Day by Day: Ever-evolving class reunions ‘bittersweet’
By LIZ THOMPSON
Oct 6, 2019
This Week News
Some people might wonder why, 50 years after my high school graduation, any of my 370 classmates would want to reunite.
But some 68 graduates from Westerville (South) High School (Ohio) did just that in August.
Many of my classmates traveled all 12 years – 13 if you count kindergarten – alongside each other. If we didn’t attend the same elementary school, we knew some classmates at our church, in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls or through mutual friends.
Surely, we all spent many hours at Jaycee swimming pool, which opened in 1958, or Glengarry’s round swimming pool, which closed in 1979. I would miss the center diving board at Glengarry, but my siblings and I could ride our bikes or walk to Jaycee – and they had swim teams.
But like most children, we wanted to be refreshed with cool water during our summer days.
I remember classmate Dee Weaston Standish’s sister, Diane, giving us each a nickel to jump off the high board. A nickel would buy us a candy bar. Westerville was a typical small town, like so many in the 1950s and ’60s across America.
One draw to the reunion for me was all these shared memories that made us who we are. We might not have a lot in common today, but we easily laughed at our junior high photos and memories of living in a small town.
We were thrown back in time when Ron Kenreich, music director during our senior year, led us in singing “Happy Birthday to You” to Nancy Lindsay Coder.
Dee, the reunion chairperson, asked, “Mr. Kenreich, will you lead us in singing ‘Happy Birthday?’ ”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Ron raised his arms and motioned for us to sing. I felt 17 again, as I’m sure the others did, too. My guess is that Ron also felt younger.
Music is a great memory keeper. Ron had been teaching only a few years when he walked into our school to lead us in a glorious year of music.
Dee, now living in Marietta, told me later why she thought the reunion was so special.
“As life gets in the way with work, family, children and grandchildren, I find it hard to see all the classmates I would like to see,” she said. “The two evenings we spent together were a wonderful opportunity to see so many friends. The years melted away with smiles, hugs and laughter.
“Five years is too long to wait to do it again.”
Our class has held reunions many times in five-year intervals. Now we are talking about a 70th birthday party in two years. I’m sure the idea will gain momentum as 2021 nears.
Classmate Jeff Fields moved to Nevada 30 years ago and saw major changes and growth in his hometown.
“Being so far away, our reason for attending was to see our old hometown and the friends who made it such a great place to grow up,” Jeff said. “The irony of it all was saying ‘hi,’ getting a hug and sharing a memory but silently knowing that ‘goodbye’ was also being said. But it was worth every minute.”
Barbara West Rood, in Westerville, said she agreed with Dr. Seuss’s question, “How did it get so late so soon?”
“Seems as though it was just a short time ago at previous reunions we were discussing who married who, careers, children and fun times,” Barbara said. “Further down the line, the discussions became about grandchildren, retirement, travel plans and maybe caring for parents.
“The most recent reunion became Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” for me. It was the same personality, laugh and smile in friends that I knew from 50-plus years ago.”
I chose to use my cane and not my walker at the reunion. But two classmates used walkers and one was on oxygen.
Physical aging evident, we keep going.
“It was so good to catch up and bittersweet in a way knowing that time is catching up with all of us,” Barbara said, “but, thank God, we’ll get new bodies and another, even sweeter reunion someday.”