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Katrina "Marlene"
Mitchell Piper

Marlene and Jim



For the 50th Reunion

To My Fellow Classmates-
From Katrina “Marlene” Mitchell Piper
March 2011

It is my hope that all will have a Happy 50th Reunion. In previous “memory letters” I shared my memories of the very structure that is Central High. Just imagine! Built in 1928 and still standing, active, and known for its architectural beauty.

That first memory letter 10 years ago made me dig out the ol’ year book and look at the faces of those I knew well, and those I only knew in passing. And
just how in the world could memories not include our teachers!

About that phrase “in passing.” I was and am so near-sighted, and I would not wear my eyeglasses between classes. It is probably true some thought I was a snob, when, in truth, I could not recognize anyone out of range! I laugh when I think about that…hated those glasses. My husband bought me contact lens in 1965 and I wore them until 5 years ago when ocular rosacea prevented that.

I married James A. “Jim” Piper, class of ’56, one year after graduation. We met on a blind date when my daughter was 5 weeks old; my first marriage having lasted 6 weeks before being told “he” didn’t want to be married anymore.

Jim was my knight in blue armor whose white steed was his white Corvair. The blue armor was Jim’s USAF uniform. Thus began my life as a military wife. We look back on the interesting career he had that involved having a supportive wife; and on all the interesting places we lived. Of course, there were Isolated Tours for Jim, including his year in Viet Nam. But we made a great team, and our children traded traditional roots for a social education in cultures and making friends easily.

One of our favorite tours was at Headquarters for the Aerospace Medical School at Brooks AFB in San Antonio. We met such interesting people. Scientists,
medical researchers, etc. One was Dr. Hubertus Strughold “Strugie” who is known as the Father of Aerospace Medicine. When we attended his 75th birthday gathering, there were scientists like Werner Von Braun, and others. I was so awed, I remained at the buffet nibbling.

Have to share a goodie. While stationed at NATO Headquarters near Naples, Italy, we would sometimes eat at a little “ristorante” in downtown Naples. My
first time there was like a visit to fairy tales. A waiter would sing. Maybe a guest would stand up and sing. And the two musicians, a guitarist and violinist would play. When urged to sing, I muttered O Sole Mio, which I had learned in the Naplitan dialect. Well, Classmates, the next man to sing, I learned later, was a retiree from the Italian Metropolitan Opera. He came to our table, took me by the hand and asked me to sit on the table next to the musicians. He then sang the most beautiful aria. I could have been fed sawdust and not been the
wiser. Subsequent trips, the players always greeted our entrance with the song I sang that first night – Que Sera, Sera. When one of our traditional Italian
male friends asked Jim why he was not jealous (It’s true most Italian men are jealous), Jim informed him he was proud.

Such a wonderful tour for me, but then, I did not have to experience the things some did. We lived in a fishing village, not in the big city of Naples or at an area with other Americans. Boy did we eat! Ate my way through Europe!

Over the years, it has been interesting to learn how many had never heard of the “Little Rock story and Central High.” That is until I worked at the credit
union on Randolph AFB. One of the computer programmers was a lady who was friends with one of the Little Rock Nine who had settled overseas. (Gloria is how she knew her). She asked to see my two year books, and I obliged.

After retirement from the AF, Jim never looked back. We no longer had to hobnob, etc., not that it was not enjoyable, but we were ready to quit. We have become quite the homebodies. One of our daughters is dealing with life threatening illnesses and syndromes, the nine now twelve. We know the end, but not when. Another daughter now has permanent health issues, but not life- threatening. Both have wonderful attitudes. It is Daddy and Mama that have to hold our peace while not being able to do anything about it all.

I so enjoyed reading the few entries in the last reunion’s book, and I look forward to the one from this year. There will always be pieces of memories from our years at LRCHS.

Spouse: James A. “Jim” Piper – class of ’56, lrchs
Married 49 years this May

Four children:
Marcia 49
Laura Kathleen 48
Kimberly Ann “Kimi” 43
James “Shannon” 40

Erin Marie Milanovich 29
Sarah Lynn Milanovich 23
Dillon Joshua Lyons 16
Micah Alexander Piper 3
Two step-grandchildren – Antonio Palmer 23
And Emily Lyons 23

Mark Piper Delery 3

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