In September 1945, two days following Japan’s official surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri ending World War II, nine young people embarked on the road to education in Slater, Iowa. Five of those classmates would eventually be part of the 11 students comprising the graduating class of 1957.
The 12 years in between would cement those pupils, along with others who would eventually join them, into a close-knit group eager to challenge the trials and tribulations the world had in store for them.
Karen Hokel Wiles was a member of that class from beginning to end. She, along with Clayton Omvig, Fred Mason, Carrol Michael and myself were family – much like the Statler Brothers bought to life in their still popular song “The Class of ’57 Had Its Dreams.”
Unfortunately, Karen passed away Oct. 28 following a battle with cancer. She was a fighter most of her life. Karen lost her husband, Sonny Wiles, at a young age, leaving her to raise three teenagers. She went on to live an independent life and was still working right up to the end. Like I said, she was a fighter.
I well remember Karen growing up, as the years passed from elementary school through high school. She was always a good-looking fashionable girl who put in extra attention in making herself look charming.
In school Karen was a good athlete and a wonderful cheerleader. I guess she was what most high school girls always want to be – popular with both the boys and the girls. She even had a winning way with our teachers.
Besides her popularity at school, she would be later well regarded in the business world. To keep in fashion and maintain a certain lifestyle, she always worked. Never did I ever hear her complain or make excuses for such demands. That was just part of Karen and her determination.
Karen’s passing leaves the Class of 1957 with yet another missing class member. Over the years, our class has suffered more than its share.
Three members of our eighth grade class never saw adulthood, as they died at a very young age due to auto accidents: Dale Swim, Daryl Nereim and Carroll Larson.
Over the years following graduation, we have lost Ron Hendershot, Clayton Omvig and Charles Gregg, with Bob Ellsworth’s welfare unknown.
This leaves a class roll of Myrna Gibson Harmon, Marilyn Hedlund Gregg, Virginia Cerise Homewood, Carrol Michael, Fred Mason, and Ed Rood.
Central Iowa residents their entire lives, Karen, Marilyn and Myrna have stuck together like glue and supported each other through the blessings and challenges of their lives.
This being our 60th year since graduation, I believe the class of ’57 still has its dreams. The problem is — we are losing the dreamers.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.