Madison West, Class of 1954

West High School, Madison, WI, 1954

Class Gift
Forever Eighteen67 Year Reunion
65 Year Reunion
60 Year Reunion
55 Year Reunion
50 Year Reunion
Class Night
Classmate Contacts
Deceased Classmates
Deceased Teachers
High Times, Apr. 1, 1954
High Times, Dec. 17, 1953
High Times, June 10, 1954
High Time, May 6, 1954
High Times, Nov. 19, 1953
High Times, Oct. 15, 1953
High Times, Oct. 29, 1953
High Times Staff
Old Photos
Class News, 2005-06
Class News, 2007
Class News 2008
Class News 2009
Class News, 2010
Class News, 2011
Class News, 2012
Class News, 2013
Class News, 2014
Class News, 2015
Class News, 2016
Class News, 2017, 18
The Committee

Two other classmates died in recent years,  but we just got word of it now, thanks to Joyce Grieger Abegglen who alerted me to them.. 

From the Wisconsin State Journal of June 2, 2005:

Butler, Nancy- Madison.  Nancy Butler, age 68, passed away on Wednesday, June 1, 2005.  Nancy was born on June 5, 1936, in Madison, the daughter of Joseph and Mildred Reis.  She married Harry Butler on May 28, 1955, in Dubuque, Iowa.  Nancy worked for CUNA Mutual, Rural Insurance and the VA Hospital.  She is survived by her husband; her daughter, Teri; sons, Jim, Joe, Bill and Kelly; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; her brother, James; a sister, Carolyn; and many other relatives and friends.  There will be a Celebration of Life on Monday, June 6, 2005, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at CRESS FUNERAL SERVICE, 6021 University Ave., Madison.  Relatives and friends are invited to share in remembering Nancy.  Cress Funeral & Cremation Service 6021 University Ave. (608) 238-8406.

There is a Joan Stein who died in La Crosse on October 14, 2002.  From the Social Security Death Index, this appears to be Joan Boeker from our class.  She died October 14, 2002 in La Crosse.

I stumbled on this recently, about our own Rodney Kreunen. Interesting story.

From the Wisconsin State Journal, May 8, 2008


doug_moe_reporter rodney_kreunen_rr_ccommissioner
If Rodney Kreunen survived the closing of the Berghoff Restaurant in Chicago, he can survive being replaced as Wisconsin railroad commissioner.

Kreunen, appointed commissioner by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1996, learned Monday that Gov. Jim Doyle is replacing him, effective June 4, with Roger Breske.

"I'm in reasonable health and could have stayed another three or five years," Kreunen told me when we chatted a couple of days later.  Known far and wide as "Uncle Rodney," Kreunen, 72, seemed in pretty good spirits.  The fact is the railroad commissioner is a political appointment and it's a testament to Kreunen's popularity that he lasted as long as he did.

I still remember the dark day in late 2005 when Kreunen called about the Berghoff.

"It's closing," he said.  Kreunen had read the news in a Chicago paper.  He is always spotting news stories ofr a discounted book in a second-hand store that might interest you.

"The story says late February," he said.  "We need to get down ther again."

A few years earlier, I had watched as Uncle Rodney quickly dispatched - we had a train to catch - a heaping portion of Wiener Schnitzel at the Berghoff, a century-old landmark at 17 W. Adams in the Chicago Loop.

My son and I had gone along with a group of Madison Cub Scouts that Kreunen was shepherding to Chicago.  We caught the train at Crystal Lake.  Uncle Rodney knew all the train personnel and tossed out bits of rail history during the ride.
We went to the Sears Tower, the Shedd Aquarium, and finally the Berghoff.  At the restaurant  where he dined three or four times a year - he liked the German food, the reasonable prices and the "Old World" waiters who arrived at your table with a white towel draped on their left arm - Kreunen talked about the time a few years earlier when he had brought a large contingent of Dane County Board members and other poiticos and journalists for a day of railroad connected functions in Chicago.

Lunch was at the Berghoff.  The group came out loosened their belts and as they gathered in front, Kreunen asked if everyone was present.  "All here," said Supervisor Mike Blaska.  Their bus headed for the next railroad event and just as they pulled up Uncle Rodney spotted Supervisor Terese Berceau arriving in a cab, saying that while she enjoyed the Berghoff, she didn't appreciate being ditched.

I suspect Kreune, who can talk the birds out of the trees, made it up to her.  While he has had adversaries during his dozen years as commissioner - some rail executives among them - his folksy bonhomie is hard to resist.

Mediia folks love him even though he can never seem to put a period on a sentence, even at deadline.  The day after the announcement, The Capital Times had an editorial headlined, "Uncle Rodney deserves our thanks."  Mitch Henck had him on SIBA Friday, the same day the Wisconsin State Journal ran an  affectionate editorial cartoon of Uncle Rodney riding off into the sunset on a train.

It has been quite a ride.  Uncle Rodney has always said his enduring love of trains began around the holidays in 1939, when as a 3 year old he was told he had a new baby brother.  "That's great," Rodney said, "But I still want my electric train set."  He comes from railroad people.  He lost one grandfather to a boiler explosion in 1893 and another to an operating accident in 1908.

His primary crusade over the years as commissioner has been safety at rail crossings.  Don't get him stared on the subject unless you have the whole day free.  He backed up the talk by tirelessly traveling the state.  One time Kreunen was in Abbotsford, west of Wausau, for a meeting with city officials when the mayor told him word had just come of a train - truck collision in Owen, 12 miles to the west.  Kreunen immeidately left for the scene and when he arrived the heard one law enforcement officer telling another, "Call Rodney at the railroad office in Madison."  Uncle Rodney stuck out his hand and said "Gentlemen, how can I help"

Kreunen was in real estate
 before he was in railroads, and he was saying the other day that now might be the time to revisit an idea that was suggested to him by the late Capital Times editor Elliott Maraniss, when Kreunen was selling the editor's house.  The thought was there might be a book in all Kreunen's stories from the real estate business. He even has a working title: "Lot Lines and Setpic Tanks."

Time will tell.  It's worth noting that in April 2007, the Berghoff reopened as 17/West at the Berghoff.  It's not the same, but it's not bad.  In that spirit, we await Uncle Rodney's second act.

How about some train pictures from the 1950s or the web site, Rod. Do you have any from Madison? 

Bob and Lorna Steul Winn celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in February with a trip to Colorado, some skiing, and a visit with Bill and Gwyn Fair Ellis.  Gwyn snapped some pictures which she sent me.

bob_and_lorna_winn_skiing Agusto (a friend from Peru), Steve Arndt (son-in-law), Bob, Lorna, Laurel Winn Arndt bob_and_lorna_laura_and_steve Lorna and Bob, Laurel and Steve Arndt
bob_lorna_gwyn_bill Bob and Lorna, Gwyn and Bill  

Congratulations on the wedding anniversary, and also for still skiing at age 72. And thanks to Gwyn for sending the pictures.

Dottie Jones King celebrated another wedding anniversary on Valentine's day, and sent a valentine for the class of '54.


She added a note that she had been to New York to see South Pacific, which she had seen when she was eleven. 
I saw it when it came to Madison, I think in my senior year at West.  Brings back memories, probably for many of you too.
Thanks for thinking of us, Dottie, and we hope to see you at the 55th.


Bill Bach (Buellesbach) is having open heart surgery on March 16 at the Morgan Heart Hospital in Clearwater, FL.

He sent this email message to Sue Filek Henderson:

I thought I had mentioned it in my last e-mail as you remembered your dad’s involvement with my heart problem back in 1952.  Anyway, way back in the old days I had a leaky mitral valve, but when I give up sports it stabilized and has been just a very slight leak for well over 50 years.  Then about three years ago the leak started to become progressively worse and is now to the point where the valve needs to be either repaired or replaced.
Fortunately I’ve stalled long enough that they’ve hopefully learned a few things.  It is still pretty major surgery with some risks, but they’ve had many years to get it right.  To get at the heart they saw your breast bone in half and so there is a pretty long recovery time.  About six weeks of very limited activity and then 3 to 6 months before you really feel “right”.
The technology is pretty amazing.  I considered going to one of the major teaching centers but they have a pretty good heart hospital right here in Clearwater.  My second choice would probably have been Northwestern in Chicago as I have three kids there.   The Morgan Heart Hospital in Clearwater is fairly new and does 700 open heart procedures a year which is quite a few.  See 
Anyway being close to home won out over traveling to one of the big name national centers such as Cleveland Clinic, Hopkins, or Brigham (Harvard).  Hopefully it was the right decision.
Wish me luck and say a prayer.

From Sue: Bill's comment about my father pertains to the fact that for 10 cents an x-ray, my father spent weekends reading chest x-rays to earn extra money.

Good luck, Bill.  We'll be thinking of you!

Update, April 9, 2009:  Bill reports that the mitral valve repair went well and he's recovering slowly.  It takes several months to recovery from surgery as major as this, but, good luck on it Bill, and I'm sure you'll do OK.  .

Here's a story about Richard Senger, a classmate that has been missing for many years.  Thanks to Dick Hartwig who tracked this one down.  Nice detective work, Dick.


Richared E. Senger (BS 1960), inset and third from the right in a group of Peace Corps volunteers to Ghana.  These 1963    photos were originally published in Peace Corps Trainees' Ghana Public Works (Geology) Project by UC-Berkeley.  Also in the group are alumni David Behke (BS 1963), sixth from the right, and Richard Schroeder (BS 1963) fourth from the right.

< class="times_new_roman_large_bold_center">The Richard E. Senger Bequest

Last May the UW Foundation notified the department that we will be receiving a gift of approximately $700,000 from the estate of Richard A. Senger (BS 1960), who had passed away in January 2006.  We have only incomplete information on Dick Senger's life since his graduation in 1960.  He joined the Peace Corps in 1963 as part of the Ghana Geological Survey from 1963 to 1965.  There were two other UW geology graduates in his Peace Corps group: Dave Behnke (BS 1963) and Dick Schroeder (BS 1963).  Unlike Behnke and Schroeder, Senger had been out of college for several years before joining the Peace Corps.  His brief bio listed in the publication announcing the Ghana Peace Corps project notes that he had experience working in geology and chemistry laboratories and had traveled in Europe, Japan and Korea.  During his Peace Corps service he also overlapped in Ghana with several other UW geology grads including Bill Kaiser (BS 1959, MS 1962) and R. Stephen Saunders (BS 1963).  After possibly a short stint in the US, Dick returned to Ghana and spent 30 years as part of the professional staff of the Ghana Geological Survey where he focused on mapping the West African Precambrian Shield and was one of the editors of the 1994 publication Explanatory notes for the Geological Map of Southwest Ghana (Geologisches

Geologisches Jahrbuch Reihe B, Bnd B 83).  After his retirement he lived for some years in Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, but returned to the US sometime in the last few years.

The department managed to contact several people who knew Senger during the Peace Corps and/or later in his career in Ghana.  One described him as "one of the most knowledgeable geologists in Ghana and sought after for geological advice."  Another remembers ism as a "warm, caring human being" with whom he often enjoyed sharing a few Star beers while discussing geological phenomena and human philosophy or playing Snooker.

Dick Senger had been a loyal supported of the department for many years through generous annual contributions, but this final unrestricted gift was as unexpected as it is welcome.  After carefully weighing a variety of departmental needs the faculty has decided to initially make use of income from his gift to offer a Richard Senger Graduate Research Assistantship to a student beginning graduate studies this coming fall.  We hope that using this gift to help us recruit the best candidates from our pool of applicants will be a fitting way to honor Senger's memory and to continue the tradition of strong geologic training at UW that he obviously valued in his own career.

Here's a link to some of his work.   Explanatory Notes for the Geological Map of Southwest Ghana

His last residence on the Social Security Death Index is listed as Madison, but there was no obituary in a Madison paper.

Alice Ragatz White's mother died March 11, 2009, at age 98.  Wow!  Here's her obituary, from the Wisconsin State Journal of March 22, 2009:

Ragatz, Rea Ballard, Denver, Colo. - Rea Ballard Ragatz passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at Brighten Gardens, Denver, Colo., on March 11, 2009.  Se was 98.  She is predeceased by her beloved husband of 57 years, Roy, who died on the tennis court in Green Valley, Ariz., in 1989.  She is survived y her children Alice Rea (William Bruce White, deceased) Toronto, Canada, John Ballard (Nancy Markham) Denver, Colo., Margaret Louise (Peggy) (David Gaarder), Madison, Wis.; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchid.

Rea was born in Washington, D.C., on August 12, 1910, grew up in Virginia and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1931, where she majored in art and design.  She pursued her love of art at home in Shorewood Hills while the children were growing up and later returned to the University to take refresher courses.  It was at this time that Rea decided to focus on the medium of watercolor.  Active in art circles, Rea went on to become president of the Madison Art Center.  In 1977, Rea and Roy moved permanently to Green Valley, where they had spent their winter months previously.  Rea continued her painting in the Southwest, winning many regional awards and displaying in one woman shows.  She was active in the Snow Bird Art Gallery in Green Valley both as an administrator, as well as a contributing artist.  She also loved to play tennis.

I'm sure many of our classmates remember Mrs. Ragatz, as I do.  As far as I know, there are only two mothers of classmates still alive: Mrs. Tande and Mrs. Trewartha, both of Madison.  We extend our sympathy to Alice and the rest of the family.

Found him, at last,  Peter Pleune! 

Dick Hartwig, working with Dan Trewartha, found Peter Pleune after many years of being lost.  Nice detective work, guys!!  He's in a nursing home in Baton Rouge, LA.  Dick talked to him, and Pete was glad to be found.  Here's his address and phone:

Peter F. Pleune

11188 Florida Blvd

Baton Rouge, LA


Give him a call and tell him we're thinking of him.

Gwyn Fair Ellis writes, August 2009:

Keeping up the web site must be a lot of work, but it is much appreciated.  I’ve included a little write up about about what happened to me that you were directly responsible for.  Had my mother’s obit not been on the web site none of this would have transpired.  Thanks.

Wonders of the internet or What the Class of ’54 web site did for me!

I recently received a phone call from a woman with a foreign sounding name who was in Kansas City, She said she had a table, purchased an antique dealer some years ago that she thought my grandmother had made.   Under the table was a note saying: "Decorated by my Mother (Bertha Perring Taylor) as a young woman."

The technique is called pyrography and one had a poker and heated it and burned; heated again and burned etc.  Now a days we called it wood burning.

I was curious and knew she was going to ask for money etc. etc. but no, she just wanted me to have it.  Here’s what she wrote:

"I am happy to have found the rightful owner of this little taboret.  As I mentioned, I acquired this at an antique show here in Kansas City a few years ago.  The antique dealer was from Abilene or Atchison, Kansas.  She didn’t have any history on the table, but it caught me eye and I had just the perfect spot for it in my living room.  I decided it was time to replace the table with another I had acquired and I considered selling your taboret in my antique booth. I always like to include a little history on the items I see, so I decided to Google your grandmother’s name.  I came across your Mother's obituary on the West High 54, web site with Bertha Perring Taylor mentioned.  In addition your name was mentioned along with your husband’s so I was easily able to locate you through  The wonders of the internet.  We so often hear of all the bad things that happen via the Internet, so it’s nice when something good like this happens. Enjoy your table.  I hope it brings back some nice memories."

taboret note

Thanks for the kind words, Gwyn.  Keeping up this web is a lot of fun.  As you can tell, I love the internet!  Willie alerted me about the obituary in the Madison paper, and I found it online.  I wrote you and asked if I should put it on the web site, and you said "yes, because several classmates knew her", and that included me. I remember her from the First Congregational Church where my family were also members. 

Gwyn does quilting, and here are a couple of pictures.

quilt quilt
gwyn and bill  

Wow! Those are some quilts.  That last picture must be taken on their deck in the Colorado Rockies.  Very nice.


Bob Annen can't make the reunion, but he writes:

Hello John: I will be in St. George, Utah, at their annual "Huntsman World Senior Games".  My sport is volleyball, and I will be competing in the "over 70" and "over 73" age brackets.  I have been competing in senior volleyball competitions since age 50.  I recently competed at the biannual Senior Olympics, which was held this August in San Francisco and on the Stanford Campus.  I have included a photo of my team at that event. At this age level, a typical team is made up of players from throughout the USA.  Not enough players in any local region to staff a team. Competitive venues are held several times a year, with different sponsors at different locations.

I hate to miss the reunion, hopefully there will be another in a few years. Wife Delores and I spend about half of our time in Madison, where she now owns her family house on South Park Street.  I see a lot of Dick Hook and Dave Johnson when there; we meet for breakfast at Hook's on Mondays and Fridays.  Perhaps you could join us when you are Madison.

Hope to visit further with you somewhere along the line.  Bob Annen  (#6)

bob annen volleyball

We'll miss you at the reunion, but good luck in your continued athletic career, Bob.

Dick Hansen writes:  Here's a picture you might enjoy.  Recently my canoe partners and I met Kevin Callan, who has authored a number of outdoor books featuring the Quetico/Boundary Waters region.  We had just exited off the Beaver House entry point and he was going in.  We chatted, and sent him on his way - with about a dozen chocolate chip cookies.  The picture in his book is our surprising reward!  It was published in 2007.  I'm the one on the right.

dick hansen padler's guide
Very nice, Dick.  Keep us posted on your trip next year.

Gwyn Fair Ellis sent this picture:


Dick Mahony, Marcia Stavrum, Gwyn Fair, Craig Lawrenz, Lorna Steul, Bob Winn on the dock at Gwyn's parents cabin on Lake Wisconsin. Does it make you think of the song by Nat King Cole?

If you'd like to listen to it, click on Lazy Days of Summer.  This picture is also on the Old Photos page.

Susan Edgerton Sell and Jack spent Thanksgiving with their sons in Mill Valley, CA, and also spent some time with Dottie Jones King and Bob.  Here are two pictures taken at Golden Gate Bridge park.
sue and dottie golden gate bridge
sue and dottie golden gate bridge
It looks a bit chilly there, more like Madison weather, but it's nice you two girls are still close friends..

Ruth Rapoport Stotter left for India on the weekend after the reunion, to appear on the program of a World Story Telling Institute meeting and then to conduct story telling workshops around the country.  Her visit was covered by the Saranya Chakrapani newspaper in Chennai.  It was a busy, but rewarding time for Ruth and a very interesting experience.

From the Saranya Chakrapani, October 27, 2009:

Ruth Stotter wonders why grown-ups, particularly men, cant listen to stories. I think if people grow up listening to fairy tales, there would be no need for psychiatrists, she says. The California-based storyteller was in the city as part of the World Storytelling Institutes programme initiatives. Ruth has served as the Director of the Storytelling Program in Dominican College, where she taught Analysing Fairytales and other courses. She has also written a number of books.

Ruths spirited storytelling session at the Ranade Library auditorium on Sunday evening had mostly grown-ups in the audience, with a handful of kids. By the end it was obvious that her stories about silly tigers, wise rabbits and the magic trees had touched both adults and kids alike, and she was showered with compliments by gushy members of the audience.

A storytelling session has an intimacy that other media do not have. Strangers who come together for a session leave as acquaintances and eventually become great friends, believes Ruth, and her career as a storyteller has only affirmed this. Back home, book clubs and storytelling sessions are a great place for people to get together and spend quality time knowing each other. These places are even more popular than the church, she says.

As a child, Ruths innovative horror stories scared the other kids to an extent that she was asked to leave the summer camp. Today, it is unfortunate that our kids are so glued to Facebook and Twitter that the magic of storytelling does not reach them. But I like the Internet for my own reasons too. It has made life easy.

Her third and longest visit to India has already made her fall in love with the country. I love travelling extensively as it gives me a glimpse into various cultures and its people. I always use references from my travel in my stories. Indians fascinate me with their deep sense of family bonding and strong values. People here are warm-hearted; it is in their blood. I cant wait to go back home and tell stories about this land, Ruth smile.


At the reunion, Ruth mentioned that she had another book coming out soon.  It's out now, and called "A Loop of String: String Stories and String Stunts", and is available on
String Stories

If you haven't seen her other books, go to the class news, 2005-06 page and scroll down until you find them.  Jeanie and I have used "Smiles" and "The Golden Axe" with our grandchildren, and they loved them.

Congratulations, Ruth, on a great career!

Jan Tande Gaumnitz had an art show at the Lawrence Art Center, Lawrence, KS.  Susan Edgerton Sell and Karen Holmgren Bulman attended the exhibit in November, and reported that it was truly an exceptional show with great scope and diversity of art.  Karen sent the pictures and Jan provided the comments.
fruit and vegetables

These are hollow, hand-built forms of fruit and vegetables. I  enlarged the scale because I wanted the forms to be more important than the color.  Hence, recognizing the fruit by its shape rather than its color.  The subtle, velvety glaze is called terra sigilatta and is hand polished with a soft cloth before firing.

jan reading

This is me in front of the brief statement I wrote concerning my background - living on a farm for almost seven years, the continuing influence of nature in my life and artwork.

stone crib

The foreground piece is called "Stone Crib".  It is composed of a heavy walnut base anchoring 4 peeled 8' hickory sticks, a fence-like woven net of copper wire holding many varied sizes, shapes and glazed/colored hollow clay stones.  Its topped by a large, airy tumbleweed.  The background is another view of the room.

red dancer

This 18' red painted steel sculpture called "Red  Dancer" is presently located near the LAC front door.  The Art Center holds classes in all the arts - visual, performing and has a very popular art-based pre-school.  Its a big plus for the city of Lawrence.

How's that for  three classmates having a good time?.

stone man

This is Susan Sell and me communing with the Stone Man ceramic sculpture. All the "body parts" were separately formed, fired and glazed, then threaded on a central pole.  The idea came from  "cairns", stone towers, built by hikers to mark their trails.  Mine took on a humanish form!

westward wind

To the right is an 8' black iron sculpture, designed by me, fabricated by one of my talented friends,, for our garden in celebration of our 50th anniversary. The title is Westward Winds. In the background is "Three Elements", composed of clay ovoids threaded on a heavy pole, a central stainless steel and iron column and 3 hickory trees, peeled by another friend. I have become acquainted with many talented, generous -- and fun friends and like to give them recognition whenever I can. I will be glad to provide names if anyone is interested.

Jan closes with "That's it!!!  Show comes down on Saturday.  I'm excited about what's coming up next-- who knows?"

My best regards to all of the West High classmates of '54-- and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  

If you want to hear a podcast of an interview with Jan, click on Jan podcast, and look for "an interview with Jan Gaumnitz".  It's an interesting interview and gives more detail about her art career. You'll enjoy it.

Jan mentions spending her early years on a farm. That was in southern Minnesota, and I remember when she first appeared in Mrs. Shermerhorn's 3rd grade class at Dudgeon School. Wow, we've all come a long ways since then!