Bedford High '51-'52 Classes

-A A +A

By Frank Gibson

Bedford High ‘51
Fort Collins, Colo.

    Students near and far visiting the D-Day Memorial likely in hearts and minds take the measure of General Eisenhower’s famed message to the Normandy invasion force, “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade toward which we have striven these many months...”
    Fit words for graduating classes—for youthful Holden Caufields (Catcher in the Rye, 1951) up against a troubled, troubled adult world, and daring to re-imagine what a better world will look like.
    On this month’s D-Day weekend Bedford High’s classes of  ‘51-’52 gathered on the very day, 4 June, when 60 years earlier the ‘51 class took leave of the old auditorium stage for the last time.  Reunion table settings recalled the class motto:  We’ve reached the hilltop; yonder lies the mountain!  It was time for each and all of us, with a  parting “deep thanks” to Bedford High and to even earlier school years—time to hoist anchor, to move out, to welcome our “great crusade” of aiming for the heights while coping with restraint systems and “settled” ways both forseen and unforseen.

  Keeping connections alive
    Nearly 50-strong, including spouses, we assembled at the dying of the day within the shadow of the great Peaks, a scene of abiding and surpassing beauty. With a little editing we recalled the bard John Denver:  Country roads, take us home, to the place where we belong, Peaks of Otter, mountain momma.   Take us home, country roads...Class president Jimmy Zimmerman called us to one grand country road, Rte 682 and the home of Lisa Saunders.  All so well planned and executed, in the footsteps of our inimitable Lois Witt Talton, who with signature care has organized a number of memorable class reunions. Our reunion stride for some years has us pulling together every other year, an uncommon pace, with deserved tribute to Lois, Jimmy and still others who have pitched in on behalf of all, who surely voice with classmate Jean Coleman Maples, “Connections with our past are important as we age...”
    We cannot here begin to cite the mountain-top personal and public life achievements classmates have secured across the decades, across the continents, in rural and urban environments alike.  Yet in reunions it becomes clear that transformative moments likewise have taken place in valleys where shadows can steal across life’s story.  Personal tragedy, disability, loss of beloved ones, doing battle earlier with Jim Crow and still today with global human rights injustices, all in the trenches of life—these are the scenes whence arise monumental victories of the human spirit over despair and exclusion. Our classmates’ testimonies to such stir the heart and quicken the conscience for enlarging the reach of love and justice.  Mountain-top visions fulfilled...in valley venues!
    As we ‘51-’52 BHS alums begin, shortly, to lean into our eighties, we can lay hold of the point that in life we are not asked to finish the job (whatever the mountain-top)--just never to lay it aside.  In this vein a splendid metaphor was spoken by classmate Ray Karnes, who arises before the crack of dawn each new day to carry forward his life-long passion and mission.  He gets up still to farm his land.   Some mountain-top!  Just wonderful.

With love and good courage
    To Liberty High students and class of ‘11:  perhaps you have worked over—as did we mid-century students in Josephine Bibb’s senior English class—Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.  … You just know that, come the new day, that crusading soul will rise to greet the toil that lies ahead, never “laying aside” the day’s mountain-top call.  So run to greet your mountain-top—global citizenship, peacemaking, the practice of justice, resisting social boundaries, being a good mom or dad, or nurse, teacher, engineer, whatever—so long as you aim to live for others.  Right in the dusty lowlands where, ever-wondrously, plain-out love and good courage can light up the day.