This note was written to the folks who were available for the first hastily called meeting on April 4, 2019. I cc’d it to the only emails that I had at the time.
April 5, 2019
To: Linda Gill, Kenny Womack, Julie Doctor, Vanita Cox-Storms, Susan Sherer-Rath, Randy and Connie Featherston
From: Dwight Miller
CC: Jim Freeburn, Charlie Stearns, Julie Noell-Oroz, Ronnie Rhodes, Richard Boles, Joel Young, Ed Parraz, Jim Armstrong, Robin Baxley-Zook, Mike Botkin, Lori Brown-Andrews, John Clark, Bob Dingler, Dennis Kemp, Julie Martinez-Humphries, Mike Millsaps, John Vanlaningham, Lance Wilkins, Brad Wirht, and more?
RE: Class of 1971
I wanted to start by thanking Linda for graciously hosting us all yesterday at her Rocky Hill home. I also wanted to thank all those (Kenny, Julie, Susan, Randy, Connie and Vanita) who could fit the hastily-called meeting of classmates into their life. The purpose of the meeting was to begin the conversation about our 50 year class reunion coming up sometime in 2021. We went down the list of every person who was in one of the four yearbooks. Even though we only graduated 166, there were another 128 who were with us for part of the time. We want to find them all and ensure that they’re included. In addition, I’d like to find and invite as many of our teachers as we can find.
The first step in the process is to simply identify where everyone is located and who in the group knows someone who knows someone who can connect with that classmate. I was amazed at how many people Randy and Connie are connected with. Susan is still uniquely connected with a number of people who are located in distant places. And Kenny is related to most of Farmersville and has business connections with so many others. We left thinking that it’s good that we’re starting early and confident that we’ll be able to find most everyone.
The attached spreadsheet was created in Google Sheets. If you have a gmail account, you can open and edit this by filling in info about individuals. We’ve also lost some classmates along the way and I highlighted them in yellow. The light gray are the ones who are in all four yearbooks. We can share this until we have it all filled in. I included the column about elementary school because of the likelihood that would increase possible connectivity.
We discussed the power and reach of Facebook and what a great tool it can be for finding and communicating with people. So, we nominated Connie, a Facebook power user, to create a page and begin inviting others to help find and engage people. She will recruit Mike Millsaps, another power user, to utilize his large following to increase reach. Other power FB users are encouraged to jump in.
A few personal thoughts- I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that I’m fully retired now and actually have time, or that I’ve been working on my own family tree through Ancestry.com or that Richard Boles was out visiting from Arkansas recently and we both stopped in to see Linda and spent time walking down memory lane. Or it could have been watching the movie that was made last year on the life of our classmate for the first three years, Russell Taff. (I highly recommend it- very compelling). Or it’s just being 66 and reflecting on my life with gratitude. But I had several reactions when looking at our yearbooks.
First, as I often do, I reflected on how grateful I am that I happened to be born within an 18 month period between 1952 and 1953 in a geographical location that produced so many really nice and capable people. I was grateful that we all went to a high school that had a lot of very fine faculty. I still maintain that our individual classes remain some of the best that ever came out of Snowden, Wilson, Sequoia Union and Outside Creek. That combination plus the addition of a few from places like Ivanhoe, Dinuba, Visalia and others, made us one of EUHS’s best. Humble too. :)
Second, I looked at all the pages with the art and poetry with new eyes. I looked at all the activity and club pages that I was not connected to. I was struck by the reality that there were so many people I didn’t really know. It was like a parallel universe. Other students were going through a completely different experience than I was at the same time and in the same place. I was so into my three sports, my classes and band that I didn’t pay much attention to drama, choir, FFA, and more. I felt a bit guilty now that I was so self absorbed.
I was also struck by the fact that every person involved in things away from me has a story both then and since. Russ’s status as a six time Grammy winner and Gospel Music star with dozens more awards makes his journey worthy of a documentary but we all have a story that spans the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, 80s, ‘90s, ‘00s and ‘10s. Those stories are worth telling and hearing. We have cancer survivors, lots of loss, heartbreak and struggles of every kind. We also have wonderful successes, triumphs, joys, children and grandchildren that enhance our lives in the best ways.
Third, I had a strong desire to hear those stories. That has been part of my desire to begin finding classmates two+ years before a reunion actually happens. We’ve only had three reunions in the last 48 years. While nice, they tend to be gatherings that only allow the most superficial and brief kinds of interactions. In thinking about this I started to wonder how we could do something different that would enhance the possibility for more interconnectedness, not just with the people we were close to in high school but include the ones we weren’t. I’m still pondering that one but hoping for suggestions. It was REALLY great to see all those in our small group yesterday feeling like minded. Looking forward to expanding the size of those willing to help with the gathering of info. Please feel free to share this note with anyone who’s email I didn’t have.