Friday, September 29, 2023

Insight: You too should be so lucky

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

It’s been said you can’t go home again, but in my case, that’s not entirely true. Yes, time doesn't stand still in the places you leave behind, circumstances do change, and life moves ahead, but for me, returning home means I get to be around the most positive, highly supportive, and best group of friends for a lifetime I will ever have.

Rush-Henrietta Class of 1971 classmates gather at Veterans
Park in Henrietta, New York to celebrate each other turning
70 this year. The group is tight-knit and for some, they are
lifelong friends. PHOTO BY NANCY PIERCE    
Rush-Henrietta High School’s Class of 1971 held a special party last weekend in Henrietta, New York marking a special occasion with members of the class all turning 70 at some point during 2023. Having been to many reunions and gatherings with this group in the past, I counted down the days until my wife Nancy and I could fly there and join the festivities and it turned out to be one of the best events I’ve experienced with this group.

One of the first people who greeted me during our get-together at Nashville’s in Henrietta on Thursday night was my friend Ricky Jentons. He was the first person I met when my family moved to Henrietta in September 1966. In the 57 years I have known him, my opinion of him hasn’t changed. He remains one of the brightest and smartest individuals I’ve ever known, and he is also a gifted athlete who could play every sport with ease and be a standout in all of them.

For me, Ricky Jentons was a natural born leader and I looked up to him as someone who was kind, thoughtful and cared about his classmates. That was evident at this latest event as just about everyone wanted to sit with him or speak to him over the two days we were there.

At this gathering some classmates attended who had never been to one of the reunions previously, such as Sharon Ferguson Cubitt from South Carolina or Pam Tuety, who lives nearby but had never participated before. It had been 22 years since I had last visited with Rob Branch at our 30th reunion, but he had the farthest distance to travel to make it to the event, flying in from Ramsey, England where he lives with his wife, Judith.

Nancy and I spent time with our friends Janice and Bob Hartman, who are slowly recovering after their home burned to the ground last fall. And I discussed at length with my friend Jerry Wells some classmates who lost their lives prior to previous reunions. I was close to both Mike Wilson, who died at age 68 in 2021, and Todd Clemens, who died at age 65 in 2019. Both Mike and Todd were good people who were wonderful athletes in school, beloved by us, and taken far too soon.

I also listened to an incredible story as my friend LoisAnn “Sam” DeCicco Creekmur told me about what happened to her several years ago. It seems she took a 23-and-Me test and discovered that the man she thought was her father for her entire life wasn’t her biological dad, and her sisters were her half-sisters. Sam then confronted her mother, who was now in her late 80s, and she admitted having an affair with a man from Virginia which led to her birth. When Sam asked her if she was ever going to tell her this fact, the mother said she probably wouldn’t have if she wasn’t confronted with the truth. Sam eventually tracked down her real dad, who had passed away. She discovered that she has family members in Virginia, and they have accepted her with open arms.

There wasn’t enough time to visit with everyone at the gathering, but I did share some quality time with my pals Nick Vecchioli and Chuck Young. I enjoyed seeing my friends Cheryl Carlin House, Amy Camardo Andersen, Ed Michel, Chuck Mangos, Molly Fahy Cupello and Dave Calver. I became Facebook friends with two women I’ve known for more than 50 years, Linda Payne Schlaugh, and Mona Carmichael Procopio.

For years now, classmate Janet McGraw Howland has been key in helping this group stay in touch and keeping us all together.

In a text to me after we left to fly back to Maine, Janet told me that Ricky Jentons has announced that we are now going to start gathering every two years.

“We all know how important it is to keep our strong bonds going in love and support for each other,” she said. “Every one of us has been through the traumas of life. That’s why I get so emotional seeing them all laughing, hugging, and connecting again. It takes us back to a simpler time. We’ll just call it a reunion without a number anymore.”

Classmate Gloria Van Gelder gave us a birthday card reminiscing about the old days. It mentions simple things bringing a smile to our faces, being lucky to have such good times and it also means we’re kind of old.

Personally, I find it comforting to know that I have the best group of friends who’ve known me for almost my entire life, accept me for who I am, and are on this journey through life with me. You too should be so lucky. <

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