2009 40th Reunion

Note:  Following the Reunion Recap are some of the photos taken of the reunion at Twigs and later at Hanger 57 where a few of the braver souls of our class proved they could still bust a move or two.  The ladies' maiden names are used in the captions. 


By Ronna Jones Snyder

I am seldom at a loss for words.  As a retired freelance writer, it served me well as my national magazine clients rewarded me with $1 per word.  Talk about a Pavlov-ian conditioned response for a motor-mouth!  I could spew words out faster than Oprah can count calories with that kind of green dangling in front of me!  (See?  I coulda just made about $30 right there!)

But then my reunion-wingman, Marc Martyn, e-nudged me the day after our 40th reunion, June 20th, 2009, at Twigs South in Spokane.  (The nerve of that guy!  I mean, the day after, I was comatose from adrenaline failure!)  And Wingman said, "Be thinking about writing a commentary to describe what the reunion was like for the people who weren't there." 

I swear I did my best that day after the reunion.  But my best was simply a brief, shell-shocked e-mail to the class saying I was pretty near speechless.  (To which I'm sure you all breathed a sigh of relief! :)  Speechless because the depth of emotion that permeated the air that night had a way of rendering a person...well....speechless. 

Not that night of course.  NO ONE was speechless that night at the reunion.

Conversations were sparking and arcing across the room as classmates recognized each other and fell into each other's arms or, in the case of the guys, shook each other's hands so hard I thought limbs were going to fly off. For some it was the first time they'd seen each other in 40 years!  In the back of more than one mind (because numerous people told me so) was the realization that at THIS age, it might also be the LAST time some of us see one another.

But it was in the aftershock of all this that the speechlessness really set in.  I still, to large degree, have it weeks later (although the length of this recap probably belies that). 

And there may be a purpose in this as many, in my perhaps-noticeable rhetorical absence, have stepped up to the plate and described the reunion--their varied viewpoints a tapestry of commentaries, from passionate to poignant--in our department called The Panther Forum.  (I'd suggest you go there to get more classmates' perspectives on the reunion than just this one.) 

So, uh, back to the speechless part.  The part I'm still struggling with.  Be patient with me as I try to conjure the words to do our little event justice (and get Wingman off my back with this recap! ).

When six months ago I got this "unction-thang” for lack of better words, to throw a 40th reunion, I basically envisioned me, with like two or three former-classmate friends who felt sorry for my failed efforts, sitting in a back table at Twigs, hoping one or two others might show up---kinda like waiting for that phone to ring for a date to the senior prom. 

I had no clue that 120 or so people would show up--nearly 70 of them classmates dragging along spouses or significant others! No vision for the website that would very nearly take over my life at times, allowing us to find at least 80% of our class (even though that many didn’t log on, we still were able to pass on info about the reunion to about that many).  No thought for the profound effect the profiles and their photos would have on re-connecting people--allowing them to peek into each others’ lives, loves and losses---all the while realizing that classmates we sometimes barely knew, or maybe barely even liked, were....well......just like us. People.  With hopes and heartaches alike.

In short, while I told so many that this effort was a labor of love for me (and it truly was), I realized that I was not alone.  Classmates, softened by the sweetness of age, genuinely got “infected” with care for one another. And they wanted to express it by  reunionating-with-resolution.

It resonated in the gorgeous name tags Julie and Jerry Clark put together (complete with senior photos of each classmate) at the entrance table.  There, they and others met each classmate with a warm welcome, an emotional high-five, as it were.

Kelly Baxter, in a wheelchair because of complications due to diabetes, sat by that table and I watched as classmate after classmate reached out to him (and his unchanged hugely-warm Kelly-smile).  Even though Kelly’s vision’s impaired from his disease, he keyed in on each classmate as if they were the most important person in the world.  Kelly became our “official greeter”.

Then as classmates moseyed on upstairs they passed the “memory table” which displayed a beautifully crafted “memory board” made by Shirley Weatherford Hillhouse to memorialize classmates who have passed away.  They lingered over the memorabilia displayed by self-confessed packrat-classmates like Laura Dietz and Mary Laws Reno, fingering for the first time in 40 years things like our former class newspaper, graduation program, even the class’ senior breakfast menu!

Rapidly the place filled as classmates started ordering beverages, mingling, kibitzing; sharing memories, stories, lives. Teachers George Weishaar and Gordon Brunette and their wives joined the crowd. By about 5:30, it was obvious by the elbow-to-elbow gathering that we had a “sold-out” event and it was "time for the show.” 

I know, I know, the website read for months, "Don't expect any fancy-schmancy programs," but like everything else associated with this 40th reunion, the program just kind of made itself happen.

First, pastors Floyd Wilks and Steve Buckley opened our gathering with a touching prayer of thankfulness  the lives of our classmates who, whether through death or distance, couldn’t be with us.  And then they thanked God for those who WERE.  It set a tone of tenderness that lasted the entire night.

Then on a large screen lowered from the ceiling, Wingman Marc Martyn delivered his own gift of love, a video he’d made of annual photos from our four years at Mead.  The end of the video was a tribute to the classmates that had passed away with "Time In A Bottle" as the background music.  Since I’d already previewed the video before, I got the “better” show.  I got to watch the faces of classmates as they reminisced, most tearing up at the images, many singing along with the iconic music Marc played in the background.  Like a ghost from the past, “Hey Jude”, sung by dozens of aging Panthers, wafted through the rafters of swanky Twigs. What MUST they have thought one story below our balcony digs?

And then I closed with the reading of a short excerpt from an anonymous classmate.  One that, unfortunately, was not the only one like it that I’d received over the six months before the reunion.  It gently and humbly---without bitterness or meanness--detailed out how this classmate wouldn’t likely be attending the reunion because they’d felt invisible at Mead. When I was done, there was a soft, maybe even stunned, silence in the room.

“Invisible,” I repeated the word to our class.  I looked around at all of them slowly and I told them something only I and a couple others knew.  “There are classmates among us who used every ounce of courage they had to come to this gathering, gambling that they would NOT feel the rejection they felt in high school, praying they would NOT feel invisible by the time they left.”  I encouraged all of us to not let them down.

And then we disbanded into what some have come to call a “hug-fest”.

In almost 60 years of living, I have had plenty of hugs.  There are the polite kind, the passionate hubby-wife kind, the I-love-ya-Mom kind.....and then there are the 40th-reunion-kind. 

These, I learned that night, are quite different. 

Different than the 10-year reunion "I'm sorta sizing myself up by comparing my success to your success" kind.  Or the 20-year reunion "I'm still sorta pretending to hold my own in this aging process" type.  No, the 40th reunion contained a very different brand of hug. A hug that carried in it a realness. A forgiveness of past-thoughts and past-actions.  It was the embodiment of mercy, maturity, grace.

It was deep and---in ever-the-best-sense of the word--almost clingy.  I found myself hanging on to people I hadn't seen in decades as if I'd been looking for them all my adult life.  And the oddest thing was---well, they hugged me back in exactly the same way. 

As I looked around the room, I saw the phenomenon repeated over and over as classmates connected with classmates.  Gone forever were the “categories” (jock, jerk, whatever); the “classes” (popular and, ummm, not-so); the “cliques” (spooners, city, country, more-whatever).  The names, the labels, the flippant words that kids use to size up—or down-size--other kids.

In their place were adults whose only criteria for acceptance and, yes, even affection, was a shared past.  Albeit brief, those years—in their comparative innocence—possessed a poignancy that only maturity gives perspective to.  The hugs, the camaraderie that night in that room, sealed a deal 40 years in the making.

Before the sun set, the classmates made their way out to the Twigs patio for a 40th class reunion photo.  And even that was colored-with-care.  Former Mead annual photographer, Dan Stoneman, traveled hundreds of miles from Portland, Oregon to “shoot” us once again.  Gary Wright, looking like he’d been in an age-defying hyperbaric chamber for the past 40 years, was positioned front and center in his blue and gold letterman’s sweater.

Minutes later, almost as an afterthought, Dan took another photo.  A photo of all the classmates who had spent twelve school years together.  A staggering one fourth of the classmates there that night could stand in that elite group.

As the night wound down, some made their way to Hangar 57 where the club’s owner had plugged the jukebox for the Class of ’69 and many took turns picking out the old favorites that they’d danced to.  Timeless Tricia Gregorak Hann busted out a few portions of old cheerleader moves on the dance floor and Bob Kellogg displayed some new ones, twirling more than one thrilled female classmate around the floor. A group of girls sang the Mead fight song.  (Who knew we still remembered most of those words!)  But even that seemingly light-hearted frivolity was couched in the preciousness of the knowledge that time marches on.

Some of us WILL never see each other again.  And we recognized that that night.  We also recognized something we may not have known before that evening.: That full-circle events like this reunion can bring resolution to the convoluted memories of youth.  They can heal.  They can soothe.  And in seeing old friends from the past, they can resurrect new ones.  But most of all….maybe best of all…..they can leave us speechless with thankfulness that we’ve lived long enough to be there. And to realize that in this big ol' world we live in, none of us is ever truly invisible.

Class Group Photo

12 Year Group

Janet Spencer, Sue Renner, Ronna Jones

Gary Wright & his wife, Ellen

Pastors Steve Buckley & Floyd Wilks did a joint invocation

Janet Spencer talking with Chiere (Downie) Martyn

Judy Durheim

Charlene Faoro & Stuart Shawen

Nancy Utermarck

4 daughters, 5 grandchildren, 1 GREAT GRANDSON

Unbelievable!  Nancy, where is the Fountain Of Youth you are hiding?


Leanne Howard

Robin Gray, Ellen Wright, Gary Wright, Stuart Shawen, Alison Bantz

Melaine Walker & Ginger Suriano

Pam Pruitt & Margene Whittle

Ron Farley, Alison's husband

Dia McVey

Robin Gray & Steve Buckley

Dave Franklin, Lenny Cordill (Patty Mott's husband)

Jerry Clark, Melaine Walker, Robin Gray

Dave Franklin

Pat Coker

Bob Kellogg

Vicky Ferrell (Pat's wife), Alison Bantz & Ron Farley (Alison's husband)

Jerry Clark, Sonia & Jim Patterson

Roger Libby & Walt Kostecka

Jerry Clark

Gary Wright

Are you sure you aren't graduating next week, Gary? 

Jerry Clark, Randy Bezdicek and His Wife

Jerry Clark & Edie Bartle

Vickey Duskey, Jerry Clark and wife Julie

Joan Bischoff, Laura Dietz, Sue Renner, Gary Wright and wife Ellen

Bill Snyder (Ronna's husband) and Bob Kellogg


Ronna Jones, Mary Laws, Dan Stoneman

Pat Ferrell & Roger Libby

Dan Stoneman

Robin Gray & Marc Martyn

Dave Franklin and His Wife Angie

Mary Laws & Jerry Clark

Ellen & Gary Wright

Mr. Brunette (Teacher) and his wife

Mr. Weisharr with his wife Janis

Front- Judy Young & Cheryl Cockburn

Back- Ronna Jones & Ron Farley

Mr. Weisharr & Mr. Brunette

Sonia & Jim Patterson

Todd Hawkins & Dee Brooks (Hawkins)

Ellen Wright (Gary's wife), Robin Gray, Stuart Shawen & Gary Wright

Kim Davis & Karen (Baines) Davis

Our own class Barbie and Ken dolls at age 58! Yowza!

Becky Wilson (John's wife), Tricia Gregorak, Sue Gregorak, John Wilson

Roger Libby, his wife Debbie  & Jerry Clark

Randy Bezdicek, Ronna Jones & Marc Martyn

Jerry Clark & Dan Stoneman

Kyle Sonnabend & Anne Durham

Cheryl (Sletten) Lovett and husband Jim

Patty Mott & Cheryl Sletten

Edie Bartle, Cheryl, Anne Durham

Tricia Gregorak,Sue Gregorak, Ron Farley, Ronna Jones

Laura Dietz (Front) & Ronna Jones (Standing)

Pastors Steve Buckley & Floyd Wilks

Judy Swanson, Tricia Gregorak, Alison Bantz, Anne Durham

Bill & Judy (Young) Brokaw

Jerry Clark & Joyce Gull


Buzz & Edie (Bartle) Basso, Patty Mott, Judy Young,Tricia Gregorak

Alison Bantz, Dia McVey, Ron Farley, Tricia Gregorak

Front- John & Laurie Vandervert, Mr. Brunette (Chemistry & Geometry)

Back- Janet Spencer, Sue Renner, Charlene Faoro, Melaine Walker

Ronna Jones, Kelly Baxter, Robin (Kelley's sister) John & Laurie (Wiley) Vandervert

Jerry Clark & Doug Wise

Sue Gregorak, Tricia Gregorak, Dia McVey & AnneDurham

Randy Bezdicek, Dan Stoneman, Edith Bartle

Pam Pruitt, Cheryl Sletten (Lovett) & Jim Lovett

Classmate Memory Board

Created by

 Shirley Weatherford (Hillhouse) and her husband, Bob

 Melaine Walker, Janet Spencerd & Sue Renner

Karen (Baines) Davis and Kim

Judy Swanson, Tricia Gregorak, Alison Bantz & Anne Durham

Bill Slater

Judy Swanson & Tricia Gregorak

Patti Mott, Ronna Jones, Anne Durham, Judy Young, Kathy Clark, Melaine Walker, Dia McVey, Tricia Gregorak

Edith Bartle, Kathy Clark & Anne Durham

Dia McVey & Stuart Shawen

Anne Durham & Judy Swanson

Bob Kellogg & Karen (Baines) Davis

Anne Durham & Kyle Sonnabend


Kyle Sonnabend & Edith Bartle

Gracefully aging

Dia McVey

Joan Bischoff & Laura Dietz

Linda Smith & Judy Durheim

Gordon Burnett, George Weishaar with their spouses

Pam Pruitt, Judy Young, John Vandervert (Lauries husband) and Laurie

Gathering outside for the class photo

Pastors Steve Buckley & Floyd Wilks

Steve Buckley, Kathy Clark & Jim Patterson

Sue Gregorak, Tricia Gregorak, Dia McVey & Anne Durham