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1963 Mary Bethune Alum to travel long distances for 50th reunion

With less than two weeks left until the Mary Bethune Class of 1963 50th class reunion takes place June 28-30, many class members are preparing to travel to South Boston from all parts of the country to celebrate reaching this important mark.

The much anticipated event will be held at Berry Hill Mansion and Resort.

Fred Edmonds, Serita Garrett Lanham, Vivian Staten and Albert Ragsdale are four former Mary Bethune students who have decided to make the pilgrimage across the country for the big event.

“It’s so important to attend the 50th reunion because when I graduated from high school the only party that we had once you got your diploma was to have a bus ticket leaving out of South Boston at 12:01 p.m. at night. That was the greatest thing of all, and now there is the urge to come back and to meet all the people that you graduated with and had such a passion to leave them. Now, I have greater passion to come back and greet them and embrace them. It’s like putting the pieces together in this puzzle of life,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds currently lives in Pomona, New York with his wife, Elaine. Together they have two daughters and four grandchildren. 

He left Halifax County after graduating in 1963 and spent four years in the United States Air Force stationed in Altus, Oklahoma.  

After he got out of the military, he moved to New York where he has lived for the past 43 years.

Lanham also left Halifax County in 1963 and moved to Jersey City, New Jersey where she has been ever since. She has one son and one grandson.

“It’s really going to be a great time for us to reunite with people, some we haven’t seen in the 50 years, and I just think it’s truly a blessing for us to be alive and able to do this after 50 years,” Lanham said.

Ragsdale went into the military straight out of high school and served in Vietnam and Germany before retiring in Killeen, Texas where has lived for the past 24 years with his wife of years, Gerlinde. They have one son.

“This will be my first one, and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone who I went to school with and graduated with, and I am really looking forward to rejoicing in this opportunity to see everyone,” Ragsdale said. 

Staten, who will be traveling the farthest of the four, said she married straight out of high school and traveled with her military husband to Kentucky, Africa, Petersburg and Massachusetts until 1976 when they settled in Oakland, California where she currently resides. She has one son and two grandchildren.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I’m traveling this far because I’m very excited to attend this reunion. It like a half a century later that I get to see my classmates and reunite with them. It’s awesome. I haven’t seen some of these class mates in years,” Staten said.  “It’s just special for me, and I don’t want to miss this because I’m sure 50 years from now I wont be around to do this again. We’re all curious to hear about each other’s lives, where we’ve been and what we’ve done, and when we talk to each other on the phone, I can hear the excitement and enthusiasm in each one’s voice. We’re like one big family coming together, and it’s just fantastic. 

“Fifty years ago we marched down the aisle at Mary Bethune High together. We said our goodbyes, and we ventured out into the world, some of us not knowing where we were going or what we were going to do. Now, 50 years later, the Class of 1963 will come together again.”

Each expressed what they liked most about being a part of the Mary Bethune Class of 1963.

“What I liked most about being in the class of 1963 is the part about learning how to be mature. The things that I participated in at that school I still use today. To me it was a real growing pain, and I had to struggle to make money to buy lunch.  I had to learn how to work and be responsible for myself. I started being an entrepreneur in high school. I was selling wood. I can’t thank Mary Bethune enough for the loving people who looked out for you and allowed you to experience and grow to your greatest potential,” Edmonds said.

“I just thought we were a great class that got along with each other, and the point that we still want be with each other now, that’s what’s so amazing about it, ” Lanham added.

“The camaraderie we all had, the enjoyment that we all shared together, plus the teachers we had were awesome. 1963 was a good year,” Ragsdale said.

Staten agreed, saying, “Meeting friends that I’ve maintained a relationship with throughout the years. There’s one person who I still talk to, and when I come home, she always visits. It was just peacefulness. Everybody was nice to each other.” 

The class of 1963 has had three reunions, and each have been to at least one reunion with the exception of Ragsdale who will be attending his first reunion at the 50th celebration.

Edmonds, who attended the second reunion, said his most memorable moment from that reunion was just being in the atmosphere and recalling the special moments they had when they were in high school.

Lanham, who attended the 40th reunion, said her most memorable moment while attending that reunion was just being able to see everyone. Some she recognized, and some she didn’t until she saw their name tags.

“It was just exciting to go around the room and speak to people because it was the first time in 40 years,” she added.

Staten said she went to the 1983 reunion, and her most memorable moment at that reunion was seeing her favorite teacher, Mr. Paige, and taking a picture with him.

“He remembered me,” she said. 

Ragsdale said he wasn’t able to attend the previous reunion because he was always deployed when they occurred.

The four Mary Bethune aumni said they were excited and are really looking forward to the upcoming reunion.

“I just enjoy the idea that I’m going to be able to embrace somebody for the first time in 50 years, to look them in the eye knowing the many challenges that life throws at us, but yet still we fought to get back 50 years later just to embrace each other,” Edmonds said.

Lanham said, “I am looking just to reconnect again with persons and to know within our spirits that some of these people we may never see again. This is why I think it’s so important that all of us who are able should come, because even the next moment is not promised to any of us, and at our ages we know that even if they do it another five years from now, many of us won’t even be here. So I’m looking forward to connecting, and we had little groups that we used to hang with, and you get with that little group again and take a photo because it may be last time we see each other.” 

“What I’m looking forward to most is really to reunite and see all the classmates you haven’t seen since 1963 and just experience reconnecting with everyone and just hopefully be able to see some of the teachers that we had. That would be awesome,” Ragsdale added.

“I look forward to reconnecting with everyone, your classmates, seeing some that you haven’t seen in 50 years and to give them all big hugs. I promised myself I would respond and keep in touch with everyone this year because today is not promised to anyone, and we may never see some of these people again. So that is what I’m looking forward to doing is to reconnect,” Staten said.

According to reunion committee member John Jones, registration for the Mary Bethune Class of 1963 reunion has been closed, so final numbers can be given to the vendors.