Still Townies After All These Years! 70 Year EPHS Reunion
Athletes, careers, military service, home-makers and a late-blooming romance 80 years later!
Seventy years ago, in June of 1945, 264 teenagers graduated from East Providence Senior High School. On Sunday September 13, 2015, eighteen classmates gathered at the Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. to break bread and reminisce about their high school days and beyond. They became Admirals in the military, doctors, teachers, athletes, housewives, fighter pilots, mechanical engineers, business executives and more. But on this quiet day alongside the picturesque golf course, they were all kids again. 70 years out from their high school graduation they told stories of their beloved days as school boys and school girls. Many talked about playing or following sports while in school.
"I played football, hockey and track," said Tom Olean. "School came easy to me, I loved it. But I have to say, the men's locker room was awful," he laughed as he recalled the old school which was on Taunton Avenue at the time. "We had a great class," he said. Olean went into mechanical engineering and was an athlete in high school.
Two members of the class have been inducted into the EPHS Hall of Fame. Ed Anelundi excelled in basketball, cross-country and track & field in school. He enjoyed a career as a firefighter and also became adept at tennis. "I'll never forget the State Championship we won in 1945 for basketball," smiled Anelundi. "We won an overtime thriller against a good Westerly team. I was all-state in basketball, cross-country and track," he reminded his classmates. Anelundi became a tennis pro and worked at Ledgemont Country Club and the Wheeler Summer School Camp. In retirement he ran the Indoor Tennis Court in East Providence and continued to teach young people tennis. He was a head Coach for the Barrington High girls tennis team for several years. Today at 88 he is a volunteer coach for LaSalle High doubles tennis. "I coach a little but don't play anymore. It is very rewarding to teach young people the sport. I want to coach until I can't do it anymore," said Anelundi.
"Mrs. Coyne was my favorite teacher," said Beatrice Cain. "I loved shorthand class. I was on the school newspaper called the Informer and I played some basketball in school," added Cain. Cain who still resides in East Providence went on to work for Cherry & Webb for some 16 years and also at Hospital Trust Bank for another 16 years. "Along the way I raised three children," said Cain.
As the small group reminisced they sat down to a lunch of boneless chicken and vegetables, fruit and desert. The reunion was mostly organized by Dr. F. Paul Colella. Known as Paul to his classmates, Colella served as an informal Master of Ceremonies. There was some talk of classmates who were too ill to attend or others who died, but mostly the conversations were light and full of good memories. "It's good to see everyone and please feel free to get up and tell your best stories from high school or beyond," invited the nattily dressed Colella in bow-tie and pressed slacks and blazer. Colella, too, was an athlete at EPHS. He was an all-state football and hockey player. "I coached hockey at EP from 1957 to 1964, winning two division championships," smiled Colella. Colella is best remembered for a long career in EP education. He began as a chemistry teacher at EPHS eventually teaching guidance and adult education. Spending some time in the U.S. Army, Colella returned to teaching. After receiving his doctorate and appointment to numerous administrative posts with the EP school department, Colella became Director of Personnel and Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Paul's wife, Marie Colella, coincidentally just celebrated her 65th EP Class reunion with a party at Davenport's Restaurant. "We had a great time and I'm much younger than Paul!" Marie Colella laughed.
Another member of '45 is Harold Kjellman. "I loved basketball under coach Cliff Good," said Kjellman. "I got into engineering after URI and was a mechanical engineer for the electric company. I was a manager for the Manchester, N.H. supply house also. My days at EPHS were great. We won titles for basketball, wrestling and track," he added with a big smile.
One couple attending the reunion was happy to tell of their 'recent' courtship. Ed Noonan, 88 and Emelia White, 87 have been a "couple" for the past three years. "We've known each other pretty much since grade school. I knew Ed, he lived around the corner, but we didn't see each other to often," said Emelia. "And besides, I got better grades than Ed all through school," she laughed. Although knowing each other for most of their school days, the two never dated. After high school Emily married and raised nine children. Sadly her first husband died and she remarried eventually only to see her second husband pass away also. For his part, Ed worked for Narragansett Electric after high school and retired at age 62. "I haven't worked since my retirement," he said. Ed also had married and lost his wife some time ago. Ed moved to Rehoboth and Emelia spent some 15 years in Florida. "I would come home and stay with my daughter Janice for a while," said Emelia. So three years ago Emelia asked her daughter if she knew where Ed lived. Janice, who attended the reunion with her Mom, not only found Ed Noonan but set up a surprise meeting at the Country Kitchen in Seekonk, MA. "I was reading the paper and Janice called me. So we got together," smiled Ed. "Yes, we got together three years ago and we've been together since," added Emelia as the two kissed for the camera. 'That's long enough,' said someone in the crowd as the kiss lingered.
A former EP city manager and finance director was a class member. "I loved high school," said Charlie O'Connell. O'Connell was an all-state track star playing for legendary coach and former Superintendent of Schools, Ed Martin. "I enjoyed school very much. I would get there early and run around the gym before classes started. One of my track times stayed a state record for a long time," said O'Connell. After graduation he joined the Air Force. "I wanted to join the Navy but after a submarine sank it was decided that I would join the Air Force," he added. O'Connell went on to Bryant College and ran track there also. "It was great as I was the anchor for one of the school's largest track meets." O'Connell entered the finance field working for U.S. Rubber for two years and then beginning a career with the City of East Providence. "It was interesting," he said. "I was there when we converted from a town to a city. I was a controller and treasurer and eventually a City Manager for a year," he recalled. "I retired in 1990. One of my interesting tales was the time I spent on the (Claus) Von Bulow trial. When the jury vote was 11-1, I was the one who voted to convict. But we couldn't get a hung-jury decision," said O'Connell. "This is great, still getting together after all these years." O'Connell met his wife at EPHS. "We were married for 67 years," he said. Mrs. O'Connell recently passed away.
One classmate almost didn't make the reunion because he mixed up his calendar. Two Star General Gordon Smith now lives in California. "He called me the night before our reunion to tell me he would be attending. I'll see you next week, Gordon told me!," said Paul Colella. "I told him that, no, it's tomorrow!" "Well guess I better get going," he replied. So the retired Navy Admiral got on the phone and booked a red-eye, flying into Boston and arriving in East Providence in time for the reunion. Smith, whose father was long time legendary educator Otho Smith, excelled in hockey and football in school. After graduating he joined the Navy at age 17 becoming one of the youngest ever to serve. He had a meritorious service as a fighter pilot for 34 years. Smith was a fighter pilot in Vietnam and Korea and "maybe some other areas I probably can't tell you about," Smith winked. "I also worked in industry for some 32 years as either a CEO or president," Smith added. One other fighter pilot who became known to Admiral Smith was the senior George H.W. Bush.
The other EPHS Hall of Fame member of this class is Paul Colella. In addition to his many teaching and administrative positions with the school department, Colella was a tireless volunteer for many groups in the city. In 1984 Colella chaired the Townie Pride Centennial weekend celebration and parade which kicked off the Townie Pride movement.
Without saying it directly, Colella closed the afternoon by seemingly reflecting on the collective age of his classmates. "We don't know if we're going to get together again. God willing, maybe next year. We could meet again soon." The once young EPHS student/athletes from 1945 then slowly left the Wannamoisett with smiles and Townie Pride in their gait.