‘Happy Days’ are here again for Gilroy High reunion

David and Marianne Peoples prepare some of the 2,200 invitations

For many of us, high school was not the happiest of times. We
were not one of the popular people, not the cheerleader, not the
captain of the football team. We felt like we never quite fit in. I
personally have never attended one of my high school reunions. But
after talking to Danny Mitchell and Lynn Cordia, I might have to
reconsider.
– ON THE WEB: Click here for the Happy Days Reunion website.
For many of us, high school was not the happiest of times. We were not one of the popular people, not the cheerleader, not the captain of the football team. We felt like we never quite fit in. I personally have never attended one of my high school reunions. But after talking to Danny Mitchell and Lynn Cordia, I might have to reconsider.

“After 40 years, the cliques are gone. Nobody cares if you were popular or not,” said Mitchell, financial controller for Heinzen Manufacturing Inter-

national.

He is part of the team organizing a Gilroy High Happy Days Reunion of the ’60s, to be held Sept. 11 at Gilroy Gardens.

The reunion will encompass the classes of 1959 to 1970.

“The bullies have mellowed. The drama queens have grown up and grown out of it. No one cares what you were like in high school. Everyone is interested in how you are and who you are now,” Mitchell said with an enthusiastic smile.

“It’s a way to get over any past hang-ups,” said Lynn Cordia, director of St. Mary’s Parish Extended Care Program. “It’s those who were less popular in high school who are the leaders now.”

The planning committee of about 35 has been meeting every two weeks at the Sunrise Cafe since October to put this event together. Many Gilroy High alumni go all the way back to the third or fourth grade.

“We’re family. We still see each other around town at the store and at church,” Cordia said, alluding to how the Gilroy community still retains that small town feel, in spite of how much it has grown. “Who else are you going to relive your memories with?”

“Counting out-of-towners, we’re shooting for getting 1,000 alumni to come,” said Mitchell, who helped send out 2,200 invitations. The team is making story boards for Memory Lane that will display photos and memorabilia from Gilroy’s past and class history. At 4 x10 feet wide, the 12 boards will hold quite a lot of memories.

The day will start with a 7 a.m. breakfast buffet and golf tournament at Gilroy Golf Course. A ’60s classic car show and contest is also planned. This year’s keynote speaker is popular retired teacher and storyteller extraordinaire, Jim Kropff.

Local musicians who are part of the classes in the 1960s will entertain. They include blues guitarist John Garcia, Class of ’67; Corvairs lead singer Pat Tomey, Class of ’66, and Mike Malinao, Class of ’70, who will act as DJ. His current band Mild Storm will be performing at the reunion.

An Elvis sighting is also expected.

“The fun of school was the people,” Mitchell recalled. “The people were what got me up every morning and looking forward to going to school. We make it a point of inviting whoever went to school with us, not just those from our particular class.”

“One student moved her senior year, but we tracked her down and sent her an invitation anyway. She went to our rival school, Live Oak,” Cordia said. “But we forgive her.”

The reunion website has a list of missing classmates, and the committee would appreciate getting any information the public may have. They are busy searching social networking sites and the Internet in the hopes of contacting as many alumni as possible. The team has invited past teachers as guests and has received responses from ten of them.

“As we get older, more alumni have passed on,” Cordia said sadly. “We will have a special area to commemorate them. ‘In Memory Of’ will have their photos, a waterfall and a peaceful meditative area to remember our classmates who are no longer with us.”

“When we lose someone, many of us come out in support of their loved ones,” Mitchell said. “But the reunion is a chance to be together in a purely positive way for fellowship and enjoyment.”

The experience of the 2006 reunion was a healing one for many. They held a tribute to Vietnam veterans and they plan to do the same again this time. At the past reunion, there were veterans who were deeply moved, saying it was the first time they had ever been honored for their sacrifice.

Gilroy has an outstanding record for reunion attendance. Mitchell’s former mother-in-law, Betty Gagliardi, still chairs reunions for her Gilroy High class – and she’s 85-years-old.

“Working on this has taken us out of our busy worlds,” Cordia said. “It’s a great cooperative effort. Everyone we contact says, ‘What can I do to help?’ ”

The experience of working to plan a reunion has brought Cordia and her classmates closer than ever.

“We’re all bonded,” she said. They plan to continue getting together for quarterly lunches for those alumni who are local. “You also get to rewrite the ending of your high school story. It’s very healing.”

This time around, there will also be donations collected at the reunion that will go to benefit Gilroy High’s 2011 Grad Night festivities to help to keep kids safe after graduation.

“We want all these kids to survive for their future reunions,” Cordia said.

– ON THE WEB: Click here for the Happy Days Reunion website.

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