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Features. The Roof Rats of Old Main

College bonds create lifelong friendships

They met as freshmen at PLU nearly six decades ago.

Since then they have experienced a world war, seven marriages, 22 children and 49 grandchildren, three knee replacements and one new hip. And throughout everything life brings, they’ve stayed in touch, holding annual reunions for the past 25 years. These 14 friends don’t know where they’ll be every September, but they know they will be together.

“As we’ve gotten older, we do think it is remarkable we’ve gotten to do this every year,” said Carol Storaasli ’47 of Tacoma.

The rest of the group is Carol’s husband, Lester ’49; Dorothy ’49 and Ralph ’48 Gunderson of Snohomish, Wash.; Myrtle ’48 and Oscar “Pete” Peterson ’49 of Edgewood, Wash.; Ginny ’48 and Marv Johnson ’48 of Auburn, Wash.; Betty ’48 and Jack ’49 Ostrander of Tacoma; Lois ’49 and Don Ewing of Seaford, Del.; and Ardys ’48 and Raleigh Hughes of St. Maries, Idaho.

Most of them are of Scandinavian descent, and all seven couples have been married more than 50 years.

“I guess we all think marriage is pretty important,” said Storaasli, who celebrated her 56th wedding anniversary in August.

All but two of them – Raleigh and Don – are PLU grads.

All retired now, the group includes former schoolteachers, counselors, coaches, principals, medical field workers, a Campbell’s Soup executive and a wood products plant engineer.

“One of the blessings of this group is good health,” said Myrtle Peterson.

Their first group get-together was in 1963 when they still had children at home. Over the years, there were others, and 25 years ago, the couples decided to make it an annual event. The couples take turns hosting each other, rotating by maiden name.

“We look forward to our reunion each year, and the couple who is playing host notifies the others each spring where we'll be meeting,” said Ginny Johnson. “We wait with bated breath to see where we’ll go next year.”

This year, the choice was Pendleton, Ore., where they visited the Pendleton Woolen Mills, Underground Tours and the Wildhorse Casino.

Other meeting places have included Williamsburg, Va.; Branson, Mo.; Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia; Big Fork, Mont.; and Sandpoint, Idaho. Next year’s trip is already planned: a four-day cruise off the Washington and Oregon coast to Victoria, British Columbia.

“We don’t really need a whole lot of entertainment, because we’re apart all year and when we get together we just talk, talk, talk,” Dorothy Gunderson said.

Some of those who live near each other see each other occasionally throughout the year, and they’re in touch at the holidays. But this annual fall gathering is their big rendezvous, and they’ve got piles of albums full of pictures from their journeys.

All the group members maintain an interest in PLU, which was still called Pacific Lutheran College when they attended. Their 1998 gathering was held during Homecoming and the 50th class reunion for many of the group.

The grads remember living in Harstad, then called Old Main, and seeing each other every day as students. They chuckle about sunbathing on the roof, which they really weren’t supposed to do. That led to their name that still sticks: the Roof Rats.

Along with the good times, they remember harder days during World War II, when the men were away and PLU struggled financially.

“Before WW II, PLU almost went bankrupt, but the end of the war and the GI Bill brought PLU back,” Marvin Johnson said.

And bringing the boys back was another benefit of the bill.

“It was heaven for the gals to have them all return to the PLU campus on the GI Bill,” Ardys Hughes said.

Remembering the past and celebrating the years is a joy to this group.

“We feel blessed, we really do,” Storaasli said, echoing the sentiment of every member. “We get together and enjoy each other and have fun.”

Some information from the story came from the East Oregonian.

Next Section: Here and now

Photo Credits

Photo courtesy East Oregonian

From left, rear: Ralph Gunderson, Raleigh Hughes, Jack Ostrander, Marv and Ginny (Isvick) Johnson, Oscar “Pete” Peterson and Don Ewing.

Front row: Dorothy (Elefson) Gunderson, Myrtle (Davidson) Peterson, Ardys (Bredvold) Hughes, Betty (Kenworthy) Ostrander, Lois (Tollfeldt) Ewing, and Carol (Elefson) and Les Storaasli.


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