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tips, ideas and advice - Memorials


Memorial for members of the Clarksdale (Mississippi) High School Class of 1980 made for their 35th reunion.
Photographed and produced by Calvin (Juice) Clark.

Remembering those who are gone
by John Folmar

I was quite social in high school, but had long since lost touch with the majority of my classmates. I was filled with anticipation and some anxiety over seeing them at the 25th reunion of Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, California. But I looked forward to exchanging information about missing classmates, with thoughts of trying to contact some in the near future.

One thing I had given little thought to, however, was that some people who had touched my life so many years ago might have died. Although life takes its toll at any age, this was only my 25th high school reunion. I naturally placed all my thoughts and feelings into what it would be like to be reunited with former classmates. Because I'd never attended a reunion before and had not considered this inevitability, I envisioned an enjoyable evening of catching up and sharing what we had done with our lives.

The reunion committee planned just such an event and did an excellent job of helping us remember those who have passed on, in a thoughtful and tasteful fashion.

After I arrived I had some quiet time to absorb the decorations and memorabilia display the committee organized. I examined numerous collages of articles, photographs and knickknacks posted on the walls about former teachers, students and events in high school.

Two tables were covered with dozens of flickering candles. There were several dozen 81/2 x 113 framed photographs of classmates and teachers, many of whom I once knew. The reunion committee had displayed pictures of classmates on one table and teachers on an adjacent table.

We shared what we knew about each individual and discovered how much each teacher and classmate had touched some aspect of our lives. What could easily have become a macabre moment turned into a joyous moment of reflection upon the good of each person.

I discovered later that everyone was grateful that the committee had taken the time to remember those who had passed on and had done so in such a tasteful and thought-provoking manner.

We viewed a DVD that highlighted people and events during high school. Laughing, clapping and occasionally groaning over embarrassing moments, we all enjoyed the sights and sounds of long-ago memories. The DVD introduction included photographs of each classmate and teacher who had died. No mention or reference was made to when or why the people died; simply memorializing them was enough.

About the author
John Folmar, PhD, lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where he is a practicing audiologist (hearing and balance disorders) and works for a new hearing aid start-up company. He attended Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, CA. He enjoys golfing, mountain biking and going to the movies.

Class reunion memorials

Class of 1960 memorial (Click image for enlargement) Class of 1961 memorial (Click image for enlargement)

Fifth Avenue High School

The combined classes of 1960 and 1961, from the now-closed Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, held their 50th and 51st reunions in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. A memorial table displayed pictures of deceased class members.

From a report by Emily Davis, Homewood, Pennsylvania



Carol Bonnett, who is planning her 45th high school reunion, wrote to ask what to say and do for classmates who have died.

We recalled what others have done. Include deceased in your directory or program. If you're doing bios of everyone, ask the deceased classmates’ children or classmates to write bios. If you are using photos of classmates, use photos of the deceased as well.

At the reunion, set aside a table for a memorial to your deceased classmates. Decorate with a tablecloth, candles and flowers. You could have a list nicely presented, pictures, brief description, if you want to do the extra work. Or ask classmates to write remembrances.

During your reunion program, read names of deceased with appropriate intro and benediction. Or if it's not a huge attendance, ask classmates to remember the deceased.

Members of Billings, Montana, West High School and Senior High School classes of 1967 made sure the people who weren't at their 40-year reunion wouldn't be forgotten, according to a story by Keriann Lynch in the Billings Gazette. They had a memorial bench engraved, dedicating it to deceased classmates of both classes, and had it placed in Swords Park on the Rims overlooking downtown Billings. The bench is made of river rock and engraved with “It's not the length of life, but the depth of life.” A memorial service on Sunday of the reunion marked the official dedication of the bench.

Reunion organizer Carol Daniel said, “It's nice for us to remember our classmates, some of whom died during the Vietnam War, and for their families to know we care.”

One-dollar raffle tickets were sold during the reunion to pay for the bench. Raffle items donated by class members included homemade pies, gift baskets, wine, gift certificates and artwork.




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