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‘The last Saturday of July’

August 16, 2019 by Brian Jopek

Its time as a high school was relatively brief, but there a few graduates of Arbor Vitae-Woodruff High School who have fond memories of the place and still meet once a year. 

The most recent get together took place July 27 at the American Legion picnic ground on the Rainbow Flowage just off County Highway D.

The school was formed in 1938 and the last senior class graduated in 1958.

“It had a hell of a big gymnasium on the back side of it,” said Bill Rudolph, a 1954 graduate. 

“It’s like I always say,” he said, “I was suppose to graduate in ‘53 but I told my dad I had so much fun, I’d go back an extra year.”

After 1958, high school students from Arbor Vitae and Woodruff started going to the new Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua. 

Students up to eighth grade went to the old Arbor Vitae-Woodruff high school until the new AV-W school was built in 1998. 

The old AV-W high school building was eventually torn down in 1999 and One Penny Place stands where the school once did. 

Sue Poupart is a 1955 graduate of Arbor Vitae-Woodruff High School. 

She’s been coordinating the reunions at the American Legion picnic grounds for the past 22 years. 

It began, though, with the Woodruff centennial in 1993. 

“For the next two or three years, when someone was around, they’d meet and have a drink,” she said. “One year, we were at Brandy Park when one of our former classmates told us about this place and the next year, we started coming out here.”

That first year for a “formal” picnic and get together for AV-W high school alumni at the American Legion picnic grounds on the Rainbow Flowage was 1997. 

“The last Saturday of July, every year,” Rudolph said. 

Poupart says a lot of the credit for getting these annual picnics together goes to Glen Kloes, a 1955 graduate of AV-W High School who went on to live in Antigo and Shawano where he worked for years with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources until his retirement in 1993. 

He passed away at the age of 77 in 2013. 

“We lost something when he died, really,” Rudolph said. 

“Glen really got into it,” Poupart said. “He borrowed all the annuals and typed up a list of every name. Partway through, he had a stroke. He only could use one hand and he kept right on typing.”

She said she was, essentially, Kloes’s helper when it came to getting things coordinated for the picnic. 

“If he wanted to know about somebody, he’d call me,” Poupart said. “Because he knew I knew so many people and could get the phone numbers. That’s how I got to be the secretary. Yep, for many, many years. And it just kept on.”

After Kloes’s death, she said what keeps things going, what keeps her coming back, is having a good time getting together with old friends, even though as the years go by, the numbers are dwindling.

Poupart isn’t sure how much longer the picnics will continue, but the main reason they’ve continued was summed up by 1956 AV-W high school graduate Joyce Kivela. 

“You don’t find a school like this was anymore,” she said. 

“And you don’t find a group like this,” Poupart added. “After all these years.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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