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On May 30, exactly 65 years since our graduation, the Fabulous Forty-Niners who came for Reunion Weekend were few in number but grand in spirit. Only six classmates registered for what probably was to be our ultimate class reunion. Betty Bond “B.B.” Heller Nichols was chauffeured by her son-in-law, who returned to Lexington for his son’s championship tennis tournament. Charlotte “Chot” Baylis Rexon’sdaughter drove her from Haddonfield, New Jersey. Christine “Tina” Dunnavant Ridgwell came from Norfolk with daughter Linda Ridgwell Church ’79, who attended her own reunion. Elizabeth “Betty” Fischer Gore came from Fairfax, Virginia. Dolores “Dee” Ross arrived from Kilmarnock. June Davis McCormick flew from St. Louis to Richmond, and niece Happy drove her to Fredericksburg. The classmates smiled and hugged when they met at President Hurley’s reception at Brompton! June and Cynthia “Cindy” Snyder ’75 shrieked in recognition when they spied each other.
As former alumni relations director, Cindy had been our coordinator, adviser, and friend for nearly 25 years. She’d announced her retirement at month’s end but continued her thoughtfulness and whirlwind activities throughout the weekend. She brought to our table a parade of UMW staff members and the couple we all remember, Marceline “Marcy” Weatherly Morris ’50 and her all-time beau, Elmer “Juney” Morris Jr. ’50. You saw last fall’s UMW Magazine cover story. We can attest to their loving togetherness. When we told Marcy we still could picture her in her majorette uniform, twirling her baton, Juney beamed with pride at his forever-beautiful bride.
Two of the four BFFs who’ve held the attendance record – Jane Yeatman Spangler in North Carolina and Dorothy “Dotty” Booker Pinkham in Vermont – were unable to attend. Their record 12 consecutive reunions fell to Betty Bond and Chot, who’ve now attended 13.
The 26 classmates at our 60th, when a downpour dampened our day, will want to know that the weather was perfect, with moderate temps and blue skies. Several classes, including ours, stayed in the new Hyatt Place in Eagle Village, connected to campus by the pedestrian bridge over U.S. 1. For once, we had no parking problems! Buses and golf carts took us to and from GW. We octogenarians, and our limbs, hips, and knees, were grateful to the volunteer drivers. Thanks to Director of Alumni Relations Mark Thaden ’02 and his youthful staff for extra efforts to correct oversights and meet our needs.
Other classes planned dinners at venues around town, but our class combined with others that had previously observed their 50th reunions into a group called the “1908 Society” rather than the “Golden Society.” The consensus was a preference for the latter since the former sounds as if we were products of the earlier-founded State Normal School. We admit we’re “golden oldies,” but we’re not that old! The Friday night dinner was in the Seacobeck faculty dining room, with many from the Class of ’59 and others. Instead of the formal dining rooms of our era, there are specialty sites for pizza, pasta, and burgers in the student dining areas. Today’s students may prefer informality, but we’re blessed to have experienced Mrs. Bushnell’s instructed social graces … and “Twilight Time.”
Betty Bond, Chot, Betty, and June were tired, and without a piano for B.B. to play our favorites, we retired to our rooms. Tina stayed elsewhere with her daughter and the Class of ’79. Dee was in the bedroom she donated at Kalnen Inn when it was added to the Jepson Alumni Executive Center.
On Saturday, June and Happy were booked for an Alumni College session with professor emeritus William Crawley, who discussed writing his centennial history of Mary Washington.
We rejoined classmates for a Ball Circle picnic. We were scheduled as the “1908 Society” for class photos but also got one of just the Fabulous Forty-Niners, standing on Lee Hall steps, trying to look younger than our years. Betty Bond reminds us, “We’re still cute!” We were told Phyllis Link Atkins’ daughters brought her to the picnic but, apparently, she left before we could talk with her. Betty Fulk Strider ’47 and Betty Gore, friends when their doctor husbands served residencies in Charlottesville in the ’50s, sat together.
We were asked to bring mementos, and though we’d contributed many for our 50th, Frances “Blackie” Horn Nygood sent a few items – faded mimeographed programs from class plays, especially our iconic namesake senior production; invitations from dance clubs (remember German and cotillion dances?); filled-out dance cards; and odds and ends of pre-computer days. We donated them to the Office of Alumni Relations. So now they’re gone, Blackie!
Betty Bond and Chot had family commitments and planned to leave after Saturday’s picnic. We took pictures and left our tent for one last familiar ritual – the releasing of balloons we designed years ago, with the iconic red devils and our own legend of Fabulous Forty-Niners in MWC-blue ink. They’d lost elasticity but held adequate helium. With Cindy’s help, we released one for each person present. This balloon release, more symbolic than those past, was followed by teary goodbyes to our longtime friends … until we meet again.
Dr. Crawley signed his hefty tome in the bookstore, where we talked until it was about to close. Back at Hyatt Place, we realized we hadn’t paidfor his book! OMG, what to do? The bookstore was closed! At a cocktail party for the Kalnen Inn’s 10th anniversary, Dee again was honored. A patio table was reserved for us next door at Jepson, and when we went inside, we spotted the Crawleys. We confessed our chagrin at the faux pas, and he pronounced the book “his gift!” What a courtly Southern gentleman, but that wasn’t the answer we sought. (After returning home and a plethora of emails and phone calls, the book finally was paid for, the worry over, and the Honor System intact!) Venturing inside for dessert, we saw frenzied dancing to today’s music, so we remained outside, with delicious food and libations (looking over our shoulder for Stu Goo). The nostalgia-filled Sunday morning farewell brunch was at Jepson. Know that you were among the classmates deeply missed! To see photos from the event, go to flickr.com/photos/umwadvancement/sets. Select Albums and then “Class of 1949 – Special.”
Following a stay in Richmond, with a trip to our hometown and family duties, we boarded a plane back to St. Louis and opened Dr. Crawley’s book. A young man saw it and asked if we’d gone to Mary Washington. He turned out to be Michael “Mike” Jacobs ’06, who also took Dr. Crawley’s classes and had his book. Richmond was his home, but he was returning to San Francisco, where he now lives and works. The flight became a May-December recounting of days at our alma mater. Small world!
Anne McCaskill Libis reported the passing of lifelong friend Margaret “Peggy” Elliott Sweeney. Peggy had been in declining health and in an assisted living facility near Philadelphia, where she died in June from Alzheimer’s and pneumonia. Peggy’s daughter, Christine, married Betty Forsyth Somers’ son, Scott. Betty and husband Lewis tragically died from carbon monoxide poisoning during Hurricane Irene in 2011. Peggy was buried beside her beloved husband, Mickey, in Ilion, New York. Anne and husband Claude planned to attend the memorial service. We sent condolences on behalf of the class to Christine and her family.
Barbara Trimm Wright said Lucinda “Lucy” Vance Gilmer, who had been recovering from a stroke, passed away suddenly in July, shortly after her 87th birthday. We have long reported Lucy’s ongoing activities and interests in Bristol, Virginia. She was devoted to her family members, involved with her church, supportive of her two colleges, proud of her “adopted” students and their families, and grateful for a plethora of lifelong friends. Lucy will be greatly missed by all whose lives she faithfully and lovingly touched.
Harriet “Scotty” Scott Brockenbrough lost sister Martha Scott Rogers ’44 in January. Four months later, Scotty lost her brother-in-law, Spencer Rogers, Martha’s husband of 68 years. Harriet and Martha were members of Mary Washington’s Alumnae Daughters since their mother, Sara Temple Segar 1914, was in the first class to enter the Fredericksburg State Normal and Industrial School for Women in 1911-12.
While we flew east to celebrate our 65th, Corinne “Conni” Conley Stuart flew from Toronto to grandson Fran’s high school graduation in St. Louis and granddaughter Elsa’s return from Mizzou at Columbia. Like ships passing in the night, June and Conni just missed each other.
Post-reunion, B.B. started playing weekly at a new Lexington piano bar. After a lifetime giving of her talents, she’s being paid and has an overflowing tip jar! How’s that for another octogenarian? Go, B.B.!
As ever, love to all of you from both of us.