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First Brookfield East class ready for 50-year reunion

Aug. 4, 2014

In 1964, the first graduating class of Brookfield East High School received their diplomas and went off into the world.

In 2014, many will be coming back.

The class of '64's 50th reunion has been in the works for over a year and the pieces have now come together for a special weekend Sept. 5 to 7.

The process of planning the coming weekend was born from a chance encounter between two members of the class about 2,000 miles away from Brookfield.

"Jim Mabbott and Peg Zarske were really the ones that started it," Richard Larsen said. "Jim was walking through a mall (in Orange County, California) and saw Peg. They started talking about a 50th reunion."

The reunion itself will be the first for the Class of '64 since a get together in 1995 that commemorated 31 years since graduation.

Committee at work

A committee of nine, including Larsen and Susan Barth, has been hard at work planning the weekend and reaching out to members of the class who have been dispersed across the nation. In addition to Mabbott and Zarske, Larsen also currently calls California home.

"It's amazing how far and wide we've gone," Barth said. "We've been able to locate a lot of people for this one because we started so early and we've been more organized."

Barth noted that Facebook has been a helpful tool for the committee in locating the Class of '64.

"There were 199 graduates (in our class) and there's only six or seven that we've never been able to locate," Larsen said.

The weekend will kick-off with a reception at Brookfield Suites where classmates who may not have seen each other for 19 years, or even longer, will enjoy breaking the ice. The class will be taken on a tour of Brookfield East High School on Saturday before another get together at the Western Racquet Club. A golf outing will act as the finale to the weekend on Sunday at Kevel Hills in Richfield.

At least 70 members of the Class of '64 are expected to return next month.

"It'll be really casual and a lot of fun," Barth said. "We want to engage people and get everyone back together."

Big changes

Things have certainly changed quite a bit for Larsen and his classmates since their graduation. Larsen himself left the area nearly immediately after high school, but he insists that there is no sadness or regret when he returns and sees how the city and school have changed.

"When I was back for the 31st I took a drive around and I really liked what I saw," Larsen said. "It's more crowded now."

Larsen says that, for the class, the 50 years since graduation have seen the face of their worlds shift.

"We were the first wave of baby boomers and we grew up during the American Dream of the 1950's and early '60's. Everyone was graduating and hopeful and looking forward to starting lives and careers," Larsen said. "Very quickly, things went downhill with riots in the streets and Vietnam. We kind of graduated into turmoil."

No members of the Class of '64 were killed in Vietnam, although several served and some were wounded, according to Larsen.

"We were lucky," he said.

While none perished due to that conflict, Larsen did note that 18 members of his graduating class have passed away. Still, that leaves 181, which makes him hopeful that next month's reunion will not be his last.

"It could be the last one, but we could also do 60 (years)," Larsen said. "This Class has gone through a lot in the last 50 years, but we've weathered it, we're still here, and we're coming back."

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