FCHS Alumni Gather for Annual 50+ Luncheon

Adam Bihi and Curran Gilster, News & Opinion and Online Editor

On Saturday, October 21, the annual Falls Church High School 50+ Luncheon was held in the Little Theater. The annual gathering invites all graduates of Falls Church High School who have been alumni for at least 50 years. This year’s gathering consisted of over 100 former students who were eager to reminisce and share stories of their good times here at FCHS. The luncheon, now in its 18th year, was coordinated by Ms. Jeanne Kelly (Class of ’86), the Director of Student Activities here at FCHS today.
Coach Craig Day (Class of ’77), one of our present-day track and field coaches, helped kick off the special day by leading a tour of the school for the Class of 1997. When asked about the gathering of the 50+ alumni, Coach Day said, “They bring around the foundation of our Jaguar family. They are the trailblazers of this school, and I am very thankful and proud to be a part of this school.”
In fact, some of the luncheon attendees were members of the first few classes who graduated from FCHS after it evolved from the old Jefferson High School in Falls Church City for the start of the 1945-46 school year. Many were eager to discuss how the school has changed over the decades.
Dolores McCrae (Class of ’47) said, “We were at Jefferson in our first two years, then attended Falls Church for our last two years.”
Mary Elizabeth (Schmoyer) Seip (Class of ’47) recalled that that “We didn’t have SOLs or finals back then. We advanced up a grade depending on how our grades were.”
Carl Schmitz (Class of ’47) played football in his time at Falls Church, but he isn’t confident that his team could beat our current squad. “We were way smaller and the kids here now are HUGE and BEAST-LIKE!”
Richard Spencer (Class of ’47) said, “I went to the old location of the high school right after World War II. Forty-six was the first class to graduate from this location, back then it was called Jefferson High.”
Members of that first class, and still best friends, Clarence Kipps (Class of ’46) and Theda (Thomas) Fitzpatrick (Class of ’46) had varying degrees of academic success in high school, but they both grew up to have successful and respectable professional careers. Kipps said that “Even though I was second from the bottom of my class, I ended up being a lawyer and a rather successful one. I feel very thankful.”
Fitzpatrick, who was the valedictorian of the Class of 1946, said that “I’m proud to have been honored as a valedictorian. I grew up to be a director of human resources at Wells Fargo.”
Graduates from the 1950s and ’60s still had fresh memories of their experiences in the classrooms, hallways, and on the athletic fields. Many of their stories show that even over a half-century, some aspects of high school really don’t change much. Donna Bierlein (Class of ’56) noted, “It’s [still] a good school, and we had great teachers and a great class [back then].” When asked if she played any sports as a student at FCHS, she replied, “I was a cheerleader on freshman, JV, and varsity!” When asked if she had any advice for students currently attending Falls Church, she replied that students should “Concentrate on studying and get some quality education.”
Patty Rooney (Class of ’62) remembered, “When I walked down the hall I was still scared like a freshman because back then we just went from elementary school to high school.”
Alana Paramore (Class of ’62) remarked that her favorite part was “the friends we made and they we are still very close with.”
Sandra Mooney (Class of ’57) said simply, “I miss the boys.”
This year’s gathering was the last luncheon that included only graduates of the original FCHS building, located in Falls Church City at the corner of Cherry Street and Hillwood Avenue. Next year, the Class of 1968, the first to graduate from our present Jaguar Trail location, will be eligible to attend. Speaking of milestones: Sophomores, if you haven’t heard, as members of the Class of 2020, you will be part of a very special FCHS class, because you will be the 75th group of graduates in our school’s history!
How much will high school change in the next 50+ years? It’s hard to say sitting here in 2017, but as a Jaguar graduate, maybe one day in the 2060s or ’70s you’ll be back here at school sharing stories of your time with eager young journalists of that generation.

Patty Rooney (Class of ‘62) and Alana Paramore (Class of ‘62) enjoyed
reminiscing about old times at the 50+ Luncheon on October 21.(Photo by Curran Gilster)