Class of 1939 plans summer reunion in Grandd Junction

Arthur Gilbert, left, holds a stack of 15 letters marked “adressee deceased” that were returned that he ad sent out concerning the upcoming 70th reunion for the Grand Juncion High School class of 1939. Nearly a dozen members of the class, like Jack Oberly, right, met for lunch at Coco’s Restaurant recently to plan their June reunion.

Alice Else doesn’t think she or her classmates are special or extraordinary. Others might disagree.

It has been 70 years since Else and 215 of her classmates graduated from Grand Junction High School. And plans are underway for a summer reunion of the class of 1939.

Else, 87, has tried to keep track of everyone. Admittedly, she said, it has not been easy. Many members have died. Else estimates about 90 of her former high school classmates are living.

That number is constantly changing.

Recently, Else and former classmate Arthur Gilbert mailed out invitations to this summer’s 70th reunion and received 15 white envelopes back.

Gilbert put them together with a rubber band. Those 15 white envelopes had the word “deceased” written on them. It is the reality for the living members of the class of 1939, who all are in their late 80s.

No matter. Plans continue, Else said.

“I’m hoping we have 40,” Else said of the projected attendance.

“We were a close class,” Gilbert said. “We went through the (Great) Depression. Then, the war came along.”

Gilbert was referring to World War II. He was part of the U.S. Army operations on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

On Thursday morning, nine members of the Grand Junction High School Class of 1939 gathered for lunch at Coco’s Bakery Restaurant to discuss the reunion and their lives.

Typically, 16 people eat lunch together every month — except in winter — but several regulars couldn’t attend Thursday’s lunch because of doctor’s appointments or hospital stays, Gilbert said.

Those who did attend Thursday shared stories and laughter. Else, Gilbert and Jack Oberle, 88, sat at one table.

They looked at a list of former classmates who have responded to the initial invitation to the reunion.

Mary Elisabeth Bush Burris told Gilbert she is coming and “wouldn’t miss it.” She lives in Naperville, Ill.

Else, Gilbert and Oberle also looked at a photograph taken nearly a decade ago, featuring almost 50 people who attended the 60th reunion.

The 60th class reunion included a mixer and breakfast, Else said. Some people even went sightseeing on Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument.

For the 70th class reunion, organizers want to tour the town and visit Mesa State College. It was Mesa College when members of the class enrolled nearly 70 years ago.

“We decided we don’t dance. We don’t snowmobile. We don’t hike,” Gilbert said.

What the surviving members of the class of 1939 do well is talk. At least those helping organize the event do. Plenty of story telling is planned, as well.

“We will try to entertain those who come,” Else said.


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