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Memories from the Sussex HS class of '42

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  May 5, 2009

A class graduation photo from the Sussex High School Class of 1942 was recently donated to the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society.

At that time, Sussex had a two-year high school where Sussex Village Hall is now. It was part of a State of Wisconsin practice that had a series of small rural area two-year high schools that students chose to go to rather than travel some great distance to a regular four-year high school. This school began in Sussex; the first class graduated in 1920 and continued through the class of 1947 graduation, when the state abolished two-year community high schools.

Back in those days, Sussex was not alone in having two-year high school classes, as nearby Merton and Lannon had similar two-year programs. The vast majority of sophomore students did go on to nearby four-year high schools, most of them going to either Waukesha/Menomonee Falls high schools with a few attending Pewaukee and Hartland high schools.

The Sussex class of 1942 went through a time of change, as Sussex High School had just lost teacher-principal Winston Brown, who left to become superintendent of Waukesha Schools. His departure left a spot for new principal Joe Slabosheski. The photo of the class was taken in his office on the second floor of the present day Sussex Village Hall. The majority of the students in the photo were born in 1926 and were about 16 years old. Today, surviving class members are about 83. . This class part of the generation that saw the United States go to war with Japan and Germany, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning Dec. 7, 1941.

Many of the boys in this class would, within two years, be in the United States armed services, and many of the girls would marry former servicemen about three to five years later.

Wilmer and Kenny Marx were cousins, from the German immigration to Sussex-Lisbon in the 1880s. Both would serve in World War II. Kenny would become "Mr. Sussex Horse Shoe Champ."

Willi Marx would be in the U.S. Army Air Force, and later came back to Sussex where he was on the Village Board and served as president of the Sussex Lions. He also helped start the Lannon Lions Club and is responsible for helping start what has evolved into the Youth Sussex Flag Football League. In addition, Willi was a member of the Sussex 1950-51 Land O' Rivers grand championship basketball team. He put in long years with the Sussex Land O' Lakes baseball team and was elected to the Sussex Baseball Hall of Fame.

Doris Riewe was also part of the German 1880s influx to Sussex-Lisbon. A farm girl, she would marry Sussex High School student, Russell Howard, of the class of 1940. They did not date each other while in high school but met later, accidently, at the Nightingale Roller Skating ballroom. She is accused of falling while skating with Russell, and then falling in love with him. They were married Oct. 4, 1947.

Russell Howard, a member of an early pioneering family of the 1830s and '40s who goes back to the founding family of Lisbon, the Weavers, was a farm boy, as was his future wife, Doris. He needed money for an engagement ring and used his farm skills to raise a litter of piglets which he sold to raise money to buy the ring.

Nearly 50 years later, on March 4, 1997, the historic brick house that the Howards lived in, at the center of the Howard farm on Hillside Road and Howards Lane in Lisbon, burned down.

They had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Russell Howard left farming in the early 1960s and founded the Russell Howard Insurance Agency, now run by his son Robb.

Now deceased, Russell Howard is survived by Doris, who still lives on Hillside Road.

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