By Rob Tallmadge
“Hey Rob, any reunion talk?” inquired Clancy Burson in a text from Chicago, sent in the cold depths of a dark January day this past winter. “Nope” I replied. “Wanna’ make some plans?”
“Sure,” he said.
Then of course, time galloped on, and as the days grew brighter in early April, I decided I’d better get on it, May being the next month on the calendar, and all. So I asked Sue Burleigh if she could email my classmates from 1974, which she did immediately. A bit later I emailed the 29 or so reachable people on the list. Ours was a small class—41 of us graduated on a beautiful May morning on the west lawn of Welborn House back in ’74, and I thought 29 wasn’t a bad number after 45 years.
Since this was our 45th Reunion and sort of an off-year for reunions, I didn’t expect much response, especially given the short notice. Which was true at first—a few of the most devout replied that they’d be interested in getting together for some sort of frivolity. But as time went on and emails flew, I was amazed at how many wanted to reunite. In all we had 15 responses, and only four wouldn’t be able to participate in some part of the weekend. Melanie DeMouth Ball wouldn’t be able to make the trip from Down Under—too busy with kids, and a far trip to boot. Jacira Paolino (Terry Harper) also responded that she’d love to come but had travel plans from her home in Lisbon, where she invited any of us who happened to be in or near Lisbon come and stay as her guest. Thanks, Jacira! And then Kevin Small reported that he’d be fishing in Cuba. Really? Not going to cancel that to visit Denver? And Dick Gast had made plans to visit family, including his two grandkids, in Wisconsin. All four look forward to the 50th.
So here’s how it came down in Denver.
During Giant Relay Day, our numbers bloomed as the day went on. Joe Feiler was first to arrive around midday, when I ran into him near the BBQ chow line. We were joined by Preston DuFauchard who flew in from Oakland, Susan Boxer in from San Francisco, Clancy & Katie Burson from Chicago, Cindy Pearsall Coping from Tucson, and Matt King from Albuquerque. Wow! All these great people came from around the country. And then Chuck Sawyer drove out from Denver, and Tee Cowperthwaite drove down from Basalt. Needless to say we had a fabulous time catching up. Many of us toured the magnificent campus in its current glory, glowing like the Emerald City. And though the physical changes have been massive, many of us still felt part of what we came to realize was and remains a special place. We were in awe of the changes, though we’d love to see Icarus hanging from a place more commanding than the stairwell in the old Stevens House dorm (now spectacularly renovated as the Ponzio Arts Center). After all, Icarus, who so dominated the Kassler Library back in the day, is a fond memory and was an inspiration to many of us. Perhaps we can help find him a new home one day, a sort of class project for the 50th. At any rate, we all continued to catch up all the way through the tour, the relay, and the reception.
Chuck, Joe, and Preston had plans for after the relay, but the rest of us headed over to the enormous Breckenridge Brewery on South Santa Fe for dinner. Turned out it was closed for a wedding. You have to be kidding! Who does that? Intrepid souls, we regrouped at the ViewHouse in downtown Littleton where we were joined by Will (Dave) Matthews. And we had a blast!
On Saturday, my better half Jenny agreed to treat us to a tour of the Denver Botanic Gardens, which highlighted pieces from the Ponzio collection. Craig Ponzio is a recent Colorado Academy Trustee and is father of two newly minted CA alums, so it was fitting. Jenny, a docent at the DBG, was a fabulous guide. Joining us were Chuck & Mary Sawyer, Clancy & Katy Burson, Cindy Coping, Tee Cowperthwaite, Susan Boxer, Matt King, and Jeff Kleiner. Sue Burleigh even found some time to join us for part of the tour. After a nice picnic on the lawn, we departed for naps.
Naps? Yep, we needed them so we’d be rested for a Saturday evening food and drink fest hosted by Chuck Willyard in his beautiful house near Cheesman Park. We were treated to an incredible dinner of grilled salmon, beef, and veggies prepared by Chuck’s sister and chef extraordinaire Marlys Willyard (Class of ’75), coupled with amazing wine. There were 14 of us at dinner! The collection included Chuck & Mary, Tee, Matt, Susan, Cindy, Rob & Jenny, Jeff, Clancy & Katy, Preston, and of course, our consummate host, Chuck W. Add a special guest—Renee Ruderman, who fearlessly taught us English back when she was one of only two women teaching at CA. We had a magical evening. I, for one, will not forget the sight of the 14 of us at one long table in Chuck’s dining room, reconnecting, recollecting, and just plain enjoying each other’s company. We must have chatted, laughed, and reminisced for two hours before Chuck treated us to a tour of his spectacular wine cellar. Slack jawed and happy, we retired to our respective domiciles to reflect on the good fortune we share in having been a part of CA, and in having so much to share with each other, even after 45 years. I’m honored to be part of such a wonderful group!
I hope my mates don’t mind that I’ve included a few comments received afterwards that capture the spirit of our reunion:
From Preston: “So great to see everyone. And refreshing to see that after many journeys we still share much in common, even beyond our shared history at CA.”
From Joe: “Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the Giant Relay Day festivities, but it was an outstanding experience to be able to connect with those who were there after so long. This was the first reunion I have attended (not the first attempted), and it was amazing to look at faces not seen for 45 years and know who you are. Everyone looked great.”
And from Cindy: “I likewise thoroughly enjoyed our reunion. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see all of you again. Many thanks to Sue for keeping track of us all these years and for a fantastic alumni reception….I loved the sculpture tour and picnic at the Botanical Gardens. Chuck, thank you for graciously opening your beautiful home to us and, together with Marlys, treating us to a special, memorable, and perfect evening. Renee, thank you for being our friend all these years and for having taught us skills that, at least speaking for myself, significantly elevated my career in the years to come. I am looking forward to the 50th!”
So too are the rest of us, Cindy!