I was on two reunion committees, but since husband and I lived away, in North Carolina, through a meaty time of reunion preparation (those intervening winter months when all members of the class are contacted and information is disseminated), I never did a lot.
Oh, I tried. The most I could contribute was in setting up the board of all of us attendees, with names and pictures from our high school yearbook. Of course, those pictures were of little help on the night we arrived for the reunion, since most of us have changed so much during the years from our 17-year-old selves.
If we wore our high school photo and name on a button on our clothes, that night, it was often met with hesitation and then disbelief when a former classmate encountered one of us and began the conversation, “Oh, hi….Wow! We haven’t seen one another in years.”
Translation? “Wow! I would’ve never known it was you if not for your name tag.”
Actually, some of us considered that we may have seen one another, over the years, in the Mall…in restaurants…wherever…we just didn’t recognize each other.
At the Reunion committee meetings, we’d discuss where the celebratory event would be held (with decided preference to keep it in West Warwick, in support of our own,) what band or DJ would be hired; what menu we should offer; and our classmates.
It was hoped that we could contact all but that never happened.
As the years ticked by, we needed to cull that list, since each year saw a passing of some.
Then ‘many’ as the years advanced (and some classes planted trees in their honor, along the hillside of West Warwick High School.) Our class of 1963 never did that, perhaps anticipating that there’d be a forest for each class eventually.
But some of our class have never responded to reach-out attempts over the years. It was as if, with graduation, they got their “get-out-of-town” pass and left—never to return. They seemingly never had curiosity, either, about the rest of us…how our lives went…what we did or didn’t do.
Some who were “stars” in our high school years went on to average lives, while others who were nondescript rose to national and international fame. Some who were voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” fulfilled the destiny we assigned. They went on to become the doctors…the entrepreneurs…the academics who’d make a sizable contribution to our society, just as we all thought they might.
Who are the most interesting? Those who never stood out in high school but waxed brightly with advanced years. They found their voice and star power much later.
Some came to Reunions and we’d offer later “Oh, Buzzy Bankowicz…Wow! He became a financial whizz and now he lives on a posh estate in the south of France. He’s just in town to visit family and to come to this Reunion… a first for him.”
Rhode Island’s done well with folks rising to stardom in the media, as evidenced by TV host, Meredith Viera, Deborah Messing who became a full-blown television mega star or Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Conservative talk-show panelist on “The View” and later commentator for Fox News.
But it’s the West Warwick stars some of us really want to know about…and some of those ‘stars’ don’t need to be the TV or professional variety. They can be the ones who successfully led a really difficult life, raised wonderful children, did a lot for their town because they recognized its formative influence on them.
Those might be the real ‘stars’ of any class……
(Photo above is a stone arch of the Valley Country Club where we held our last Reunion.)
P.S. I’m coming to the end of my feature stories appearing in Kent County Daily Times weekend edition. But I’d love to write about YOU, so if you’d like to be the subject (or you know someone who’d like or deserves spotlight), write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Kent Times article” in Subject line.
West Warwick native, Colleen Kelly Mellor (email@example.com), is a motivator/speaker and freelance writer whose work appears in the Wall St. Journal, Scripps-Howard, and many regional newspapers. She is author to the children’s books Grandpa and the Truck (grandpaandthetruck.com) and is regular commentator on her 30-year career as teacher, in the Providence Journal. At present, she completes “The Asheville Experiment,” about a Rhode Island couple living in one of the ‘hottest retirement towns in the US’ for nine years (and answers why they returned to Rhode Island.) Her second book, “In the Shadow of Princes,” tells the story of her childhood, growing up in a milltown, in a highly-competitive family.