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Downers Grove

Downers Grove Class of 1944 celebrates 75th reunion

Members of the Downers Grove High School Class of 1944 gathered over the summer to plan their 75th reunion. Back row (from left) Jacob Pollack, John Prescott, Dr. Floyd Mizener and John Guarnaccia. Front row (from left) Doris Mochel, John Mochel and Edris Byers. Photo provided
Members of the Downers Grove High School Class of 1944 gathered over the summer to plan their 75th reunion. Back row (from left) Jacob Pollack, John Prescott, Dr. Floyd Mizener and John Guarnaccia. Front row (from left) Doris Mochel, John Mochel and Edris Byers. Photo provided

DOWNERS GROVE – Seventy-five years after their high school graduation, members of the Downers Grove High School Class of 1944 will celebrate full lives and a love for their town at a high school reunion Oct. 4.

“For more than 90 years, these classmates have raised their families, built their businesses and given back to the Downers Grove community,” Hank Thiele, Community High School District 99 superintendent, said in a statement. “District 99 is proud and honored that they continue to celebrate their high school experience and their community.”

The members of the graduating class who planned the event are Jacob Pollack, John Prescott, Dr. Floyd Mizener, John Guarnaccia, Doris Moehel, John Mochel and Edris Byers.

Many of them say they remember high school fondly.

“I was involved in everything,” Mizener said. “I played four years of football and we won the championship. It was the first time they had won in football and was exciting for me personally. I also made everyone laugh because I played violin, too.”

For John Prescott, another of the graduates, sports were a big part of his high school career, too. He said he was “one of those guys who got into sports immediately,” and was a member of the football, basketball and track teams.

“I guess my best sport was track because I was fortunate enough to have good speed,” Prescott said.

“I went down to state to high and low hurdles races and got clock cleaned down there, though. I wasn’t good enough for the whole state. But it did stop me from having to go to gym class,” he recalled.

Many of their high school experiences were like that of those today, but graduating in the midst of World War II changed most of their trajectories.

Prescott said he volunteered for the Navy right after graduation, but was sent to the infantry instead. He went straight to basic training in Florida for 17 weeks before being sent to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was wounded near the end of 1945, he said, and spent four months in hospitals around the world.

“Fortunately, the war ended while I was still in the hospital,” Prescott said.

Mizener also served in World War II and left for training before high school had even ended. He said he took a heavier course load his junior and senior years so he could finish his required credits in January. Before going overseas, Mizener was granted a leave to come home and participate in commencement ceremonies and receive his diploma, he said.

After the war, Mizener went on to become an accomplished optometrist whose research led to laws including the requirement to test side vision for driving and the requirement to be tested both on paper and in the car every year after turning 86 years old in order to drive.

Prescott became an insurance agent and had five children with his wife. Now, they have eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The group of graduates has kept in touch since high school, with Downers Grove still the focal point of their connection. For many years, six of the graduates, including Prescott and Mizener, and their spouses would meet up once a month at different houses, Prescott said.

“I’m so thankful to be a part of [this reunion and class] and to still be around to see it,” Prescott said. “Our supper club doesn’t meet anymore, but I’ve had quite a lifetime.”

The Class of 1944 plans to attend the school’s homecoming assembly, ride in the parade and cheer on the Trojans in the football game Oct. 4. They also plan to share a meal the next day.

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