As ‘90s reunion approaches, grads recall then and now
You’ve come to a fork in the road.
Down one path is your high school class reunion, where you can reconnect with old friends, visit with others you never talked to, or pretend to not recognize the class bully, although he’s probably nice now because high school is over, and he realized being mean is dumb.
Down the other path is anything other than your high school class reunion. It literally doesn’t even matter what is down that path as long as it is not a high school class reunion.
Many people have been faced with this fork. And when Jessica Wallace, Central High School class of 1996, considered it, she made a bold move. With the help of several others, Wallace planned a massive reunion for the 1990–1999 graduates of Central, Grand Junction, Fruita Monument and Palisade high schools. That’s 40 classes.
Wallace said it sounded fun to bring that many people together.
Assuming, of course, people choose the road leading to the reunion.
“Everybody talks and says, ‘Oh, we should all get together,’ ” Wallace said. Now, she’ll find out if people meant it.
The ‘90s reunion will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at Clarion Inn’s Ristorante Pantuso, 755 Horizon Drive.
There will be discounted food and drinks for those who attend.
It might be hard to realize for classmates of 1999 that 15 years have passed since they were seniors, and much has happened in those years, as these four 1990s graduates can attest.
Central High School class of 1998
JD Brach, 33, likes to think he is much like the person he was in high school.
Brach said he remains energetic, optimistic and responsible, traits he thinks he had in high school, when he was driving a pink Toyota truck.
Now, Brach drives a large silver Ford truck, has two boys — Cody, 14, and Chase, 8 — and runs a business in Grand Junction with four satellite offices across the country.
Brach started Mountain States Hot Shot LLC in April 2006 when he saw a void of support services for the oil and gas industry.
He worked as a diesel mechanic and built pipeline for several years after high school and became interested in the industry.
Admittedly, Brach “didn’t have much ambition” in high school and “didn’t gamble a lot,” so there were no aspirations then to become a successful small business owner.
In fact, he remembers once getting an F+ in social studies.
When he asked the teacher what an F+ was supposed to mean, Brach remembers the teacher saying: “I want to symbolize that you made it to the fence. You just didn’t get over.”
Grand Junction High School class of 1996
If someone had told her high school self that one day she’d own a dance studio and have a family, Theresa Kahl-Blee, 35, wouldn’t have been surprised.
She just didn’t think it would happen several months after high school graduation.
A lifelong dancer, Kahl-Blee participated in poms and yearbook but spent most of her time out of school taking private dance lessons.
After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles, fell in love and had the first of her three children, moving back to Grand Junction later that year.
In 2007, she opened Absolute Dance, 417 Monument Road, where she teaches along with managing the business.
“I was pretty self-absorbed” in high school, Kahl-Blee admitted.
But after having a family — her children are Tanner, 16, Aaron, 10, and Serenity Blee, 7 — and owning a business, that has changed, she said.
“I can be a little embarrassed by how I was in high school,” she said. “I was a little carefree. ... All I wanted to do was get out of Junction.”
Palisade High School class of 1995
Travis Reese, 36, remembers being mild-mannered and a good student. Mostly, though, he remembers flying.
“At a young age, I was fairly focused on my aviation career,” Reese said.
Reese got his pilot license at 17 and went on to work for both West Star Aviation and an out-of-state company to manage corporate jets.
Eventually, Reese returned to the Grand Valley to start The Apartment Guys, or TAG Companies LLC, which purchases and renovates large, distressed apartment complexes primarily in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Real estate investment and construction yielded more immediate financial gain than aviation, Reese said, but he has maintained a love of flying and a home in the area.
In fact, he has a plane and airstrip at his Glade Park home, so he can fly himself to work when necessary.
His son, Colby, 9, also has shown an interest in flying.
Reese sees similarities between himself now and the Palisade senior he was.
“I would say my general character is something that carried over,” he said.
“Not my personality, but my character as an individual. My personality has developed more, but I still take pride in a handshake, honor and integrity.”
Fruita Monument High School class of 1996
Ben Miller, 35, knows there will be people who will see his name and say: “That Ben Miller works for the sheriff’s office?!?”
Yes, the guy who organized senior ditch day and built a bonfire the “size of a small house” in the school’s parking lot, works for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
He started there 13 years ago and for the past seven years has been the quartermaster, responsible for department logistics and the purchase of items the department uses.
“Everyone knows here that this is a very busy job,” Miller said. “The challenge here is to keep moving things forward.”
However, Miller didn’t challenge himself much in high school.
“I was the king of mischief,” said Miller, who also attended what was then Mesa State College.
“I’m very passionate about what I decide to be passionate about,” he said.
His passions include his family — he has 9-year-old twins, Ashtyn and Trustyn — biking and his job, where he also is in charge of the department’s unmanned aircraft program.