Reunions add more meaning each year

David Blacker’s old friendships are so important to him that one reunion this summer isn’t enough.

A 1966 graduate of Cascade High School, he showed up at Everett Station’s Weyerhaeuser Room Aug. 18 for the 40th reunion of the class behind his. On Sept. 22, he’ll join his Cascade classmates at Everett’s Holiday Inn for a “40 Plus 1” reunion.

“I’ve gone to every high school reunion, and these friends seem to mean more and more,” said Blacker, 59, of Everett. “I can’t even put into words how much they mean to me. I’ve been thinking and thinking about it.”

I’ve been thinking and thinking about it, too.

While Blacker partied in Everett, I was in Spokane last weekend having drinks and rekindling camaraderie with class of 1972 friends from Joel E. Ferris and Lewis and Clark high schools. Together in junior high, we were split up by high school boundaries.

Like Blacker, I’ve gone to all my reunions. He’s right; they become more meaningful with time. After our 10th, 20th and 30th reunions, my classmates cooked up a 35th so we wouldn’t have to wait a decade to see each other again.

Blacker jumped at the chance to get together with Cascade’s class of 1967, which includes a big name from Hollywood.

Actor Patrick Duffy — Bobby Ewing on TV’s “Dallas” and the dad Frank Lambert on “Step by Step” — was back in Everett for last weekend’s reunion. In a Hawaiian shirt, Duffy graciously posed for pictures and helped with preparations.

“He’s a wonderful man, very kind, open-spirited, a great guy,” Blacker said. “He helped carry up all the wine bottles, schlepped them upstairs four floors. And he is really a good actor.”

Duffy and Blacker have drama in common. They acted together in high school and Blacker is still involved in theater. He’s directing a production of the musical “Hair,” being staged in October with the New Everett Theatre.

Blacker recalled a funny moment in a high school play with Duffy. “We were in ‘Ten Little Indians’ and he was supposed to shoot me at the end. But the gun misfired. So he jumps across the room and beats me to death,” he said.

Tom Duren, one of Blacker’s classmates, is organizing the 40 Plus 1 event. “We missed our 40th, nobody really thought about it,” said Duren, 58, of Everett. He’s been in touch with one high school track buddy he hadn’t seen since graduation.

“At the 10th reunion, it’s how cool you are,” Duren said. “By the 20th, you’re not so cool. At the 30th, hey, it’s cool we’re still here.”

Duren said the Internet has greatly eased the task of finding lost classmates. “The hardest part is the gals, with their married names,” he said. “Some people never show up, but only about four have told us they won’t come. They wanted to put high school behind them.”

Before going to his 40 Plus 1 Cascade reunion, Duren will travel to Hawaii next month with his wife, Ramona, for her 40th reunion. She graduated from James B. Castle High School in Kaneohe on the island of Oahu. “One friend I’ve known since third grade,” Ramona Duren said.

Roberta Werner also looks forward to poignant meetings with childhood friends. Now living in Bellingham, Werner, 65, is organizing a 50th reunion of the first class of ninth graders from Olympic View Middle School in the Mukilteo district.

“It was 1957, the school was brand new. We were the first class to graduate. We’d come from Rosehill School, and it was a big deal to go to the fancy new school,” Werner said.

Her classmates will meet Sept. 7-9, the weekend of the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival. Their last meeting was 20 years ago, in 1987. Werner cherishes poignant memories of that get-together.

“People came from everywhere, Arizona and Texas,” she said. “We grew up in such a different time, it was like the movie ‘Stand By Me.’ We all ran around on the beach at all hours, a big clump of kids.

“At the last reunion, when people had to leave on Sunday, they were just hanging on to each other. We couldn’t bear to leave,” she said.

Summer is a great excuse not only for school friends to gather, but for family members to bridge the distance between them.

Near Granite Falls this weekend, Ted Rich, 58, is playing host to a six-generation family reunion. At a funeral in California last year, he discovered that one of his ancestors was Boone Hawthorne, an early settler in the Robe Valley.

Rich expects more than 50 people to come from all over the country. With some of his kin in their 80s and 90s, he said, “this may never happen again.”

As years fly by, I find myself parting from friends and faraway loved ones with that sentiment in my heart — this may never happen again.

I was shy in high school, and it’s not easy to walk into a reunion party and see all those faces. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

“In high school, we were at the cusp of our lives. We were becoming who we’d be,” said Blacker. “Revisiting 40 years later is a renewal.”

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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