The 44 in 44

(From Left) Richard Ketterling, Joyce Dole, Thelma Van Wyk and Helen Anderson. Hettinger High School photos, Class of 1944. (Submitted Photos)

What was happening 74 years ago? Oversees, World War Two was in full swing.

Frank Turner

The tides of battle were changing, and the iconic D-Day invasion of Normandy was taking place. Meanwhile back in Hettinger, a special group of students were graduating from Hettinger High School. This special group of students was the class of 1944, which had exactly 44 students. 74 years later in 2018, 4 of those students, Richard Ketterling, Joyce Anderson, Helen Austin, and Thelma Sandgren are still with us today and wanted to share their story.

Across the nation, the class of 1944 is also recognized for its involvement in World War Two. Hettinger High School was no different with nearly the entire class of boys getting drafted into the war. Richard Ketterling was one of those sent overseas. “My dad didn’t want me to go to war. Instead he wanted me back home to help out with the farm and work. He even went to the draft board and convinced them to keep me in town,” said Ketterling. “However I was a bit of a hothead and wanted to see a bit of the world. When I heard a group of boys in town were getting drafted and going overseas, I volunteered at the age 18. I went through basic training and artillery training. Eventually I moved onto parachute training and then I was shipped overseas to the Philippians.”

When asked why they wanted to share their story, Sandgren replied in a matter-of- fact voice, “We all wanted to reconnect and share our story because you never know when one us will go to sleep and not wake up.”

Nearly ¾ of a century is a long, long time, and a lot has changed in 74 years. Sandgren relived her old days, saying, “I’m not tall now, according to the current generation. When I was in high school, I was ‘out’ for being too tall. Now and days, everyone is taller than me. Also everyone used to go visit everybody, but now they just turn on the TV. It’s actually really sad.”

After graduating in ‘44, Sangren worked at the bank for 3 ½ years. After retirement, Sandgren settled down to help her son and husband work on the ranch. Sangren was also avidly involved with the Lodgepole Ice Cream Social and has since retired.

Joyce Anderson, another Hettinger High school graduate of 1944, married George Anderson. She then helped her husband raise sheep and farm. Both Joyce and George were known for their avid church involvement. Today, Joyce Anderson lives in Rapid City with her two adopted daughters.

Helen Austin lived out on a farm with her husband north of White Butte. She has since moved to Lemmon with her daughter.

The class of 1944 is one that grew up in the great depression, fought through World War Two, lived through invention of the microwave oven, and even watched the moon landing. These wise elders have experienced both the greatest and worst moments of modern history. It’s important to take time to listen carefully and heed their story.