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Marion Gunderson
1919 - 2004 obituary

Spouse of 1935 RHS graduate Deane Gunderson

I cannot claim RHS as my alma mater. However, I feel qualified to add my thoughts to these essays, having spent 59 years of my life with a 1935 Rolfe graduate, as well as observing our six children whose graduation years range from 1960 to 1973. Also, one summer we had the experience of tutoring a student in American history so he could graduate with his class in the early 1950s.

Now, from late winter into the recent summer months of this year of 2000, I have watched the workings of the committee of RHS alumni as they prepared for their marvelous all-class reunion held in July.

Their list of alumni spans 98 years, from 1892 to Rolfe High School's final class of 1990. Approximately 2,055 graduates are listed, which averages roughly 19 or 20 per class. About 1,260 alumni are still living. The oldest is a member of the class of 1917. Of these graduates, 194 have Rolfe addresses.

One member of the alumni committee worked on updating the list of graduates which was last used to organize the 1995 all-class reunion. His process included identifying the deceased. At first the aim was to "find" 50 unknowns. It ended up with over 200 finds. The committee sent invitations to EVERY living graduate. In response, close to 500 reservations were received. Others replied with letters of greetings as well as news of themselves.

Wow! This was BIG for Rolfe, Iowa. The reunion came with much anticipation and went with warm feelings of the camaraderie shared by all.

What's more, the event would have been big for many larger high schools. Take mine, for example - OHS (Ogden, Utah), class of 1937 with 500 in the senior class alone.

I can recall the names of only a small fraction of my classmates. We didn't "know" EVERYBODY, let alone their families. In Rolfe we do. It is not necessarily true that bigger is better. Now, some 63 years later, I do not have contact with a single classmate. Sad, come to think about it! And what is even sadder is that I have no desire to go back to my home town. I have one cousin there, but I can hardly think of anyone else that I would know. We just haven't kept in touch. In contrast, my husband as well as one of our daughters know where ALL their classmates are, and are in touch with most of them - if only a Christmas card.

Then, as well as now, the population of Utah was well over 70 percent Mormon. A person was either Mormon or "Gentile" (the term for all others - Catholic, Protestant, Jew, whatever). A recent article in the Omaha World Herald tells of a man (now a Catholic priest) remembering being excluded from birthday parties and the Boy Scouts when he was a boy in Utah. He says, "Non-Mormons are acutely aware of how their differences affect everything from whom they date to how their business fares. . . . Mormons just didn't recognize that their actions left people out." My father felt that exclusion in the early 1900s, and I felt it in the mid-1930s.

Ah! But on the brighter side - I had my Miss Ballinger, the equivalent of Rolfe’s Miss Marcum, for all of my high school English classes. I loved diagramming sentences, and still like to toy with them in my mind. We conjugated "lie and lay." We memorized parts of the prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, read Silas Marner and The Scarlet Letter, loved Edgar Allen Poe, and had our share of Shakespeare. I think I was a disappointment to my teacher when I did not study to be an English teacher, but she would have felt "a leap o' the heart" (her phrase) to learn that I have been Marion the Librarian.

Best of all - I was able to take art all four years at OHS. I have heard a 1960 classmate of one of our daughters quoted as saying that football was what got him through high school. Maybe my art classes did that for me.


As for Rolfe, I keep thinking of this acronym:

R olfe
O ffers
L ovely
F amily
E nvironment.

To this observer, RHS contributed greatly to the ambiance of our small town. There is a strong sense of community here. Rolfe High School has been the focal point of that spirit. I'm glad that being married to a 1935 RHS alumnus has given me the opportunity to experience the all-class reunions, observe the warm feelings classmates still have for each other, and listen to the stories alumni tell of their high school years.

Both my husband and a daughter say I shouldn't end with "Yea Rams," because the Rolfe Rams are no more. But, may I say "Yea Rams" for the days that used to be? Yes, I think so.


(Editor's note: Marion Gunderson was honored in the spring of 1999 at a special open house in Rolfe for her more than 35 years of service to the Rolfe Public Library, including several years as library director.)

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