WEST PALM BEACH — The first class to graduate from the historic Roosevelt High School in West Palm Beach has held its 60th class reunion, back where they all started.
There were 101 graduates in Roosevelt’s Class of 1951. Of the 45 classmates still living, 24 participated in the Oct. 21-23 reunion activities. They came from as far away as California, Ohio, New York, Maryland and Georgia, and of course throughout Florida.
Looking back, there was much excitement in the community at the beginning of the 1950-51 school year. Everyone was looking forward to the opening of the new high school, which had been built on the Roosevelt Park site at the cost of approximately one-half million dollars.
The furniture had not arrived for the opening of school, however. So the faculty and students slated for Roosevelt went on double session until November 1950 at what had become Palmview Elementary School.
It was a time when life revolved around school, when teachers pushed students — who in this case came from Riviera Beach, Lake Park, Jupiter and elsewhere — to achieve. Many did, going on to make their marks in innumerable fields of endeavor.
The Class of 1951 has been a close-knit group their entire lives. They have kept in touch over the years through regular visits, previous class reunions and exchanges of birthday, Christmas and other holiday cards.
Sixty years later, a committee of eight classmates, chaired by Ruth Powell, was given the task of planning for the historic reunion of the first local class to have 13 African American students inducted into the National Honor Society.
Among the 60th reunion highlights was a “Get Re-Acquainted Party” — a banquet at the West Palm Beach Airport Hilton. There, 85 attendees were greeted by Larcenia Arnett (Class of 1950) and Atneataies Graham (Class of 1952).
One ’51 classmate, Mary Thompson of West Palm Beach, was accompanied by her son, James Stanley Cleare, a pastor in St. Peterburg. Along with Sharolyn Eleas LeBlanc of the reunion class were her close friends Venelean Simpkins, a retired Palm Beach County schoolteacher, and Martha P. Jones, also retired. “It was so wonderful seeing so many of the mature faces that you hadn’t seen for awhile,” LeBlanc said.
Other reunion activities included the class worshipping together on Sunday at the Revival Church of God in Riviera Beach, and later gathering for dinner at The Carving Station in Lake Park.
This historic occasion was even more noteworthy for many in South Florida because the high school no longer exists. Roosevelt closed in the 1970s after Palm Beach County’s public schools were integrated and the former Twin Lakes High School opened.
Photo: C.B. HANIF/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
Sharolyn Eleas LeBlanc