Monday, September 26, 2011

Long Live the A-J Class of 1951!

It does not seem possible it has been over 60 years that five or six of us stood in our high school graduation gowns on the stairs of Bar-San Hall and had our photograph taken together. We were the closest of friends. We were happy about graduation but yet sadly aware that we might not be having our photo taken again any time soon. I don’t think I ever saw that photograph, and as it turned out the entire group was never together again—ever. Nor will we ever be on this planet.

Nevertheless, thanks to some local hard working committee members, the Anna-Jonesboro High School Class of 1951 celebrated their 60th anniversary with a reunion last night at the Giant City Lodge.

That reunion invitation was the impetus for our special friends, Tom and Lois Doctor, of Oakland, CA, to make a trip back to Lois’ roots. They were traveling by train and plans were all made. However, their two daughters were not too happy with all the intricacies that train trip was going to involve with their train from Chicago arriving at almost 1:30 in the morning in Carbondale.

Happily, the daughters enlisted grandson Josiah to travel with them, so we are finally able to meet the grandson we have always heard about. It is so good to have him here at Woodsong with Tom and Lois. Josiah is between jobs following his bachelors degree in liberal arts from a small Oregon college, and while on this trip, he is busy preparing a portfolio for applying for graduate school. So this break in his schedule worked out just great for this delightful young man to be a companion to his grandparents and to break bread with our Class of 1951.

Actually, Lois graduated with the Class of 1950. But her grade school years and her first three years of high school were with our class, and she served us as a class officer and student council member. We have continued to claim her as one of ours just at the Class of 1950 does. With enough credits, students were allowed to graduate early at that time in Illinois. By taking advantage of that, Lois was able to get a year of college accomplished at Southern Illinois University Carbondale while the rest of us finished high school.

Then on a fall day in October 1952, she and our friend Lynn stood at a street corner in our small town and sadly said goodbye since Lois was leaving with family members to live and work in California and eventually get her art degree there.
In a few years, Lynn also ended up making a life in California. The two of them saw each other occasionally despite their busy lives rearing their families, going to school, holding down jobs, and so forth.

Although I always saw Lois or Lynn when they were back in Illinois, the three of us were not together again until Spring 2001 when Gerald and I went to California to see our oldest granddaughter, Tara, play softball with the SIUC squad. We stayed at Lois and Tom’s house and they showed us the San Francisco area and drove us to Tara’s ball games. And they arranged a dinner visit in Concord with Lynn, a final visit I will always cherish. Although Lynn had planned to return for a visit here in retirement, she died of leukemia in December 2007.

This year our reunion programs listed 22 of our classmates whose names were read in memoriam. Those names included Margaret Ann Keller Petty, who died a few years ago. She had collected names and addresses for our reunions. Richard Hase, who worked again on this year’s reunion, passed away before it came about.

Also not able to be present this year was Lotrell Tweedy Hileman, who has worked on several of our reunions including this one although she had a stroke after their first committee meeting. Martha Ury Dillow and Tom Bacon have faithfully served our class with all the paper work and foot work that such gatherings require, but they are ready to turn the job over to anyone else who has the time, energy, and health.

If no one takes up the challenge, we voted to turn our left-over funds to Anna’s Stinson Memorial Library. Hearing of the deaths of spouses and children and health crisises was sad but not unexpected after 60 years. Yet there were many heart warming moments and many laughs and chuckles. Our class president, Richard Youngs, read messages from members who could not be present. Despite her upcoming catarack surgery, Martha is going to take on one more job and mail out the reunion photos that Gerald took for us and is busy printing here at Woodsong.

We have had a good run. and getting together with classmates was a wonderful event.

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