Reunion conjures fond memories
By Linda Lemond Post-Tribune correspondent September 6, 2012 3:02PM
Members of the Portage High School class of 1977 are shown at “The Gathering,” a reunion for graduates from the 1970s and 1980s and their teachers. | Photo provided
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:29PM
It was a time for memories and for re-establishing old relationships.
Portage’s Woodland Park was the site for The Gathering, a reunion for Portage High School alumni from the 1970s and ’80s with a twist. The alums also invited their middle and high school teachers and coaches to participate.
John Christakis (1977) was the driving force behind the event. As Mary Reigert Klee (1977), another member of the reunion committee said with a laugh, “We call John ‘the terrier.’ Once he latches on to one of his ridiculously grandiose ideas, he doesn’t let go.”
Cheryl Kovalow Girman (1978), now a physical education teacher at Fegely Middle School, said, “John contacted me in May to ask if I’d be in charge of getting contact information for the staff members. It wasn’t easy finding people, but we did pretty well. Of all the people we contacted, almost 60 are here.”
Christakis saw this as more than a school reunion. For him, it was “kinda like a big family reunion. For about eight hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year and for about 10 years straight, we students and teachers were like family. You guys were a super important part of our lives. In some cases, we saw more of you than our parents.”
More than 50 staff members and 250 graduates met in the upper room at the park. Many brought spouses or other guests. They enjoyed hors de o’euvres and mingled, while a slide show of old photos and newspaper clippings played on the wall. The present high school pep band came with instructor William Timmermann and played the Portage fight song and “Go Big Red.”
The attendees enjoyed dinner in the Sycamore Room. The alums not only treated their teachers and guests to dinner, but also personally served them. About 30 students volunteered to bring the dinner entrees to the table, choosing a staff member special to them. While the staff enjoyed being served, the alums went through a buffet line, all provided by caterer Billy Jack’s.
The front of the room was decorated with trophies from state winning teams of the era: 1974 cross country, 1975 gymnastics and 1977 football, as well as other memorabilia.
After dinner two microphones passed through the crowd so individuals could share their memories. There were a few tears and many laughs. Kevin Giese (1977), now auditorium director at PHS, garnered the biggest laugh of the evening.
As one alum reminisced about late attendance officer Maurice Tolbert, Giese stood up and growled in a Tolbert-esque voice, “Your (butt) is grass, and I’m the lawnmower!”
Former PHS publications teacher Deb Heitmann spoke for all the staff, as she thanked the alums for their demonstrations of love and respect.
“You have thanked us for enriching your lives, but each of you enriched our lives immeasurably.”