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Members celebrate 73rd reunion

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Ripon High School Class of 1941 graduates gathered for their 73rd reunion at the Barnwood Restaurant on Friday. They are, front row from left, Janita (Cook) Lisenbee, Nadine (Williams) Cook, Charl...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED June 10, 2014 1:45 a.m.

The Ripon High Class of 1941was a proud group recognizing 73 years since they graduated, singing their class song together, “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!”

They gathered together at the Barnwood Restaurant last Friday with family members and friends for a special luncheon.  Paul Eastburg served as master of ceremonies for his classmates and proudly introduced his son U.S. Navy Rear Adminiral Steven Eastburg.

Class member Charles Westbrook penned a poem to mark the occasion, “The Greatest Generation.”

Westbrook was in the Merchant Marine corps until 1949 and then he went to work in Washington State for the Atomic Energy Commission building barracks in Richland, Washington.  He returned to California in 1955 finding a job with Best Blocks Inc. in San Leandro.

His poetry of the day read:

“Ripon High Class of ‘41 were graduated and that year became ill-fated.  As enemy planes made a sneak attack, we were angered and wanted to fight back.  Our mobilization was certainly fast.  We hoped the conflict would soon be past.  But soon the whole world was in it — Europe, the Pacific Islands, there was just no limit.  Our factories made war necessities rapidly.  Guns, tanks, munitions, ships for the Navy and planes such as we had never seen.  Fighters, bombers and the B-17.  The generation heeded the call and far too many gave their all.  And some of our classmates were included.  And many, many women we’ve saluted for their work in our plants.  They finally got to wear the pants.  And our nation went all to secure our land and God surely gave us a huge hand.  At that time we still honored the Lord because of the promises found n his word.  It’s said ours is the Greatest Generation.  Maybe that’s because we helped our own nation.  Time will tell if that’s to be.  But as of now, I’m inclined to agree few of us remain from that ‘41 group.  

“Most in our nineties, and most prefer soup.  Long life on earth is a promise of God.  If we honor our parents and they don’t spare the rod, mostly our days now are just — olden unless we know God.  Then they become Golden.  But it’s up to us, if God we’re pursuing because in Him, we live and breathe and have our being.”

Nadeen Ruiz presented a memory of her late father Nish Ruiz who also graduated from Ripon High in 1941.  She said her dad had enlisted in the Army Air Corps in San Francisco one year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The war was in full swing, he said.  He was 18 years and three months old right out of high school.  

She recalled he had decided to join the air corps with three friends, Floyd Hat. Alfred Germano and Paul Nicolini in an effort to avoid being drafted into the infantry.  All were assigned to different units.  Hat was the only one to die while in the medical corps.  In short succession Nish was shipped to several bases for training, Fort Ord,  Sheppard Field in Texas and Buckley Field in Denver, Colorado where he was trained to be an armorer.

As an armorer, he was trained to service the ordnance, clean the machine guns, and load bombs on the P-40 fighter planes assigned to his squadron.  She said her dad’s recollections noted several times when his squadron was attacked by Japanese bombs and they had to dig fox holes to protect themselves from the fragments.

In 1944 they were on Biak Island after it had been retaken by Allied Forces from the Japanese. They were bombed and 18 members of his squadron were killed in the action.  The soldiers at Biak were vulnerable because much of the island was coral and very difficult to dig with a shovel to lessen the impact of the deadly air attacks.  Nish Ruiz was discharged at the end of the war and returned to Ripon and to farming in late November 1945.

Editor’s Note:  Stephen Azevedo, Nish Ruiz’s nephew and son of his sister Clara Azevedo, interviewed Nish on March 6, 2005.  About five months later Nish passed away.  On May 1, 2014 Nish’s daughter Nadeen, added some dates and locations based on a small, black address book she recently found.  The address book lists names of the young local men that Nish signed up with and also many of his squadron members from all over the U.S.

Included in the luncheon celebration was the Ripon High JROTC posting the colors at the opening of the program and an address by Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn.

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