MONROE — Six Monroe High School class of 1954 classmates gathered Sept. 9 at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern to dedicate a bench celebrating 66 years of friendship and remembering fellow classmates from their graduating class.
The bench includes a plaque that reads: “May Dear Friends & Family Gather Here to Share Good Times & Memories,” an ode to the many hours spent at the restaurant by Monroe 1954 graduate Walter Marty and his friends.
The idea came to life in August, 2019 following their 65th class reunion. Marty, now living in Oshkosh, told friend Patricia Below that he wanted a bench dedicated in front of Baumgartner’s.
For Christmas, Below made Marty’s wish come true with the purchase of the bench memorial.
Main Street Monroe Executive Director Jordan Nordby attended the dedication as well.
“We only have one other bench that’s sponsored or in memory of anyone, which I think makes them all the more special,” Nordby said. “I’m really struck by how extraordinary it is that Walter and so many of his friends could be there to help dedicate the bench. That’s a lot of life that’s happened in the last 66 years, but most of Monroe remains the same. That should be celebrated. Just like this special group of friends.”
We only have one other bench that’s sponsored or in memory of anyone, which I think makes them all the more special. I’m really struck by how extraordinary it is that Walter and so many of his friends could be there to help dedicate the bench. That’s a lot of life that’s happened in the last 66 years, but most of Monroe remains the same. That should be celebrated. Just like this special group of friends.Jordan Nordby, Main Street Monroe Executive Director
While a brief glance at the bench can provide passersby with only a glimpse of the memories shared by the Marty brothers and their friends at the establishment, a deeper dive into the class’ yearbook reveals hints to hundreds of memories shared between the classmates at Monroe’s old Senior High School, in what is now the Monroe Middle School.
As the six classmates came together Sept. 9, multiple others sent Below memories of their times at the senior high school and Baumgartner’s. Some reminisced on the mischievous days of the class’ youth, providing accounts of skinny dipping, pranks and meeting friends at bars or dances while others touched on the legacy of Marty, an active member of the class and basketball star in his time. His name sits alongside his brother’s on the bench.
One thing that remained consistent among all of the memories was an admiration for Marty and all of the class of ’54.
“Wally Marty … is justly proud of his legacy,” classmate John Waelti, Monroe, said in an email of recollections of their time together.
Beyond being a key player on the basketball team, Marty served as the Vice President of Youth Center Council, the governing body of the Youth Center which planned all youth activities, making it no surprise that he was able to form bonds across the entire class.
Marty’s senior photo in the yearbook sits proudly next to his senior quote, selected by the yearbook committee: “At basketball he is a whiz, fun in life for him there is.”
Years later, Marty and his classmates are still at the center of fun times and memory building through their determination to stay connected with one another.
Graduates of the class of ’54 have stayed particularly close throughout the years following their departure, with nearly 80% attendance to each of their reunions.
“I always thought the class of ’54 was kind of a special class,” classmate Don Birschbach, Janesville, said.