Denfeld News

Aug. 8, 1998
Duluth News Tribune

Denfeld class of ’29 reunites
By Mary Thompson

It’s been 70 years since they shared classes and locker rooms at Denfeld High School. But 16 former classmates gathered at the Radisson Hotel on Friday for what may be the last reunion of the class of 1928.

Now in their late 80s, many of them gave up driving years ago. Reunion conversations were more likely to be stories of heart problems and stiff joints than common memories from high school.

But they still loved to laugh with one another and catch up on winter vacations, new grandchildren and old friends.

Their 70th anniversary was special, but the class of ’28 has been meeting every summer since 1978 thanks to Ruth Opien, who coordinated the reunions.

Opien kept track of her classmates over the years, noting in her reunion book who lives in a nursing home, who has died. Looking through her book Friday, she realized that only 48 of her original 175 classmates were still alive.

Opien and her classmates graduated from high school when Calvin Coolidge was president, the Charleston was a dance craze and the Wall Street crash of 1929 was still a year away.

The class gets smaller each year, but the people who still make the reunion are pretty spry for their years.

Ted Luck still golfs and fishes in between trips to China and Arizona. Olga Nelson plans to resume her weekly volunteering at St. Luke’s Hospital as soon as her broken hip mends.

Opien, a retired credit union manager living in Hermantown, spent a good part of her year writing letters, calling classmates and confirming luncheon reservations for the reunion — which she insists will be the last.

“This is it. It’s too much work. I don’t drive any more, so it’s tough to get around,” Opien said.

While a few reunion-goers made noises about holding a 75th reunion, others seemed content to have this be their last gathering.

“I’m just glad I can go to this one,” said Fran Slennes, who still lives in West Duluth.

While Opien seemed resolute, her daughter, Claudia Anick, wasn’t going to write off a 75th reunion just yet.

“I remember my mother saying that the 65th was her last reunion,” Anick said. “We’ll see what happens.”

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