Reunion beckons 100 years of teachers, staff and students

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- At most school reunions, you hang out with your old classmates. But imagine greeting your fellow alumni along with your mom, your daughter, your teacher from 40 years ago and even the janitor from way, way back when.

Well, that's the way it's going to be when Nome calls everyone home in June.

Nome residents are reaching the end of their four-year centennial celebration. In 1998, they honored the Gold Rush and the three lucky Swedes who discovered the rich metal. In 1999, they marked the 100th anniversary of the first passenger ship arriving in Nome. Last year, the city remembered the railroad.

This year marks the grand finale. Over the years, some high school classes have held their own reunions. But now the city wants everyone to return at once. Nome's calling it the all-school reunion, telling everyone who's ever studied or worked at a Nome school since 1901 to return for a three-day celebration that starts June 20.

Patricia Longley Cochran will be there. So will her 89-year-old mother, Frances Nicholas Longley. Cochran graduated from Nome's high school in 1966. Her mother graduated in 1930. Cochran said Longley was the first Alaska Native to graduate from the high school in Nome.

The mother and daughter pair from Anchorage don't have far to come compared to some guests who are making the trek back to Nome from Washington, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, even Florida. Nelda Liebig is coming all the way from Wisconsin. Her daughter Harriet Larios-Teague is coming from Kansas.

Liebig and her husband, Carl, taught in Nome during the late 1950s. They left in 1959.

''Been all over Alaska since then but never could make it back to Nome,'' she said.

Then Liebig's daughter heard about the reunion, and the two decided to return for an event that Liebig hopes will draw some of the Liebigs' old students.

Liebig knows it won't be the same place she remembers -- the city that had only unpaved boardwalks and a Lutheran Church that met in a Quonset hut. The school Liebig taught in doesn't even exist anymore; those attending the reunion plan to place a plaque at the site where it used to be.

So far, a couple of hundred guests have said they are coming to the reunion. Some of them have been easier to find than others, said Cussy Reader Kauer, who's arranging the affair. Even organizers have passed out invitations in Christmas cards and written letters to about 35 newspapers, asking them to spread the word. At first they were searching for about 1,940 graduates, but they expanded their list to include more than 2,000 potential guests -- some who graduated and some who didn't.

''We've been looking for these people for over a year, finding people who might have drifted off and want to come back,'' Kauer said.

Kauer said pretty much everyone's welcome. She even tried to invite the president's wife, but Laura Bush's staff replied that ''the complexities of her schedule prevent her from accepting.''

''Fifty bucks gets you through the door for three days,'' Kauer said.

She is asking people to R.S.V.P. by the first week of June.


For more information about the Nome All-School Reunion, contact Cussy Reader Kauer at 1-907-443-2083, 1-907-443-6620 or Call Nome's Convention and Visitor Center at 1-907-443-6624 or 1-800-478-1901 for more information about hotels and other housing options during the reunion.

(Distributed by The Associated Press)

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