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High school reunion ‘like coming home’

Harvey Bourassa looks for familiar faces among the photographs displayed for the reunion at Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre.

Macleod high school reunion committee member Elaine Erick puts a name tag on Brian Charlton.

As someone who spent his working life as an educator, John Marles had the opportunity to make an impression on many young people.
Along the way Fort Macleod, the town where Marles spent 10 years as a teacher and administrator, left an indelible impression on him.
“This is like coming home,” the 89-year-old Marles said Saturday.
Marles was one of 356 former teachers and students from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s who attended a three-day high school reunion at the Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre.
Marles came to Fort Macleod in 1946 as vice-principal at Macleod high school and spent a decade here, the last three years as principal.
“This is a great place to live,” said Marles, who now lives at Edmonton and came to the reunion with his wife Ruby and their daughter Cynthia Peterson.
Three of the four Marles children were born in Fort Macleod, and the family enjoyed living in the town and taking advantage of its proximity to places such as Waterton Lakes National Park.
Macleod high school wasn’t too bad either.
“These were the greatest kids I ever taught,” said Marles, who left Fort Macleod to earn his master’s degree in education at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and then resumed his teaching career in the city.
Returning to Fort Macleod for the reunion was like coming home for many people.
“Probably for the people from away it’s a way of reconnecting not only with your youth, but with your friends and your town,” reunion committee chairman Jim Tilbe said.
There was a steady stream of warm handshakes and embraces Friday night during the reception at the arena, which was decorated with photos from the past.
“Here you lose 50 years of age talking about the way things were in the ’40s and ’50s,” said Tilbe, a 1956 graduate of Macleod high school. “We talk about a lot of the things we did back in school.”
Tilbe, who lives in Calgary, paid tribute to his committee.
“We had a fantastic committee here,” Tilbe said. “If it weren’t for the people who live in Macleod, you could never, ever put a reunion together.”
The reunion included the reception Friday night, class photos and a dinner and dance on Saturday, and a memorial service and farewell dinner on Sunday.
The memorial service conducted by 1959 grad Bruce Young is a somber occasion, particularly as the list of former students and teachers who have died gets longer every year.
“That’s an emotional situation but we just do it out of respect for our colleagues who have left us,” Tilbe said.
The first Macleod high school reunion was held in 1986, and getting the word out to former students and staff proved a challenge. Making contact was easier this time thanks to the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook.
“It’s a lot easier now,” Tilbe said.
Tilbe has been involved in every reunion since that first one in 1986.
“This is the last one I’m going to be involved with,” Tilbe said Friday. “Of course I said that at the last one.”
The 74-year-old Tilbe is hopeful a younger group of people who finished high school in the 1960s will come forward to organize the next reunion.
Tilbe is ready to pass on all his files, which he put on CDs this year and distributed to several people and places, including The Macleod Gazette.
“I would certainly come to another reunion,” Tilbe said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Committee member Elaine Erick echoed that sentiment.
“It’s so great seeing people you haven’t seen for a long time,” Erick said.
Almost like coming home.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Garrett de Koning Says:

    Sorry I was unable to attend as they are great fun maybe the next I will be able to.

  2. Pat Protti (nee Reardon) Says:

    So happy I attended the reunion – I had so much fun reconnecting with people and reminiscing the weekend away! My sincere thank you to all of the volunteers and the organizing committee! Pat Protti/Reardon

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