World War II veterans enjoy impromptu 76th high school class reunion
By TAWNYA PANIZZI | The Tribune-Review | Published: December 13, 2018
GREENSBURG, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — A reunion of sorts Wednesday in O’Hara saw four 1942 graduates of Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse High School reminiscing as if seven decades hadn’t passed since they were classmates.
Tony Iole, 93, a resident of O’Hara’s Lighthouse Pointe Village at Chapel Harbor, hosted a luncheon for three of his former classmates. They met as teens growing up in East Liberty.
“We try to see each other whenever we get the chance,” said Angelo Vento, 94, of Murrysville. “We mostly talk about the old neighborhood, and our aches and pains.”
In addition to Iole and Vento, the alumni included Mike Scuro, 95, and Billie Paraggio, 93, both of Penn Hills. Mary Jane Hilton, the widow of a former classmate, also attended along with other spouses and newly made friends from Lighthouse Pointe.
“This is so exciting to be here with friends,” said Iole, a retired real estate agent who moved from East Liberty to Oakmont after returning from World War II, during which he was an Army Air Corps radio navigator.
At Wednesday’s lunch, the group marveled at old pictures, pointing out classmates in yearbook photos and perusing a graduation program.
“I played the oboe solo at our graduation exercises,” Iole recalled. “I loved the orchestra. But I never touched the instrument for years until I played it again at our 60th reunion.”
Westinghouse High School opened in 1917 along Homewood’s North Murtland Street. Built in the classical revival style, the stately stone building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is noted by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
The friends have remained in touch over the years and volunteered on the high school’s reunion committee for get-togethers in 1967, 1992 and 1997.
Their rapport comes easily. They recalled hanging out at the Italian Club on Nelson Street, learning to dance the Charleston and laughing about their antics during a trip to the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee.
They debated scores of their now-defunct golf outings, reminisced about weekly breakfast dates at Denny’s in Monroeville and somehow all answered in unison when asked about the Westinghouse football team.
“Bulldogs. Greatest team in the City League.”
The friends were not so close in high school.
Vento said he was a sports enthusiast “even though I wasn’t on varsity.” Scuro played drums in the marching band, and Paraggio said she spent her free time with the new boy in school, Galdino, an Italian immigrant who didn’t speak English but earned his way to valedictorian. They married after graduation.
The group has traveled together to Conneaut, Disney and the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., where veterans Iole, Vento and Scuro paid tribute to the 16 million Americans who served alongside them in the war.
Vento was in the Navy Amphibious Force in the South Pacific, and Scuro fought with the Army in Europe.
Vento said he’s not certain how many people in the graduating class of 321 remain. His plan for 2019 is to try to locate as many as possible, perhaps for a formal reunion.
Scuro, who retired from Westinghouse Electric and was one of the first employees to transfer to the company’s Cheswick plant when it was built around the 1950s, said sitting with old friends and recalling old times was perfect for the holidays.
“It’s incredible to be here with our friends,” he said.
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