I’ve got a confession to make: I so enjoyed my class reunion last weekend that I didn’t fully realize its significance. That’s a stark realization, coming from a personal historian whose profession is based on the value of claiming our legacies for future generations before they slip away.
It was a grand two-day affair that marked the 45 years that have passed since our class of 243 graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Of the 80 or so who took part, most were “reunion regulars,” classmates and spouses who catch up on our ever-changing lives every five years.
But there were surprises, too. I reconnected with Bernie Miller, who grew up across the street from me, but who I hadn’t seen since high school. I met Howie Anderson, cousin of a classmate, who played in local garage band Andy and the Manhattans (“Double Mirror Wrap Around Shades,” sample it here or hear the entire song here). Dave Wolfe also shared the story of how he and a couple dozen of his army buddies from Vietnam rallied to the side of a dying former commanding officer.
But, as I absorbed as best I could the details of every conversation with every person I met over the weekend, I never once considered that this might be the last time I will see any of them. My local paper printed an essay about class reunions by Lynne Wisman (Mason City High School, Class of 1959) over the weekend. Lynne points out that the 50th “may be the last reunion, the last time we’ll see our high school friends.”
There are still about 200 surviving members of my high school class but we’re dying at an accelerating rate. Statistically speaking, that’s normal, but it’s still a somber and bittersweet realization that some of the people I shared a laugh with a few days ago won’t be around in five years to do it again.
Our reunion committee, spearheaded by Linda (Lee) Hook, had the great foresight to publish a survey of our class members for anyone who wants one. The much-appreciated resulting book contains bios and contact information for every classmate, plus a compendium of favorite stories, entertainers and songs as well as a list of our first cars. It was a first-rate job at preserving a slice of the personal histories of a group of people who came of age before cell phones, CDs and PCs. Thanks, Linda, and the rest of the committee.
Photo: Linda (Lee) Hook and Larry Lehmer at TJHS reunion by lwlehmer.