Downers Grove Class of 1944 celebrates 75th reunion

Seventy-five years after their high school graduation, the Downers Grove High School class of 1944 will celebrate full lives and a love for their town at their high school reunion Oct. 4.

“For more than 90 years, these classmates have raised their families, built their businesses, and given back the Downers Grove community,” commented Dr. Hank Thiele, District 99’s superintendent, in a Community High School District 99 news release. “District 99 is proud and honored that they continue to celebrate their high school experience and their community.”

The members of the graduating class who planned the event are Jacob Pollack, John Prescott, Floyd Mizener, John Guarnaccia, Doris Moehel, John Mochel and Edris Byers.

Many of them say they remember high school fondly.

“I was involved in everything,” said Floyd Mizener, one of the ‘44 graduates. “I played four years of football and we won the championship. It was the first time they had won in football, and was exciting for me personally. I also made everyone laugh because I played violin, too.”

For John Prescott, another of the graduates, sports were a big part of his high school career, too. He said he was “one of those guys who got into sports immediately,” and was on the football, basketball and track team/

“I guess my best sport was track, because I was fortunate enough to have good speed,” he said.
I went down to state to high and low hurdles races, and got clock-cleaned down there, though. I wasn’t good enough for the whole state. But it did stop me from having to go to gym class.”

Much of their high school experiences were like that of those today, but graduating in the midst of World War II changed most of their trajectories. Prescott said he volunteered for the navy right after graduation, but was sent to the infantry. He went straight to basic training in Florida for 17 weeks, before being sent to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was wounded near the end of 1945, he said, and spent 4 months in hospitals around the world.

“Fortunately the war ended while I was still in the hospital,” Prescott said.

Mizener also served in World War II and left for training before high school had even ended. He said he took a heavier courseload his junior and senior years so that he could finish his required credits in January. Before going over seas, they gave him a leave to come home and participate in commencement and receive his diploma, he said.

Both Mizener and Prescott said their high school experiences at Downers Grove High School — technically Downers Grove North, since South did not open until 1964, a Community High School District 99 news release said — were fantastic.

After the war, Mizener went on to become an award-winning optometrist, whose research led to laws including the requirement to test side vision for driving and the requirement to be tested both on paper and in the car every year after turning 86 years old in order to drive. Prescott became an insurance agent and had 5 children with his wife. Now, they have 8 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.

The group of graduates has widely kept in touch since high school, with Downers Grove still at the focal point of their connection. Prescott said for many years, six of the graduates, including Prescott and Mizener, and their spouses would meet up once a month at different houses. “I’m so thankful to be a part of [this reunion and class] and to still be around to see it,” Prescott said. “Our supper club doesn’t meet anymore, but I’ve had quite a lifetime.”

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