XENIA — Tom Neeld and Bob Hagler have carried their Xenia Pride with them their entire lives, and now they are set to hand-down some of their pride to new generations of Xenia students.
In a dedication ceremony at the high school on Tuesday, April 8 at 6 p.m., the Xenia High School Class of 1958 will donate a commemorative plaque that contains a piece of the granite base from the original flagpole for the high school on Edison Boulevard. The flagpole, purchased and installed by the Class of 1958 for the “new” high school on Edison, was destroyed by the 1974 tornado.
“Our classmates worked concession stands and we saved over $3,000,” Neeld said. “So somebody said, let’s donate it for a flagpole. And we bought a flagpole shortly after we graduated in 1958.”
The high school kept that flagpole and granite base until the building was destroyed by the powerful winds with the second floor being ripped away completely. While not much was left of the high school building, Neeld went to the site and retrieved the flagpole and light pink granite cornerstone labeled “Class of 1958.” He held on to the cornerstone and with the help of Eric Fogarty at Dodd’s monuments, a special commemorative plaque was created for the 50th Class Reunion in 2008.
Neeld has waited for the right moment to donate this plaque on behalf of the Class of 1958. The 40th anniversary of the 1974 Tornado, and the fact that Neeld and Hagler have granddaughters who currently attend Xenia High School, set the stage for the perfect moment to share their Xenia pride.
“Xenia High School has had a long tradition of great students, great families, and fantastic alumni” said XHS Principal Ted Holop. “We know that all of the alumni are proud of their class, and will want to attend the event and show their pride.”
Mark Manley, Xenia Community Schools’ spokesman, said that the event has generated interest from many people all across Xenia and the nation.
“There are so many stories of toughness, faith and family that come from that tragic time in April, 1974 and Tom shares compelling stories,” Manley said. “Listening to Tom, the meaning and legacy of his pride are clear. Tom has an unshakable spirit of resilience and a real desire to reach out to family, friends, and neighbors to make Xenia a caring community in which we all have tremendous pride. Tom Neeld loved his days at Xenia High School and these times impacted the rest of his life.”
Xenia Mayor Marsha Bayless (an XHS graduate) will join other dignitaries to honor the occasion and dedicate the plaque. Norm Aukerman, teacher and assistant principal from 1959-1998, will speak about special historical pieces located throughout the current XHS building including the “Shakespeare Window,” a stained-glass window donated by the class of 1906 that resides in the main lobby.
The commemorative plaque will reside permanently in the lobby at Xenia High School alongside other historical markers.
All citizens of Xenia — especially Xenia High School alumni and their families — are invited.