Staples’ Tribe Of ’86

As Staples High School’s Class of 1986 prepared for their 30th reunion, there was the usual excitement — from some alums. Others thought: meh.

A couple of months ago, though, came news of the suicide of a class member. It was the 2nd in a brief span. Not long before, Westport police sergeant Robert Myer killed himself.

The deaths threw Craig Librett for a loop. A public relations expert now living in upstate New York, he had not been involved in reunion planning. But — feeling shock and grief — he did what many classmates did: He went on Facebook.

Facebook's header montage for the Staples Class of 1986 page.

Facebook’s header montage for the Staples Class of 1986 page.

Like other classes, ’86 had an occasionally-looked-at page. Librett posted some thoughts.

Suddenly, the floodgates opened.

“The suicides struck a chord with almost everyone in the class,” Librett says.

“People did more than just comment. They shared intimate things — about depression, suicide, themselves and their families. They really talked about what was going on in their lives.

“If it’s possible to feel something over Facebook,” Librett adds, “we felt it.”

The outpouring of emotions — and levels of honesty among people who had not seen each other for 30 years — was astonishing.

In 1985, this group of Staples High School "Student Educators" posed for a photo.

In 1985, this group of Staples High School “Student Educators” posed for a photo.

Then Andrea Greenberg contributed a long post. She called her class a “tribe” of people who had always been there for each other.

That word resonated. “Tribe” became the symbol of the Staples Class of ’86. And the reunion became, Librett says, “transformational.”

Members realized the upcoming event could be more than just a gathering. Plans snowballed — not for mourning lost classmates, but for celebrating their own and their classmates’ lives, 30 years after graduation. A large number will come together tomorrow night (Saturday, July 30) at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

At the same time, they’ll honor the half dozen or more who have died. Tomorrow morning there’s a ceremony at Winslow Park.

The Class of 1986 #mytribe t-shirts.

The Class of 1986 #mytribe t-shirts.

The class is doing more, too. They’ve already raised more than $4,000 for the American Society for Suicide Prevention.

And on October 23, they’ll participate in the organization’s  “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Sherwood Island. Librett has helped formed a “My Tribe ’86” team.

It will be a very different walk than the one they participated in 30 years ago, at graduation. But just as important.

Thirty years have not dimmed the Staples Class of 1986’s tribal spirit.

They’ve only enhanced it.


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8 responses to “Staples’ Tribe Of ’86

  1. Dorrie Barlow Thomas

    First off: Thank you for writing this, Dan!
    Second: yay, us! I am a sucker for reunions and I LOVED Staples and my childhood Westport, so I was going no matter what. But, this time, I am–and hopefully many are–feeling very connected to and very in need of My Tribe. Facebook has indeed allowed for some pretty incredible exchanges and good feelings.
    I know for me, Saturday will be full of glances upward with my own personal hat tips to my dear lost friend whose sad end cracked us all wide open.

  2. A.David Wunsch

    In December of 1966 my Staples classmate Clyde Combs committed suicide. We were in the class of 1956. I knew him quite well and came to his funeral in Wilton–his hometown. In 1956 Wilton did not have its own high school.

    He was a remarkable person. In high school he had his own business repairing antique clocks. At the time of his death he was a graduate student at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. He could fix antique cars and owned Model T and Model A Fords..

    I wish that there had been such media as Facebook in 1966 for his friends and family to share their sadness.
    ADW Staples 1956

  3. Thanks Dan…. The class of 86 is and was a remarkable class. We have some amazing movers and shakers that have been successful in their fields… We have artists, business, law, political office holders, educators, architects, Internet pioneers, military, and of course medicine… But more importantly than than their accomplishments, the class seems to have amazing friendships, compassion, big hearts, unbelievable tales of sorrow and joy, and a fantastic understanding of support of one another. In this age of over sharing and TMI… “Our Tribe” has both physically and virtually been there for each other. Telling dark tales of the last thirty years of life and then saying thank you for being human. We look at each other on FB or in real life and have each other’s backs. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but it does give you perspective. I perceive my class of 86 as AMAZING! We will gather and celebrate and maybe shed a tear or two… But we will celebrate and laugh… And I know I have plenty of endless hugs to give to my friends the class of 86

  4. Craig Librett

    Dan. Great piece, as always. There will always be a special place in my heart for the Staples Class of ’86 – my tribe. You all mean the world to me and I can’t wait to build new memories with you this weekend!!!

  5. Sharon Paulsen

    Class of ’86 here too!

    The 80’s was an amazing decade to go through grade school, and then college.

    It was “another” time.

    A 30 year reunion can be a daunting idea for some of us that have been out of the loop or lost touch with so many from our class.

    Sounds like many friendships have endured since then, and I’m glad those groups held it together – life has a way messing up the best of intentions to “stay together”.

    I’ve avoided Facebook like the plague, to my disadvantage at times perhaps, having been in the promotion biz right at the time it became “the thing”, so I had a little insider “jaded” perspective on that particular monopoly of social media.

    So, I’ve missed out on the 1986 Facebook crowd info and also wasn’t aware of the recent suicides. It always brings me to a sad and dark place when I hear about it, even if peripherally. I express my sincerest condolences to anyone and everyone affected by recent loses. (If anyone is up to sharing with me/letting me know who passed, I’m open to it, with all respect of course, since I’ve been out of the loop).

    I’ve experienced so many loses in my lifetime, that I feel like a transformed individual – nothing is as it was, or I imagined it would be. Again, my deepest sympathies to those who left us.

    Those of us in the mid-80’s camp know of several suicides (or early deaths due to disease or accidents) that occurred while we were at Staples or soon after. I could never wrap my head around it back then. We were ALL so YOUNG, and not necessarily equipped to deal with it the way we can perhaps now.

    So, moving on … sounds like Librett (and Harris perhaps?), and many others are on top of what should be a really wonderful reunion. I most likely cannot attend and will probably miss an amazing event (unless last minute walk in’s, with spouse-in-tow, is allowed), and the chance to reconnect with good people.

    So, I wish you all a wonderful gathering and send my love!

    • Hi Sharon,
      I wanted to reply to your comment and let you know that yes you can come last minute because we are able to buy tickets at the door tomorrow night. It just costs 10 more than the 60 it would have been had you bought beforehand. There are also a few other things planned for the weekend which is on the event page on Facebook. And don’t feel bad about not being in the loop. This loop was only recently created and many people that are getting in touch have not been in touch with one another for years and are very excited to hang out with one another. Also we want to especially show our support of one another for the many things we have all been through over this past 30 years which should bring about lots of HUGS!! Hope to see you this weekend!!
      Best regards, ❤️Tina

    • Nancy Hunter

      Sharon, you should reconsider! I’ve missed all of my reunions and regret it.
      Receiving news and photos is great, but actually being there to catch-up/reminisce is, reportedly, cathartic!
      Besides, you can take the famous Staples Tour with Dan!
      Anyway, if not this year maybe next time.

      Cheers!