Whitesburg KY
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Stuart Robinson School class of 1955

In the middle of May 1955, 49 students graduated at Stuart Robinson School, Letcher. From these, 18 became school teachers. We scattered all over the U.S.

It’s a very sad time when we hear that one of our class members has passed on. It’s like losing a good friend.

In 1994, I started looking for all the Class of 1955 members. I found them all. Since then, I have been writing an occasional newsletter to them, “The Nifty Fifty Fivers”, and have just started typing number 25.

We have lost the address of one of our classmates, who has moved and not informed us of her new address. She is Geraldine (Struve) Watkins. Her last known address was 7395 Hwy. 15 North, Jackson, KY 41339. If anyone has her new address, we would like to have it.

Every two years SRS has a reunion. Our Class of 1955 always has breakfast together on that day. We’ve had as many as 22 members present.

From stories told to me by others, I have put together a memorial to our classmates who have passed on. Here is the list:

• Donald Adams. After graduation, Donald went to Mayo State Vocational School in Paintsville. When he completed his schooling, he worked for the Daniel Boone Hotel in Whitesburg. After a short time, he began working for Appalachian Regional Hospital in Whitesburg as a bookkeeper and he worked there 22 years. In 1962 he married Jackie Hampton. On Sept. 2, 1986, at the age of 50, Donald died from a massive heart attack.

• William Kenley Adams. After graduation, Kenny did odd jobs for a few years. He married Marie Cornett, and they had two sons. After their divorce, Kenny went into the Army. He sustained a head injury during a softball game in Korea and had to have a metal plate put in his head. After that, he was prone to seizures and was discharged. He then married Pauline Bowling. They had three children, a girl and two boys. He began working for Craft Funeral Home. He developed brain cancer and died at the age of 36 on May 7, 1973.

• Mary Lou Ison. After graduation Mary Lou attended Pikeville College for one year. In June of 1956 she married Ivan Blair. They had three children, a girl and two boys. She worked as a bookkeeper all her life. She first took a job with the RC Cola Bottling Plant and worked there three years. She then began working for the Millott and Adams Company, and worked there until 1995. She suffered a heart attack and died Feb. 14, 2000.

• Willie Haynes. Willie married Betty Turner and moved to Detroit. They had a daughter. When she was five years old, they divorced, and he kept his daughter. Later in Detroit, he married again. He and his second wife had a daughter and a son. Once again, his wife left him, and he now had three children to raise. After losing his job in a bearing factory, he moved to Oklahoma City. He worked there for another bearing factory and was later promoted to assistant plant manager. He married for the third time there. On March 18, 1988, Willie was driving to work on Interstate 35 near Moore, Okla., and ran out of gas. He walked across the interstate to a gas station and got some. When he came back, he made it to the media, then stood and waited for a semi-truck to pass. Not seeing the smaller pickup truck behind the semi, he stepped in front of it and was killed instantly.

• Franklin Delano Duke. After graduation, Frank went into the Air Force for four years. Then he went to Morehead State University for two years. While there, he met and married Helen Blair. They had three children, two girls and a boy. He then took a teaching position in Xenia, Ohio. He taught there for two years and was interim principal for a year. While there, he got a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree from Central State. He and his family then moved to Lawrenceburg, where he became director of the Community Action Program for four counties. He moved to Oregon and set up a similar program there for the government. After a year, he moved to Frankfort where he worked for the Board of Education. He had his first attack there at the age of 39. He then moved to Saginaw, Mich., where he was a school principal. He got his doctorate at Michigan State University. He moved to Houston, Tex., was teaching school when he had a fatal heart attack April 11, 1983 at the age of 48.

• Delmus Ison. Delmus quit school just a few months before graduation and moved to Michigan. There, he married Betty Sparkman. He worked in a machine shop for five years, then moved back to Kentucky. His daughter was born in Michigan and his son in Kentucky. He got a job at Blue Diamond Coal Company and worked there until he became disabled because of his eyesight. In the summer of 1995, he had an injury to his kidney. During blood work-up, the doctors discovered he had a blood disease similar to leukemia. He died Oct. 3, 1995.

• James Stamper. James “Little Turk” Stamper worked in a factory in North Carolina after graduation. He was drafted and served two years in the Army. He went back to North Carolina and married. They had nine children. While in his 40s, he started having heart attacks and had a total of nine. After his next to last heart attack, he went back to work as soon as he got out of the hospital. He died a few days later on Feb. 4, 1979 of a massive heart attack.

• Helen Wheatley. Helen Wheatley started high school at SRS in 1951 but dropped out to marry Donny Caudill Dec. 21, 1953. We consider her a member of our Class of 1955. They moved to Michigan, where they purchased and worked in a party store, an apartment building, and a cleaning business. Later they bought an electronics store. In 1985, Helen discovered she had cancer. After surgery, they moved to Nevada. In 1988 she was declared cancer-free. In Las Vegas, a woman with no driver’s license ran into her, crushing her body from the waist down. She lived only 18 months after that, and her cancer came back. She died Feb. 2, 1990.

• Leo Watts. Leo Watts is another who didn’t graduate with us, but we consider him a member of our class. He dropped out of school in 1954 to join the Air Force. He spent 23 years in the military as an instructor, including a tour in Vietnam. He married Dorothy Cantrell, and they had three children and adopted another. One of their children died young. After retirement, he owned his own business, Access Auto Clinic in Wichita Falls, Tex. He was hired by the Air Force as a civilian instructor at the local Sheppard Air Force Base and taught there until 2000. He attended two of our SRS reunions and thoroughly enjoyed being with us again. He died of cancer on Nov. 30, 2005.

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