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Coming home

Kenai classmates reunite to celebrate 50 years together

Posted: July 12, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: July 12, 2011 - 8:44am
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Photo by M. Scott Moon
Amber (Berton) Hall and Dolores (Lande) Sackman hug after seeing each other Saturday at the Kenai High School’s 50th reunion. “It’s been 50 years since I’ve seen you,” Sackman said. Hall came to the reunion from her home in Gordonsville, Va.

Janice Wilsack and Ami Rediske sat huddled at a picnic table during Saturday's Kenai High School reunion, slyly peeking at name tags or sending in a more extroverted scout to determine the identities of some classmates they hadn't seen for 50 years.

The more playful would initiate guessing games with their peers, covering their name tags and doling out hints about their 18-year-old selves: what color their hair used to be, what nickname they got pinned with, a sport they played. A couple of clues in, a light of comprehension would snap on, and the parties would laugh, reminisce and give an abridged account of their lives after high school.

"Some of them you wouldn't recognize, because their hair is all gray," Rediske said. "Some of them you recognize right away; they haven't changed much."

Wilsack, class of '61, and Rediske, class of '60, both still reside in the Kenai area and remain the best of friends. Still, surrounded by vintage 60s clothing and a stereo blaring the likes of Elvis Presley and Fats Domino, it was hard for the two not to muse over the good old days.

"We danced at almost every school function," said Wilsack, who then shared a private laugh with Rediske about the time they snuck out of a KHS dance to go to a show at a bar because some boys they knew would be there.

"We've stayed close as a class," said senior class president Pat Falkenberg, who spearheaded the reunion's organization. "A lot of us girls that are still in Alaska meet. When other members of our class come up, we go out and do a Froso's sisters lunch."

Saturday's picnic took place in Sterling at the Cotton Moore Homestead, next to the lazy Moose River. Any KHS graduates were invited to attend. The day prior, the class of '61, guests and former teachers shared dinner at Paradisos Restaurant in Kenai after taking a tour of their old school, which is now the Boys & Girls Club.

Kathy - nickname Dolly - Lecceardone, class of '61, came all the way from a reservation in Salamanca, N.Y., to see her high school friends again. The first KHS yearbook was published during Lecceardone's graduating year, and she had the honor of naming it "Kaknu," which means "village on the river."

"It's probably the last time I'm going to travel this far," Lecceardone said of the trip. "I really wanted to come and see everybody."

Of the 35 seniors who graduated in 1961, 21 still live in Alaska, and five are deceased. Geriatric jokes abounded at the reunion - a group of three men sat at one table discussing the merits and shortcomings of different hearing aids.

"You don't really think of yourself as old," Lecceardone said, "and then you come here and realize...most of us are going to be 68, we're retired, we're on Social Security. It's kind of sad, but it's happy at the same time.

"I had no recourse but to come," she laughed.

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