You might call Donald “Butch” Freund keeper of the records.
The Gardner resident has been quietly gathering information about the whereabouts of his 1962 Gardner High School classmates for the last several years in hopes of getting as many of them together as possible for their 50th class reunion this year.
His efforts paid off as more than half of his classmates reconnected last weekend.
“We were the first class that didn’t get to go on a senior trip,” Freund recalled. “We razzed the class ahead of us for that.”
The group, along with Edgerton High School 1962 graduates, received accolades during the Gardner Edgerton High School graduation ceremonies on May 19.
The group’s reunion festivities started with an early bird happy hour at Tumbleweed Bar and Grill on Friday night before a weekend packed full of events culminating with recognition during the GEHS All-School Reunion on May 20.
On May 24, 1962, members of the GHS junior class lined up in the gymnasium holding candles. To the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the seniors entered the gym walking through a candlelit receiving line of juniors to collect their diplomas.
There were a few slight differences as guests of the all-school reunion recreated the moment on Sunday afternoon.
“It was regular candles back then,” Freund recalled. But the participants on Sunday used battery-lit candles.
And rather than a band playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” members at the reunion last weekend, hummed the familiar strains as the class of 1962 entered the small gym at GEHS on Sunday.
Throughout the weekend, the graduates gathered for a lunch at K&M Barbecue in Spring Hill and for dinner and reminiscing at the American Legion in Gardner on Saturday evening in addition to being formally recognized at 2012 graduation ceremonies and at the all-school reunion.
Freund said the efforts to locate all of the 40-ish members of his class has been ongoing.
“I’ve worked for two or three years trying to get us all together,” he explained.
He had the help of others, including Penny (Renner) Zweimiller, Eva (Grahovac) Jensen, and Jerry Bacon.
In their search, Freund said there were several complications.
First, seven classmates are now deceased including, Charlotte Derendinger, Homer Seamands, Mary Beth Marriott, R.W. Bray, Sharon (Payne) Johnson and Richard Wagner. One, Joyce (Forbes) Hiatt, was also a keeper of records. When she died, Freund said some of the records were lost.
Additionally, Freund said he also hoped to find students that didn’t necessarily graduate, but attended GHS with the class.
At that time, New Century AirCenter was an active navy base. That meant students of active military didn’t necessarily attend all four years.
“The naval air station was running so hard, and the class just dispersed everywhere,” Freund said.
(During the reunion, Carolyn (Shriver) Nordhus earned a certificate for traveling the furthest. She lives in Washington state and traveled by air more than 1,700 miles to reunite with her classmates.)
And then, some classmates have very common names like “Ron Smith.”
Freund heard that Ron lived in Colorado Springs.
“There are 119 Ron Smiths in Colorado Springs,” Freund said.
There are 12 or 13 Ron Browns in Lawrence, as well.
“All you’ve got is their name and their birth date,” Freund explained.
But find most of them, they did. They are still seeking four classmates – Fred Wilson, Randell Davis, David DiRoma, jr., and Jo Ann Edgil.
Classmates promised to keep in touch as old friendships were rekindled. Each classmate received contact information that Freund hopes will be put to good use in the upcoming months.
Local members of the class intends to meet for lunch on the first Thursday of every month and Freund said he hopes every class member will call or email at least one other class member every month.
In the meantime, Freund will continue to keep the records. The class sends flowers when one of their group passes away, and a scrapbook, started at their 20th reunion will be amended after last weekend’s festivities.
“We had a really good time together,” Freund said.