Still standing after all these years

Ann Bassett of West Tisbury reconnects with Nancy McLane Sajda for Easton, Maryland. — File photo by Lynn Christoffers

Ten days ago, 167 students graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) in the commencement ceremony at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. One week later, and 50 years after their own graduation, about half of the 61 members of the class of 1960, the first ever to graduate from the then brand-new high school, held a reunion at the P-A Club.

The participants, who had traveled from as far away as Florida to attend, wore name tags with pictures from their yearbook to help jog their classmates’ memories. For a few, like John Clough who helped organize the event, it was the first reunion they had attended since graduating and leaving the Island. Others, including many of the 25 who still live on the Vineyard, have attended reunions every 10 years.

The 1960 graduates were thrown together at the new high school for only one year, having come from the K-12 schools in Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Tisbury, and the consensus among reunion attendees is that they didn’t have enough time to become a cohesive class.

Before being united in a single Vineyard class, athletes from the three schools had competed against their new teammates. Rivalries had been fierce, but the transition from competitor to teammate went smoothly.

Some of the alums stayed on Island after graduation. Michael Carroll, for one, laughed over his yearbook description — “Quiet until disturbed, good athlete, liked by all, especially partial to blondes, truck driver.” He didn’t comment on the first few traits, but he has fulfilled his high school ambition — taking over his family’s trucking business which has now been passed down to the next generation of Carrolls.

David Medeiros, 68, came back to the Island after serving seven years as a Marine and has lived in Oak Bluffs ever since. After serving for ten years as a policeman he has worked at Phillips Hardware for the last 33 years, and he has attended every reunion. As he sees it, high schoolers didn’t have as much free time when he was growing up, when working, fishing, and hunting took precedence over social activities.

Other attendees moved away to pursue careers. John Clough worked in geophysics, living all over the U.S. Nancy Mclane spent 22 years in corporate banking before she took up Buddhism in 2007 and became an ordained minister. This was her first reunion.

Also in attendance were students who would have been members of the 1960 graduating class but were instead sent to private schools off-Island. Including these attendees and spouses, the group numbered a bit more than 50.

After enjoying a casual potluck meal, many of the graduates posed for a photo dressed in official reunion tee-shirts which read “Still Standing after All These Years.” The collection of 60-somethings made for a lively, fun, and often irreverent group. John Clough expressed the group’s biggest regret: “We were the first class not to go on a Washington trip, because we were getting a yearbook.” But 50 years later, the alums got a lot of mileage out of that yearbook — laughing at pictures and inscriptions as they meandered down memory lane.

At the end of the afternoon event, the group gathered in the parking lot to memorialize their deceased classmates. After the eight names were read, helium balloons were released. It was a solemn and touching finish to a day of shared memories.