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John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
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is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 07.21.03
Fool's Hollow, Quebec

JOHN MAHONEY

The Final Word: Closing remarks delivered at the annual Newport, Vermont High School Alumni Association banquet on Saturday, July 19, at the East Side Restaurant in Newport, Vermont.

You'll have to indulge my use of notes but my rememberizer is like the Old Grey mare -- it ain't what it used to be.

There's one last piece of business that needs looking after before I read what Jason has so aptly named The Final Word.

Over the years, one member of this association has worked long hours -- year in and year out -- with little, if any, recognition. That lovely lady is Braunda Darling Coutu.

She has kept lists, typed countless letters, printed out addresses, mailed notices, and fielded telephone calls. She has collected money and badgered those like me who are always late with their checks. She has found seats at the table for latecomers where no seats existed.

Braunda has always done all this work with a good heart. And over the years, her late husband Joe Coutu was always a willing helper.

Would you please rise and join me in saying Thank you to Braunda for all she has done for us over the years.

I've been trying to figure out where the last fifty years have gone during this strange trip from young adulthood to galloping geezerhood.

I realized just the other day that, when our class graduated from dear old NHS in 1953, anyone who was celebrating their fiftieth anniversary would have been born around 1885.

That timespan came as a shock.

One of the best years of my life began in September, 1952.

I had returned home from six years away, living in foreign places -- Occupied Germany, Postwar England, and the most foreign place of all, Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.

It was grand, being a Senior at Newport High School. I turned 17, renewed old childhood friendships, made the football team, and fell in love for the first time

Life was very good that year. It went to hell in handbasket the following September when, still 17, I enlisted in the Army. But that's a whole other story…

When I was an Air Force Brat living in Europe, many of my school chums didn't have a hometown back in the States. They had been raised on and around military bases all of their lives. In essence, they were rootless, American transients.

I was lucky. I not only had a hometown and an extended family to go back to, but I had a lot of old friends.

Some of those friendships began more than sixty years ago over in Batesville and up on the Eastside. I've always been thankful for the friendship of people I've know for a long, long time -- especially that old East School gang -- because we go way, way back.

You know, our graduating class motto was 'Aspire to the stars'. And we all did, back in our salad days in 1952 and 1953.

Recently, I looked at some of our early school photographs, starting with class pictures taken in the 1940s on the front steps of the old East School where my mother went in the 1920s. I was struck by how fresh and bright and unsullied all those young faces were.

The portraits of our graduating class, made in the autumn of 1952, depicted the same hopeful and confident looks. We had the world by the tail and we were going to twist it.

Well, that was then and this is now. Eleven of our class have already died. They may be gone but they are in our hearts today.

Over the past fifty years I reckon we've all experienced our share of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. And the joys of fulfilling work and the personal enrichment of deep and abiding relationships.

I want to tell you all -- and in particular my old and dear friends of the Class of 1953 of Newport High School -- that I have never known a group of people that I cared more for, and respected more, than all of you.

I love you guys, and I hope we can all be together here again next year on the shores of Lake Memphremagog. But if it doesn't work out that way, well … then I'll see you when I see you…

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