Many tears flow, friendships renewed as Class of ’79 reunites 35 years later
There were a few tears, but plenty of smiles and happy faces as dozens of members of the Osoyoos Secondary School graduating class of 1979 gathered in Osoyoos this past weekend.
More than 40 members of the class of 1979 – and another 25 or so spouses – participated in the 35th anniversary class reunion Saturday night at the Watermark Beach Resort.
Most of the participants also attended a “meet and greet” reception Friday evening at the same location.
The high school reunion attracted former Osoyoos residents who now live in California and all across Canada.
Lena Thompson and Janette Van Vianen, who both continue to call Osoyoos home more than three decades after graduating high school, spent many long hours over the past 12 months organizing the OSS Class of ’79 Reunion celebrations.
Many of the reunion participants hadn’t seen their former schoolmates in 35 years, which brought tears to the eyes of Laura Cancela, who has called Ottawa home the past year, and Sylvie Aylestock, who has lived in Montreal since 1989.
“The really sad part is we’ve lost a lot of our former classmates and we shouldn’t have waited this long to see each other again,” said Cancela, wiping away tears. “Sylvie was one of my best friends in high school and I can’t believe it has been 35 years since I’ve seen her. It’s just amazing how quickly times flies by, but it’s sure wonderful to see her again.”
Trish Alexander made the long trek from King City in California, where she was worked as a high school chemistry teacher for many years, to Osoyoos for the reunion.
Returning to Osoyoos and the reunion was emotional on many levels for Alexander.
“This is my first time coming home in 25 years and I hadn’t seen my brother (Richard Alexander) in 15 years,” she said smiling. “It’s so great to be home to see family and so many familiar faces that I went to high school with.
“I have some very fond memories of those days and it’s amazing to see so many of the people I went to high school with all gathered in one room. Everybody looks pretty much the same, except we’ve all aged obviously.”
The entire weekend was about reminiscing and having fun, said Alexander.
“This is about reconnecting,” she said. “Hopefully a lot of us here this weekend are going to reconnect and stay in touch because 35 years is way too long to be apart from people you loved and really cared about.”
Growing up in Osoyoos was wonderful and she’s glad to be back, she said.
“There wasn’t a lot to do in Osoyoos when I was a kid so we used to do things many of our parents didn’t approve of,” she said. “But we had a lot of fun and made some really good friendships. Unfortunately, a lot of those friendships ended when we moved away after high school. This weekend is about reconnecting and staying in touch.”
Cancela left Osoyoos shortly after graduating high school and lived in Victoria for 35 years before getting remarried and moving to Nova Scotia before settling in Ottawa last year.
She was having a wonderful time at the reunion.
“This is about reconnecting with my friends and letting them know I didn’t forget what they meant to me growing up,” she said. “Life is so short and it’s sad that you lose contact with people that meant so much to you and 35 years pass by in what seems like the blink of an eye.”
Cancela said she cried many tears over the weekend reminiscing about classmates who passed away far too young.
“But there have been a lot more smiles than tears,” she said. “It’s so great to see everyone again.”
Aylestock agreed and promised she would be staying in touch on a much more regular basis with her former classmates.
“This is my first time back to Osoyoos in 35 years and it has been very emotional seeing everyone again,” she said. “A good part of what makes you the person you are takes place during those early years in high school and I have nothing but great memories of the friends I made back then.”
Thompson said all of the hard work she and Van Vianen put in was “more than worth it” to see so many people return for the reunion.
“I don’t want this to end,” she said. “I can guarantee you we won’t wait another 25 or 35 years to have another reunion. We’re all getting older and we’ve lost a lot of our classmates already, so we’re going to do this again very soon.”
Many of the participants were staying a couple of extra days in town to visit with family and friends and those they met at the reunion, while others had to get back to work and head back to their families and jobs spread out across North America, said Thompson.
“I think everyone who came this weekend really enjoyed themselves and that’s all you can ask for,” she said.