News Posted 7/7/14 - 12/29/14


Gretchen Lotzer Helps Chicago's Immigrants

(posted 12/29/14)
LOGAN SQUARE - CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — Classmate Gretchen (Lotzer) Farbstein, who goes by the career name of Gretchen Moore could be retired and having a leisurely lunch at the Chicago Walnut Room but several years ago everything changed. She'd seen dozens of immigrant men in a lot on Milwaukee and Belmont streets waiting in freezing weather for non-existent work and couldn't sleep. She remembered how a grandfather had sponsored 100 displaced persons after WWII and brought them to America. He implored his 37 grandchildren to always help people out.

So the next day, Gretchen Moore went back and after herding a group of guys into Dunkin Donuts for hot coffee found out things were worse than she thought.

Soon this non-ethnic not bi-lingual woman was out finding clothes, taking guys to the clinic, collecting food donations and commandeering a room in Resurrection Catholic Church at 3043 N. Francisco, Chicago, IL. In a year, she was a licensed 501c3 charity but is still primarily a one woman 24/7 show, as explained by her attorney Walter Zarnecki, working with a couple of grass roots priests to help 100's of male Latin immigrants working for the American dream.

This is a real Chicago story of one gutsy woman and two parish priests who stay involved by enabling men who came here to find work survive and feed their families during these trying times.

You can read more about Gretchen in her 40th reunion biography.


Geraldine (Stevens) Hawthorne Dies of Cancer

(posted 12/20/14)
ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN — Classmate Geraldine "Geri" (Stevens) Hawthorne died June 17, 2014 at the age of 72. As explained by her friend and classmate Marilyn (VanDenberg) Williams, Geri was first diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer in January 2014 and there was little that the doctors could do for her.

Geri and her husband Wally Hawthorne last attended the 50th reunion. More information can be found in her obituary.


Navy Veteran Bill Endres Dies at Home

(posted 12/18/14)
LOVES PARK, IL — Classmate William Walter Endres died December 16, 2014 at the age of 74.

A Memorial Service will be held Monday, December 22, 2014 and visitation Sunday, December 21, 2014. You can share an online memory or condolence at or send a note to the address listed in the member section. More about Bill can be found in his obituary.


Beth (VanSickle) Metz Succumbs to Cancer at 73

(posted 12/18/14)
SPENCER, INDIANA — Classmate Elizabeth "Beth" (VanSickle) Metz died December 12, 2014 at the age of 73. She survived her first episode with cancer a few years ago only to have it return and take her life.

Beth and her husband Bob Metz have a large and beautiful family as shown in photos with the story of their 50th wedding anniversary posted on this page on 7/20/2014 (see news story below).

A Memorial Service was held Wednesday, December 17, 2014. You can share an online memory or condolence at or send a note to the address listed in the member section. More about Beth can be found in her obituary.

We received a story from Beth's husband Bob written by Beth in her final days entitled "A walk Through the Valley with God".


Mother of DeAnne (Lind) Kudzma dies at 98

(posted 12/18/14) FORT MILLS, SC — Lucille Lohmann, the Mother of DeAnne (Lind) Kudzma, died December 11, 2014 at the age of 98. At the prior request of Mrs. Lohmann and the family, there were no services or obituary.


Vicki (Rizzo) Haller has Lost her Husband at 75

(posted 11/6/14) LOVES PARK, IL — Thomas A. Haller the husband of Victoria (Rizzo) Haller died October 24, 2014. They had been married for 55 years. Read his obituary for more information.


Kathy (Shuga) Albert has Lost her Mother at 98

(posted 9/12/14) ROCKFORD, IL — Loarraine M. Shuga, the Mother of Kathy (Shuga) Albert, has passed away September 10, 2014. She had lived a long life at 98 years of age. Kathy, who lives in Coleman, Wisconsin, recently visited with her West High School friends at the 55th reunion Friday evening event in Rockford. Read her Mother's obituary for more information.




It was a 55th Reunion to Remember

(posted 8/20/14) The 55th reunion event was held August 15th and 16th 2014 at the Hoffman House Holiday Inn on Rockford’s east side.  It started out on Friday with 18 holes of golf at Macktown Golf Course followed later by the Friday night mixer with hors d’oeuvres and drinks and plenty of opportunity for conversation with fellow classmates.

Saturday was the busy day starting with the tour of the West High school building.  About 25 classmates followed the tour which started in the new “trophy room” and included the library, auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium and the swimming pool plus the new front garden paved with donated bricks commemorating students and veterans who have attended the school.

Mild, comfortable weather provided the setting for the picnic at Sinnissippi Park where 28 classmates gathered for lunch and more conversation. Other "on your own" activities included the new Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, Anderson Gardens, Midway Village, the Burpee Museum and more.

The major event was the Saturday night dinner dance attended by about 125 classmates from all over the country including Florida, New Hampshire, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, and California.  The farthest travelers again this reunion has to be Russ Rudolph and Margaret (Holm) Rudolph from Anchorage Alaska.  After dinner Mike Williamson, the bandleader, led the group in a rendition of the reunion theme song “Young at Heart” followed by the school song led by our cheerleader Jerry Rotello.  The dance floor then filled with dancers several still able to do a respectable jitterbug.

The latest offspring statistics per our database follows:

  • The classmate with the most Children (9) is Marilynn (VanDenberg) Williams.
  • Most Grandchildren (23) is Suzanne (Warr) Schafman.
  • Most Great Grandchildren (12) is Marilynn (VanDenberg) Williams.

Video of the reunion event is available on a DVD and, for a limited time, can still be ordered by sending a check made out to "West High Class of 1959" for $25.00 to Pete Zammuto,  5182 Welsh Rd, Rockford, IL 61107.


Two Classmates Confirmed Found, but Gone

(posted 8/14/14)
Charles Stuart Sherbondy has been on the "Missing List" for a very long time. Rumors had it that he had died in California but we had no concrete evidence - until now! Thanks to some search help from Gordon Hall who procured the death certificate from Marin County California where we could link to his Mother's maiden name. He died May 4, 1994. You can read more about "Stuart" in his obituary.

Another search by Gordon led to the discovery that classmate Phillip Cimino (right) had died July 12, 2009. Gordon talked to Phil's wife (divorced prior to his death) who confirmed that he had died evidently from complications of the PTSD he suffered from due to his service in the Vietnam War. They had two children together including his namesake who was living in Rockford. You can read more in his obituary.




David Johns Dies in the Arms of his Loving Wife

(posted 8/8/14)
ROCKFORD, IL — Classmate David Russell Johns died August 5, 2014 at the age of 73. David was a grain farmer north of the city on Rockton Ave where he owned Maple Lawn Farms.

A Memorial Service will be held Monday, August 11, 2014. You can share an online memory or condolence at or send a note to the address listed in the member section. More about David can be found in his obituary.



Bob Cotter Dies at 73

(posted 8/4/14)
ROCKFORD, IL — Robert James Cotter died July 30, 2014 at the age of 73. Services and visitation are this week at Honquest Funeral Home where you can share an online memory or condolence or send a note to the address listed in the member section. You can read more about Bob in his obituary.






Gary E. Johnson has Lost his Mother at 96

(posted 8/3/14) ROCKFORD, IL — After losing his Fiancee in March, classmate Gary Johnson has put his Mother to rest in June. Irene Johnson, a Rockford resident, died June 23, 2014. Gary, who lives in Sarasota, FL has been in Rockford closing out his Mother's affairs. He will try to attend the August reunion so look for him there. Read her obituary for more information.




Father of Dave Ollman Passes on at 97

(posted 7/30/14) UPMC BEDFORD — Benjamin F. Ollman, the father of classmate Dave Ollman passed away Monday July 28, 2014. He was 97 years old. He graduated from Rockford High School and Beloit College. If you wish you can leave an online condolence to or send a note to the address listed in the member section. More details can be found in the obituary.



Russell and Margaret (Holm) Rudolph Celebrate 50th

(posted 7/28/14)
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA - The special class couple Russell Rudolph and Margaret (Holm) Rudolph are both graduates from the West High Class of 59 and they have spent a year now celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary!

Their 50th anniversary celebration began August 31st 2013 so last summer, they bought a motorhome and traveled for 9 weeks, covering 12,000 miles – visiting national parks, family and friends.  This past June, they and their family – 3 children (Deb, Kath, and Rust), their spouses and 6 grandchildren – all spent a fabulous week together in a beach house at the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  Since they hadn’t all been together for 8 years, it was a wonderful way to conclude their 50th celebration. In addition, they will be attending our 55th class reunion and will have many fascinating stories to tell of their travels and of living life in Anchorage, Alaska.

Russ and Maggie met at Third Presbyterian Church when Maggie’s family moved from West State to Quincy Street in 1953, the summer before 7th grade.  They both attended Roosevelt Junior High and then West High and started dating as Juniors at West.

After graduation, Russ attended the University of Illinois while Maggie stayed in Rockford and worked as a secretary at the Air Force Office at Sundstrand Aviation for 3 years.  Then Maggie joined Russ at the U of I for a year, and they married on August 31, 1963, at Third Presbyterian Church, Rockford, IL.  They honeymooned at Niagra Falls.  Click the link here to read the wedding announcement in the RRstar.

Fifty years later, after Air Force and civilian contractor careers for Russ, and a civil service career for Maggie, they’ve been enjoying retirement in Anchorage, Alaska since 2005.

Below are some photos taken of Russ and Maggie at the class 50th reunion in 2009.











Mother of Carol Rolig Dies at 94

(posted 7/26/14) ROCKFORD, IL — Classmate Carol (Rolig) Robb has lost her mother Marguerite Johnson July 23, 2014. She was living in Rockford at the Fairhaven Christian Retirement Center. Carol lives in Summerville, South Carolina and last attended the West High Class Mini-reunion in September 2011. If you wish you can leave an online condolence to or send a note to the address listed in the member section. More details can be found in the obituary.



Beth (VanSickle) and Bob Metz Celebrate 50th

(posted 7/20/14)
SPENCER, Indiana - On June 21, 2014 Beth (VanSickle) and Bob Metz celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Congratulations! The celebration included their three daughters, 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. The three daughters (Penny, Gredel, and Karen) are shown with their mom and dad in the photo at the right. Beth and Bob live on a small (40 acres) farm about 7 miles out in the country along the White River south of Spencer Indiana.

The wedding was in Rockford June 21, 1964 at Court Street Methodist Church. They spent their honeymoon traveling in Wisconsin.

The couple met while teaching at Hamilton Jr. High in Loves Park. Bob taught 9th grade science while Beth taught the same students math. While in Rockford Bob taught at Roosevelt and West after leaving Hamilton Jr. High. Our classmate Joan (Picken) Bailey-Murray taught at Hamilton and also at Wilson Jr. High with the Metz's.

The family spent 4-6 weeks every summer camping in Canada but these travels came to an end when their girls got involved in 4H and they had a lot of animals to take care of. So in 1979 they moved to the farm in Spenser Indiana where Bob got a job teaching at the local high school and Beth subbed in grades K-12. She also went back to school and got her master 's in language education. After the girls moved out and most of the animals were gone they traveled again including trips to Europe and Alaska.

Currently Beth is struggling with some medical issues including hip replacement and a recurrence of her previous episode of cancer. We hope that her doctors will be able to help her feel better soon. Meanwhile we know she will be in the thoughts of our fellow classmates.

Below are some photos of Beth and Bob taken at the class 50th reunion in 2009.









Frances (Herdklotz) Greiner has lost her husband

(posted 7/9/14)
ROCKFORD, IL — We only recently discovered that classmate Frances (Herdklotz) Greiner had lost her husband Dr. Peter Granier June 10, 2013 at the age of 72.

Frances and Peter are shown in the photo at the right taken at the 50th reunion dinner August 2009.

Frances is planning to come to our 55th reunion so if you will be there, please express your condolences to her for the loss of her husband. Also her address can be found in the member section to send a note. See the obituary for more information.


Howard and Serena Partch Celebrate 50th

(posted 7/7/14)
ANACORTES, WA- Howard and Serena Partch recently celebrated together in Seattle, WA with their children and grandchildren both Serena's 70th birthday and their 50th wedding anniversary which is officially June 6, 2014. In Howard's own words "I've been a lucky guy for 50 years now".

Howard and the former Serena Katherine Shores attended Trinity Lutheran Church in Rockford during the high school years and later met at the Library at the University of Illinois as they attended college. They were married at Trinity Lutheran Church June 6, 1964. West High school classmates Don Gronberg, Mike Messman, and Curtis Washburn were groomsmen.

The couple then Honeymooned on a camping trip in Wisconsin and Michigan up to Sault Ste. Marie and in Canada around Lake Superior, back to Minnesota and home to South Fair Street in Champaign, IL where Howard was finishing up his degree.

Today Howard and Serena have two daughters 48 and 46 plus a 44 year old son who collectively have given them six grandchildren. The families all live in Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington.

Congratulations to you both!