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Lo-Ellen grads from every decade celebrate anniversary

“It was five years, and that's a long time to be together with anyone, right?” she said Saturday, checking out items in the memorabilia room set up the cafeteria.
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Lo-ellen Park Secondary School grads Cindy Gibson, left, and Laurie Smith – class of 1980 – pose next to the Lo-ellen knight Saturday at the school. Lo-ellen marked its 50th birthday on the weekend. Darren MacDonald photo.
“It was five years, and that's a long time to be together with anyone, right?” she said Saturday, checking out items in the memorabilia room set up the cafeteria.

“Even though it has been so many years, it's neat to see so many people that you have an instant connection with. It was small – I think there was only 100 of us in those five years, total.”

Gibson was among about 500 people to attend the weekend event, joining four former classmates and three of her brothers who went to the school, as well as her parents.

“It was an opportunity to see family and friends at the same time,” she said. “I haven't been in this building for 34 years, and it's strange that it feels exactly the same to me.”

Mostly she remembers having fun and playing a lot of sports – tennis, volleyball and flag football. They were city champs in her final year. With so many big trees and homes built in the decades since she left, the city looks much different than the one she remembers.

“Sudbury looks beautiful now – and the trees are huge in this area.”

Gary Peck, teacher at Lo-Ellen for more than 30 years and a member of the organizing committee, said former students came from as far away as Hong Kong and California for the event. He credits Principal Craig Runciman for the event's success, as well as the 20-person organizing committee.

“We've had hundreds and hundreds of people come through the memorabilia room,” Peck said. “It's just been an amazing experience encountering students I taught in the '70s, '80s and beyond ... they want to see their fellow students again.

“We've had individuals here from every decade. It's just been a spectacular success.”

Dale Wilson was one of the original teachers when the school opened in the 1963-1964 school year, until his retirement in 1994. While always exciting, he said that first year was tough.
“Chaos,” was how he described it. “Including the principle, we had a staff of 12 for 185 students.”

While it was just grades 9-10 that first year, he said students were bused in from as far away as Killarney.

“Imagine having to do a 140-mile round trip every day for those students,” Wilson said.

But the legacy they established that first year is one reason why the school still means so much to so many people he said.

“A large proportion of our staff spent time as coaches and leaders.”

For his part, Peck says a lot of the same faces will likely be back for anniversary No. 60.

“It wouldn't surprise me at all – although it's unlikely I'll be involved,” he said. “This has been so incredibly successful, by all accounts, and I'm sure they'll want to repeat the success.”

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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