Monday, September 12, 2016

A Classy Reunion

This past weekend I attended the 50th reunion of the 1966 graduating class of Taylor County High School in Campbellsville, Ky.

And what a gala event it was for the 50 or so classmates who chose to be part of the celebration to renew friendships, talk about the good old days (at least from our perspective) and to be part of a special event that only comes along once in a lifetime.

Fifty years. I know it's a cliche but my how time flies!

I was surprised to learn that I had inadvertently planted the seed for the reunion. Last January I contacted classmate Velma Prince to see if there were any plans for the 50th. I wanted to know because I didn't want to make vacation plans and not be able to attend.

Velma made several inquiries to some of our classmates. Then she reached Betty Fawcett Norris, who got the ball rolling in March. Betty put together a planning committee and provided the essential leadership to make it all happen.

And what a reunion it was.

Even though I was on the planning committee, I was simply overwhelmed when I entered the All Occasions building and saw everything Betty and Velma had envisioned -- they wanted it to be "classy" -- for this special reunion. The table settings, flower arrangements, lighting, food, door prizes, silent auction, videos, and live music, everything was first class. Yes ladies, it was a classy affair!

But more than anything it was great seeing former classmates, some for the first time in half a century. There were about 125 in the graduating class. Sadly, 25 had passed away including two (Marshall Jones and Alton Phillips) in the Vietnam War. There were a few who couldn't be there because of illnesses and injuries. And there were about 50 who decided not to participate for various and sundry reasons. They missed a grand evening.

For the fabulous 50 who did take part, many with their spouses and significant others, it was an evening to remember (I've been told that 50 percent participation is great). There was a touching video dedicated to those who had passed away, bringing tears to many in attendance. Another video was devoted to Jones and Phillips, including clips from their time in Vietnam. It was followed by a recognition of classmates who served in the armed forces, several of whom were in Vietnam a year after graduating from high school.

And there was a video -- "Remembering Days Gone By" -- that reflected on those years with newspaper clips, photographs, and music from that era. And watching from the tables were people, mostly retired now, who became lawyers, firemen, teachers, artists, farmers, travel agents, business leaders, career military, social workers, and other endeavors after leaving high school.

The evening closed with toasts and farewells, given by Patricia Thompson Gray and Craig Cox, remembering the past, thankful for the present and looking ahead to the future.

For the record, I didn't graduate from Taylor County High School. I moved to Louisville in the summer of '65, and graduated from Eastern High School (from which I have many dear and lifelong friends). But those years at Taylor County (beginning in eighth grade) were a formative time for me and I've treasured them. Whenever there were reunions, I've always been invited and that increases my gratitude to these wonderful people who helped shape and make me (much for the better than for the worse).

Someone I got to meet for the first time was Joe Niknejadi, who drove in with his wife, Vickie, and son, Jeff,  from St. Louis. Joe only attended Taylor County his senior year (he moved to Campbellsville about the time I left) but it had such a lasting impression on his life that he wanted to be there as well. James Daugherty, a retired fireman, and his wife, Juanita, made the longest trip, all the way from Florida.

I didn't recognize everyone, and I'm sure most of my classmates didn't recognize me. But once I started talking to them, the lines in their faces began to disappear, their hair returned to normal color and length (I don't recall any bald-headed guys in high school), and I could see the youthfulness in their eyes, the familiar facial expressions, and unique voice inflections from our encounters in the classrooms so many years ago. I'd like to think that we've all improved with age.

Let me close by saying that if you have a chance to attend a 50th class reunion, do it. You won't regret it -- it only comes around once in a lifetime.

Until the next time....

The TCHS Class of  '66


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  3. Very insightful, Robert. Keep on topic next time?