SMALL TOWNS: Kaukauna classmates rekindle friendship after 75 years
KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s not uncommon after high school to lose touch with some of your friends, but thanks to class reunions, perhaps a wedding, or by chance, you see each other again.
This week in Small Towns, we visit Kaukauna where two classmates recently re-kindled their friendship after 75 years.
High school yearbooks trigger memories still vivid in the minds of Bill Glaff and Mark Kalupa.
Both Bill and Mark grew up in Kaukauna.
“My father owned a bakery business here in Kaukauna, founded in 1910, and I had 7 brothers and sisters and we were raised above the baker’s shop over on the south side,” says Mark.
In high school, the two became friends on the boxing team, one of the finest in the state.
Bill also played football.
“Bill was the big guy, he weighed in at 150 pounds and I was soaking wet 128 pounds, so my sport was boxing,” recalls Mark.
A year older than Mark, Bill graduated in 1946.
He then joined the Army.
“I don’t fly at all and I can walk a lot further than I could swim,” says Bill with a chuckle.
Over the next 24 years, Bill served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
“The bad part is every once in a while that stuff hits you about the time you go to bed at night and then forget it,” says Bill. “Still to this day?,” I ask. “Oh yeah, probably in the last week,” says Bill.
After his graduation in 1947, Mark joined the Navy, also serving during Korea.
He then spent 35 years as a top executive for both Sears and Tenneco, before retiring and buying a condo in Pompano Beach, Florida, the same town Bill lived in running a wholesale coin and jewelry business.
For the next 20 years, they lived in the same city and never saw each other.
And if they did, they didn’t know it.
“Looking at him he wouldn’t of recognized me and I wouldn’t of recognized him, we could’ve been like two ships in the night walking down the street,” says Bill.
“I didn’t even know he existed down there and he couldn’t have been more than three blocks away, I probably walked by him at the grocery store and didn’t know he was there,” adds Mark.
Eventually their hometown started calling, and Mark, now 93, moved back to Kaukauna in 1996.
“It’s nice to come home and not have a lineup of 15 cars in front of you trying to get through the stop light,” says Mark.
Bill, now 94, returned last year.
“What do I like about it? I can’t think of anything I don’t, the people are so different,” says Bill.
So just how did Bill and Mark finally reconnect after 75 years?
It’s all thanks to Michael Weaver, a fellow veteran who wanted to honor two of the city’s oldest veterans last month as part of the VFW’s Golf with a Vet event.
He arranged a breakfast and the rest is history.
“And I was like a fly on the wall listening to all their stories of girlfriends and sporting events and all the trouble they got into when they were younger like all young men do. I purposely just sat there, to listen,” explains Weaver.
During that conversation, a revelation Mark and Bill couldn’t believe, having to do with Mark’s former condo.
“He said Tiffany Gardens, oh what apartment, 107, that had been my mother-in-law’s apartment,” says Bill.
“Which it’s remarkable when you think about it after all these years,” adds Mark.
In recent weeks, Bill and Mark have made it a point to enjoy each other’s company.
“Company is the thing more than anything else Jeff, I mean you can get groceries most any place, but you can’t get good friends together,” says Bill.
“At our age most of our friends have passed, and so to find one of them that was still around and alert and able to talk to you is kind of nice,” adds Mark with a smile.
Bill and Mark both say Kaukauna will be home again for as long as they live, and with their recent re-acquaintance, their friendship may very well continue for years to come.
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