On the subject of class reunions, there is a saying that simply says this, "Time endears but cannot fade the memories that classmates and friends have made." "And this year's reunion was no exception," said Mrs. Virginia B. Jefferson, the interim chairperson of the association.
"In true, dear old Webster style, this year's Webster High School Reunion of Classes made a 'pack' of memories—not to mention a Min 'den' full of fun," added Jefferson.
Jefferson and the rest of the WHS Alumni Planning Association had already prepped reunion participants to "Get ready; we've planned a 'howling' good time for the 600+ alumni who registered for this reunion!"
The WHS Alumni Association chose this year's theme as: "Commemorating 50 years of Webster High School--Keeping Hope and the Legacy Alive." Jefferson, who is of course a proud alum of WHS, quickly pointed out that "Minden is the place where dreams were first implanted and the seeds of success were first sown. Webster High School played a tremendous part in that vision and hope; and now, we honor, salute and remember. All of the graduates of Webster High School, no matter what year they graduated, owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the teachers, faculty, and staff that taught, mentored, disciplined, sacrificed and most of all, refused to accept mediocrity," said Jefferson who immediately became overwhelmed with tears.
Today, Webster High School graduates continue their proud and wonderful legacy all over the world. The "reunion" of WHS classes can be traced back to 1970 when the graduating class of 1955 experienced the loss of their first classmate.
Mrs. Gatha Heard Smith, an educator in Webster Parish at that time, sprung into action. She called on her fellow classmate, Mrs. Noisey B. Washington Jones, who was in Georgia at the time, to compose a calendar of activities for a three-day event.
Since the Mindenites of her 1955 classmates wanted to hold their first class reunion in 1971, Noisey, without hesitation, made the plans and mailed the calendar of activities to the '55 WHS Class Committee, and the rest, as they say, is history. WHS reunions, to this very day, still follow that calendar of activities.
The '71 reunion was a huge success, so the Class of '55 voted to come back to Webster every five years, beginning in 1975, where the classes of 1950 – 1960 were invited to attend. In 1980, the classes from 1924-1974 were invited. Noisey and the other participants always had a great time.
In 2005, Noisey travelled to Minden for the last time for a reunion. She, like countless others, no matter what they were involved in or how far away they were, Webster High School Alumni somehow managed to make it back home to Minden to the "wolf den" and reunion.
The WHS Class of 1960 gave their 50th class reunion in 2010, invited the Class of '55 to attend as their special guests, but Noisey was unable to attend. She died on June 30th of this year.
"We mourn her death because we have lost another one of the building blocks of the WHS Alumni Association," said Jefferson.
One building block, the Honorable Rodney D. Seamster, City Councilman from District A, was the chairperson of the alumni association for many years. Seamster's sudden death in April 2010 left a huge void that no one has been able to fill.
"We were deeply saddened by both of these deaths; we already miss both of them dearly--for who will be able to forget everything that they did over the years to make our WHS reunions fun, successful and truly unforgettable," added Jefferson.
The WHS Alumni Association had something for everyone for the 2011 – 10th Reunion of Classes, and age was not a factor. Despite the blazing heat, beginning on August 4, the WHS Alumni Association sponsored a golf tournament at the Grove and got the reunion tee'd off.
Proceeds from the event were donated to the WHS Alumni Association's Scholarship Fund. After pre-registration packages were picked up in the morning at the Minden Forestry Building, class parties were also held at Forestry Building, later on that day.
One thing can be said, the WHS "Wolf Pack" really sticks together. When Mrs. Jefferson and some of the other participants were questioned the next day about what went on at the Forestry building the night before, they all agreed, in unison, that they were bound by the "pack creed"- a wolf only growls and howls at the moon.
Imagine this; they were intentionally evasive, deliberately slow in responding and did not give up any other details; but, they did offer that "some of the reunion goers stayed up too late, got up too early, and still had a great time!"
On August 5, additional registration was held at the Forestry Building. The Friday, social "hour" which included meeting, greeting, eating, and then repeating, commenced after registration. WHS graduates, and now, Webster Parish Police Jurors, the Honorable Vera B. Davison (District 10) and the Honorable Jerri Musgrow Lee (District 9), acted as hostesses.
The Honorable Joe Cornelius, Sr., Minden City Councilman from District A and former councilman from that district, Mr. Theron Winzer also assisted as hosts.
The Forestry Building had been decorated, and memorabilia and archives from the Webster High School Alumni Center were displayed. After the social "hour" was over, the alumni spruced themselves up for a formal event – the Blue and White Ball.
After an evening of dinner and dancing until the wee hours of the morning at the Minden Civic Center, the alumni finally managed to drag themselves to their respective dens.
On Saturday, August 6, the WHS Alumni Parade Committee kicked the day off with a parade in downtown Minden. Family members of Mr. W. Leon Hayes, Mr. Grover C. Lewis, and Mr. Robert T. Tobin were honored as grand marshals for the parade.
All were past principals (now deceased). Ms. Janelle Thornton, the chairperson of the committee announced that the Class of '69 won "Best Float" honors and bragging rights until the next time.
Mrs. Linda Cooper Baker, a resident of Minden and graduate of the '69 WHS class was extremely excited. Linda and her entire class are looking forward to the next time when they have vowed to "win again!"
After the parade, designees from the WHS Alumni Association went to the Sheppard Street Cemetery to pay respect to former faculty and classmates who had passed away. Flowers and wreaths were placed at the gravesites where they were laid to rest.
After the pilgrimage to the cemetery, it was back to the Minden Fairgrounds for a family picnic. Although the temperature soared well above 100 degrees, food was everywhere and there was a great variety—everything from all kinds of barbecue to fried fish and the trimmings were readily available.
There was just enough time to take a quick "wolf" nap after the picnic.
The Wolf Pack Banquet began with dinner being served, followed by the program. The program consisted of several skits entitled, "Excerpts from Dear Old Webster," in which WHS Alumni actors re-created well-known anecdotes and events from their school days at Webster. Some of the actors included: Lt. Col. (Retired) Samuel Mims as Mr. O.D. Mims (former educator and principal); Ms. Velta Swanson had double, Oscar-performance roles as Mrs. June Turner and Mrs. Lillian Mitchell (both former teachers); Coach Bonnie Ray Hudson emulated Coach Osiah Jones (legendary basketball coach at WHS); Mr. Gerald Kimble played a very convincing Coach Lee Arthur Flentroy (legendary football coach at WHS); and Captain Robert Stutson, Jr. gave a sterling performance of Mr. Robert T. Tobin (veteran, educator, principal, deacon, activist, Mayor of Minden. . .Mr. You name it; He did it!)
The banquet participants were well entertained—to the point that the Minden Civic Center was filled with laughter and tears.
One alum said, "I am sure that if either one of those individuals who were honored here tonight could come back, and see and hear the lasting affect that they stamped on the lives of their students, their hearts would be filled with an indescribable joy that they could not contain. I am certain that they would say, Job well done!"
After the banquet ended, it was back to the Forestry Building for individual class parties.
Sunday, August 7, was the last day for the WHS Reunion of Classes. An afternoon Vesper Service ended the activities. Representatives from the Delta GEMS and the chairperson, Mrs. Saundra J. Martin, assisted and escorted the 600+ alumni graduates in the Minden Civic Center—single file—by class year. Donned in their white and blue and graduation caps, the Alumni Graduates of WHS marched in and were seated by graduation year.
The guest speaker was The Reverend Felix Miguel Jones, a Minden native and the son of Mrs. JoAnn Jones McWoodson, a '64 WHS graduate. Since 2005, Reverend Jones has lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and pastored the Phillips Memorial C.M.E. Church. He answered his "call" to preach at the tender age of 16.
Reverend Jones treated the alumni graduates and their guests to an inspiring message. He challenged the audience to always rise above circumstances. His message focused on how an eagle is able to rise above the ground so high and soar so effortlessly.
Unlike other birds, an eagle waits, expects, believes, and uses what God provides—the air and its currents—to soar high-- without expending a lot of energy. Reverend Jones used Isaiah 40:31 as the background scripture and text for his message.
Rev. Jones stated he was humbled that the alumni association chose him as this year's speaker. Not only did it do his heart good to see all of the alumni sitting in the audience, he was glad to be back in Minden because it gave him the opportunity to see his mother, and it also gave him the opportunity to see other (legacy) children that he had walked and gone to school with. Jones is married and has 2 sons.
The WHS Vesper Service also featured a powerful praise dance from Ms. Ora Jean Clayton (Class of '68) and spirit-filled, gospel solos from Mrs. Shara B. Williams (legacy daughter of Mrs. Linda Cooper Baker) and Ms. Angela B. Wills (legacy daughter of Mr. Charles and the late Mrs. Bobbie Wills).
In addition, the WHS Alumni Association awarded two scholarships—one to Rodarian Rogers and another to Diamond Dillard (both legacy grandchildren of WHS graduates).
The vesper service also included memoriam recognition, a speaker award presentation and the recognition of surviving faculty, staff, and students. Mrs. Mary G. Thompson (WHS Class of '33) was recognized as the most senior graduate of Webster High School. Her Highness, Mrs. Erma Broadnax Wells, Miss Webster '44--all the way from California--also graced the alumni graduates and guests at the Minden Civic Center with her presence.
The WHS Vesper Service ended with the singing of the Webster High School Alma Mater.
After the alma mater, the WHS alumni graduates marched out for the recessional-- undoubtedly thinking that we have all taken different paths in life, but no matter where we have gone, we have taken a little bit of each other and 'Dear Old Webster' with us everywhere--definitely thinking about the wonderful time that they had this past weekend – and anxiously looking and thinking forward to the next reunion of classes in 2014.