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 driving..watch 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.