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Opinion: Celebrating a friend’s 70th

Memories of high school elicit different sentiments, depending on who you ask. Sadly, some remember it as the best years of their lives, while others are happy to see it in their rearview mirrors.

I have mixed feelings. For many, it was the culmination of their (free) formal education, while others naturally see it as the stepping stone to college.

I remember looking forward to my 18th birthday and being a grownup. I can now attest it is not as much fun as it looked in the brochure.

The Madera High School class of 1973 tends to have a reunion every five to 10 years, depending on who is willing to organize it. Next year we will be celebrating our 50-year class reunion.

Some people eschew the entire process. Reasons for not attending may include such sentiments as “I didn’t like those people back then, why should I want to see them again?

Missing the point, these people don’t realize how many people they might see that they did like but have dropped off their radar in the years since graduation.

I enjoy connecting with my former playmates. Just this week, I saw two of my classmates. One works at the Madera County Department of Corrections, and I needed to visit an inmate who had some documents that required a Notary. A few hours later, I saw another girl from my childhood while having lunch at Perko’s.

These ladies attended James Monroe Elementary, Thomas Jefferson and Madera High school with me from kindergarten through graduation. It was good seeing both of them.

My freshman year in high school was a tumultuous time in my young life.

Both of my brothers were in the Army and overseas. One was in Vietnam and the other in Korea. That also is the year my father announced he and my mother were getting a divorce. So as the only child left in the family home, I got to experience the whole joint-custody, post-divorce circus alone.

Seeking guidance, I turned to a school-endorsed group called Campus Life, Youth for Christ.

For the unfamiliar, this group met once a week at different students’ homes. For example, the Campus Life group typically met at the home of the late Mark Foster. At these gatherings, we played games and had the opportunity to meet other Christian kids for some harmless fun. The following week, the Youth for Christ meetings held Bible studies discussing things such as how the Bible is relevant in our everyday lives.

The group held rallies, often in Fresno, with a couple of thousand kids listening to Christian rock bands, praising the Lord and probably the most important of all, staying out of mischief.

Through Campus Life, I struck up a friendship with a boy that endures to this day.

Terry Stephen Jay is the youngest son of the late Robert and Priscilla Jay, owners of the local mortuary Jay Chapel.

I have very fond memories of my friend borrowing the chapel’s family car and loading it up with kids to attend Campus Life rallies.

Also, during this time, I worked as a babysitter for his sister Virginia Whistler. Through her children, Elizabeth Dunn and brother John Whistler, I learned a lot about childcare. Like most of my girlfriends, we did a great deal of babysitting in high school.

I was a freshman when Terry was a senior. After graduation, he attended Reedley Junior College. The most attractive reason to go to school in Reedley has always been that it is close enough to come home for the weekend but really too far to commute.

I recall attending a Reedley College football game with Terry, known as the “Mighty Tigers Chomp and Stomp.” Attending a college barbecue and Saturday night football game as a high school sophomore was a very big deal. Of course, we had a great time rooting for the home team.

After college, Terry worked for many years as a guide at Disneyland. As a result, he got the opportunity to visit the other Disney theme parks as well as other amusement parks throughout the country.

This weekend I have been invited to a birthday dinner celebrating Terry’s 70th birthday. Where has the time gone?

Have a very blessed Easter.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix at or @tamijonix on Twitter.


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