glass, smiled and said, “Well, it’s been an interesting life.”

“And a good go,” Maxwell added. 

“All of us should be damn thankful.”

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