EGHS Reunion

Left to right, Randy Ohara, Debbie (Rocha) Goddard, Phil Medlin, Sheryl (Tatti) Seto, Larkin (Morse) Penrose, Carol (Mills) Skewes and Pam (Clark) Hunt celebrate the 50th reunion of Elk Grove High School’s Class of 1971.

Elk Grove High School’s Class of 1971 was finally able to hold their 50th reunion last weekend in the pavilion at Elk Grove Regional Park.

As one of the many events delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the class’s milestone reunion was originally planned to be held last October. It was instead held during the evening of Saturday, May 14.

In an earlier effort, the reunion committee had hoped to hold the reunion in the spring of 2021, although no date was actually set.

Larkin (Morse) Penrose, one of the reunion’s organizers, recalled the situation that led to the postponement of the reunion.

“We did it by going to our classmates,” she said. “We asked them (if) they would feel comfortable coming last fall. (Some would have been) flying from across the nation and staying overnight. So, did they feel comfortable doing that? And at least half of them did not feel comfortable coming. And so, we listened.”

Committee member Carol (Mills) Skewes also recalled how the pandemic affected when the reunion would be held.

“I thought it would last two or three months,” she said. “So, we really didn’t know (how long it would last), and we finally thought, “Well, for sure by October everything will be fine.’ And, of course, it wasn’t.”

Penrose told the Citizen that the committee and other organizers are appreciative of the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD), which owns and manages Elk Grove Regional Park. The CSD allowed the committee to transfer the event to May.

Because of the delay, the committee was able to further work toward tracking down where more of their former classmates live and inviting them to the reunion. Three hundred and fifty-seven classmates were accounted for, and nearly 160 people attended the event.

The process of searching for classmates began six years ago when the committee had a contact list featuring 44 names with phone numbers and email addresses.

“There (was) a total of 460 missing classmates when we started looking for people,” Penrose said. “Now we are missing only 75 classmates.”

Debbie (Johnson) Kieffer, who currently resides in Arizona, noted that she was also among the people who helped search for classmates.

“I spent a lot of hours and I (found) a couple hundred names and addresses and emails and different things,” she said. “I think (the turnout) is exceptional for 50 years. (There are) a lot of people (attending) out of a class of 509 or 510.”

Committee members utilized modern technology by holding meetings through the Zoom application. Communication was also conducted through email messages, texts and phone calls.

The 50th reunion committee members, who included some people who live outside of California, are Skewes, Pam (Clark) Hunt, Randy Ohara, Debbie (Rocha) Goddard, Phil Medlin, Sheryl (Tatti) Seto, and Denise and Rick Cooper.

Penrose noted that the committee was challenged in their efforts to find a venue for the reunion during the pandemic, considering the closure of structures and many staff working from home.

She also mentioned that although the cost of the reunion increased substantially, 25 classmates donated $6,800, which lowered the ticket price by half the amount.

Last weekend’s reunion was the fifth reunion that the Class of 1971 has held in its history.

That total includes an impromptu 45th reunion that was led by Randy Ohara, who gathered a small group of his classmates together to join him and some of his former bandmates for a potluck at Elk Grove Regional Park. The event, which was attended by about 40 people, was held on a rainy day under a covered structure.

For the 50th reunion, Ohara and Skewes created an Elk Grove “fun facts” chart that shows the tremendous growth that occurred in this area since 1971.

That growth includes a 4,772% increase in population and an expansion of the Elk Grove Unified School District from one high school to 15 high schools.

The gathering also included special recognitions, which included the attendee who drove the furthest for this reunion. April Joy Cook was honored for driving the most miles, as she traveled 2,408 miles from Tennessee.

Matty Bush was recognized as the person who flew the furthest to attend the reunion. He traveled 2,818 miles from South Carolina.

Also attending the reunion were people who flew from Georgia, Texas and other states.

Additionally recognized at the reunion was Jesse John Silveira, who was denied entrance into the U.S. military during World War II to stay home and run his family’s dairy.

Unable to finish high school due to that responsibility, Silveira eventually earned his diploma in 1971.

His son, Louis, of the Class of 1967, was in attendance at the reunion. He was also instrumental in assisting the committee with the reunion.

Louis shared with the Citizen what that diploma meant to his father.

“It meant the world to him to get a high school diploma, because it was like a college degree to him,” he said. “So, he took night classes at (Elk Grove High), graduating in 1971 at 51 years old.

“We were all very proud of him, but I wish he could have been here to see the appreciation this kind class gave him. A special effort and a generous gesture by good people.”

Geri (Froehlich) Brannon and her husband, Jim, were honored for having the most grandchildren.

“I had three, (Jim) had nine,” she said. “That’s how we got to 12 (grandchildren).”

Geri recalled her overall experience at Elk Grove High.

“It was a great school, because everybody was like a family,” she said. “We had the hippies, we had the cowboys, we had the hippie-druggies, we had the rah-rahs and then we had us normal people that were just kind of there. I was a country girl, but we were normal.”

Mike Tudesko shared a memory about one of his classmates, Bill Mauricio.

“He drove to school all the time and he never had any money,” he said. “We asked him, ‘How do you buy gas?’ He said, ‘I syphon all of your tanks.’”

Randy “Rann” Haight, who has been married to Sandi “Samm” (Morse) Haight for 46 years, told the Citizen that Elk Grove High is a family tradition for many members of his class.

“Samm’s mom and dad went to Elk Grove High School,” he said. “They graduated in 1938 and went together in high school. My mom and dad graduated in 1944 and 1945, both went to Elk Grove High School. Larkin’s mom and dad went to Elk Grove High School. I bet half the people in this room, (their) parents went to Elk Grove High School.”

Both Rann and Samm are members of the Class of 1971. They currently live in Idaho.

Donna (Mooney) Kinion mentioned that her mother attended Elk Grove High and was a homecoming princess. Donna was also a granddaughter of Tom Karamanos, who was honored as the 1957 Elk Grove Citizen of the Year.

Linda Stilson, who was a songster, shared one of her memories from high school.

“We used to have a Barn Dance and we would close off the quad and we would catch greased pigs in the quad,” she said. “And we had bales of hay sitting around in there and we sat on them, and we watched those people making fools of themselves catching greased pigs.”

She also remembered the smoking area, which was located across the street from the high school.

Larkin shared what it meant to her to be a part of the 50th reunion, which included a catered dinner and concluded with dancing.

“It was so nice to see that many people so happy after that many years,” she said. “It was just gratifying.”