Monday, July 30, 2012


Marlene Alwood-Ristine
1941 - 2012

Once upon a time, fifty-four years ago actually, I was serving on my high school yearbook staff.  Ever since I was in high school, I looked forward to working on my yearbook.  When the opportunity came, I volunteered for the yearbook staff.  One of the main reasons I volunteered was even back in those prehistoric times I loved to take pictures have pictures taken.  I wanted to be involved in any pictures taken for our class yearbook.

Downingtown High School Yearbook Staff - 1959
That's me in the back on the left in the white shirt
Marlene is two down in the front

One of our assignments was to have a random set of photos taken for the yearbook showing different classes.  On the particular day I was given this long sought after assignment, I was pared with probably the most beautiful girl in our class, Marlene Alwood.  Gay, straight or in between, I don't know of anyone who would NOT be intimidated working with The Most Beautiful Girl In The Class.  And of course I was.

Me and Marlene in the Driver's Ed car - and me out!

During my high school days I wasn't the outgoing, gregarious, back slapping personality that I am today.(which I am aren't I?)   Actually, during my high school days I was quite the dork, which I'm not ashamed to admit.  Besides being gay in the Fifties (and I was the Only One back then don't you know), I had almost zero social skills.  I think the only thing that saved me from turning into a juvenile delinquent was that I was so eager to please and most of my classmates took pity on me.  Plus I did have a few friends.  I wasn't totally friendless.

Me and Marlene posing for the band picture - I didn't actually play the drums nor did Marlene - fake picture!

On the day we were to go out and take the "typical class day photos", I was nervous. How would Marlene, The Most Beautiful Girl In The Class, treat me?  Would she be condescending?  Would she say "Eeww! when she found out she would be taking these pictures with me?  Would she even notice me?  Much to my surprise she was warm and friendly and not at all condescending.  In fact she was BEAUTIFUL, inside and out.  I was so thrilled.

All I can say is it was a good thing I wasn't straight because I would have fallen totally and irrevocably in love that day.  But God had other plans for me, Gay Plans.

That spring day in 1958 was the only close encounter I had with Marlene.  I saw her at our Senior Prom, looking outrageously beautiful of course and so gracious to me.  But other than that photo shoot for the our yearbook that day I didn't have any more interactions with Marlene. We had different classes and a different circle of friends.

Fast forward to our 50th class reunion on October 17th, 2009.  I have attended most of my class reunions.  Marlene had attended none.  I knew she was a nurse and a real estate agent who lived in Miami, Florida.  I knew this because I was still involved with the "yearbook" process of our class, I prepare the reunion booklet.  Imagine how thrilled I was when I heard Marlene would be making the trip from her home in Florida to attend our 50th class reunion at the Whitford Country Club in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

I finally get my hug fifty years later!

This is why I go to the reunions folks.  I wanted to meet her again and tell her that I had a "crush" (as much as a gay guy can) on her.  At the reunion I did see her and I told her.  She was very amused and said she "never knew I felt that way."  I told her that I always thought she was the most beautiful girl in our class and I was literally tongue tied when we went out on that photo shoot all those years ago.  We both had a good natured laugh about this.  I asked if I could have my picture taken with her and of course she agreed.  Wouldn't you know it, the first picture turned out so blurred, probably because I was nervous all over again which she found very amusing.  I did too.  We took another shot and got a good one.

Me and Marlene, October 17th, 2009 - 50th DHS Class Reunion

This morning I received an e-mail from a classmate that Marlene had died.  Since our 50th class reunion several of my classmates have died, including my first real date.  All were healthy at the reunion but have now passed on.  I will write a blog post about them in the future.  But this morning, reading about Marlene's death hit me particularly hard.  Not that I fear death, I don't but  I fear losing all my friends and being left in this world as a lonely old man no one wants.

I remember again what my grandfather said to me when he was 87 years old.  He said "Ronnie, the hardest part about getting old is that you lose all your friends."  Today I found out I lost another friend and I am profoundly sad.

Rest in peace Marlene and thank you for your kindness to me and everyone else you touched during your life.


Amanda said...

I am so sorry about your friend Ron! Yes, the one who will live the longest will have lost all his/her friends. Also, a lot of people are afraid to become invisible when they are old.

Buddy Bear said...

She was still as beautiful as ever in that 2009 photo. So sad!

Mark said...

This is very sad. I'm imagining myself in your shoes in the, sooner than I think, future. What's worse, dying young or being the last man standing and seeing all of my Friends die? As you know, my Sister passed last year and that put me into a real funk for several months.
I really am glad that you have these memories of Marlene and especially the photos.
Your Friend, m.

Ron said...

Thank you for your condolence on the loss of my friend Marlene. Although I've been losing more friends and former classmates in recent years, some hit me harder than others. For some reason, Marlene's death has affected me that way. She was always so sweet and beautiful and smart. Doesn't seem fair.
You're right about as one becomes older one is afraid of becoming invisible. That has already happened to me. To quote Mitt Romney, "It is quite a bit disconcerting."


Ron said...

Buddy Bear,

Some deaths affect me more than others. This was one of them. Very sad.


Ron said...


It is sad Mark. I think it is worse to be the last man standing. Someone else mentioned that a lot of older people are afraid of becoming invisible. That is happening to me. Also, becoming irrelevant. That is also happening to me. That's why I make the most of every day I have now. I really don't want to be one of those sad old men dependent on others to keep hanging onto life.


anne marie in philly said...

what a beautiful woman and a wonderful tribute to a special person in your life.

glad to hear you told marlene in person how much she meant to you; too many people do not see/hear fond tributes until after they are passed.

ron, you will never be alone; you have all of us in the blogisphere to keep you on your toes!

Jon said...

A great story and fantastic photos. It's wonderful to have warm memories, especially after someone has passed away. I'm glad that you and Marlene got a chance to meet again and talk at your 50th reunion.
I keep in touch with a few high school friends - - and it's always shocking whenever I hear that one of our classmates has died. I seem to be stuck in a time warp, because I always think of everyone as still being young and healthy. It's almost impossible to believe how many years have slipped away......

Ron said...


Well said. You understand. You are so right that we sometimes think of everyone as still being young and healthy. I am always amazed at how many years have slipped by.


Ron said...

Anne Marie,

You are a sweetheart. Thank you for your comment. I hope I will keep my friends in the blogosphere, even into my advanced years. My time date long ago expired with the gay community.


Ur-spo said...

that was lovely; thank you for sharing this.

Ron said...

Dr. Spo,

Lately there have been more deaths in my life. Some affect me more than others. This was one of them. She was such a beautiful woman. So sad.


Iberostar said...

Your blog really touched me - you are a wonderful writer. My heart goes out to you in this time of mourning. It was so great you did get to see her and talk to her at your reunion - hold that in your heart.

Ron said...


I was so glad when I heard Marlene would be at our reunion. She had to travel from Florida to Pennsylvania to attend the reunion. I wanted to tell her, and I did, how much I admired her when we were in school. She was so sweet when I told her and just laughed and hugged me (as the picture shows) and told me she liked me too. I was thrilled!


Anonymous said...

One of the most beautiful tributes on the internet. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Ron said...


Thank you. Marlene was a beautiful woman, inside and out. She will be missed.