Classes of 1939, 1940, 1941 - Eight Ilion Beavers


Ilion Beavers - Classmen, 1939, 1940, 1941

Eight Ilion 'Beavers', Friends for Years,
Still Together in Spirit in Common Cause


Together since they started in high school, the Beavers of Ilion can boast today that they are united in a common cause with every member fighting for Uncle Sam.

The Beavers are eight young Ilion men, organized when they entered high school.

The octet has divided its strength, with four members choosing the Navy and the other four joining the Army. All have attained ratings.

Three of the Army men, Robert Whittemore, Vernon Cool and Frank Steber Jr., enlisted together, but were assigned separate stations. The other Army man is Lynn Coyle.

The Navy men includeThomas Lester, Frank Hart, Jack Berkemeyer and William Fay. Fay and Lester are at the same station now and the other two are across Long Island Sound from each other and meet frequently.

Lester is a seaman, first class, and is training as a Naval air crewman at Jacksonville, Fla. Fay is an aviation machinist's mate, second class, temporarily assigned to Jacksonville.

The two were living in adjoining barracks for some time before their parents here discovered their post office boxes were practically side by side and with that information Fay waited at Lester's mailbox call to greet him.

Hart was the last of the group to join, leaving in the fall. He is now in gunnery school at Newport with the rating of seaman, second class. At the same base is Berkemeyer, torpedoman, third class.

The Army men are widely separated, one in England, one in the South Pacific, another in Georgia and the fourth in Maryland. Three are seargeants and the other a corporal.

Sergeant Whittemore is a supply sergeant in the central training school of the anit-aircraft unit at Camp Stewart, Ga., while Seageant Coyle is on duty at Fort Knox.

Sergeant Cool is a member of a bomber crew in England while Corporal Steber is on a secret task in the South Pacific. He has never been home since he, Cool and Whittemore left in July, 1942, and although he writes frequently, he has never been permitted to give any detail of his work.

The men were well known locally and were active in softball, bowling and basketball.

(Above newspaper article, from the WWII years, submitted by Paul McLaughlin '41)


1988 Photo of The Beavers - Photo contributed by Betty Lou Sprague Whittemore - added Feb 20, 2005


Bomber Beavers ....

(Submitted by by Frank "Kink" Steber - February 2, 2002)

The Class of 1939 gave birth to the Beavers, a group of 8 IHS fellows who had much fun together during and after high school days. Their close friendship has lasted over the years, through WW11 service, marriages, geographical separation, and different careers in various locations, and now into their retirement years - a friendship of over 63 years. It all began in Earl Planty's home room in good old Ilion High School with the "Beaver Board" and still thrives today. Many times they had reunions or even accidental get-togethers involving 4 or 5 couples and once in a while all 8! The latest occurred 1 and 1/2 years ago at Tom Lester's home on Oneida Lake. Only Lynn Coyle couln't make it; the six who planned it were surprised by the unexpected arrival of Bill Fay from South Carolina, who was forced from his home by the big storm. Hey, 7 out of 8 ain't bad, after 60 years! The Beavers are:

Jack "Berk" Berckemeyer (IHS '41), retired Navy man and ATT overseas employee who lives with wife Sharon in Streator, Illinois.

The late Vernon "Coolie" Cool (IHS '40), former career Air Force Master Sergeant and New Hampshire State veterans employment counsellor of Dover, NH, who died in 2001.

Lynn "Doc" Coyle (IHS '40), former North Carolina business man who moved back to Ilion recently after the death of his wife June in 2001.

Bill "Jeep" Fay (IHS '39), retired mechanic and machinist who still works almost full time on a golf course and lives with wife Dorothy in Little River, SC.

Frank "Hannes" Hart (IHS '39), retired Remington Arms draftsman, renowned golfer and ski enthusiast who lives with wife Jean in Ilion.

Thomas "Tom" Lester, (IHS '39), former Ilion business man, village trustee and mayor, who since the death of his beloved Carolyn has resided with daughter Barbara at Oneida Lake.

Frank "Kink" Steber (IHS '39), retired English teacher and current local newspaper columnist who lives with wife Arlene in Watkins Glen.

Bob "Whitt" Whittemore (IHS '39), veteran sports reporter and newspapereditor in various NY cities, author of baseball books, who lives with wife Betty Lou (Sprague) (IHS '41) in Oneonta.

"I thought people of our age would enjoy the info. The Beavers are a great bunch of guys that everyone knew in their era. On the yearbook of 1939 pages, there is reference to them, and also their class night performance. Through all these years they have kept in touch with each other and often have gotten together. All were in WW11 and returned home. It is explained in Frank Steber's article that he wrote. I also have a great picture from the last get together. Thank you for your interest." - Betty Lou (Sprague '41) Whittemore

Class of 1939     Class of 1940     Class of 1941

back page

Created and maintained by Aileen Carney Sweeney - Class of 1974

Digital Image Copyright & Copyright © 1997 - 2020
First Published Feb 20, 2004 - Modified December 5, 2020