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ON THE SCENE: 50th high school reunion times 2

June 29, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Area high school graduations and reunions were held the weekend of June 24, which had me jumping back and forth between my 50th at Northwood and the 50th for the classmates that I went to school with at Lake Placid Central from kindergarten through 8th grade.

Both Class of 1967s had annual dinners, fortunately not on the same night, informal gatherings, and a variety of special outings. Common was the pleasure of seeing people who you had bonded with during a formative time of your life. Some I hadn't seen since leaving high school and others even before that.

Each class has its character. The Lake Placid High School Class of '67 is like a large, boisterous extended family that has grabbed onto life with a spirit and sense of fun that bubbles over like a stew filled with too many ingredients and spices for the pot causing the fire below to sizzle and spark now and then.

Article Photos

Nancy Beattie, left, and 50-50 winner Eva Ring
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

The Class of '65 at Northwood is a bit like that carrying along with them classes above and below, like a rogue tidal surge coming at you. They are a fun group that I enjoy including many who were a part of a legendary ski team that had a real presence on and off the slopes that continues to this day.

My class of '67 at Northwood doesn't have the same energy as '65, but it was no less a pleasure to connect with people whom I had gone through some very hard experiences that impacted not just us, but the entire school. A student died during a canoe trip, a young guy I thought of like a kid brother and whose older brother had watched out for me, giving me his school blazer when I entered.

Today a school would bring in therapists following a similar trauma, but that was a time when manning up was still a social norm, an attitude that resulted in our nation and government woefully unprepared for knowing how to build resiliency in and help return safely the many who served in Vietnam.

The Lake Placid Central Class of '67 had its share of loss. Some people we knew died by suicide, AIDS and other calamities including a recent violent death.

The blessing is the healing experience of coming together with people who have known you well over time. If you ask someone how they're doing, they understand you truly want to know and are relieved to be able to open up and tell you the unvarnished truth. My classmates have been available for each other for more than 60 years. For some, that realization may come decades after we graduated, and for others, it's been true all along.

Fortunately, the schools, the community and the nation as a whole have learned much over the years on how to better care for one another, though we certainly have a way to go. All that said, these gatherings were filled with the joy and deep pleasure of seeing how well so many have and are doing within the soup of life.

"The reunions provide me with a sense of continuity," said Lake Placid alum Marilyn Lewis. "We're all survivors. We're getting more and more rugged every year. I am also very interested that so many stayed and had thrived here. I've learned that if I ever decided to move back to Placid I'd be OK and that I'm more related to these people that I grew up with than I realized. My DNA is happy when I come back."

"I grew up in the military," said her husband, Tom. "We often moved. I never had a hometown or a graduating class. I feel like my wife Marilyn's class has adopted me."

"We adopted you the moment you married her," I said.

On Friday night, Northwood held its True North Dinner in the school lounge, which included the class of '67 and alums who have contributed in some significant manner. A highlight was an a capella rendition of a school song by Bradley Morehouse, '42. Another was the awarding of the Distinguished Alumnus Medal to an alumnus or alumna who typifies the Northwood School tradition of excellence and has brought credit to the school through their accomplishment, professional achievement or humanitarian service. This year's winner was Lew Allyn, '57.

"I had a real problem with dyslexia, which they didn't know how to treat back then," said Allyn about his public-school experience. "I began to get a very negative attitude about education that trickled down to too many other things. My father suggested Northwood, brought me up here, and I fell in love with the place. The school had a major impact on my life. I was very fortunate."

While at Northwood, Morehouse was perhaps the only person at the dinner who knew the school song. At Lake Placid Central's banquet Saturday night, well over 175 got up and sang their alma mater, an annual tradition. Connie Preston, '48, and Jeanne Mader, '46, were recognized for the significant contributions to the school and community. Another big winner was my classmate Eva Ring, who won the 50-50 raffle.

"Winning like this is not normal," said Eva. "Who are you interviewing me for?"

"The Lake Placid News' On the Scene column," I responded.

"Don't tease me; I'm fragile at the moment," she said.

"Seriously, but so you know, the IRS is a big follower of my column."

"It's a great gift, and I am going to use the money to help others," said Eva. "This is an amazing experience. Just being here with all my classmates is an amazing experience."

"She's going to buy us all a drink," said Nancy Beattie.

"What! Wait! They gave me a check, not cash," said Eva.

"I have come back every year since I graduated because I love being with my friends and community," said Mader. "The reunions keep me in touch with all my classmates. I love them. Your Uncle Bob and I used to walk to school together. Sherry Leonard and I used to ride our tricycles on Main Street in good weather. We knew all the store people."

Back at Northwood, Dorothea Smith, wife of my classmate Wink, shared three life skills they required of their daughters; waitressing (learn the value of work and other people's efforts), lifeguarding (what it means to give of yourself for another), and learning how to drive a stick shift (keeps others from borrowing your car).

As for Wink, she said, "He learned how to use a chain saw at Northwood, which was very valuable when a hurricane hit our community."



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