High School Classmates   1 comment

I graduated from high school on May 31, 1973.  35 years has gone by since the celebration of my graduating class’s baccalaurate mass at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in downtown Akron, Ohio and the granting of our high school diplomas.  

A note of history: I was in the first graduating class of two newly merged Catholic high schools in Akron: St. Mary High School and St. Vincent High School.  Prior to the school year of 1972-1973, these were two separate and distinct — and often rival! — high schools, merged due to financial difficulties in the diocese.  St. Mary’s was an all-girl high school, St. Vincent’s co-ed.  Out of 94 St. Mary’s students in the junior class at the end of the 1971-72 school year, only 23 returned from that junior class to graduate from the new St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.  I think that most of the reason for that had to do with the hike in tuition that occurred when the two schools merged.  Most of the students who did not return to St. VM’s for their senior year went to the public high school in their district.  Some went to the newly co-ed Archbishop Hoban High School who had been an all-male school, but that year, they opened their doors to young women for the first time in their 20-year history.  They, too, were in financial  straits and this was considered a viable option for attracting new students and keeping their doors open.

At any rate, the result was that the junior class of St. Mary High School who ended their school year together in June 1972 scattered to all corners of Akron for their senior year.  Only 23 St. Mary’s women remained in the first graduating class of St. VM, swallowed up by 200 St. Vincent students who returned to the school to complete their senior year.

I’ll never forget that that evening of our graduation began with eventful and traumatic news, and that was the sudden death of a former high school classmate just that morning.  Sharon was an outstanding young woman, the Vice President of our junior class at St Mary High School.  She was intelligent and outspoken, a true leader in our class.  She went to Buchtel High School her senior year.  It was as we assembled that evening in the lower level of St. Bernard’s Church that a teacher made the announcement that Sharon had died that morning on her way to pick up her graduation gown from the school.  She was DOA at the hospital.  We were never clear on what had happened.  There was some speculation that it was suicide related to a drug overdose, but why would a student be on her way to pick up her graduation gown if she was committing suicide?  At any rate, autopsy revealed that drugs were a factor in her death.  I’ve dreamt about her repeatedly over the years, probably never able to truly comprehend the loss of such a vital young woman.

I moved away from my hometown of Akron, Ohio in the spring of 1975, first spending a year in Marion, Indiana and then moving to the Twin Cities of Minnesota where I have been ever since.  (My husband is from Minnesota, and as my page “Married Life” explains, he went to Ohio to attend college at the University of Akron, and I was dating his housemate.  The rest is history!)  I have often wondered what life has been like for some of my former classmates and if we would have things in common these days on which to base a friendship.

I, of course, have often wondered about the woman I considered to be my best friend throughout the first three years of high school.  She went on to a public high school during her senior year and we didn’t see much of each other during that last year.  By the end of our junior year, however, we were off on different paths.  She succumbed to the depression caused by growing up and living in a very unhealthy home environment.  She had tried to commit suicide a couple of times by the end of our junior year.  By the end of our junior year, she was drinking, smoking, using marijuana, popping an assortment of pills, and having regular unprotected sex.  A mutual friend who attended the public high school with Jayne her senior year and was Jayne’s close friend from the parochial grade school they both attended reported that these behaviors intensified during their senior year.   It was self-destructive, it was very sad, and there was nothing I could do.  I wasn’t walking down that path with her, and she refused any offers of helping her find counseling.

The last my Internet searches turned up anything, Jayne was in east Texas, living with her fourth husband.  I wouldn’t try to contact her even if I had an address.  I don’t know what I would say.  A lot of things happened during the demise of our friendship, and she blew off the importance of those things at the time.

While I was devoting a lot of time and energy to being Jayne’s best friend in high school, there was another classmate whom I really wish I had gotten to know a whole lot better.  She was my Advanced Biology lab partner in 11th grade.  She was an intelligent, articulate, and socially aware young woman, wise beyond her years.  She was on our Student Council and always involved with socially relevant activities.  She did not go on with us during our senior year and I lost touch with her by the time our respective senior years ended.  I was unsuccessful at reconnecting with her, although I tried a couple of times during the remaining 1970s.  Sadly, I found her obituary in the Akron Beacon Journal in 1995.  She had died of cancer at the age of 40.  I wept upon finding that news.

I’ve tried to make contact with a woman who was my best friend at St. Mary’s Grade School.  I met Kim when she became a student there in 7th grade and we became very good friends.  We went on to high school together and graduated together.  She was the second ranking student in our graduating class.  We ran into difficulties early in our relationship as young teenagers, however, when her parents wouldn’t let her come over to my house because they didn’t want her to become “too white oriented,” and my parents really didn’t want her at our house “because it was okay to be friends with a colored girl but you don’t want to get too chummy.”    This was my first up-close-and-personal experience with racial prejudice that influenced a friendship.

I haven’t seen or heard from Kim since we graduated from high school.  She went on to college on full scholarship at a private college on the East Coast.  She went on to medical school in Ohio.  An Internet search located her as a pediatrician in Toledo, Ohio.  I sent a letter to her clinic address, a letter to her home address, and an email to her Classmates account.  No response.  I found her college-age daughter on Facebook and sent a couple of lines to her, telling her who I was and to say “hi” to her mom for me.  She wrote back and said, “Mom is doing fine and says ‘hi.'”  So, for now, that is that.

Then there has been Facebook…..

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Posted November 1, 2008 by StPaulieGrrl in Relationships

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