OSAWATOMIE – It was a day to renew acquaintances, to laugh and to reflect as hundreds of Osawatomie High School alumni gathered for the 124th annual reunion Saturday, May 25.
It also marked rare day of sunshine in the past two weeks - just in time for the reunion. Some alumni traveled from the far reaches of the U.S. - California, Florida, Connecticut, North Dakota and Texas - to be there.
Saturday included a parade downtown led by the golden anniversary class of 1969, and it featured social gatherings and other activities as classes got together at various locations throughout Osawatomie and the area.
Scores of graduates filled tables in the Max Steele gymnasium at the high school that evening for the annual alumni banquet.
Jack Buckman and Vickie (Cullumber) Buckman of the class of 1969 welcomed alumni to the banquet.
Jack pointed out the class of 1969 had the distinction of being the first kindergarten class to attend an elementary school that opened in 1955 at 10th Street and Brown Avenue. The class of 1969 also was the last to graduate from the former high school building at Fifth Street and Brown Avenue.
Vickie drew some of the first laughs of the evening when she told the brand new alumni class of 2019 that the future of her Social Security was in their capable hands.
“So live long and prosper,” she said.
Members of the class of 2019 proved they had a good sense of humor, too. When audience members were asked to stand if they had attended every alumni banquet since they graduated, the entire class of 2019 stood in unison – to laughter from the delighted alumni body.
The night also featured touching moments.
In a heartfelt tribute, Ike Brady (1974) talked about his best friend and teammate on an undefeated state champion football team, the late Derrick Jensen, who was this year’s posthumous recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award. Brady said Jensen’s prowess on the football field was well documented, from winning a state championship at OHS to winning two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders.
But what some might not have known was Jensen’s love for Osawatomie and the pride he took in OHS and helping others succeed, Brady said.
Diana (Wilson) Neal, who earlier had been elected as an at-large member of the Osawatomie Alumni Association’s board of directors, talked about the countless hours of service retiring Superintendent Gary French has given to Osawatomie, and the hundreds of lives he has touched, both in the school district and in the community. French, who spent more than half a century in the Osawatomie district and nearly four decades in education, received a standing ovation from the alumni.
Gert Vess (1944) talked with her daughter Cathy Vess (1966) as they dined together with 1942 graduate Louise Shelton.
The Vess women made up one of numerous multi-generational families to attend the alumni banquet, and Shelton was the oldest alumni member present. Shelton stood and clapped and sang along with her fellow alumni to the school song “Our Old High.”
Gert was the Outstanding Alumni Award winner of 1998. She also was her senior class president and salutatorian of the class of 1944. She smiled as 2019 class president Madison Lagasse read the class roll call.
Gert said it was difficult attending high school during World War II because of rationing and other restrictions, but she had no complaints. Gert said she didn't have a favorite memory from her days at OHS because "they were all good."