Thoughts from a 40th High School Reunion

jd_lgLast evening I attended the 40th Reunion of my 1970 high school class of Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, NJ. About 30% of the class attended the event and I am so happy that I was there.

I remember attending the 10th and 20th reunions. While I had a nice time and saw several friends at those earlier reunions, I remember not feeling particular warmth to the class and mixed feelings about whether I should have gone at all. I have no such mixed feelings about having attended my 40th reunion.

Perhaps I am older, more mature and have a greater sense of my own mortality, which makes me far more appreciative of seeing people from my past. I saw a handful of close friends who I still see and talk to, others with whom I wish I had maintained relationships, and others yet with whom I had not been as friendly years ago. Regardless, with everyone I saw I felt that I share a bond of a special life experience in a small town in Union County in New Jersey. In my eyes each of the people I saw again are special and I now feel the warmth that was missing years ago at previous reunions. (The fact that the Yankees won 6-1 during my reunion shown on a TV in bar outside our room, eliminating the Twins in the ALDS, surely lifted my spirits at the reunion).

As with all reunions, it was sometimes hard to recognize people. We all age in different ways. However, after just a minute or two a smile, smirk, mannerism gave away their identity.  Beyond the physical aging of the all my classmates, what also struck me is how life has changed so rapidly since high school. There was a simplicity and naivety to my classmates during the 60s despite the world that was changing around us. The Vietnam War would pierce that naivety. As a marketer, the days of the latter 60s were simple. Later in the 70s technology that seems so basic today such as ATMs, microwave ovens, and VCRs would radically change our lives, though the technological changes of that era pale in comparison to the rapid change today.

It was sad to see was the memorial to the ten classmates (of 250+) who had passed away since we graduated. While I am not sure that 4% mortality is unusual for a group of people who were largely born in 1952, it made me realize that the numbers no longer with us will be far larger at our next reunion.

Most all it made me appreciate my childhood and many friendships I had (and many I still have). There is no pretense with long time friends. They know too much about you and would be very glad to remind you of embarrassing moments if you acted too self important. Unlike most of my classmates, I had a traumatic experience during high school with my father’s passing during my sophomore year. Losing a parent made me feel different. However my childhood friendships made moving though a very difficult time a little bit easier.  

As I look back at my childhood, I appreciate the lifelong friendships I made. Moreover, I appreciate my parents’ decision to move our family to Springfield, NJ in 1961. I’m so happy to have reconnected with my past again at the reunion. Maintaining relationships, particularly long distance ones, takes work, but the rewards far outweigh the effort.

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  1. Lyn Kremer says:

    Hi Lonny, my 40th is next year so thank you for giving me a preview of what to expect. I’ve been far away from my hometown (Jacksonville, FL) that I can hardly imagine what the reunion will be like! But there is always that strong pull to go back to your “place of origin” no matter where your life journeys take you. Thanks again for sharing, Lyn Kremer

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Lyn, don’t miss your 40th. Mine was terrific as you read. The opportunity to connect with people from your youth is a wonderful experience. Don’t miss it.

  2. Ronnie Krowne says:

    Lonny- Nicely put– I keep using the word “magical” to descibe how good it all felt.. We share such a wonderful bond- and yes, the years have made all the difference. I don’t know when I was in a room with such happiness and unity as last night..If only our “everydays” could feel as good… Hey who knows,, maybe we can all make that happen.
    Good to see you again,,,, Ronnie

  3. Susan Kleiner says:

    Hi Lonny, wow, when did you write this????? You summed up everything to a T. I almost wished it could have been read out loud this morning at brunch. I think everyone would have loved to hear your words and would have certainly agreed with every word. Personally, I’m glad this reunion left such an impact on you. It made our efforts over the last 10 months more meaningful. Great to see you…Susan Kleiner. daughter’s camp friend is Sydney Forman, junior in voorhees

  4. Lonny Strum says:

    Sue, I wrote it about a 1/2 hour after we went to our rooms Saturday night after the event. I appreciated the thought about reading it aloud and I’m not shy, but reading it aloud would have made me uncomfortable. You, and the planning committee, did a mitzvah by planning the event. As you can see I really enjoyed myself. Don’t delay in doing more reunions! Nice to see you again.

  5. Bonnie Chlowitz says:

    Hi Lonnie, as you know I did not attend the reunion. Living in Ca. I can’t make every party back east. Having been back this summer and will be again east in December for Cheryl Jayne’s daughter’s wedding I was unable to make the reunion. Reading what you wrote really touched me and made me even sadder that I was not there.
    Glad it was a success.
    Hope all else is well with you.
    Bonnie Greer Chlowitz

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Bonnie, Sorry you weren’t there. No doubt it’ll be nice to go to Cheryl’s daughter’s wedding later this year. The reunion was really well done, but what was particularly nice was going up early, staying over and seeing everyone the next day. It made the event a 24-hour event, not just a 4 hour one. Don’t miss the next one. Life is good here & I hope you are well.

  6. Lonny, your words were very touching. It was great seeing you at the reunion. Springfield is a very small town & some neighbors become family like ours did. Hope we can stay in touch. Although we don’t live 1 house away from each other we are close enough to stay connected. Looking forward to meeting your wife & seeing you at the JCC.

  7. Don Sherow says:

    Next year is my 40th and I am uncertain if I will attend. Your appreciation for the event has actually sparked an interest in me to learn when & where my 40th will be held. Thanks for the memories…

    • Lonny Strum says:

      My strong suggestion is to go–don’t miss it. It will probably be far more meaningful than you’d expect it to be. Go Mahwah HS class of 71

  8. Sandi Segal Eichler says:

    Hi, Lonny,
    For a long while, I thought I would be there, but sadly, as it turned out, I wasn’t. Reading your blog gave me a taste of what it must have felt like. Like for you, there are many in the pictures “…with whom I wish I had maintained relationships…” It truly is a special bond we share as we were there during a special time in history. I wish the best to you and everyone from JDRHS.

  9. Lonny Strum says:

    Sorry you missed it, Sandi. I really enjoyed it as you can see. It would have been nice to see you. Be well.

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