Seniors’ Advice For Seniors: Bridging the Gap Between Generations


Annabelle and Eve, writers for The Tosa Compass, interview Trudy Zauner at the Wauwatosa Senior Center.

Annabelle Wooster, Editor

January 24th marked the first day of the second semester for students in the Wauwatosa School District. January 24th also marked the first day of the last semester for seniors, the seventh semester out of a total of eight, and the final stretch before graduation. 

As seniors begin to solidify their plans for after high school, they face the daunting questions of what they want to do with their lives. But another group has already lived through it all, gaining experience and wisdom. In this piece, senior citizens offer advice and stories to current high school seniors.   


Walter Gust – 1954, Stratford High School 

Walter Gust graduated from Stratford High School in Stratford, Wisconsin 69 years ago. He vividly remembers the happenings of historical milestones during his time as a high school student. 

“The Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court case that outlawed segregation was passed around the 18th to 20th of May. The four minute mile was run by Roger Bannister on May 6th, and I graduated around the last week of May,” Gust recalled. 

Gust was a motivated student in a small high school class. This led him to achieve high honors and praise from local colleges. 

“I was in a class of 45 and I happened to be the valedictorian, not because I was smart but because there were only 45 in the class. I could have had a scholarship to go to the University of Wisconsin but I went to a church school in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. At the time it was called Mission House College but after one year it was changed to Lakeland College,” Gust said.

Back then his high school didn’t offer many options to play team sports but Gust still found ways to be involved.

“I was in track. We didn’t have a track team but I ran the half mile and actually made it to the state tournament in Madison. Stratford didn’t have football in those days so I never played football or basketball,” he explained. 

In terms of his advice for the younger generation, he admits he is the one often looking for advice. 

“I’m more likely to ask [high school kids] for advice. Especially if I have a problem with my smartphone,” he said. 

All technological difficulties aside, Gust’s best advice is to keep out of trouble and pay attention to what is happening in the world. 

“Keep your nose clean. Don’t commit crimes. And keep up with what’s going on and try to save the planet we have. This country isn’t functioning the best. The political parties consider themselves enemies so stay interested in the government and try to figure out what’s the best thing. Get as much education as you can and try to apply it in the best way.” 


Trudy Zauner – 1948, Bayview High School

Trudy Zauner graduated from Bayview High School in Bayview, Wisconsin 75 years ago. She has fond memories of her high school years. 

“High school was a really good time. I was pretty shy as a freshman but I got over that. By the time I graduated, I was an editor for the paper and was in some operas and some plays and I was in the acapella choir. It was a very active time for me and I really loved it. I had a gang of friends, mainly the newspaper staff, so it was fun,” she recalled. 

Zauner was in high school before the passing of Title IX in 1972, which prohibited gender discrimination. Unlike Gust, Zauner didn’t play sports because girls weren’t allowed to participate. 

After high school Zauner attended college but since she graduated right after  WWII, her college classes were filled with returning veterans wanting to get their education. 

“At the time that I graduated from high school there was no university here in the Milwaukee Area. The University of Wisconsin had a two year extension. So that’s where I started out. I went to an extension and lived at home. At that time, it was just after the Second World War. So the place was just filled with vets that were coming back to take over with their GI benefits. 

In her opinion, she says that the influx of returning veterans made college a much more direct and focused time than what she observes


“It was a different atmosphere than there is in college now because there were men who had been fighting in a war and then had come back. They were ready to get married, to start a family, to go on with their lives. They wanted their education. It was, I would say, a much more focused time than I see as I see my grandchildren in school now. A lot of a lot of people now go to college and don’t have a clue what to do. And that was not so much the case when I was in college,” she explained. 

Her best advice is to never let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. In her opinion, life isn’t supposed to be easy but what matters is what you can make of it. 

“Be persistent. Do not give up. If things seem tough, that’s not unusual. Just keep on, keep on slugging on. If you want something or you think you’re even interested in it, just don’t give up. That’s my advice,” Zauner said. “If there’s anything I regret, it’s stopping too early when things get tough. Especially when you’re young and you don’t have a steady job, children, a lot of financial obligations, just go for it.”  


Carol Karp – 1963, Mary D Bradford High School (Kenosha)

Carol Karp graduated 60 years ago from Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During high school she was an active member of the arts. 

“I was involved in music. I was an oboist. I played in the band and orchestra and loved that,” she recalled. 

Like Zauner, Karp grew up in a time where equality between the sexes was rare. Though she was a talented musician, she wasn’t given the opportunity to showcase the extent of her abilities due to sexism within her classroom. 

“You can’t blame [the band director], because this was how he was brought up, but I remember [he] had told us that if a boy and a girl tried out for the first chair, he would automatically give it to the boy. And I still remember that.”

Karp was fortunate enough to have the ability to play sports, even before Title 9. Although the teams weren’t organized by clubs or schools, she managed to stay involved. 

“We didn’t have organized [girls] sports but we had what was called the GAA, Girls Athletic Association, and I loved sports,” she said. “I was always physically active and wanted to major in both physical education and music.”

Her love of sports eventually led her into becoming an elementary physical education teacher. Even though access to her passions was limited at times, her piece of advice to current high school seniors is to go forth with whatever makes you the happiest. 

“Find something you really love to do. Find something that’s meaningful. I know sometimes when money is an issue people will do a job to make more money but if they’re not happy, I just find it kind of sad. If you can find something you really enjoy and get some meaningful feedback from the job, I can’t tell you how much it will mean later on.”


Bernice Gerone – 1940’s, did not attend high school

Bernice Gerone was a teenager during the 1940’s. She didn’t attend high school because she stayed at home to care for her sick mother. She’s not sure how she was able to be exempt from a high school education, but says her teenage years were fond ones. 

“I grew up on a farm and [in a] farming community but my friends were kids going to high school. I guess I’ve never thought too much about missing it because I was happy where it was,” she said. 

Since she missed out on a traditional high school experience, her advice is to have direction and purpose within your life. She also advises listening to older people and learning from what they have to share. 

“One thing is to have a plan of what you plan on doing. Another big thing is to take care of yourselves. With so much crime out there, terrible things happen to young people. Your parents are considered old fogies at this stage of life, but they do genuinely know what they’re talking about,” said Gerone. 

So there you have it. If you stay safe, out of trouble, and go forth with your true passions in life, the seniors from the older generation have no doubt that the seniors from the younger generation will make a difference in this world.