Last week, Carol Reighter and her husband John met Cliff and me at Panera in Jacksonville. I knew Carol from Elizabethtown Area High School as Carol Hall, headed for nursing school in Harrisburg after she graduated.
My memoir Mennonite Daughter has brought us together recently. But for the first time in a long time she also appeared last year at Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA during a book signing. She drove all the way from Mechanicsburg, an hour’s drive away, bringing with her other classmates, Bonnie Heisey and Lois Herr, all of whom I hadn’t seen for decades. I wrote a post about it!
This time (January 2020) she and her husband John traveled from up north on their way to Cocoa Beach and points south, planning to winter in Florida until Easter time.
Except for visits with relatives, I have been away from my home state for over fifty years. I’ve attended only a few class reunions. Carol, however, has kept in close touch with her classmates.
As we reminisced about out class, Carol brought me up to speed about the accomplishments of other graduates in the E-town class of 1959.
“Did you know what happened to Judy Groff?”
“Not exactly,” I replied. “The last time I saw her she apologized for making fun of my lack of coordination in gym class.” 😀
Carol was quick to bring me up to speed: “Well, she has had an amazing career in sports. There is even a baseball field named for her!”
The tagline reads . . .
Judy Groff Field is the home of the Amerian International College softball team and was dedicated to legendary head coach Judy Groff in a ceremony held April 29, 2006.
Carol continued, “And you won’t believe Dick Hilsher either. Remember him?”
“Yeah, he seemed to be a nice guy, but I don’t remember much about him since he was in the commercial track, and I in the academic one. What about him?”
“Well, he has really outdone himself. He runs a big enterprise in Port Trevorton, PA with a bunch of stuff: a restaurant, a grocery store, hardware, home décor outlet, sporting goods, a meat processing plant, a gas station and bakery. It’s really something!”
“He has quite a story,” and Carol filled me in with his steps up the ladder of success.
- Got a job at a local bank near his hometown. (His mother asked the banker to give him a chance!)
- Majored in accounting at NYU
- Earned a position in accounting at Tiffany’s New York
- Returned to Pennsylvania and bought a general store north of Harrisburg and expanded its offerings. Now it’s a mini-conglomerate!
Yearbook photos of Judy Groff and Richard Hilsher, class of 1959
The script for Judy’s life was evident in her yearbook thumbnail and in the detail of her extracurricular activities.
Dick’s blurb gave only the tiniest hint of his business achievements later on in life. Extracurricular activities were very sketchy, just “gym club” as a high school junior.
Other classmates have made their mark in the world, like Lois Herr, active for decades in Pennsylvania politics. But not all of our classmates have had prosperous lives. Some have had deep losses and daunting challenges. Others are no longer with us.
Have you stayed connected to any of your high school, college, or work colleagues?
Have the lives of some high school or college classmates you know about surprised you?
Has the blurb in your yearbook matched your life path – or deviated from it?
Good morning, Marian! How lovely that you’ve kept in touch with so many of your old friends, and that they’ve come to see you and attend your book events. I don’t really keep in touch with anyone from high school, but we had lunch with the man who was Doug’s best friend in high school. So he’s knew us when we first became a couple. 🙂 My close friends are the spouses of Doug’s college roommate and men he taught with his first year–so, old friends!
My “take” – Doug has spent most of his career in education, teaching high school math (I believe) , which may account for his sustained connections. Writing is a more solitary activity, and it takes effort to be social because it doesn’t happen naturally. You and I connect with people in a different way now, you through multiple books and your blog, which has taken a big leap in followers, I’ve noticed.
We’ve been watching Howard’s End on PBS, and one phrase I remember from reading that novel: “Only connect . . . .” Thanks for starting the ball rolling here today!:-D
I don’t think it has anything to do with occupations. I have friends at the gym, and I had friends when I was out of the house working, but I’m a quieter, less outgoing person. 🙂
Ah, you have a point there.
How wonderful that your memoir has resulted in meeting up with old friends and new, Marian. I’ve kept in touch with two close friends from high school. One of the two goes back to elementary school. I’m a far cry from my high school blurb where I mentioned a desire to major in computer science…I loath trying to keep up with technology!
Best-selling author is a fabulous accomplishment. I too loathe trying to stay ahead of the curve with social media. I’ve thought about hiring a publicist to help with promotion, which inevitably requires SEO knowledge plus.
Thanks for your true confession here, Jill!
Jack, you have been the most dedicated supporter of my blog from the very beginning. I do appreciate your input. THANKS!
Hi Jack, I still think of you as “Conrad” but will try to break that habit! Nice to see your name on Marian’s blog. It has been so many years! It would be nice to reconnect in E-town at a reunion. There are a lot of great people in our class but sadly we are becoming fewer and fewer.
I’ll say “Amen” to Carol’s comment. It’s great to see you here and on Facebook often, but how nice a face-to-face meeting would be. 😀
What fun. They didn’t do blurbs in our high school yearbook in Blountstown but I remember the class prophecy saying I would be editor of Good Housekeeping someday.
Hmm, didn’t make that, but Purpose and Valley Living were fun rides while they lasted!
I’ve kept up with one classmate from high school in Indiana (where I went 3 years before moving to north Florida), we try to get together when we can. I’ve gone to 4 or 5 class reunions in Indiana. I’m grateful for Facebook in renewing connections with several of my Florida classmates and most of my closest Indiana friends.
Your influence as a MennoMedia editor has taken you far and wide. Obviously, you showed an aptitude for writing and editing early on.
My meeting Carol has fired me up to attend more class reunions. The last one conflicted with taking care of Aunt Ruthie’s affairs and then my publishing Mennonite Daughter last year. Thanks for your input today, Melodie!
Hi Marian, Have book. will travel! It fascinates me that writing a memoir can lead to so many connections with others—old friends and new. I have attended several HS reunions. and one year, our girlfriend group decided to branch out and have our own reunion. So for the past 15 years, we meet annually at a restaurant or someone’s home. It’s wonderful to stay connected with girlfriends. Lots of laughter, sometimes tears, as we reminisce and catch up with one another. Looks like you had a wonderful time at your reunion!
You are SO good at staying in touch, Kathy, and social media gives you and I an extra “kick” these days. I’m happy to hear that you connect with your bevy of girlfriends on a regular basis. I appreciate your tuning in today! 🙂
So lovely to see your remembrances of your classmates, Marian! With every post, I see more and more of the reasons why you needed to write that memoir.
I haven’t kept up much with high school classmates (just maybe a mention or two on Facebook). I hear from undergrad and grad classmates more frequently. I would have to locate my high school yearbook to check the blurb. I think I mentioned something about writing. 😀
You have a wonderful cheering section on your blog, which certainly fills a need for social connections. Your high school yearbook editors must have detected your writing wishes even during your teenage years.
As you may recall, my memoir contains references to the fancy girls in high school. Carol was one of those girls! 😀
Oh, Marian, you are so sweet, but I never fancied myself as a fancy girl!
I’m just seeing your comment now, Carol! How I defined fancy then – anyone not wearing a prayer veiling – ha!
I know a little bit about a few kids from high school, but for the most part I haven’t stayed in touch. I’m delighted by your photo of you and your two classmates. Did you three plan to wear blue or was that a wonderful bit of serendipity? 💙
Dear Blue Heart, the wearing of the blue was a wonderful bit of serendipity.
It’s good see you here this morning, Ally Bean! <3
I also was struck like Ally Bean about the blue! Lovely on all of you. What fun to do this catch up! No, I haven’t stayed in touch with any of my class mates, we were too peripatetic in my school years, although the one friend I made in high school where I was for a mere 18 months remained a special friend until her death nearly 3 years ago …
Although, now that I think about it, someone did pop up recently who mentioned my mother and seems to know me and my sister. I can’t recall her, though we plan to meet towards the end of the month when we’ll be in Cape Town.
Thanks Marian, delightful post 🙂
Susan, I’m glad this post helped you to reminisce. I’m pretty sure you weren’t born in South Africa, so that would make a difference in your ability to keep up with school friends. Besides, friendships change over time, but family remains. Thanks for stopping by with a reply today.
I think it’s wonderful you’re keeping in touch with your old school mates or finding out about how they’re doing. I have a couple on FB who actually went to the trouble of finding me. I was very touched by that and happy to see they’re doing well in life. The magic of Social Media. 😉
The “magic of social media” in your case is addictive, Fatima. Friends on Facebook, including me, want to know your geographical coordinates though I think you are living in a home without wheels these days. Also, I love seeing your crocheted creations on FB and Instagram. Yay! 🙂
How fun! So far no friends of mine have has sports fields named after them – that would be my dream! In my yearbook, I wrote that I wanted to find a career that was “difficult enough to make it challenging and exciting enough to make it interesting.” (Quite an insight from an 18-year-old.) So far it’s panned out. I have often been challenged, and I’ve never been bored.
Arlene, your comment led me back to your blog where I notice you have been a videographer, anthology contributor, and much more. I especially like this quote on your website which reveals your adventurous spirit: ““If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.” – Toni Morrison 🙂
That is just wonderful. To see your classmates do well is amazing. Another plus for writing and publishing books, it brings people in our past lives out of the woodwork. I have had some lovely surprises at my book signings too, including my first landlady and her husband stopping by. I have been able to keep in touch with many of my classmates even though we have gone very different paths. Unfortunately some have passed away.
You are SO good at making connections, a talent I notice on social media including your blog. You have experienced that multiple times because Amanda keeps having adventures. Ha!
I’m happy to hear about readers from long ago making contact with you, even a landlord! Music to my ears, Darlene. Thank you!
Another warm and welcoming post, Marian. Aren’t book signings the best? I did a reading a few years ago in the town in Ohio where I’d raised my children. I’ve gone back to my maiden name, you know, so the blurb in the local paper hadn’t made the connection, unfortunately.
But, other than the regular folks who come to every book event at that local and popular book store (and my ex, who was kind enough to not only come, but to buy a book! Or did I give it to him? Don’t recall.) in walked a very tall young man who seemed familiar. Turned out he was the baby from next door that I’d watch grow up. What an unexpected thrill. As for my own high school chums, I can only say thank goodness for the internet. I’d lost track of all of them until we returned from Peace Corps to discover classmates.com and then Facebook. So, many of us have reconnected. Did you know I went to school with (and actually twirled with) the mother of the gorgeous TV star Taye Diggs? Yup. Marcia died recently, but at our 50th reunion not long ago we had a good time laughing about that. Methinks you’ve given me a good topic for a future post. Thank you.
You are the Queen of Connections. My writing career sprouted and began to grow at your retreat in Chincoteague, VA. All of your guests at the time read and critiqued my book. Some, like you, even wrote endorsements. 🙂
Your anecdotes here are choice, including the ones about the “baby” you met at a book signing and your -ex buying (?) your book – ha! (I look forward to your rendition of writing connections!)
For those of you curious about the star Taye Diggs: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004875/mediaindex
Next year will be the 50th reunion for my high school. I might try to go, but it is about 800 miles away. I kept in touch with one classmate until 2015, when a sudden life shift split us apart. Other than that, no clue where my fellow graduates are. But I basically kept to the liner notes in my senior picture! Always marched to a different drummer.
Your description of your “path” since graduation may fit several readers here. And who says you can “march to a different drummer.” Thanks for posting here, Ginger.
It would be neat to find out where people ended up, especially the ones who thought they were “all that” at the time. Facebook has given me glimpses of a few. Our yearbooks didn’t do blurbs about each student but it would have been neat. Most comments from “friends” either assumed I was returning for another year (but I graduated on time & with honours despite the addition of Big Guy in my life) or just wished me luck. Looking back feels almost like I’m watching a movie of someone else’s life. I’ve changed so much, and also, not really. 🙂
There’s much to admire about your life path, including graduation with honours. It’s interesting that you sometimes feel like your watching “a movie of someone else’s life.” While I was writing my memoir, I pulled out a prayer cap like one I once wore. “Did I really wear that?”
Yes, we’ve changed, and I like to think for the better – yet, it’s all a part of our history, isn’t it? Thanks for all this, Jenn!
How fun to trace the lives of old classmates! Thanks for an interesting post.
It’s good to hear from you Luci with the new last name. My, on my, you have had a lot of changes this past year. I’m glad you enjoyed my take on classmates. Thanks for stopping by! %-)
I left for another province right after high school, and those friends became a thing of the past except for two of my best friends—one was my second cousin, the other one I worked with on the high school paper—she as editor I as assistant editor. She also got a date on grad night with a guy I had a huge crush on—so I was upset and angry with her for a while. They didn’t end up staying together! We laugh about it now.
I’m reading your book Marian, and feel so sad for that little girl on the dark cellar stairs. But good for you, sticking up for yourself the way you did! A survivor!
So, you have memories of high school friends and a failed romance too. Relationships seem so serious in high school (and college) – sort of life of death proportion. Now through the lens of time, we have perspective.
I’m glad you are reading my book and would love to know what you think when you finish. Spoiler alert: It all turns out well in the end. 🙂
It’s always great to see you here, Elfrieda!
One of the thrills of my book launch was going back to my home town and inviting classmates from high school to attend the launch at my home church. There were at least four of them in the audience, and one who traveled all across the country. I was very touched. Great idea to include the yearbook photos and blurbs, too.
I eagerly watched your process of book publishing when I began following your blog in 2013. And I vividly recall the photo of a packed house at Lititz Mennonite Church, on the day of your launch. Yes, it is touching to behold the lengths readers go to connect to the “source.” I find it’s both heartening and humbling.
Thanks for providing me with footprints in this unpredictable path toward publication and beyond, Shirley!
This is so much fun, Marian! Good for you, getting together after all these years with some high school friends, and learning (and now highlighting) about the successes of some of them. Wouldn’t it be great if high schools invited alumni from years back who would talk about this kind of thing to current high schoolers and explain how the kids who seemed destined to not do much ended up succeeding in so many ways. And the “BMOC”s (big men on campus) end up doing little but enjoying their high school “fame.”
I haven’t attended a hs reunion in many years, mainly because like you, I live far from my hometown But, I have connected with high school friends via Facebook. So even though I haven’t seen them in person in decades, I know more about them, and love seeing the photos of their spouses and kids/grandkids, happy vacations, etc. I was not close to many of these people in hs (as you say, some were on the academic track like me, but many were not), yet thanks to social media, we have become “friends.” Many of these FB friends support my writing and books and buy them, and share my blog link and books links with others. Isn’t that nice?! Others have told me they remember stories I wrote in high school – I don’t remember that at all, but it’s cool that they do!
I’m not surprised that your HS classmates remember stories you wrote back then. Things we do or say that seem incidental to us loom larger in the memories of our friends, a good thing, don’t you think? That principle works in reverse too, I’ve found. My HS phys. ed. teacher, who also taught health, kept repeating, “When someone is bleeding, always apply pressure.” Also, we had to memorize many of the 206 bones in our bodies, so even now I can visualize where the ulna and scapula are located – ha!
Thanks for your musings here, always intriguing to read, Pam!
Ah, the bones. I didn’t remember them as well. :-0 I do remember being rather inept in gymnastics and while jumping over the gym ‘horse’ stepping on my finger and needing surgery. I was not our gym teacher’s favorite – haha.
Well, I guess we (at least I) couldn’t have both brains and brawn in those days. When I turned 40 though, I realized if I was going to go the distance, I had to stay in shape. Then, I did “Step” and yoga. Now, it’s Pilates and feeding my Fitbit.
Our gym teacher was sturdily built, as you can imagine, but she married a man who had a well-developed feminine side. 😀
By the way, occasionally, Ms. Hunsecker would change my grade from a “C” in PE which I probably deserved, to an “A” so it wouldn’t interfere with my average. (A teacher with a kind heart underneath all that bluster!)
🙂 I certainly didn’t have the brawn back then. Like you, when I hit my late 30s/40s I began to realize I had a body that could do more than run after children. I began to run, and ran 5 miles/4 times a week plus races. I LOVED how running helped me feel strong and in control of my body. But once my knees began to protest in my early 50s, I turned to walking/yoga/dancing and thank my brawn every day. Our brawn helps our brain feel good. (And you had a REALLY nice gym teacher. Mine just shook her head every year and for my senior year, gave me a “pass” instead of a grade. How funny is that?
Wow, Marian! It’s so fascinating to learn about old classmates and how their lives have evolved. Carol sure has a fantastic memory. And so do you, remembering these classmates from way back when.
In Belgium, we don’t have yearbooks and reunions are far and few between. As a matter of fact, I’ve never even heard of a reunion from my college and this year – actually this month! – is the first reunion of my high school, to which all the classes of the last two decades are invited, apparently, so I don’t even know how that’s going to go. Obviously, I’m not in Belgium either, otherwise I would have loved to go!
You are very complimentary, Liesbet. I have an old yearbook, and Carol has stayed in contact with several class members. Together we have “memory”!
Thanks for mentioning your Belgian class reunion. Twenty different classes sounds like a lot; I wonder if each class will congregate in a certain area. And I wonder if any of your classmates have followed your
travels & writing progress. They would be amazed.
I see you are in Ocala now. Next week we will be visiting a couple at the Villages, south of Ocala, which some have referred to as a “Disney World for Adults.” I guess I won’t form an opinion until we actually spend some time there. %-)
The Villages are interesting to say the least. We house sat there once and I suggested to Mark to go and say hi to that lovely couple we met there, but he declined. Friends from our sailing years have bought a home there as well, but are currently back on their boat. Otherwise, we would have swung by both couples to catch up on life. Have fun! Definitely go for happy hour to one of the plazas and see whether you’ll be inclined to join the crowd as they line dance. 🙂
One thing I like about our community is the mix of ages. I love seeing 3 little girls run out of the house to greet their Daddy coasting into the driveway, home from work.
Thanks for remembrance, Marian. I’m impressed you have these old connections and nourish them. I’m in FB touch with one high school friend who found me after finding my brother’s obituary since my last name had changed since high school days. I remember her sweetness then and it’s good reconnecting with that kindness now. I love watching her love for her granddaughter and hearing about the trials and trails of her life. She promises to drive to my home in the summer, but it’s a long journey. I didn’t attend a high school reunion because that life felt remote after my mother moved to Europe. I had no family in the area where I went to high school, so coming to Ithaca was a strong break. It’s good to be in touch with one person from those days.
Because I live near the same town where I went to college and met a group of like-minded philosophy students and meditators soon after I graduated, I still know people I met in the late 1960s. We attended classes and socialized together for many years, so I know them and I know their children and now grandchildren. We stay in touch in various ways, but the community holds strong when anyone needs support–and it was there for me when Vic was sick and after his death.
Elaine, I like how you mention following “the trials and trails” of your high school friends’ life. Even when problems have snagged you (vexations with Virginia, cochlear implant, etc.) and the ongoing grief of losing Vic, I have felt confident that your Facebook friends and blog followers here have helped sustain you, bring you comfort.
Thanks for mentioning too the loving arms of Ithaca that uphold and nourish you too – through the generations, impressive. Thanks for your insights, always a joy to read. 🙂
How amazing that your memoir has resulted in meeting up with old friends and new, Marian.
I’d like to know more about you, “chasing beans”! Thanks for visiting my blog today. 😀
Hi Marian – it’s great that you’ve been able to catch up with old friends from high school and learn about all they’ve done since you last saw them!
Yes, indeedy! I had no idea my memoir pub would lead to THIS. As they say,
“You never know!”
Thanks for stopping by this morning, Barbara.
Well done Judy! And how lovely to catch up with friends.
Thanks for stopping by, Lady Fi! 😀