1961 Fall ’23 Class Letter

Dear Classmates:

Trust all is well with you. It was good to hear from you.

It is hard to believe we were starting our freshman year fifty-five long years ago just as the Class of 2027 is doing now. Where did the time go? I remember very well my first few weeks of getting acclimated to classes and the campus as if it was just yesterday. Although there is a large time gap between our start and theirs, the quality of education has not changed in all those years. Through the support of our time, talents and treasures, Ripon College has maintained a superb educational experience.


KAREN CARLSON ’61: “Miracle time. Sending a shout out to all who are asking for healing… Miracles do happen!

My daughter, Kim, has been wheelchair-bound for over three years and because no group home has been found, she has remained at the acute care nursing facility in San Mateo since June 2022.

She is the darling of the place, and I am blessed with finding miracle caregivers 24/7.

Two months ago, the husband of my caregiver came aboard saying, ‘We’ll get Kim walking.’

And he did! Last Sunday she took steps without the walker. It’s a start! My miracle caregiver is succeeding where physical therapy gave up and failed.

Praise and know all things are possible…”

MARY ANN CLAUDER JESSE ’61: “Not much going on in my neck of the woods. Guess we had the best of summer weather in comparison to the rest of the country. Have my daughter and her family staying here for the month of September, until they get packed up for their move to Scottsdale. Hope everyone has had a great summer.”

JEANIE VERMILYE JOHNSTON ’61: “I recently called LYNNE JOHNSON CLAFFEY ’61, my freshman year roommate and a sorority sister! She and I remain in fairly close contact!

We seem to be blessed with still being part of this world!

I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and have been here since 1967. I did send in an article to be published in the Ripon magazine in regard to SID JOHNSTON ’60’s death but I did never see it published! He passed away about six years ago.

Sid and I were married in 1959 and we had two children…. a boy and a girl! They have given me the joy of being a grandmother and even a great grandmother! Unfortunately, Sid and I divorced, but remained friends until his death….

I have been playing tennis for many, many, many years. This has occupied much of my free time! As time goes on though, rather than playing four or five days a week I’m down to about two days a week, but I am so happy that I can still play. It has really been the focus of my extracurricular life. I am planning to take pickleball lessons before long.

Obviously, I have been retired for several years, but when I did work, I worked in a school district here in the Phoenix area. After I retired from the school district, I was an administrative assistant in a church. Finally, I completely retired.

So many wonderful memories of our days at Ripon. In fact Lynne, and I drove up there a few years ago, but it was summer and the campus was pretty much closed. Those years were some of the best years of my life. MAC CLAUDER JESSE ’61 was out here a few years ago visiting her sister. We had lunch together and it was great catching up! I was saddened to hear about the passing of JOANNE TOSTRUD JOHNSON ’60 and Baumsy (JUDITH BAUM HALLORAN ’61).

I always love to hear about and from those I knew. Unfortunately, we hear from very few!”

DAVID MAWDSLEY ’61: “Recently I vacationed (isn’t every day a vacation when retired?) at a rental in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. My son, daughter and their three children were there to enjoy. Two of the older grandchildren returned to their jobs mid-week. A nice time with local seafood, biking, whale watching and kayaking.  A great time to catch up on newsy stuff that didn’t get told before.

The vacation was a good temporary change away from my daily routines of piano practicing (lessons during the school year), minor bookkeeping for my church and weekday get-togethers with friends at the local mall after the breakfast hours. I try to eat right and stay fit with walking and biking so as to avoid the crazy medical/insurance services as best I can. My daily plans aren’t entirely consistent, but they’ll do.”

BILL PYE ’61: “I am on campus five or six times a year working with the Sigma Chi chapter. In that role I have had the opportunity to meet, and work with, a number of faculty and administration folks which has been delightful. Why didn’t I think of that when I was in college.

This year we lost one of our classmates, AKIRA TOMITA ’61, who lived near Tokyo. Most probably did not know him as he was only there for his freshman year. He loved Ripon and had fond memories. TIM BURR ’61 and I hosted him on campus a couple of years ago when he returned.

I see HOWIE MYERS ’61, retired attorney in Milwaukee, who works with me on the chapter. On September 8-10, our 1955-65 Sigma Chi Reunion Group convenes on campus for our annual get together. LEE JESS ’61 and MARY JO PIEHL JESS ’62 will be joining us this year and we are looking forward to seeing them.

We continue to spend five weeks on Ambergris Cayce, Belize each winter to break up the frozen tundra here in the Twin Cities.”

BILL TONTSCH ’61: “I am in Henderson, Nevada. I moved here in 1991. I have one daughter, and two grandkids. I am retired now but I was a house flipper in my younger days. I was married twice, but both mates have passed.”

As for me – Because I am a widow, to occupy myself I remain active in the community both in the nonprofit community and at the civic level here in Medford, Oregon. I have served on three City of Medford commissions including Budget, Community Grants and Urban Renewal. Now, I serve only on the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. In addition, I take classes at Southern Oregon University through the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute, (OLLI) am active in Rotary where I serve on four committees, one of which I chair, belong to two book clubs, serve on the OLLI committee organizing their social events, work out at the gym every day, and walk my two standard poodles. Sadly, the air quality in the Rogue Valley has been hazardous due to smoke from the fires in northern California which has greatly impacted outdoor activities. In between those activities, I volunteer usher at three theaters. The best part of that is that you get to see the performances for free! We are so fortunate to have good theater here.

In June, my younger daughter came from New York, and we traveled to the Oregon coast, which is magnificent, to visit the town of Florence. While there we visited the huge seal cave where hundreds of stellar seals congregate in a natural inlet cave off the ocean. From a distance you can watch them play and rest – wow what magnificent animals. Then we visited the White Wolf Sanctuary, maintained by a private nonprofit that maintains and cares for the rescued wolves. It was quite impressive.

Although I lost my older daughter in 2008, she is with me through her two extraordinary children, my wonderful grandchildren.

That’s all for now. Trust all is well with you and hope to hear from you in the future.


Barbara ’61