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All-female Petersburg, N.D., high school class reunites for 25-year reunion

When the Class of 1989 graduated from Unity School in Petersburg, N.D., everybody wore pink gowns. That's because the class consisted of 10 girls -- all girls -- not a boy in sight. Eight of them gathered in Grand Forks Saturday for their 25-year...

From left front, Sheri (Reinholz) Anderson, Sheila (Borgen) Northrop, DeAnn (Slettebak) Buckhouse, Julie (Northagen) Tennison, Audra Wixo, Tammy (Nusviken) Bye, Mary (Miles) Cronk, Kristin (Cottrell) Muir pose together at their 25-year class reunion, held in Grand Forks. In 1989, the all-girl class graduated from Unity High School in Petersburg, North Dakota. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

When the Class of 1989 graduated from Unity School in Petersburg, N.D., everybody wore pink gowns.

That’s because the class consisted of 10 girls - all girls - not a boy in sight.

Eight of them gathered in Grand Forks Saturday for their 25-year Reunion - to reminisce about growing up together in small-town North Dakota and about being part of a all-girl class.

Although a couple of them brought their pink gowns back for the occasion, they were packed away in boxes during Saturday’s get-together.

Just one displayed any pink. Kristin (Cottrell) Muir, who grew up in Niagara, N.D. wore a pink and black floral pattern shirt.


“We’ve changed since high school,” explained Tammy (Nusviken) Bye.

“I miss basketball, and being young, feeling young,” said Julie (Northhagen) Tennison,

They talked about the senior lounge they lobbied for back in high school.

The lounge, where seniors could relax, drink a can of pop, watch TV or maybe even study, had been a tradition at Unity for years, until a 1987 fire destroyed part of the school.

While they managed to get it re-established for their senior year, they lost their lounge privileges for a few days during the spring semester, reportedly for failing to clean it before a group of adults walked through.

Audra Wixo has fond memories, too. Now living in a small community near Colorado Springs, Colo., she gets back to the area about once a year. Her parents live in Grand Forks.

She traveled the farthest for the event. Others live in the Dakotas or Minnesota.

“This, right now, is the best time of my life,” she said. “My son is 7 and my daughter is 6. My daughter will go to kindergarten this fall. They go to a small elementary school. Not as small as Unity, but small.”


Prom dates

Not having any boys in class did pose some problems.

They held the annual Snow Ball, even without a king.

And they had a senior prom. Because there were no boys in the senior class, their dates were older, or lived in other towns.

“We couldn’t date the younger guys,” said Bye, who lives in Horace, N.D., with her husband, Jon, and 13-year-old son. “We had to go elsewhere, had to drive a bit.”

DeAnn Slettebak’s date was Tim Buckhouse, a 1987 graduate of Larimore, N.D., 22 miles down the road.

“We went to three proms together, his and two of mine,” DeAnn Buckhouse said. “Next year will be our 25th anniversary.”

The Buckhouses live in Barnesville, Minn. DeAnn is Cass County election coordinator.


None of them lives in Petersburg, a town of 190 about 50 miles west of Grand Forks.

Some of them never did. Unity School was a consolidated district between Niagara, Dahlen and Petersburg, N.D. Today, it’s part of the much larger Dakota Prairie School District.

Tennison grew up in the Dahlen-Fordville area.

“I still live there,” she said, quickly adding, “not with my parents.”

Julie commutes to Grand Forks, where she is a registered nurse at UND’s student health services. She and her husband, Terry, also raise cattle.

They have two children, a 16-year-old son and a daughter, Jessica, who graduated this spring from Fordville-Lankin High School.

“There were only four in her graduating class, three girls and a boy,” Jessica’s mother said.

When Sheri (Reinholz) Anderson graduated, she moved onto UND. Now, she is an associate vice president in the research and development offices at NDSU.


“I was kind of quiet in high school,” she said. “My dad was one of my teachers.”

Mary (Miles) Cronk, who grew up a few miles north of Petersburg, now lives in Belle Fourche, S.D., where she and her husband, John, operate a carpet cleaning and janitorial service, as well as other businesses.

“He was in the military when I met him,” she said of her husband. “I remember my dad saying ‘stay away from the Air Force boys, the military boys. They’re bad’ And I married one, just not from here. He’s from Wyoming.”

“She’s the only grandma among us,” Bye said.

Sheila Borgen Northrup met her husband, John, in the military, too. They both were in the Army together. These days, they live in the Aneta, N.D., area. She works at a senior center in Finley, N.D.

Staying in touch

Although their only previous high school reunion was in 1999, she and her Unity classmates have stayed in touch, mostly through Facebook.

That’ll come in handy, since Northrup and her husband are planning to move to Tennessee soon.


They talked Saturday about continuing to stay in touch, perhaps with a Facebook page, Unity Girls of ’89, to maintain a connection between them and those high school days.

“What I remember most about growing up was the small-town atmosphere,” Cronk said. “That was absolutely awesome.”

“Yes, but everybody knows everybody’s business,” Bye replied.

“I can’t say I miss high school,” Buckhouse said. “The only thing I miss is the people, those key years when we were learning everything. We grew up together and we learned together. Sure, we had our little cliques, but we all intermingled. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”


The original Grand Forks Herald photograph of the 1989 Unity High School all-girl class sits on a table Saturday afternoon at the class' 25-year reunion. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

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