On the evening of May 27, 1963, the West Orange High School Class of 1963, one by one, walked across the stage of the Carl Godwin Auditorium on the campus of their school and received diplomas. They then went out into the world. Some entered college, some found jobs, some entered the military, some married and began to raise families, and some drifted until they found their niche.

Several stayed in the Orange area and kept contact with classmates. Many moved away and lost contact with their classmates. There was a reunion in 1983, but no others until 2009. At that time with the assistance of the internet, a number of classmates were located and a system was set up to communicate. The goal was to have a nice reunion in 2013, the 50th year since graduation.

April 19, 2013 was the selected date for the 50th reunion. That would be the day before the annual Chief’s Picnic when all the graduates of the classes of West Orange High School, from the Class of 1958, the first graduating class to the Class of 1977, the last graduating class would meet to greet and eat, and talk about old times.

John and Felesa (nee Matthews) Baker, high school sweethearts who married in 1966 and stayed married all these years took on the task of planning the reunion. The Brown Estate was selected as the site, and the task of communicating to the classmates was begun.

Of the 86 class members the planners were able to account for 65. Of those 65, 17 were deceased. Invitations were sent out by email and regular mail. The effort was under way.

Margaret Rogers Loper volunteered to build a memorial to the deceased classmates and was able to find details such as the dates of death and for some, the place of burial and the cause of death. A special display was set up with pictures of each of the deceased and a slide show was built by Baker to show later that night.

There were 36 classmates that attended and with accompanying guests the total to attend approached 60. It was a good gathering that filled the atrium at the Brown Estate.

The attendees came from at least six states and several regions of Texas. Some had not seen others since that night 50 years ago; some since 1983, several not since the reunion of 2009. The Chiefs were older, grayer, perhaps a bit slower, but the love and respect for each other was evident in the smiles, handshakes, hugs and “How have you been?” that went around all night.

Much laughter ensued upon the reading of the “Last Will and Testament” in which class members had bequeathed strange and funny items and characteristics to members of the following class.  More laughter filled the room as a list of predictions made in 1963 was reviewed and it was noted that (thankfully) none of them came to pass.  Some class members shared and explained pictures of people, places and events that have been important to them.

The reunion had started with a trip through Shangri-La for those wanting to see the gardens, continued with the banquet at the Brown Estate Friday night. Saturday morning was a breakfast together and then the annual picnic. It was a good time to spend time with friends from those days so long ago.

First row: Leta Green Bordelon, Frances Pevey Bunn, Jo Courmier Schweinle, Becky Addington Yelverton, Bobbie Williams Johnson, Joyce Long Davis, Jan Young Jimerson, Barbara Goodwin Loftis, Sybil Mays Hanten and Margaret Rogers Loper;

Second Row: Larry Buchman, Sherial Miller Marshall, Felesa Matthews Baker, Sherry Goodwin Thompson, Charles Smith, Jerry Foreman, Johnny McFarlane, Margie Meaux Dukes, Eddie Johnson, Pam Hubbard Reive, Charles Prouse, Danny Johnson and Wyman Ogden;

Third row: John Baker, Whitney Boudreaux, Jay McReynolds, Wren Worthy, Guy Collins, John McCoppin, Wayne Colburn, John Rayburn, Max Sapp, Jody Raymer, Ken Kittrell, Lynn Calvert and Mike Louviere.