Three senior graduates of Aitkin High School will serve as grand marshals in the Riverboat Heritage Days Parade at 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6.
Lending their enthusiasm to the parade held during the AHS All-Class Reunion are Jack Anderson, class of 1943; Shirley Davies class of 1956; and Claudine Nordean. class of 1949.
Anderson is the most senior alumnus registered for the class reunion. He said shop courses were his favorite in high school and that he would like to see more trade-related courses offered today.
After he graduated, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II and, as a member of the Minnesota National Guard, was activated as a trainer in Alabama during the Korean War.
Anderson married fellow classmate, Jo Hasskamp, in 1946 after they reconnected on a Greyhound bus when they were both employed in the Minneapolis area. The Andersons made their home in California until returning to Minnesota in 1963. He worked for a brief time in the lead and silver mine industry in Alaska.
Today, Anderson lives in Crosby where he enjoys painting in oils and acrylics, golfing, playing cribbage and watching “The Price is Right.”
Shirley Kehl Davies, 84, was born and raised in the Aitkin area. In a family with three children, they had a couple of cows, horses, grew vegetables and raised chickens. Living in the country made it difficult for her to participate in Aitkin High School’s extracurricular activities.
“I made a lot of friends,” she said, “some I still have today.”
After high school, Davies worked for a local dry cleaner for 10 years. She was married to Everett Davies in 1963. Other jobs were as a bookkeeper for a propane gas company and as secretary/bookkeeper for the city of Aitkin. She and her husband, who was the Aitkin County recorder for about 15 years, owned and operated Aitkin County Abstract Company for a dozen years. At the same time, they raised beef cattle and grain.
After the couple retired, they were active as volunteers with the Aitkin County Historical Society for many years. A special project they worked on was the Aitkin County Heritage Book. Everett died in 2015. Shirley now enjoys embroidering, quilting, reading and meeting with friends.
Claudine Fann Nordean, 91, was also born and raised in the Aitkin area. She had one sister, now deceased.
“My mom was a housewife until she discovered 4-H,” said Nordean, “and she worked with 4-H for 40 years.”
Her mother also cooked at the Aitkin hospital and area football camps, while her father managed the Land O’ Lakes feed store.
In high school, Nordean was involved in band, choir, speech and plays. “Whatever was fun,” she noted.
A highlight for her was a band trip to Winnepeg, Manitoba, which was celebrating its 75th anniversary.
“Most of us had never been out of Aitkin,” she said. “We had to travel in a bus on dirt roads.”
Before she was out of high school, Nordean began working in the Aitkin County nurses office. After graduation, she was offered a job there as secretary. A couple of years later, she moved to Minneapolis and went to work at Dayton’s as a clerk. She came back to Aitkin when she was married to Clarence Nordean in 1951.
“When my husband’s place of work burned down in 1953, we were left with no income,” said Nordean. “It wasn’t common for women to work so I applied for a job without telling him and two weeks later, they called me.”
Nordean went to work at the Aitkin Community Hospital where she was on the night shift for more than five years. Following that was a 28-year career as an office manager for Mille Lacs Wild Rice and Davis Development Company. She had a variety of jobs and said she specially enjoyed developing recipes and hosting food shows all over the country. She retired in 1993.
In 1994, Nordean joined the Aitkin Riverwood Auxiliary, where she volunteered up until a couple of years ago. She was one of the original committee members who started the gift shop at Riverwood Healthcare Center (Aitkin Community Hospital) in 2001. Until recent years, Nordean was also very active in her church, Aitkin United Methodist Church.
Nordean and Davies were both on the first AHS all-class reunion held in 1984. “It took us two years to plan the first one,” Nordean said. Finding names and addresses pre-computer era was especially challenging, the women said. They sent our nearly 4,000 letters separated by zip code. That first year, tickets were sold and two cars were given away.
Both women were also involved in subsequent reunions, 1992, 2001, 2011 and this year, 2022.
Clarence and Claudine had four daughters (and six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren). Clarence died in 1990. Some of their daughters plan to attend this year’s reunion.
Nordean and Davies said they are most looking forward to the daily breakfasts during the reunion and the musical play performance of “Church Basement Ladies.”
“Everyone comes to the breakfasts and you get to see people you haven’t seen in years,” said Nordean.
The Aitkin All-Class Reunion and Aitkin Riverboat Days are Aug. 4-7.