Situated in Triway’s cafeteria, the annual Stella all-school reunion was held on Sunday, with a dinner and fellowship between former classmates.

Situated in Triway’s cafeteria, the annual Stella all-school reunion was held on Sunday, with a dinner and fellowship between former classmates.

The reunion gave classmates a chance to talk about the old times, look at photographs, and tour the Village of Stella. The class of 1960 – celebrating its 50th reunion – was honored during the event.
One of the classmates in attendance was Charles Cokely, a graduate of 1960.

“I remember we had a classroom fight one time,” Cokely said. “Mrs. Stephens (sixth grade teacher) was our teacher, and there was like 22 of us who got a paddling from her. One student got 16 swats, but by the time she got to the end, she was so wore out that she gave only one.”

Cokely moved into the area with his family, and started school in Stella when he entered the fifth grade.

“It was just a country school, everybody joined in and worked together,” he said. “We lived about six miles outside of town. We had a little 40-acre farm and rode a bus (to and from school).”
Cokely noted there were a lot of activities the classmates did during school.

“We had a baseball team, FFA, took field trips, went to Kansas City two times and planted shrubbery at local farms,” he said.

Stella has had a couple of high schools in its history. According to the book, The Story of Stella: Pioneer Town of Newton County, Missouri, Stella’s first school was known as the Horner Institute, located on the hill across from the Stella Baptist Church. It was built in the early 1900s. This building was destroyed by a fire in 1935. The students moved into a building built mostly by the WPA in 1936. It burned in 1959. The corner stone of the present building (Triway) was laid on Sept. 6, 1959. Students moved into that building on Feb. 14, 1960.

“We were the first class that entered this school and graduated out of here,” Cokely said.

Another classmate who attended the reunion was Avanell Tipton, also class of 1960. Tipton talked about how she was a junior at Stella High School when her school burned.

“When we were juniors, it (Stella High School) burned in January 1959,” she said. “And by January 1960, they had rebuilt here and we were able to come back here. (From January to January) we were at Camp Crowder. So we came back here and we were able to finish our senior year.”

Tipton noted some of the students she went to school with did not graduate with her.

“Because there were probably five or six (students) that went other places, well they were already halfway through their senior year,” she said. “So they did not choose to come back here and finish up because they went to other schools to finish.”

She noted there were 19 students who graduated in her class.

Aside from the school, Tipton said the town was a thriving place back then.

“We had a hospital when we went to school, a café, a grocery store, garage, filling station and post office — it was a thriving little community,” Tipton said.

After graduating from high school, she went to a business college in Joplin.

“After about three years, I met my husband, got married and moved to Arizona,” she said. “I did not move back here until 1995. But I have been back because all of my family live here, every year we came back.”

Tipton now lives in Neosho, but coming back to Stella during the annual reunion is a nice experience for her.

“It is always nice to see old classmates,” she said. “I went to school here for 12 years. It is always nice to see them.”