More Mountains, More Epiphanies: My 50th Class Reunion (cont.)

Part 3: Fulfillment

Sharing Memories: GHS Tour
Saturday was packed with reunion activities beginning with a tour of the high school. Aside from a few incidentals–different windows, a change of color, lowered ceilings, the addition of a gazebo, and a new traffic pattern–we found the school much as we had left it. So we couldn’t resist starting the day with a spontaneous chorus of “Globe High Tigers,” fight song of “the dear old school we love so well.”

Whenever Globe High Tigers fall in line,
We’re gonna win this game another time.
And for the dear old school we love so well,
And for the orange and black we’ll yell and yell and yell!
We’re gonna fight, fight, fight for every yard;
We’ll circle in and hit that line right hard.
We’re gonna roll Miami on the side,
Yes, we are! RAH! RAH! RAH!

Our first stop was the GHS Hall of Fame–notable first because it was the classroom where we took second-year algebra, trigonometry, and calculus classes with Mr. Marvin Clark–and where he also guided several of us as staff members for the Wigwam, the school yearbook, in 1970 and 1971. There, GHS archivist Dee Hunt shared fascinating  bits of trivia about our alma mater, and we pored over memorabilia dating back to the school’s founding in 1914. Mostly, it seems, we talked. And talked. And talked.

After seeing the hall of fame, we had the opportunity to roam freely through the building. Photos of every class from 1914 to the present adorn the halls, so of course, we had to see ours. Unfortunately, the photos of all valedictorians and salutatorians, another feature from our high school days, have been put in storage because wall space is lacking after 50 more years have passed. However, Pam and I managed to recreate our graduation photo from the local paper, The Arizona Record, as we left the school tour.

We posed for an official class photo on the school steps, after which a few groups gathered at random, sharing some hilarious stories that reinforced–or in a few cases overturned–seemingly indelible aspects of reputation. Pam told about the only time she ever “ditched” school, and I confessed to having “driven without a license and struck a parked vehicle” (I still remember the words on the ticket I received) when Cheryl Keltner insisted she wanted to teach me to drive. I didn’t “mow down a row of parked cars,” as Lon Winters suggested, but the story was even better that way.

Reminiscing and Bidding Farewell: Closing Banquet
The reunion committee, consisting of (at least) Patty Troglia, Leora Freeman, John Panek, and Mary Ann Quintana, prepared a banquet fit not only for homecoming kings and queens, but for all the rest of their retinue. The decorations were inspired, the food was delicious, and the assembled company was . . . well, certainly worth the 50-year wait!

Of course, the company was the highlight. The group was larger than on Friday evening, so we were able to rekindle new relationships, meet more spouses, share more snippets of life stories, and reminisce about more high school antics. This time, though, I experienced a feeling of urgency to absorb as much as I could before the time was up.

One highlight of the evening was the presence of Forrest McKelvy, a teacher, coach, and principal when we were in school–and the father of our classmate Kenny, who died this past year. I wasn’t certain Mr. McKelvy would remember me, but I certainly knew him and wanted to speak to him. As I approached the table where he sat with his daughter Sherry, I stopped to talk to one of my classmates. I noticed that Mr. McKelvy was staring at me during the entirety of the brief conversation–and when I reached his table, I learned why. I introduced myself, but he was saying my name at the same time I did. He nodded and said he remembered me from the spelling bee–my victory at the state level in 1967!

After dinner came the grand finale. Patty Troglaa, head of the reunion committee and all-around heroine of the evening, recognized those who made the weekend possible, introduced Mr. McKelvy, and provided updates on a few absent teachers and classmates. Leora Freeman presented her with a gift of heartfelt gratitude for all her efforts in putting together our party of all parties.

Then the festivities began with prizes of for most and longest and biggest . . . well, whatever we could think of to keep the evening going a little bit longer. I can’t really remember all the categories. I won the award for traveling the farthest—an as-the-crow-flies distance of 1,852 miles as measured by my “Find My” app every morning as it reminded me I had left my keys behind. Actually, the distance was more like 2,150 miles, but I was delighted to have traversed every one of them to be part of that joyful gathering. There was a prize for the youngest (can’t remember who) and oldest, when “EDDIE CASILLAS!” rang out from across the room. Eddie, who had been held back twice when he joined us in the fourth grade at Noftsger Hill, was a great sport and received his ziplock bag of popcorn  with aplomb. When Patty announced the next category, most marriages, only two raised their hands at three—so I tied for this prize I wasn’t exactly hoping to win! (Moreover, I am aware of at least one other thrice-wed person in the crowd who didn’t raise her hand.) Steve Burk received the prize for most grandchildren at 42.

And then came a pivotal moment that set in motion the final and most precious of all the epiphanies I experienced at my 50th high school reunion. Patty asked, “Who is the most changed?” This was clearly a category that had to result from a vote, but the decision was made by acclamation. A few individual voices called out from different sections of the room, and then the chorus rose—if not so loud as for Eddie Casillas, still announcing unanimity: Vicki Bozzola. That decision, which I was honored to claim, colored most of my reflections for the rest of the weekend.

Confiding: Sleepover with Christie (or, It’s My Blog; I’ll Digress If I Want To)
Knowing her intrepid willingness to drive long distances by herself and craving another opportunity to see my dear friend Christie Hansen face to face, as soon as I knew I would be attending the reunion, I asked if she would be willing to meet us in Globe for the weekend. She quickly agreed to make the trip from the Los Angeles area to Globe–a drive of almost 500 miles–for the opportunity to visit with Arizona friends she had not seen for decades herself.

I first met Christie in June of 1967 when we were roommates at the music camp at Arizona State University. I would enter my freshman year in the fall, and Christie would be a sophomore. My first clear memory of our time together is the news she shared with me: Jayne Mansfield was decapitated. But our lives intertwined much more closely over the ensuing years in band and other school activities. Our close confidences when we were together in Globe became, if possible, even more meaningful by letter when she went away to Brigham Young University for college and then to Israel for a semester abroad. I saw her again at Duke in 1975, when her husband was at the law school there, and I came to North Carolina to interview for a fellowship at nearby UNC. We lost touch for many years after that but managed to rekindle our friendship through the miracles of the Internet in 2009 and actually met again in 2016 when her son began a PhD program at Duke.

Christie made the trip to Globe and met us for Mexican food on Friday night. Then she went to Tucson with Vikkie and Eugene Peace, fellow members of the Class of 1970, to spend the night and next day with them. She drove back to Globe in time for the banquet, where she reunited not only with additional friends from our class, but also with her brother Kim and his wife, Jan.

Since I had no roommate at the hotel, Christie also spent the night with me before returning to California on Sunday morning. We changed into our pajamas, performed our nightly ablutions, and then did what all mentally exhausted friends nearing the age of 70 do–talked for hours, first sitting on our respective beds with the lights on and then continuing with afterthoughts even when we turned off the lights and said goodnight. And we had plenty to talk about–marriage, family, work, friends, faith, and doubt–that we could share with no one else.

Sunday of Illumination: All the Insights Become One
On her way out of town, Christie dropped me off at St. John’s Episcopal Church, just a block from Broad Street, that main drag where long ago, members of my class made their nightly circuits in search of merriment. I was a little early for church, so I walked around downtown Globe for a bit before the service. When I walked through the red doors of the church, I heard the organist playing the prelude music. First he played “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and then “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” These hymns, I knew from long experience at the keyboard, never appeared in any Episcopal hymnal. They were, however, entirely familiar to me from the First Church of Christ, which I attended until the age of 17. I had played those hymns on the tinny piano at church, in rotation with Mrs. DeVinney–mother of Randy, my classmate since the fourth grade, and Sandy, one of my best friends in high school. And that church was one block south and one block east from the very pew where I was sitting on that warm November morning in 2021. But that musical connection was only the first sign that morning that I was actually home and that something significant had happened to me over the previous 72 hours.

It was the Sunday after All Saints’ Day. The priest began his sermon with a quiet confession: “I am tired of preaching at funerals.” And then he told of his two prayers when he was called to St. John’s decades before: that he could maintain good health so as to serve his flock faithfully–and that he would be able to love those whom he served. Having received positive answers to both prayers, he has been deeply saddened by the number of parishioners whom he has had to commit to their eternal rest over the last year. Following the sermon, in recognition of those departed souls dear to the congregation, there followed the solemn reading of the names of hundreds of saints they had requested to be commemorated on that holy day. The priest encouraged each of us to select someone from that list and ponder how he or she had revealed saintly behavior and become the hands and feet of Christ in our lives.

I didn’t know anyone on that list. Moreover, the person who immediately came to my mind is still alive. But I had no hesitation spending the next few moments in tearful contemplation of the compassion of Pamela Park Brown, who used her desire for forgiveness and reconciliation to become my selfless benefactor and my beloved friend. I also pondered my precious friendship with Christie and her lifelong presence as a model of Christlike behavior for me; the deep confidences we shared the previous evening were only the most recent example. And I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that these two wonderful women learned the vision and the practice of righteousness as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an appropriate recognition for that particular day on the calendar followed by the liturgical churches.

Time still remained as the remaining names on the list were intoned, and I had the opportunity to achieve one more insight–not about an individual, but about the collective group of classmates who had made me feel so welcome and valued on Friday night and who had voted me the most changed since high school on Saturday. When I received that final bag of popcorn, I had assumed that the change was in my external appearance. After all, those people knew me mostly as fatty-fatty-two-by-four and the pregnant gazelle. But as I had time to reflect, I understood that they probably realized that a lot more than my weight had changed, And then I experienced the most important shift of all, discovering with clarity that I had indeed changed–but not into the person they now recognized; I was always that person. But what had changed was my openness to their friendship, enabling us to see one another clearly for the first time.

Patricia Thomas Romero, former English teacher at Globe Junior High School

Incredibly, that perception of overwhelming gratitude for these personal saints was only the second of three profoundly moving moments of grace I experienced at that brief church service. As I was gathering my things after the closing hymn, I was approached by someone I happened to recognize when he took off his COVID mask–Lynn Hocking, erstwhile boyfriend of my classmate Anna Lopez–and told him I was in town for the reunion. While we were talking, I glanced toward the rear of the church and saw Pat Romero–my seventh-grade English teacher! Moving slowly with the aid of a walker, she was frail, and her voice was weak, but I spoke, and she remembered. The day of illumination and the the weekend of fulfillment were indeed made complete.
***

Leslie picked me up after church, and we shared another Mexican lunch at La Casita–enabling us to have one last talk  before she left for her home in Payson and allowing me to reflect on the earthquake of emotions I had just experienced.

Yes, it’s THAT good!

When Leslie dropped me off at the hotel, Pam and Greg were in the parking lot on their way to their own worship service, and I had the opportunity to share my fresh and emotional recollections of what happened to me at church. Without being maudlin, I wanted to express to Pam what a tremendous blessing she has become in my life. I wanted both to make sure she understood that she had never done anything for me to forgive and to remind her that often, reconciliation requires forgiving oneself as the most difficult hurdle. I hope and believe that that conversation–impossible without the insights of the morning–finally allowed Pam to understand that any perceived need for reconciliation had indeed been fulfilled.

I know that stories of high school reunions are often fraught with everything from mawkishness to embarrassment to boredom.  By contrast, what a great gift I  received at mine–the opportunity to go home again and, while there, to make peace with my past and those who have peopled it–including all my own past selves, which now seem integrated and whole for the first time in all my 68 years.

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4 Responses to More Mountains, More Epiphanies: My 50th Class Reunion (cont.)

  1. Patty Nolan says:

    Thanks Vicki for the wonderful posts you shared. It was a pleasure being on the committee to help with our reunion. Reminiscing our school days with friends was the best. Always too short. The GHS Class of 1971 was an awesome class and those memories and friendships will always be a part of me. Again thank you for posting and thank you to everyone that attended our 50th reunion.

  2. Kristen Carnell says:

    Thank you so much for the recognition and kind words of my amazing grandfather, Forrest McKelvy!!!! As of yesterday morning, he will be greatly missed!!!!

    • Boz says:

      I am so sorry to hear of your loss. He was a wonderful man. Kenny was in my class from elementary through high school, and of course I knew both sisters. Please share my condolences with the entire family.

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