The Shaffer-Barbera-Ironmonger family tradition began at Shenandoah approximately 90 years ago. The importance of this tradition is best summarized by Percy Ironmonger ’64, who said, “Shenandoah shaped our lives.”
For four generations, Percy and Rita Barbera ’64 Ironmonger’s family have attended Shenandoah beginning with Rita’s grandmother, Anna Amelia Nine, and her parents, Joy Shaffer ’41 and Nunzio Barbera ’47. Rita and Percy have the distinction of graduating in the first conservatory class at the Winchester campus.
“We met at freshmen registration in 1960, but we didn’t date until a year later when a group of friends (Allan Wright ’64, Jim Myers ’64, George Yeatman ’64 and Marge Paton ’64) attended a concert at Handley High School and went to Duff’s Rebel Restaurant for coffee and pecan pie,” said Percy.
Now, five decades later, the couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this June and their 50th class reunion during Homecoming 2014. Professor Harlan Snow sang at their wedding, Marge Paton was mistress of ceremonies and Alva Hunt ’64 was in the wedding party.
Rita’s and Percy’s professors also helped to shape their lives. Percy learned wonderful
time management skills from his former music professor, Charlotte Collins, and passed that knowledge to his students. His band director, Verne Collins, exposed Percy to a wide repertoire of music literature. Other musical mentors included Harlan Snow, whose conducting style was outstanding, and Madge Keiter, who taught English and drama.
“Miss Keiter was an incredible influence and a great person,” said Rita. “We had tremendous opportunities at Shenandoah because it was small.”
Rita remembers performing for the Apple Blossom Festival and being an Apple Blossom princess. She also remembers her classes with piano professor, Andre Aerne.
Percy said the experience he gained at Shenandoah allowed him to immediately play clarinet semi-professionally. He was drafted and accepted as an Army musician, and after receiving his master’s degree at West Virginia University, he played with celebrities like Rosemary Clooney, Mitzi Gaynor, Mel Torme, Bob Hope, Ray Charles, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Duke Ellington and The Temptations.
“It was my Shenandoah background that enabled me to do this,” he said.
Constance Ironmonger-Mann ’94, ’11, D.M.A., is the family’s fourth-generation Shenandoah graduate. Conni earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and because of her wonderful undergraduate experience, she returned for her Doctor of Musical Arts. She is Musical Theater Vocal Programs Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Musical Theater Voice at Christopher Newport University. Perhaps her daughter, Amelia Natilyn, will one day choose to be the family’s fifth-generation Shenandoah student.
CLASS OF 1964 REUNION
Rita and Percy invite you to come to Homecoming 2014 for the 50th class reunion on Oct. 24-26.