November  2010
Robert Pettit. 

My family moved to Claremont in early May of 1954 where I attended Way School in Mrs. Perkin's 5th grade class. I went through school with many people of the class of 1961 but, sadly, moved away early in our freshman year at Steven's HS. When I first moved to Claremont it was late in the school year so I didn't get to make many friends in Way School right away. During that summer I did make neighborhood friends. Then, when school started again, most of them went to St. Mary's. I lived at 25 Walnut St. next to the Pomieckos, across the corner from the Rollins and across the street from Joanne Smith and Sheila Wolcott. The friends I made were from the two large families next door and behind, the Fourniers and the Emonds. Mike Emond was a close friend, a drummer in St Mary's Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps. I used to go down and watch them practice. When I moved to Claremont I would have had a mouthful of braces, for about another year. I had to bus down to Hartford every once in a while for their attention.

When 6th grade started in September I was in Mrs. Rollins class to start with. I remember Carol Bean, Mark Grethe, Marion Tucker, Eileen Ferriter, David Hornick (he moved away before I did) of the jeweler Hornicks on Pleasant St, Brian Stockwell and Bob McCombs.  I also was in Boy Scouts with Dennis Kuk, we went to the National Jamboree in the summer of '57 in Valley Forge, PA for a week. I also remember Judith Holmes, Sylvia Diamond, Van Dunham, Martha Wilson, Arlene Thompson, Bob Stringer, Joanne Smith and lots more. I square danced in the 6th grade and Mrs. Rollins liked me as a partner. I remember dancing with her a lot. But who was a normal partner for me I couldn't remember. I do remember square dancing also with Martha Wilson because we were both tall ! I guess I matured early as I am not very tall, 5’ 10”. But both my boys are over 6'. I remember getting dressed up once and starting out for a competition at the HS but chickening out on the way and returning home. Mrs. Rollins probably didn't let me dance for a while after that.

After a few weeks in Mrs Rollins class I was singled out, I never knew why, to go over to the screamer's class, Mrs Philbrick's. She had a daughter, Ann I believe, in my older brother, Andrew’s class. Anyway, Mrs. Philbrick, the screamer, drove me NUTS !! I also remember Charlene Stone, Bonnie Kehoe, Mary Picknell, Edith Hilliard (sat next to her in Mrs. Cleary's 7th grade home room class) and many, many more.
One particular incident in sixth grade (Philbrick's) I remember was when Jackie Tenney held a pencil, point up, under Patty Simoneau as she was sitting down. I think Patty went to the hospital as the pencil was sharp !!

Later in Jr High I had closer friendships with Bob Szalucka and Beverly Kasaras. I see from the memorial page Bob Szalucka died in 1994. I recently have had a brush with Vietnam agent orange caused diseases – Lymphoma (now fully recovered), diabetes and neuropathy.

I live in Endwell, NY, upstate near Binghamton with my wife of 44 years, Suzanne. We have two grown children, Robert 43 and Jeffrey 37, both married. Robert and two grandsons (12 and 17) live in Binghamton (nearby) while Jeffrey and his wife have now settled in Philadelphia, PA. Robert is an over-the-road trucker and his wife, Jode is a nurse. Jeff is a musician and teacher, his wife, Nova is an ER doctor. They recently (Jan 25th ) have given us a new granddaughter, Soleil,  who we dote on. AND they are expecting twins in April so we will be spending lots more time in Philadelphia helping out !

When my family moved away from Claremont, it was to Milford, CT where we lived a block from the beach on LI Sound. Sadly I spent the summers at Boy Scout camp and my parents rented out the house. So my summers were not on the beach in Milford but on the lake the scout camp was on. After two years in Milford we moved again to New Bedford, Mass where I finished up HS, graduating in 1961. After graduation, my parents were on the move again so I moved back with my grandparents in Rocky Hill, CT to try to earn enough money to attend New Bedford Tech for Mechanical Engineering. That didn't happen (at $1 an hour), so in late August of 1961 I joined the Marines. I spent 6 years on active duty, the last of which was in Vietnam. I then came back to my wife and child to attend Worcester Polytech where Suzanne taught school and supported us. I finished in 1971 earning my BSEE. My wife and I then spent June, July and half of August of 1971 driving around Europe and came back to my first real job in Binghamton at Singer Link, the world leaders in simulation. I retired in June of 2001 as Manager of Engineering of a spin off company, Doron Precision Systems, where I still put in a few days a week, coming and going as I pleased for about 15-20 hrs a week as an electronics technician with no responsibilities. I worked until the end of 2009 when I was suffering the effects of lymphoma so badly that I just couldn’t work. I finally went to the VA hospital where I was efficiently diagnosed and cured with only 6 chemotherapy treatments, no surgery and no radiation.

I did return to Claremont one Sunday probably in the winter of 1988 or so. My wife and I had just dropped Jeff and a friend at Killington to ski and drove over for church at Trinity Episcopal. After church we looked around the town (sooooo much smaller than I remembered) and I know I saw Beverly Kasaras, although I could be very wrong, at the drug store across Broad St from the church. I did not make contact with her.

Coming back from Vietnam for me was not traumatic. I was very focused on the forthcoming four years of college and I had a welcoming family to come home to. Plus I saw very little combat. I went into the Marines expecting to get sent to college to become an officer - didn't happen. I also had the opportunity to learn to fly helicopters, at the beginning of the build up in Vietnam. That also didn't happen. In either case I probably was lucky and would not have survived in one piece. Young officers and helicopter pilots/co-pilots both had a very high rate of casualties. Anyway, they eventually did help me through college, with the GI Bill and my wife's teaching getting me through.

I remember the penmanship classes of an hour or two each week in 6th grade.  Swirls and swirls and swirls ? And real INK !
I also remember lining up at the end of the school year to collect money (was it 1¢ a day of attendance ?). That money didn't seem like very much at the time as I had a large paper route and always had some pocket money. Most went toward baseball cards and comic books. Wish I had them now.
I also remember giving a friendship ring to Beverly.

I hope to return to Claremont to participate in the 50th reunion June 10, 2011.