William Henry High alumni reunions keep school memories alive

DOVER — Reunions are often just seen as a chance to reacquaint with old friends and classmates.

However, for the alumni of the William W. M. Henry Comprehensive High School, reunions are a chance to preserve some of the school’s pre-desegregation history.

That history will be celebrated at the William Henry High School Reunion from Friday through Sunday and will include dinners, entertainment, dancing and remembering old classmates from a school that began operation in Kent County in 1952 for three types of “colored” students — Negroes, Nanticoke Indians and Moors.

Roger Young, a member of the William Henry High School Alumni Association Executive Committee, said his school’s reunions gain importance with each passing year because of the advanced ages of the school’s alumni.

“Reunions such as this one are very important,” Mr. Young said. “We used to bus people to William Henry as far down as Farmington all the way up to Dover. So, it’s pretty important.

Anita Boyer (far right) and other former William Henry High School graduates in front of what is now William Henry Middle School. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

“Plus, we’re losing so many people due to death and many people are coming down with sickness and are unable to attend. We’re going to try to send out (programs) to those who can’t make it.”

William W. M. Henry Comprehensive High School closed at the end of the 1965-66 school year following the desegregation of Delaware schools. That came after a 1965 State Board of Education Resolution that mandated there would be no more separate schools.

The building in west Dover is now home to William Henry Middle School.

Anita McDowell Boyer, an alumnus of William Henry High School, is expecting a weekend full of fun and making more memories.

“The whole thing for me is just getting everybody together because everybody is over 65-years-old,” she said. “Even if they live in Dover, we don’t see them a lot of the time.

“We’ve definitely lost a lot of our school’s history over the past three years because we’ve had at least 53 alumni who have passed away over that time. It’s sad.”

The William Henry High School Reunion will get underway Friday with a tour of William Henry from 4 until 6 p.m.

Other than the tour, all of the reunion events on Friday and Saturday will take place at the Modern Maturity Center.

Friday’s program includes a registration/meet and greet from 4 until 6 p.m., dinner from 6 until 7:30, a remembrance of Lost Rams from 7:30 until 8, a pair of scholarships will be awarded from 8 until 8:15, entertainment and raffles will take place from 8 until 9 and dancing from 9 until 10.

On Saturday, there will be a registration/meet and greet from 4 until 6 p.m., dinner from 6 until 7:30, entertainment from 7:30 until 9 and dancing from 9 until 10.

The reunion will wrap up with a Sunday church service at the William Henry auditorium from 10 a.m. until noon.

“I’m looking forward to it quite a bit,” Mr. Young said. “We put a lot of effort into it and everything really started coming into place at the last (reunion) meeting last Thursday night.”

The William Henry Alumni Association is tentatively expecting 70 alumni to attend Friday’s festivities and around 100 for Saturday’s events.

One thing about this reunion that’s different than some others is that it’s about remembering an entire school, not just individual classes.

“We started out having the reunion every 10 years but then we decided to cut it down to once every three years,” said Mr. Young. “When we do it we don’t do it by class. I’d say probably 50 percent, 60 percent of our attendance are the older classes – they just seem to support these kinds of events better.”

One thing the alumni association is looking for is any type of William Henry High School paraphernalia (jackets, sports equipment, trophies, pictures, art, etc.) its alumni can provide.

That’s because the Capital School District would like to place a huge display case for the memorabilia inside of William Henry Middle School in homage to the building’s past, much like it recently did at neighboring Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

In a letter to the school’s alumni, Ms. Boyer pleaded for some of her old classmates to help fill up the display case.

“It is understood you may find it hard to part with things you have cherished over the years, but just think, it will be awesome for your children, grandchildren, and greats to be able to see the items whenever they want and the items will never go away because the history will be digitized.

“It’s up to us to continue to keep William Henry High School alive,” she wrote.

As for William Henry High School, its “living” history will get a chance to get together again to remember the Rams this weekend.

“We’re looking forward to Reunion 2017,” Ms. Boyer said. “There will be camaraderie and fun. We’re getting older, but from what I hear, we’re getting better.”

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