A 50th CA Reunion in the age of COVID – May 22, 2020
By Jeff Lowdermilk
I kept checking my watch and thinking to myself, “fifty years!” It all seemed so surreal; how could it be fifty years? Who would be on the virtual call? Yes, I was anxious.
I started fumbling with Zoom for about ten minutes before 4:00 p.m. and had to call Sue Burleigh for help to make the connection. Then suddenly I was on, and could see my old friends. In a large square in the lower center of the screen sat Sue with a grand photo of Welborn House in the background. One of Colorado Academy’s first few virtual reunions was underway! There were only five of us from our graduating class: Bob Jacobs, Tom Minor, Rod Oram, Steve Kanatzar, and myself. David Mueller also joined, who was in our class during the 1960s, but did not graduate. We all started by thanking Sue for making it all happen. I told everyone this had been Rod’s brainchild and thanked him.
Class of 1970, Top Row (L to R): Tom Minor, Sue Burleigh, Rod Oram. Second Row: Bob Jacobs, Steve Kanatzar, Jeff Lowdermilk. Not pictured David Mueller.
We all took a moment to honor all those in our class who had gone before us, Bill Keller, Mark Lubchenco, Scott Olson, John Petrie, and Chuck Severy. Too many have made that journey.
Through the years, Bob, Tom, Rod, and I have stayed in touch; Bob, Tom, and I talk and see each other often; and I knew Rod had recently ridden his bike from the northernmost tip of New Zealand to the southernmost point. But, it was Steve whom I had not seen since June 5, 1970, and I knew nothing of his path through life.
We started by each of us giving a broad-brush account of our families, careers, and what we were currently doing.
Bob lives in Santa Fe, N.M. with his second family. Prior to Santa Fe, Bob owned an Alaskan wilderness guiding service for many years. He still flies his own plane, and he and his wife are busy raising their two teenage sons. Bob’s first wife was the sister of Bill Keller and their son lives in Denver.
Tom and his wife live in Phoenix, Ariz.; however, much of his ongoing career as an architect/engineer has been working in New Mexico at the Los Alamos labs. I’m sure he can’t tell us about very much of what he does. Tom has made the weekly commute from Phoenix to Los Alamos for years, living there Monday-Friday. Due to COVID, he is working from home and for the first time is actually living at home.
Rod and his wife live in Auckland, New Zealand, and their daughter (engaged) is finishing her PhD in music in San Diego. Rod continues with his lifelong career as an international financial journalist. With great enthusiasm, Rod announced he is planning a 2021 or 2022 bicycle trip from Australia’s southernmost to northernmost points. He eagerly invited any and all of us to join him. Certainly caught my interest. Maybe!
I found Steve’s history most interesting. He has built a restaurant in Colorado Springs from an enormous KC 97 Boeing airplane. He said it was the first plane to have an elevator. He had the plane shipped section by section and assembled it on the south end of the Springs near Peterson Air Force Base. It is appropriately called the Airplane Restaurant. He has been operating it for over twenty years. He gave us a visual tour, which included a wall of photographs and signatures of astronauts and high-level Air Force officers. Outstanding! Going to see Steve is certainly high on my list.
David Mueller lives in Denver and is heavily involved in the world of opera and he worked for Opera Colorado. He certainly knew many of the old stories.
As for me, my wife and I have two beautiful daughters, a great son-in-law, and two delightful granddaughters, ages six and four. We currently live in Santa Fe, but are in the process of moving to Denver to be closer to our family. Most of the last twenty years of my life has been devoted to studying World War I, and I have published a book about my grandfather’s World War I diary titled: Honoring the Doughboys.
Among all the stories and laughs, we recalled our teachers, most of whom are on the A team: Griggs Dayton, Tom Fitzgerald, Bill Matassoni, Lew Elsey, Tap Tapley, Steve Marx, Ben Priest, Coach Bob Simms, David Woods, Woody Monte, Ian Jewett, Dylan Evans, and of course, Chuck Froelicher and Thomas J. Lee.
The two-hour Zoom session went by all too quickly. We should do this more often, since we don’t need a reunion to get together!
By Rod Oram
Our impromptu 50th class reunion online was a fine sign of our COVID times. Although we were far apart, we Zoomed together for our two-hour gathering. We caught up on highlights of each other’s lives; we shared news of other classmates; we recounted stories of our time at CA; and we heard about the school’s current lockdown life from Sue Burleigh, whom we greatly appreciate for all she does for us alumni.
My favorite Senior year story retold was one I had no idea about at the time. Bob Jacobs said he was put in charge of decorating the dining hall for our Prom. He and his colleagues chose Che Guevara as the theme and plastered the walls with pictures, posters, and other memorabilia of the Marxist revolutionary from Argentina.
When Tom Lee, the deputy headmaster, a World War II veteran who had lost a leg in combat, saw their handiwork, he ordered them to tear it down. He then tasked a second team to do the decorating job in the very short time left before the Prom started. When I turned up with Kathy, my date, all we saw was Décor 2. It was well worth waiting half a century to hear the story, one that reverberates down the decades.
As a pretty feisty class, we were shaped in many ways by the Vietnam War and all the related social, political, and cultural upheavals it caused. Speaking personally, my CA education helped me make some sense of all that and set me on a professional path I follow to this day. I’m still a journalist seeking to explain what’s going on in my country, New Zealand, and around the world.
In the same spirit, the newly graduated Class of ’20 has gone out into the world well equipped by its CA education for these far more extraordinary times of pandemic and turmoil. Over the decades ahead, each of them will make their distinctive contributions to humanity’s renewal. I wish I could hear their stories at their 50th Reunion!
HOPE TO SEE YOU on MAY 21-23, 2021 for OUR RESCHEDULED 50th REUNION!