Remarks at 50th Year Class Reunion Coeur d’Alene High School — Aug. 17.
The morning before coming over here, I was doing surgery and a young scrub tech asked me, “Doc, what are you up to this weekend?” And I answered, “I am going to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.” The tech went on, “I hear that Coeur d’Alene is a nice place. Have you ever been there before?” It is hard to describe the wave of memories and emotions that washed over me as I paused to answer the question with “Yes, I have been there before.”
I think at our 50th reunion some things need to be said. I think all of us here are at a phase of life that if you have something to say, something in your heart to say — to your parents, your spouse, your siblings, your children, your friends or your classmates — you better go ahead and say it, because inevitably, you will lose the chance.
All of us should realize that we are children of the ’50s — born in 1951, some in 1950, some in 1952. We were born in the era of radio giving way to black and white grainy TV. And I think we should reflect on the first major leader we can recall from the 1950s — President Dwight Eisenhower. You think about it, President Eisenhower was a remarkable man. He was from humble origins, a graduate of West Point, the leader of the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, president of Columbia University and two term president of the United States. And for his accomplishments he was given so many well-deserved rewards, honors and privileges.
In retirement at his farm in Gettysburg, President Eisenhower was asked, “in your distinguished career and life, what is the greatest privilege you ever received?” Without hesitation, President Eisenhower responded, “The greatest privilege I ever received was the privilege of growing up in small town America.” I think all of us in this room probably share such a sentiment. I feel that I was terribly privileged to grow up in a small town in America. And of course, Coeur d’Alene was such a special small town. A small town where each person was an individual and appreciated as such. Each family was known as special unique human units. We knew each other, we learned life from one another. And this is so much different from today’s sprawling anonymous urban and suburban life and communities.
I think we can all reflect on life’s lessons we learned in our small town and from one another. I learned so much from schoolmates. I learned so much from working with Elmer Mundt at his farm up Cougar Gulch, Elmer Mundt, a farmer with a huge repository of wisdom and insight and common sense. And I learned so much from working on the green chain at Idaho Veneer plywood plant, and with the guys who worked there. Brian Hussey, dad of our classmate David Hussey, was my foreman. Brian Hussey as foreman and as a man was not just a good man, he was a great man living in a great small town.
Two life’s lessons from Coeur d’Alene stand out in my mind. First, that if you take the opportunity and scratch the surface, just about any person is interesting in their own, unique way.
And second, if you take the opportunity and approach people fairly and without judgment, scratch the surface and just about anyone can be a friend.
In closing, I would like to read a poem by John Donne that if you stretch the memory banks, all of us were exposed to in English class:
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
And so, it may seem that all of us have been islands going through life separately. In fact, we are not islands. We are part of the main. We are and will ever be VIKINGS! VIKINGS — PROUD GRADUATES OF COEUR D’ALENE HIGH SCHOOL, CLASS OF ’69.
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Tom Gumprecht is the owner of Doctor’s Inn in Coeur d’Alene.