The Harbinger Online

First generation of alum celebrate their 50th reunion

Bobbi Batson has been looking forward to this day since February. She’s got her outfit all planned out — a columbia-blue polo, jeans and Birkenstocks. She wishes she could’ve worn her favorite cowgirl boots with the heels worn out.

Everything has to be perfect, because on Saturday morning, Bobbi is going back to school.

Batson is one of 173 alum who will be celebrating their 50th high school reunion Sept. 20, 21 and 22. The class of 1962 was the first class to attend all three years of high school at East, which makes this reunion extra special.

According to fellow alum Jack Matchette, the idea for the reunion was put forth by Steve Hann, who is now retired and living in Florida.

“He called a couple of his buddies up here [in February], and they decided we should do this thing,” Matchette said.

Hann couldn’t come up for all of the preparations, so the heavy-lifting was left to the people still in the area. The original core group of eight people call themselves “Feet on the Ground,” since they are the ones who are still here and able to help with the setup. The group has grown since their first meeting at The Blue Moose Bar and Grill in the Village as they invited more and more alum to come using Facebook.

At one of these brainstorm sessions, Judy Dutra and Connie Bohannan-Roberts were trying to think of a class gift to the school. They wanted something that would have a lasting impact long after their reunion was over.

They decided that they wanted to make their own East tradition, so Dutra and Bohannan-Roberts came up with the idea of creating the GLAD62 Legacy Challenge.

“We associate the 50th Anniversary of an occasion with gold, [ergo] this the Golden Lancer Anniversary Donation Legacy Challenge,” Dutra said. “This is a way to give back to SME, the school that gave the class of ‘62 its start in life.”

The GLAD62 Legacy Challenge will collect money from alum to create a fund for a specific cause related to East. The program that this year’s class will support is called “Safety and Wellness,” and will allow teachers to apply for grants that will help keep East a safe campus. Such activities that would qualify for grants include anti-gang education for staff and students, redirective behavior training, exercise programs before and after school and defensive training for young girls.

Dutra hopes that the the GLAD62 Legacy Challenge will be something that future 50th reunion classes can look forward to contributing to. It will let each class make a unique contribution, since the goals of each class’s funds will support different aspects of improving East’s environment.

Matchette is most excited for the football game that part of the group will attend on Thursday, when East takes on Olathe South. Batson is going to wear her saddle shoes, Lancer-blue top and “one of those big, silly bows like we used to wear.”

On Friday, the group will walk through the halls of East as they tour the new additions. Many of the alumni haven’t seen the school since they left, when it was only the Eastern building.

Another special thing that the group decided to make is a memorial of their classmates who have passed on. Out of over 570 graduates in the class of ‘62, 69 have passed away. However, only one died as a result of the Vietnam War, which began drafting in the years following their graduation.

“[something] I wish to pass along to your generation is that we lose our friends through the years, as life is fragile,” alum Kenneth McGee said.

The festivities will culminate in the tour of the school on Saturday morning and dinner at Grand Street Cafe. There, the group will get to relive the glory days with friends, dinner and a band playing 60s favorites like Chubby Checker and Ray Charles.

The one thing that will last longer than the class’s legacy and the GLAD62 Legacy Challenge is the reconnections that were made between the people who helped plan the reunion.

“It’s not like in high school where you have your cliques or groups or what have you,” Matchette said. “We really all have become very good friends, and they’re a fun group. I would never have met them if I hadn’t volunteered to be a part of Feet On the Ground. Seeing my old friends will be fun, but meeting this new group of people is definitely the best part of this whole thing.”

McGee credits the internet as the main factor that gave these friendships the ability to last.

“We would not have been able to reconnect to the extent that we have without the Internet,” McGee said. “Your generation has the ability to stay connected throughout your whole lives[…] My advice is to stay connected–outside of your family, these are the best buddies you will ever have.”

Alum attended the football game against Olathe South to kick off their festivities on Thursday, Sept. 20.
Caroline Creidenberg | Harbinger Online
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