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My View: 50th class reunion recalls fond memories

Mary Radens, of Hamburg, and others turned detective to reconnect with classmate.

Mary Radens, of Hamburg, and others turned detective to reconnect with classmate.

At our class reunion, my husband, Ken, and I won a prize for the “best feel-good story.” We met at St. James School, in the first grade, and went all through grade school together. We were members of this reunion committee, and had such a great time celebrating our 50th reunion with many classmates. We have been blessed with three children and three granddaughters.

By profession, I have been a registered nurse for 44 years, my husband a retired systems analyst. We owe our strong family values and respect for others to the foundation we learned from not only our parents, but also from the strict yet loving guidance received at St. James School all those years ago.

There have been stories about reunions: long-lost friendships found and, occasionally, a rekindling of an old romance. They are all great stories of getting together with people from one’s past. Seldom mentioned is the work behind the scenes, where to start and how to make it happen.

Last spring, my friend Barb, with whom I went to both grade school and high school, approached me at our 45th high school reunion with a plea: “Mary Alice, will you help me with something?”
Here was her idea: A 50-year reunion from grade school. We were members of St. James School Class of 1966. What we had to work with was slim pickings. Barb, a retired librarian, visited the downtown library microfiche and found a Buffalo Evening News article from June 1966 listing the 84 members of our class.

So, here was the first difficulty. We had two separate classrooms of each grade for all eight years. We didn’t know the “other class.” We were never shuffled or mixed together in any way.
Another problem was how to find the women, many who now had married names. Since our school closed long ago, there wasn’t an alumni department with that information. So we used the extremes – from the old-fashioned phone book to the newest social media.

Barb called Gloria, Margaret, Mary Frances and Maria, who turned out to be a Facebook whiz. It was amazing how many classmates she found!

We had success after success along with some letters returned and stamped: “addressee unknown.” Out of the 84 graduates, five had passed away. We couldn’t make contact with another 14. Not bad for starting with so little. It took us a full year, many phone calls and emails, but we found the majority of our classmates.

We were excited to tour our old school. It is now St. Augustine’s, a middle school for boys, and it looks very much the same. While walking around those halls, the memories flooded back. The water fountains were not as high as we remembered, and the halls were not as long. If only those walls could talk, they’d be laughing at the things we had done.

At our “meet and greet,” our classmates arrived. Before long, those faces once so familiar became easy to identify. So many years had gone by, and yet, so much had stayed the same. We recounted stories, not only about school, but about how the committee tracked down so many people.

Planning this reunion was a grand idea, at times pretty crazy, but oh so worthwhile. Cheers to my classmates and to my fellow reunion committee members. It was a pleasure.

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