Tag Archives: Staples High School Class of 1969

David’s Ring

This story, Diane Silfen says, is like one of those amazing things that always happen to random strangers.

But — thanks to a random stranger — it happened to her.

Diane Silfen

Diane’s Westport roots are long and deep. Her mother, Elise Barnes, graduated from Staples High School in 1936. As Diane Haehl, she followed in 1965. So did her 2 siblings: David in 1969, and Janet 3 years after that.

Diane runs the Haehl Insurance Agency — the longtime family business — here. But she’s riding out the COVID-19 crisis at her Key West condo.

(It’s tough even there. With the beaches closed and the tourists gone, it’s like a ghost town.)

On Wednesday morning, Diane’s phone rang. The call was from Illinois. Suspecting a telemarketer, she almost did not answer.

For some reason though, she did.

The caller said, “I’m looking for Diane Silfen.”

“I’m Diane,” she replied.

He asked if Illinois or Colorado meant anything to her. No, she said.

The man said he and his wife once lived in Illinois; then they moved west. With time on their hands while self-isolating, they’d been going through storage boxes.

At the bottom of one was a Staples class ring, from 1969. It bore the initials “DWH.”

David Haehl, in the 1969 Staples High School yearbook.

“That’s my brother!” Diane said.

“I know,” the man replied.

“We know he’s deceased. We want you to have it.”

As Diane listened in astonishment, the man — she was too stunned to ask his name – described what happened after finding the ring.

He and his wife went online. They found Staples High School in Westport; tracked down the list of ’69 grads, and saw the name David William Haehl.

Researching further, they learned that he died 12 years ago. The obituary included his sister’s name. The couple plowed ahead, and found Janet.

How the ring ended up in the bottom of their box is a mystery. They asked Janet if David traveled a lot.

“He went everywhere — but only for scuba diving,” she said. That ruled out Illinois and Colorado.

The man said he’d sanitize the ring, put it in a box, and send it to Florida. Diane will give it — proudly, lovingly, amazingly — to her son Seth.

Seth Van Beever (right), his brother Baird, and their uncle David Haehl.

That is indeed the kind of story that usually happens to other people. But David seems to have led that kind of happy-coincidence life.

Diane noted that when he was in Westport, David never missed a Staples football game.

When he died, the family held a memorial service at Compo Beach. The high school band was there, practicing loudly.

Someone suggested asking them to stop for  a while.

“Of course not!” Diane replied. “It’s like they were playing there for him.”

50 Years Later, Staples Grads Give Back

Debbie Hooper Fisher is a proud Staples graduate.

And she’s part of a family of fellow alums.

Her mother, Rita Hooper, graduated in 1942. Her brothers Jeff and Mike were in the classes of 1968 and ’76, respectively. Debbie’s daughter Kimberly Fisher was in the Class of ’96. Her son Raymond Warren — Debbie’s grandson — is in the Class of 2022.

Not every classmate from Debbie’s year — 1969 — has that pedigree. But many still feel strong ties to their alma mater.

Nearly 100 members made it back recently for the 50th reunion. Wherever they live now, they loved being back in their home town.

Yet amid all the reminiscing, partying and dancing — hey, it was the ’60s — the class went about the serious business of giving something back.

When Debbie’s daughter graduated, she received a Staples Tuition Grants scholarship. That helped her attend Columbia University. She went on to the Executive MBA program, and now serves on Verizon’s corporate strategy team.

Debbie knows the importance of STG. So do her classmates. It was easy to convince them to run a fundraiser for the organization, which since 1943 — the year after Debbie’s mother earned her diploma — has helped seniors and graduates with college expenses.

This was not even the first time the class helped out. Ten years ago, they donated $1,969 (get it?) to STG.

This time, they held a raffle. Prizes included a Woodstock poster (remember, they’re the Class of 1969).

Tickets were $20. Many members gave more. (They deliberately chose an inexpensive venue — Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach — to keep up-front expenses down.)

The other day, the class presented STG with a check for $2,500.

Staples Tuition Grants board members, Class of 1969 representatives, and the traditional oversized check. From left: Alex Shook, Ed Hulina (STG), Jeff Allen, Tom Krygier, Debbie Hooper Fisher, Mark Bunger, Peter Krieg, Iain Bruce (STG).

They challenge other reunion classes to give back too, to the group that for 76 years has helped so many Staples students go to college.

They want you to at least match their gift. And if other classes exceed it, they’ll be delighted.

Hey, it’s the Class of ’69.

Peace.

(For more information on Staples Tuition Grants — or to contribute — click here.)

Friday Flashback #165

Today is Staples High School’s Homecoming. There’s an afternoon pep rally; all fall teams will be introduced. There’s a football game at night. The stands will be full. Captains of all sports are announced at halftime.

That’s it. No dance. No Homecoming king or queen. No

It’s been that way for a couple of decades. Dances are out of favor. King and queen are not cool. Floats got the kibosh years ago, because the heavy trucks that pulled them damaged the track.

Several years ago, when lights were added to the football field, the Saturday afternoon event moved to Friday night.

So here’s a look back, 50 years ago. In 1969, Leslie Wilker was Homecoming Queen…

… and here’s a typical float. Each class built one (somehow, the seniors always won).

Floats did not always have a G-rated theme. In 1984 — when the drinking age in Connecticut was 18 — the senior class celebrated Homecoming with a bottle, and this slogan:

That decade-plus of 18-year-old drinking made Staples a different place. In 1982, administrators gave a special gift to all seniors, at the prom: a beer mug.

And in 1975, the yearbook included this photo, of the “Trojan Club”:

It’s a different time today, for sure.

See you at Homecoming tonight!

Staples Class Of ’69 Rocks On

No reunions!

That’s my usual response when organizers ask me to publicize their upcoming or recent event. If I do one, I say, I’ll have to do them all. And — sorry, guys! — your reunion just isn’t that interesting to 99.99% of “06880”‘s daily readers.

But rules are made to be broken. And if any class has experience breaking rules, it’s the rockin’, rollin’ Staples High School class of 1969.

So here goes:

Last weekend, 131 no-longer-teenage-but-still-young-at-heart former Wreckers gathered for their 50th (!) reunion.

There were no cell phones — or selfies — back in 1969. In 2019, these reunion-goers make the most of theirs.

They were rebels, back in the day. But in 2019, they got a ton of help from all corners of the town they grew up in. Former — and still — class president Peter Krieg reports:

Assistant principal Rich Franzis was a tremendous help. He helped prep Krieg for his tour of the “new” school, worked with Geno Heiter to post 1969 visuals on the lobby TV screen, and enlisted head custodian Horace Lewis and one of Lewis’ staff to guide the group around.

Not far from a banner welcoming the Class of 2023 to the “new” Staples, the Class of 1969 gathered for a group photo.

The tour culminated in the library, where librarian Jen Cirino helped screen the “High School That Rocked” movie. The film depicts the amazing (Doors, Yardbirds, Cream, Sly & the Family Stone, Rascals, Animals, Beau Brummels) concerts that so many of those former Stapleites attended.

Producer Fred Cantor — the young (Class of ’71) producer — was there.

So was former social studies teacher and administrator Gordon Hall. Now in his 90s — and living in the same Westport home as then — he spoke to the returning alums.

“He was inspiring, knowledgeable and very funny,” Krieg reports. “His comments about retirement were not just appropriate; they were a teaching moment for us.”

Krieg is giving gifts to everyone who helped. Hall, for example, will receive a framed photo of his talk.

New Staples principal Stafford Thomas gets one too. (“He was keenly interested in ‘The High School That Rocked,'” Krieg says — even though he had not yet been born when those bands were hot.)

The way we were … or at least, the way we think we were, today.

Krieg gives a shout-out to Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department as well. They provided great help for the Saturday night Compo Beach party: tent permits, use of the Ned Dimes Marina, and passes for vehicles.

The marina building was decorated with professionally produced ’69 posters and memorabilia. Organizers raffled off 3 unique pieces of art. They’ll donate (appropriately) $1,969 of the proceeds to Staples Tuition Grants.

Of course, no reunion is complete with a party at the Black Duck. Pete Aitkin hosted a boisterous crew on Friday night.

“The support we got from the school, from one of our teachers, and the town was really special,” says Krieg.

“This was Westport at its best. It felt like the Westport of old. In some ways, Westport hasn’t changed at all.”

Neither have the members of Staples High School’s Class of 1969.

Even if they did graduate half a century ago.

It’s been 50 years. But some friendships never fade.

Let’s Hear It For ’69

The Staples Class of 1969 held their 40th reunion recently.  Like most classes they partied hard, talked a lot and laughed plenty.

Unlike many classes, though, at the end of the weekend when they scattered all over the country, they left something tangible behind:  money.

The men and women of ’69 raised — appropriately — $1,969 for Staples Tuition Grants, the group that since 1943 has helped thousands of Westporters attend college.

This could start a great tradition.  Every graduating class should think of contributing to the organization that helped so many Stapleites — or  any other worthy cause.

But the ’69ers didn’t stop there.  They also raised $500 for the Westport Historical Society, through sales of Staples High School: 120 Years of A+ Education, the 400-page, lavishly illustrated history of their favorite high school.  The author is, um, me.

But that’s another story.

The Class of '69 committee (from left) presents a $1,969 check: Alex Shook, Kathy Kopp Sabo, Peggy Kamins (Staples Tuition Grants), Lorrie Besser Ward, Shelby Goodlett Pike, Mark Bunger, Debbie Hooper Fisher, Jeff Allen, Peter Krieg.  The copy is unidentified.  Missing:  Leslie O'Toole, Karin Swan Brooks, Debbie Sims, Ray Flanigan, Joel Wald.

The Class of '69 committee (from left) presents a $1,969 check: Alex Shook, Kathy Kopp Sabo, Peggy Kamins (Staples Tuition Grants), Lorrie Besser Ward, Shelby Goodlett Pike, Mark Bunger, Debbie Hooper Fisher, Jeff Allen, Peter Krieg. The copy is unidentified. Missing: Leslie O'Toole, Karin Swan Brooks, Debbie Sims, Ray Flanigan, Joel Wald.