Staples High School’s Class of 1966 has always been special.
Growing up in postwar Westport, then coming of age in high school as a turbulent decade picked up steam, they were an active, accomplished bunch.
The Class of ’66 included 14 National Merit semifinalists, 29 All-State musicians and 5 All-State actors. The Orphenians traveled to the Virgin Islands; student government brought the Beau Brummels and Animals to Staples, and as a gift to the school — a tradition that unfortunately has disappeared — the class donated a handsome sign for the entrance on North Avenue.
But in the 50 years since graduation, the Class of ’66 has really stepped up its game. A few years ago they paid to refurbish the exterior of the Lou Nistico Fieldhouse at Staples, and added lighting to the current North Avenue entry sign. They’ve also organized their own special scholarship fund through Staples Tuition Grants.
Over the years I’ve become friends with many of the members, who I knew only by name and legend as a kid growing up in town. They’ve accomplished amazing things — in music, the arts, journalism, religion, education, even modeling and wine importing — but for half a century they have remained tight and loving. (Very, very fun-loving too).
A number of them remain — or became — reconnected to their hometown through “06880.” I’ve been honored to be a guest at their 2 most recent reunions.
This year’s 50th was fantastic. It began Friday night at the VFW (with kick-ass music from, among others, Rob Carlson, Jon Gailmor and Roger Kaufman). It continued with a lobster dinner last night at the Westport Woman’s Club (and a moving memorial to the 65 classmates who have died). It ended this afternoon at the beach.
There were many highlights for me, as I mingled with so many heroes and heroines from my youth. But the coolest came as I was leaving.
Each class member received a goody bag. In every one was a stone — collected, over a long time, from Compo Beach. They were stamped “Staples High 50th reunion, Class of 1966.”
And wrapped around them were these words:
Each stone carries memories created by the gentle and loving spirit of Compo Beach — our playground, our retreat, the safe haven of our youth. Compo loves us unconditionally. It is the beautiful link that will — like each stone and echoes of friendships — last forever.
While they were growing up, the members of the Class of 1966 — like most teenagers — probably did not realize the gifts they were gaining from their school, and town. I did not realize it several years later, and kids today don’t either.
The passage of time does something powerful and good. But it takes a special group of people to actually stop, think about and honor that time.
Well done, Class of ’66. Very, very classy indeed.