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Class of 1963
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Reunion Reflections

Prayer at 40th HMHS Class Reunion
By Margie King Saphier:

Spirit of All Life and Creation, Weaver of the Tapestry of Life, God of All, our time together is over but the journey continues. We give thanks that the strands of our live have been made stronger, richer, and more colorful by the shared years at HMHS and by this weekend reunion. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to those whose ardent endeavors enabled us to renew lost friendships and make new friends.

We give thanks for the teachers who challenged our thinking, who gave us encouragement, and who made us laugh. We especially give thanks to our parents who held us close when we were young and when we grew up, let us go with a blessing. We remember the students who are not here: those who could not be located, those who could not attend, and those who have died. Although they are not with us in body, our memories of them continue to speak to us.

Knowing that life is transitory, we give thanks for this weekend's opportunity to speak to one another the words we hold in our hearts, shedding false pretenses so that we received the spirit of friendship and experienced Your Presence in the Sound of the Genuine.

May we all return safely to our homes as we continue the journey of life, knowing that each one of us has been a gift to the other. Amen.

Denny Ryder:

Two images come to mind as I think about our 40th reunion. The first is the image of the somewhat familiar, yet apprehensive faces coming up the steps to the gym on Sylvan Lake Ave. on Friday night, looking at name tags and breaking into smiles and hugging friends they hadn't seen in so many years. The other is the tears and embraces that I saw- and captured to some degree with my camera -in the cafeteria as we prepared to leave.

Above the door in his summer home in Pike County PA, my great grandfather had a sign: "Where welcome ever smiles and farewell goes out sighing." That was our 40th Reunion.

Both of those images occurred on HMHS property. We chose using HMHS as our reunion "base" for two reasons: location and cost. We didn't consider the emotional impact the activities located at HMHS - the football game, the breakfasts, and especially the Sunday service- would have on us. For me, there was something electric about being back in that stadium with the rest of you after forty years.

But the most lasting impression I have is of the strong bonds that exist among members of our class. In fact, when our planning committee first met in February we were not sure if anyone was interested in even having a reunion. Except for Sam, no one was beating our doors down saying "Let's have a reunion!" However, when we made those first calls last March, we were all struck by the warmth with which our calls were received and the enthusiasm you had for returning for our reunion. We had a sense that there were bonds here that we were not fully aware of. And those bonds exist not just among members whatever groups we were in during high school…we witnessed at the reunion a genuine caring among members of our class regardless of where we stood in front of the high school in the morning, what kind of car we drove, what we looked like, what lunch table we sat at…none of that matters any more. I feel really blessed to be part of the Class of 1963.

And as I said Saturday evening: I think we have to keep these friendships part of our present lives and not relegate them to the shelf to be dusted off in 2008 or 2013.

Nelson "Mitch" Muschek:

Just a word of thanks for a memorable evening at the HMHS 40th Reunion. What a thrill it was for me to conduct a band again in a well remembered, after I saw the score, pep song. Overall it was a most delightful evening and both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was good to see some of my students again after all these years. It is hard to realize that forty years have elapsed, and looking at those pictures of our magnificent band made it seem that it wasn't all that long ago. Unfortunately time does fly. I really appreciated how well you set things up with the band and also the overall organization of the program. I wish you well as you plan for future reunions, and again thanks for a great evening.

Julie Fox Eastwick:

At times the Reunion seemed almost like a retreat - a welcome time to reflect and reconnect. Indeed, the class of '63 is very good class, but, and more importantly, they are a class of GOOD people. That was evident all weekend. I loved looking around our table last night - again ordered alphabetically as Duffy, Evans, Fisher, Fox, and Hewes and being wowed by the other end of the alphabet, too - Weaber's artwork and Wildman's stage presence. I only regret that I didn't see enough people at all those other wonderful tables. This morning's Service of Remembrance was incredibly moving (I officially lost my 40-year hold on being Most Poised!), and I thank especially Stan and Ed for their poignant, thought-provoking, and uplifting remarks. We were lucky to be there.

To all, much love, and as the French say, "Chapeau!" for a job well done.

Walt Levering:

Thoughts that want sharing.
…triggered by our Memorial Service on Sunday

There are things that could be said about all the names listed on the back page of the program, but I wanted to single out two, Earl Bond and Lanny Rossell. To me they represent one of those historical events that profoundly effect our generation. Every cluster of years moving through time has such a defining event that happens to represent them. …and though we didn't select it, Vietnam is ours.

I have wanted to speak with Earl for years about his younger brother, Ronnie, who was shot down over Laos and whose remains have never been recovered. Long listed as Missing, Ronnie was later officially declared KIA. I knew him best as a fellow wrestler and wanted Earl and his family to know that many beyond themselves were acutely aware of their loss. It was only on Saturday morning that I learned of Earl's death from my sister, Robin and husband Bill Wright, with whom Karen and I were staying on this Reunion Weekend. Alas, unfinished and unfinishable business.

Then there is Lanny. My mind recalls a wonderfully infectious presence always marked by that round face, great smile and twinkle in the eyes and a stocky body moving forward with purpose. Maybe not always the best-defined purpose, but moving forwards nonetheless. We were with Lanny at a gathering at the shore just a day or two before he was to leave for Vietnam. In part it was a party to proudly share and introduce his new bride, Georgia, who was a true peach. Great catch, Lanny! As I remember, Bill Budd was there that day, and Sam Paules, I think Kim Brown, and others not now remembered. Since I had recently returned from my first tour in Vietnam, Lanny was keenly interested in learning: "What is it like?" "What can I expect?" "Do you have any advice?" Lanny was not convinced of the "rightness" of the conflict, but was unswervingly resolved that he must participate and help his nation in some way - and so became a medic and probably would not carry a weapon. I tried my best to answer his genuine queries thoughtfully and in ways I hoped would help.

As Karen and I drove home that day, we were both filled with the heaviest sort of dread and foreboding. We both knew that we would never speak with Lanny again. He was killed within 30 days of arriving in-country. Lanny was a Navy corpsman assigned to a Marine ground unit near the DMZ and died while aiding his wounded comrades in a tough fire-fight.

Karen and I were then living in Savannah, GA, and attended the memorial services for Lanny in Georgia's hometown of Hemingway, SC. Lanny's death wrent his family apart. One parent proud of a son's service and convictions strong enough to act upon them, the other unable to forgive a son taken too early.

Permit me to move to an uptick that is related. Don't know if any of you had the good fortune of meeting a more recent teacher at HMHS by the name of Patty Kolodi, who taught history? She was twice named the NJ Teacher of the Year and is one of those unforgettable characters one might read about in the Reader's Digest. One of the things for which she is well remembered is the creation of a one-semester elective, only available to seniors, the subject of which was "Vietnam and the US". Always over-subscribed, standing room only, and so popular that she was persuaded to repeat it at night for parents. She placed everything in historical, world and local context and was very adroit at artfully drawing her students into being in that time. She brought in many guest speakers of all kinds from that era: infantrymen, door-gunners, LRRPs, clerks, jet jockeys, wives, brothers/sisters, conscientious objectors, all. When my two nephews were Seniors (one Robin's son and one Andy's son), I was asked to come, show some of my slides and speak of my particular experience as a helicopter pilot during two tours. Although separated by only two years, it may as well have been ten and seemed like two different Armies due to the change in attitudes and circumstance - but that is a story for another time.

One of the exercises she always did was to conduct a draft lottery during one class. Birth dates and corresponding draft sequences were drawn. By the next meeting, each student had to declare what he or she was going to do as a result of their date draw. Then explain succinctly to all why they would enlist for a special job choice and branch with a four year obligation or take their luck with the draft for the shortest two-year obligation or get married & deferred or go to graduate school for that deferment or serve as a Conscientious Objector or run away to Canada or whatever course of action?

She also took every class to the Vietnam "Wall" in Washington, DC. As has become a kind of custom for visitors there, each student was encouraged to leave something personal and meaningful. And they did: a treasured piece of jewelry from a boyfriend, heartfelt letters/poems, favorite tape/CD, family heirloom, an irrevocable promise to do or change something about themselves, car keys, and on and on. These visits were extraordinarily engrossing to observing passersby and often brought them in to participate. Members of the Park Service were always wowed by the level of knowledge these kids possessed and how they conducted themselves and at least one took the time to write a remarkable letter to the HMHS Principle. The Washington Post became aware and did a feature on Patty Kolodi and her classes.

Back to HMHS. I subsequently presented to and spoke with more of her classes. It was not possible to proceed without mentioning Ronnie and Lanny who sat in the same seats as those students then were. The rapt attentiveness, depth of insightful questions and genuine interest exhibited by these kids always impressed me. And every one of them always sent a personal and thoughtful "thank-you" note for speaking and sharing with them. Just blown away each time! I still have all of those notes. What Patty did was to impart the most meaningful sort of civics lesson using the backdrop of this Vietnam-thing as the enabling mechanism. There is no doubt that every one of her students will be an active participant in life, not a passive observer. Whether as a Girl Scout troop leader, Little League coach, running for elected office, seeking appointment to a local Board, reader at the toddler story hour at the library, whatever floats their boat --- they will at least participate, not just observe. I hope every one of your children or your children's children encounter a teacher such as she.

It struck me as I read the list of '63 classmates, now deceased, while we were in the auditorium of Haddonfield Memorial High School, during our Memorial Service, that these remembered classmates left early and with unfinished business. All those above thoughts were tumbling through my mind, needing to be shared, but unable to form for presentation at that moment. What a most meaningful service it was. Certainly the most poignant of many fine remembered moments of the weekend.

My take-away is that the best way to honor these friends now gone is to help finish their business. Remain an active participant in the life of our neighborhoods and nation, not a lazy observer. We do have the best society and circumstance on the planet and, yes, there are things that can be done better. So, no bitching and moaning allowed. Go help sustain those things that are good and do your bit to make the others "more better".

True pleasure being in your company once more.

Betsey Evans Heuisler:

The reunion weekend surpassed all my expectations. And I went to it with high hopes, indeed.

My only fear was that we might not recognize each other after so much time passed. I could not have been more wrong. Whatever hair left, and whatever color, however our faces and bodies told our narratives of time lived, virtually EVERYONE was utterly recognizable. I had no idea that I would know each person (and each of them, each other) by a remembered smile, or the way a person still speaks, or a series of hand gestures, or the way someone walked or leaned forward to listen, or a face in song, or a certain distantly remembered quality of energy.

It was true of people whom I knew well in high school and people whom I knew less well. The memories were impartial. I found that thrilling. Truly.

And as much fun as I had all weekend, jumping from one person, one couple to the next, to reconnect, I have to say that it culminated for me with Ed Seeger's speaking on Sunday morning. Ed recalled for us our 20th reunion as an occasion of "competitiveness". We were all still rallying support and positioning ourselves to win some sort of prize with each other.

Whereas, said Ed, the 40th reunion was an "occasion of forgiveness". An opportunity to connect. We have all lived thru various and many sorts of loss....some good, some difficult., some heart breaking. And we meet each other after 40 years in new ways. Ways of understanding, recognition and forgiveness. Ourselves and the Other. Our common humanity finally sears our connectedness. Ed Seeger's speaking rang true of our shared experiences of this weekend, and was so profoundly rich for me. And for each of us.

As well, Miriam and Edie and Gwen had brought my Mother (aged 93, class of 1928, first class to graduate from the newly built HMHS )) to the service, as she refused my invitation. She is a dear old bird; (saying things like" oh, reunions are dreary. I remember my 50th." And "gracious, they will all think I am an interloper")

I followed them in my own car, solo. And sat behind my Mother and all my old buddies.

I sat with Jeff Gitomer, who was so moved, to speak. Along with many others. Bill Budd broke our hearts, speaking of his dear friend, Lonny Rossell.

Stan Bockman began the service with such a marvelous sense of inclusiveness that I felt the years of HMHS's stoic, stolid, blind Waspishness were set to the side, even if only in that moment, together. Stan spoke so eloquently from his heart that I know his speaking will last into our shared futures.

It was an extraordinary reunion weekend.

Gary Grosart:

reunion reflections---
I bored my wife all the way back to Cape Cod, Ma. with my reunion thoughts so here are a few. It led me to feel 1. a completely new appreciation for the treasure that old friendships can be 2. a fascination in getting to spend time with people that you went through kindergarten with 3. a realization that deep down people don't change all that much and 4. an idea that some things really do get better with age Finally, though you said not to do this, I really do want to thank you for all the hard work done by those who planned this.

Nancy Grabiak Sullivan:

Thanks so much to the entire planning committee for a perfect reunion. I thought it was terrific that so many classmates attended the reunion, many who came a long distance. It was great seeing everyone 40 years later, and remembering old, fun times. I am glad to know that several classmates live in my area, and hopefully we will continue to see each other.

Cookie Barbell Pinsky:

Not having attended any of the previous reunions, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Let's just say that I came away thoroughly impressed not only with the planning and execution of the weekends' events, but also with the realization that the Class of 1963 is awesome.

I entered HMHS in 10th grade coming there from Haddon Jr High. There were times that I felt like an outsider since I hadn't gone through grade school or junior high with the core group from Haddonfield. However, the distinctions blurred over the next three years. When I decided to attend this year's reunion, I did it not being sure whether or not the old distinction of "us" versus "them" would resurface.

Let me say that this weekend I felt totally included as I never felt before. During the walking tour of HMHS, Carol Duus and I discussed the fact that all the little things people used to dwell upon are no longer of importance anymore. Maturity has given us all a chance to get to know each other.

As I was travelling home to Florida, I kept thinking about what Ed Seeger said to the group on Sunday morning. He alluded to the fact that we are a diverse group coming from a variety of faiths and backgrounds. And, although there are differences in our beliefs there are also many things we have in common. It was this strengthening of our common interests that made the weekend so memorable.

I hope our class can come together again for another wonderful reunion. It will be difficult to top this one, but it is certainly one that I am sure will stand out as time well spent.

Susan Lee Hare:

There are so many levels of feeling about this reunion it is challenging to put into words, but here goes a try.

We shared a common experience during our school years. Some of us from back in elementary school, some entered in junior school, and all of us at some time during high school. We have kept memories of that time with us for forty years. Our other reunions restored some of those connections for some of us. But back in the early 60’s we were so young and were just trying to meet expectations-from our parents, our friends, our teachers, the community, and from our time. I know I didn’t really value what I had-maybe you can’t when you’re so young. I was actually very happy in high school , but now I see in a very limited way.

At our fortieth reunion those who were there also shared a common experience. I know as the time approached I felt excited and a little anxious about how it would all go. Could I really spend a whole weekend with people I haven’t seen in so long? But the minute we gathered, this amazing connection was there. Because of the thoughtful planning, we could relate in “real time” because there wasn’t the need to race around getting background on everyone, although that was part of the sharing. Being able to have so many times in both small and large groups really gave us time to enjoy each other! We laughed, listened, hugged, and cried together. When it was time to leave, I felt like what I had found was going to last. This was not about the past, it was about now and the future-of finally truly valuing the special connection we have and wanting to continue developing into who I am with a new perspective. I will store the reunion yearbook right next to my Shield to remind me of the value time brings to our lives.

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