As fellow Slater High School alumni took their seats at this year’s high school reunion, I reluctantly prepared to take mine. At the table where I was about to sit, a year previous, I had photographed two very special people. Now they were both gone.
While others visited, my mind drifted back to 2013. One of the traditional observances at each reunion is recognizing a member of the most senior class represented. We on the organizing committee had been surprised to discover that the two oldest former students in attendance were males. Both men were seated at the table admiring photos of the old high school, photographed long before it had fallen victim to a demolition company due to lack of care.
As I approached their table that day, they raised their glasses and toasted each other and all in attendance. I snapped a picture and then visited with them for several minutes. One of the gentlemen I knew well, Dr. Wayne Severson. After all, he had been my doctor for many, many years.
The other man was someone I had never before met. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Rupert Anderson, too, was a fine representative of the Slater school system. He was a true gentlemen who seemed in remarkably good health for a member of the class of 1933.
The photo appeared in the next week’s copy of the Tri-County Times and I didn’t think much about it until this April when I happened to meet Wayne and his wife, Maxine, in Ames. He asked me to email him a copy of the photo as he considered it a special moment in his life.
This July, as I was departing for the reunion, I heard a news program announcement stating a 97-year-old man had been brutally murdered during a home invasion in Des Moines and his 93-year-old wife had been severely beaten. I remarked to my wife, Sharon, how unbelievably deplorable that was.
As the attendees began signing in, bits and pieces of happenings taking place over the past few hours began to surface. Seems the most senior student of last year’s reunion was the man who died at the hands of the home invader. A wave of disbelief continued to swell as the attendance grew. Then another shock emerged. Dr. Wayne had passed away just a few hours before, following a long battle with failing health.
The news was hard to believe. The two graduates who had brought so much to the previous year’s reunion were suddenly gone – within a few hours of each other. One by nature, the other by violence.
The 2014 Slater High School Alumni Reunion ended with friends and fellow classmates shaking hands and hugging one another. Other reunions will bring us together. Hopefully, under better circumstances.
(Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife Sharon live near Cambridge.)