As indicated in a previous column, I attended my 50-year, Sherman High School reunion last weekend — SHS 1967-2017. Chairwoman Sandi Williams, and her committee did a masterful job of planning activities that brought us together in the most comfortable and enjoyable of ways.
As members of a graduating class of 332, we genuinely care about one another and the paths we’ve traveled collectively, and apart, for these many years. By now the boundaries of cliques, the painful slights, and perceived differences that stalk the corridors of every high school have long since faded away. The anxieties about “fitting in” are gone.
Seventy-four of our classmates were in the military, with 35 serving in Vietnam — nearly half of all who served. Of those proud veterans, only Monte Dykes, U.S. Army, Silver Star recipient, did not make it home. He was killed in action August 29, 1969.
In addition to that last measure of devotion, 88 other classmates have died, and they were missed at our reunion. The first to leave us was Monica Kovar in the fall of our sophomore year, 1964. The most recent was Becki Smith Opal, a devoted member of our reunion committee, who died last month. All 89 of our now deceased classmates brought meaning to our class in a variety of ways, and to our lives individually as well.
In planning our reunion, Sandi and her committee were determined that these departed friends would not be left out. On Saturday night, we assembled in the ballroom of the Sherman Municipal Building for a final evening of enjoyment. Round banquet tables filled much of the space, with delicious buffet dining, and the musical sounds of the late ’50s and ’60s provided by Bill Elliot’s band, Journeys’ End, playing onstage. Near the stage, a sizable part of the ballroom floor was available for dancing, and it was fully utilized. The goodwill that surrounded us that evening was a pleasure we shared with great relish. And yet, the best was still to come.
Midway through the festivities, the band took a long break so we could assemble for a group picture. After that, we returned to our tables, and Sandi treated us to a special gift that she had created with assistance from her 26-year-old grandson.
Projected on a large screen, onstage, was a video tribute to our 89 departed classmates. It ran for seven and a half minutes. The senior picture of each classmate, dearly departed, was displayed for several seconds, with music in the background. Once all 89 had appeared, they were presented once again in three groups, arranged at random, for a well-deserved second bow.
After that, the screen went dark, the music stopped, and we sat in total silence for a few moments. Then, as the lights came up, the room erupted in thunderous applause, swelling into a warm salute to these absent friends.
Shortly after, the band started playing again, and the fun resumed, slowly at first, and then in full stride. But as it did, we were aware that something special had been added to our evening.
We had shared precious minutes in that darkened ballroom as we viewed each of those faces on-screen — friends that were so young, all with hope in their eyes and winsome smiles. They seemed so near. And, as we continue to hold them in our hearts, they still are.
Soon we would be leaving. Heavy rains were approaching, and as they drew near, our goodbyes became understandably hurried. As we said those goodbyes, we hugged each other a little closer, promising to stay safe and well so we can do this again.
Go Bearcats — and go well, with God’s blessings.
Mark Beardsley is a news clerk for the Herald Democrat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.