Blasdell High School seniors are shown here as they posed for this picture in June 1942. Our country had been at war for six months. Certainly, this class was no different from other graduating classes in Western New York at that time as they all had to prepare for an uncertain future in a world shaken by a tragic war. Before the war would end three years later, all of their lives would be touched in some way by this fight for freedom.
Their motto had been “courage in danger is half the battle” and this small class of young Americans would stand by that motto in the years ahead as many were called to war, some right out of high school. Bill Kleis would receive a Purple Heart and Ed Kern and Harry Griffin would be asked to make the supreme sacrifice for a grateful and grieving nation.
This class would also make significant contributions in the fields of education, medicine, and philanthropy. Dr. Elizabeth O’Neil in 1964 would be named a winner of the prestigious John Hay Fellowship at the University of Chicago. “Betty,” as she is best known to friends, is still active in Blasdell High School Alumni affairs and has since retired as professor emeritus from Daeman College in 1987.
The late Dr. Ira George Spicer left home right after graduation to serve in World War II. One of seven children raised during the Depression, he earned his college degree from the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill and returned to the service during the Korean Conflict. He later would become and anesthesiologist and in January 1995, he died at the age of 70 in Torrance, Calif.
The Spicer Family then announced that Dr. Spicer had left $500,000 to the Frontier School District to establish a scholarship fund for high school seniors based on need and scholarship. He wanted to make sure that no scholar would have to give up college because of lack of money. According to Spicer’s sister, June Iris Spicer, of Amherst, Ira never forgot Blasdell High School or the teachers who he remembered always going the extra mile to help kids learn.
Dr. Spicer never returned to Blasdell High School. The school became a part of the Frontier system in 1952 while he was serving in Korea. But although he was miles away, it’s obvious he never forgot his roots or the school and faculty who helped him launch his career.
In the photo are from left: Front row: Class officers Sherman Stoops, Ida Mae Johnson, Curt Grinder and Ida Volpini. Second row: Ralph Brehm, Eleanor Celini, Ira Spicer, Norma Lindstorm, Charles Cramer, Dorothy Kozak, Harry Griffin, Florence Buchanan, Jim O’Neil and Bertha Sattler. Third row: Ray Stiefler, Ella House, Ed Kern, Theresa Carlin, Bill Plarr, Colletta Metzger, Dean Sloan, Helen Davis, Harry Hodson, and Helen Arnst. Fourth row: Hazel Clendening, Bill Kleis, Betty O’Neil, John Danahy, Norma Bergeron, Lou Violanti, Betty Cole, and Harry Willard.
Photo: Hamburg Historical Society, Elma Titus Collection
From the Archives...
The Hamburg Sun & Erie County Independent:
Thursday, July 2, 1942 - The Hamburg Rod and Gun Club will hold a special meeting July 10 at 8:30 p.m. Enlistments will be taken for an anti-parachute troop which the club is forming.
Material for this feature is compiled by Hamburg Town Historian Jim Baker.