Don Ladenberger lives in San Diego now. Chuck Stone and Ron Wade are still kicking, but everyone else you mentioned is no longer with us, with the possible exception of Ed White, for whom I have no info.
Yes, it was so different and so exciting back then. I was strongly opposed to the reproductions, as I felt they diluted the hobby. When you saw a President’s Special at a show, you were just thrilled, knowing what a rare sight it was. After my dear friend, George Sirus teamed up with Art Varney, to reproduce the PS and other AF & Ives 19” sets, it really changed things, at least in my eyes. I even ended up owning a “one off,” Hamiltonian two-tone red President’s Special that George made just for me. I had always commented on how AF should have made the set as pictured on the cover of the 1928 AF catalog, so George did one set for me. That said, I wish none of the classic trains had ever been reproduced.