By Sara Ronkin, Class of 1971
Imagine feeling an instant connection with someone you haven’t seen in 45 years. That’s exactly what happened to about a third of the graduates of the Robinson Class of 1971 over Labor Day weekend. A year’s worth of planning culminated in a three-day event that had all participants in sharing fits of laughter, streaming tears and vowing to meet again. Soon.
It all kicked off on Friday with a Wine and Cheese Welcome-Back Cocktail Party held in the school cafeteria, where the class was regaled with a slideshow featuring alumni faces all the way back to Kindergarten … Jaime Acosta, Ginny Butler and Lila Gomez were present to see their baby faces shine from the group photos from ‘back in the day’. And while you’d think this was just a silly slideshow, everyone was so enchanted that spouses and friends actually drew their chairs close so they would not miss one photo. A highlight came for Anita Soto when she was presented with her personalized copy of the 1971 Flamboyán yearbook…we’re all still wondering why she never picked it up back then, overdue library book, maybe? The class was also happy to welcome alums from other graduating classes, so Bart Mullis ’69, Sammy Aruz ’72, Lee Rae Mackey ’75, and Eliza Abatiello Campbell ’74 also joined the party: and they all agree:
The 71ers ROCK!
Saturday was scheduled for a “chinchorreo,” an all-day bus trip to the interior of the island just to eat and drink at little local joints (“chinchorros”). Any trepidation on the part of the participants vanished in the air on the way to Barranquitas when we started in on a game of ‘71er Human Bingo. Little-known facts were placed on a Bingo card and all the bus riders had to figure out who had: danced with the Ballet de San Juan? (Michael Lausell), been a roadie for Little Feat? (Bobby Orr) or wanted to be a translator for the UN? (Beckie Ramos). Forget those perilous curves on those mountain roads! What grown people will do to figure out whose middle name is spelled P-R-I-M-I-T-I-V-O. Things we never found out while in school shocked, thrilled and amazed us all!
On the menu: morcilla, bacalitos, alcapurrias and lots to drink. Our cheerleaders cheered; our dancers danced salsa; and our jokers told their best stories. Apparently, someone was ordering yet another round when a young local asked who we were. “Eh, some sixty-something year olds from a high school in San Juan. We’re celebrating our 45th anniversary”. The answer was quick and sincere: “I can only hope to be that happy and have that many friends when I’m sixty!” Robinsonsians are indeed a lucky group.
Sunday’s celebration include a tour of the school and a Brunch on the Pfeiffer House balcony. Gerry Navas offered a moving prayer in the chapel for our class: those present, absent, struggling and departed – all in our hearts. The school song? It’s amazing how many people still remember the words. Everything is so different, yet the beauty of our campus endures.
On Sunday night, we held our farewell activity: A paella party at Jaime Acosta’s house! You haven’t partied till you’ve partied with this group! There was dancing in the pool. Birthday cake for the recent and upcoming celebrants. Yummy food. Music. Dancing. Slideshows with “then” (our graduation pic) and “now” (a pic taken over the weekend) photos. We talked sailing with Chris Stater, politics with Jose Iglesias and admired Karen Wood’s (nee Bilhiemer) happy marriage.
And after I swore I would never do this again…oh, I’ll be back to the planning table. This is my family, after all…