Preparing for the Reunion

How did it all start?  In late April, 2002, Yahna Christensen (living in Annapolis, MD) sent David Bennett (living in Carlisle, PA) her address update.  These two Wakefield ’62 classmates had been in infrequent but regular contact over the years...  Yahna also mentioned that Jan Loiselle (now Givens), living in Washington State, thought that a fortieth reunion for the Wakefield Class of 1962 might be a fun idea.  David agreed. Yahna generously offered her home in Annapolis as a place for an afternoon BBQ, which could be followed by a dinner and dance in a barn. 

During the first week of May, Yahna and David began to track down their classmates.  Using “Classmates.Com” on the internet they located some 99 Wakefield 62ers.  By mid-May, they had added about a dozen and a half, and were trying to get an indication for the level of interest and commitment for this reunion.  At that time there were about 20 “yes,” about 8 “maybe,” and about 8 “no” votes.

Yahna discovered that the proposed date for the reunion was the same one that the Annapolis boat folks had chosen for their big annual boat show.  What a nerve on their part!  Coupled with the expressed desire on the part of some classmates to have the reunion where we went to school in Northern Virginia, this boat show gave us the excuse to shift the venue to Arlington.

As e-mail traffic flowed back and forth, Mickey Coe joined in.  He sent David a long thoughtful message in which Mickey used his experience at many reunions to offer sound advice.  Mickey drafted a long message to the classmates for whom we had e-mail addresses, and on July 23 sent it out.  This was a “wake-up call,” resulting in immediate responses from Janet Lemme Coco and Russ Hatchl, who volunteered to help.  As they lived in the Washington area, they were well placed to begin some effective ground work.

Karl Veit sent David several names and telephone numbers, and Bob Coco obtained a class spreadsheet from the Wakefield Foundation.  Using information from paper copies of the Reunion Directories from 1982 and 1992, the Wakefield Foundation spreadsheet, and an internet telephone directory, more classmates were located.  They were contacted, asked to complete a form and to send in names and contact information of other classmates.  David began maintaining the new database, and by mid-August had reliable information on close to 300 classmates.

Janet ran a public service notice in the Washington Post; Mickey continually provided behind the scenes information and support; and volunteers signed up to help in a variety of ways.  Patti Boesch Feeley, Jan Loiselle Givens, Rhoda Ritzenberg, Bert Grisard, Margie Mills Moeller, Sheila Brown Sheats, Hally Montague Baker, Marla Jean Fowler Struyk, Joe Delaney, Charlie Howell, Joe Keesling, Karl Veit, John Solomon, and Michael Wines all offered assistance.

Russ agreed to be treasurer; Janet became volunteer coordinator, menu overseer, and budget manager.  Both located the site for the reunion, negotiated the facilities and costs, and handled the hundreds of details necessary in the planning for this event.  By late September it appeared that close to 100 classmates and spouses would attend the dinner dance, and over 40 would come to the tour of Wakefield High School and the lunch in the cafeteria there, the two main events of the reunion.  Russ identified a disk jockey.  David sent out solicitations for music requests and dedications along with mailing several hundred information sheets and sign-up forms.

Much of the planning and preparations were being done by e-mail and telephone, yet the “hard core” Reunion Committee thought that it was essential to meet face to face.  Indeed, some of the committee members had never met, not even at Wakefield.  Or at least they did not remember meeting.

Janet and Bob graciously offered to host a lunchtime meeting in their home in Springfield, on October 5.  In addition to the hosts, David Bennett, Patti Boesch Feeley, Sheila Brown Sheats, Russ Hatchl, Ken Jones, Joe and Cheryl Keesling attended.  Many final details were decided, and tasks were assigned.

Two weeks remained before the Fortieth Reunion, and the committee moved into high gear.


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The Reunion


At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 19, 2002, members of the Reunion Committee gathered in the dining area set aside for the Reunion at the Courtyard by Marriott, and began preparing the registration area, assembling the memorabilia table, decorating the dining tables, setting up the lectern.  Mr. Wilson, the disk jockey, brought his complicated equipment and reviewed the list of requests and dedications.  Tensions were high.  Had we forgotten something?  Was an element overlooked? Were we fully prepared to begin greeting our classmates, some of whom we had not seen in over 40 years?

As the clock struck 7:00, guests began to arrive.  Some were dressed with elegance, some came casually attired, and all came with smiles.  Janet Lemme Coco, Margie Mills Moeller, Mike Wines, and Cheryl Keesling ably greeted each guest at the registration table, and handed out name tags.  Name tags for the alumni included their Starstone Yearbook photo and their name.  Name tags for the guests bore the Wakefield shield logo from our era.  The white name tags included a piece of green ribbon, representing our school colors.  Committee members wore a carnation with their name tag.  Patti had certainly done a great job with those.

Classmates gathered around the bar, recognizing one another (occasionally with a quick glance to the name tag), laughing, hugging and remembering.  Russ Hatchl and Ken Jones, who had generously volunteered their time and talents (they were two of the original Starstone photographers 40 years earlier), went about taking photographs of as many classmates as possible.  Ken Jones set up a projector, and throughout the evening over 200 photographs of the classmates taken in 1961 and 1962 were projected onto a large screen in a continuous slide show.  This exhibition attracted everyone’s attention.  That same slide show may be viewed here in its entirety by clicking on the tab: Vintage Pictures.

Elizabeth Bronson Duvall brought a wonderful collection of Wakefield and era memorabilia to the reunion.  Patti Boesch added her copy of the Starstone and other items, and a display table was set up for all to admire.

At 8:00 pm, we all moved to the dining area, just as the disk jockey began playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” the last tune we had heard together at graduation in 1962.  But sometimes success can trip you up.  Thanks to a last minute surge in participation, the dining room was at capacity, leaving no room for the DJ to put his speakers.  Only those who listened carefully were able to hear the dulcet strains of Sir Edward Elgar’s best known work.

David Bennett welcomed everyone to the reunion, thanked those who contributed to making the evening possible, and we all sat down to enjoy dinner at the round tables wonderfully decorated by Meghan, Patti Boesch Feeley’s daughter. 

After dinner, David made a few remarks, hosted the “Age Test” and a contest for the “first to…” or “who has the most…” (both may be found elsewhere on this CD).  Certificates were handed out, photos were taken, and we all began drifting back to the dance floor.  The disk jockey played most of our requested tunes and read the dedications we had submitted, we danced and enjoyed each other’s company, Russ and Ken continued taking photos, and the exhibition of 1961-1962 photos continued to attract much attention.  As the evening grew late, classmates began to say goodbye.  Addresses and telephone numbers were exchanged, promises to keep in touch were made, hugs and kisses were given. 

On Sunday morning, October 20, about forty classmates met in the cafeteria at Wakefield High School.  The second part of the reunion activities was about to begin. 

We gathered around Melvin Wilkins, an employee of the school whose only reason to be in school on Sunday morning was to give us a guided tour of the school we had left in the summer of 1962.  Mr. Wilkins was a marvelous guide, taking us around to the library (much bigger now, and with computers), the Senior Court (much smaller), several classrooms, the track, the locker rooms, the gymnasiums.  As he spoke we thought back to the time we had spent at Wakefield, studying, learning, making friends, preparing ourselves for the lives we would lead in the years ahead.

After completing this interesting tour we returned to the cafeteria to have lunch, and bring to a close our Fortieth Reunion.  We are grateful for the friendships made or rekindled, for the memories refreshed, and to the classmates who traveled to Arlington on this October weekend.