There are benchmarks in life that remind you how far you have come, including graduations, birthdays of children, career moves and family transitions.
And then there are the high school reunions.
We’ve all heard the stories of adults revisiting childhood angst at the thought of facing old high school clicks, others self-aggrandizing to make achievements sound greater and pre-reunion rushes on crash diets and hair color changes.
But what is not often talked about—outside the attendees themselves—are the feelings of real joy while reuniting with old friends and celebrating the special memories of a care free time when life was just beginning and the world was before you.
Joe Basso and Ernie Fiore were privy to these emotions recently when Basso helped organize the 45th reunion for the Harrison High School class of 1967 and Fiore took one of the lead roles on the organizing committee for the 50th reunion of the class of 1961.
“It’s important. It's like a 50th wedding anniversary for a whole class,” explained Fiore. “You have so many friends from that period and you want to know how they made out and see all of them again.”
Both Basso and Fiore have lived their entire lives in the Harrison area—with the exception of military service—and both wanted their children to share that experience and go through the local school system.
"All three of my sons graduated from Harrison High School and participated in Harrison sports," said Basso. "My son held (a) Harrison High School basketball record for 16 years and was able to attend college on a basketball scholarship thanks to our schools."
“I have traveled to just about every part of the United States as well as done trips to other countries and there’s a vibrancy about this area that is special," Fiore said. "It was, and still is, a wonderful place to grow up and I wanted my kids to experience that growing up here and going through our local schools."
While the emotions behind both events were similar, the venues were decidedly different.
Basso’s class organized a day-long picnic at , as well as an informal get-together at .
“People came from as far away as California and Tennessee and everyone had a great time,” said Basso. “We had the Reunion Band perform led by some ex-music teachers and three of the girls even performed a cheer.”
Basso—known as Moose in high school—felt right back in the swing of things.
“I had to laugh when my old friend "Duke" grabbed me at the bar and said 'Let’s go dance with these girls’, it was just like old times,” he said, with a chuckle.
Fiore’s class held a more formal reunion at Doral Arrowood with an informal gathering beforehand at . A reunion committee that met every six weeks over the ten months it took to track down their classmates and plan the event undertook the organization.
The most touching part of the evening, after actual reunions with old friends, according to Fiore, was a slide-show entitled “Time” devised by classmate Judy Allen. Attendees sent photos of milestones of their lives from baby photos, to graduation, awards, military service and current photos with kids and grandchildren. They were set to music, mixed with photos from previous reunions, comical headlines for future reunions and a final slide saying "Farewell until we meet again”.
There was also a poster board for classmates who had passed away before making the 50th reunion date.
“We had one classmate, who was planning to attend, pass away three weeks before the event, and another passed away the actual morning of the reunion,” said Fiore.
Those two passings and the faces of the other classmates on the poster board who could not be with them, led to some nostalgic introspection and an appreciation of the bonds and emotions behind the reunion.
“As time goes on your outlook on life changes,” said Fiore. “When you pass the midway point of life you realize just how lucky you are to still be here experiencing all of this. It’s a really good feeling to look around and share the good times with people who have been an important part of your life and who share so many good memories together.”
Here’s to creating many more happy memories and to sharing them all at the next reunion.