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The Grandeur of Life: Report
Our class has been hosting several pre-reunion events along the way to our 50th in June of 2017, and we have just returned from one of those events, a wonderful weekend in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which was superbly planned, organized, and financially underwritten in large part by Ted and Sally McPherson. Jonathan Vipond and Turner Smith also gave financial assistance so that the costs for the weekend were greatly reduced for the participants. Thanks to all four, and particularly to Ted and Sally who guided us through the weekend with affection and care for detail, making it a bonding event we will all long remember.
A total of 49 classmates and spouses/partners took part, enjoying each other's company, renewing friendships, and having an opportunity to be students again over the course of our time together.
We stayed at the historic Gettysburg Hotel right in the middle of town, across the street from the home where Abraham Lincoln stayed when he dedicated the first National Memorial Cemetery on November 19, 1963 in the speech that put Gettysburg on the map forever. As you might imagine, the whole town is steeped in history and emotion.
Friday evening we were in for a special treat, as Ted and Sally hosted everybody for dinner at their historic home, built in 1870 by Ted’s great-grandfather Edward McPherson. McPherson’s Ridge, which figured prominently in the first day of fighting in the battle of Gettysburg, is named after Ted’s great-grandfather, who owned a farm on what became the battlefield.
The house remains as it was when built, filled with family memorabilia, high ceilings, incredibly beautiful furniture and paintings, and room for dinner for 50 -- no problem.
Saturday morning we were up early for a private visit to the modern Gettysburg National Monument Visitors Center. If you’ve never been to Gettysburg or haven’t been there in a long time, you should come just for the introductory video -- narrated by Morgan Freeman -- which gave us the historical and political contexts for the battles which took place on July 1, 2, and 3 of 1863. Then we viewed a “sound and light” rendering of the battles of July 3rd via an historic Cyclorama (basically a huge mural in the round) painted originally in 1884 and restored at a cost of approximately $18 million. Between the realistic renderings, the music, and the story itself, there were not many dry eyes among us when the show was over.
We left the Visitors Center and got into a very modern and comfortable coach to do a three-hour tour of the battlefields under the able tutelage of Sue Boardman, one of the most knowledgeable guides in the area. Those of us who had only read books about Gettysburg or viewed Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” on PBS were blown away by experiencing the actual terrain as Sue talked us through the action. She literally had us on the edge of our seats, waiting to hear what came next. Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, and Devil’s Den all came alive under her masterful story-telling.
In the afternoon most of us joined our classmate (and Civil War buff) Turner Smith who walked us across the now-peaceful fields retracing the route taken by the Rebel forces as they tried to defeat the Union armies in the battle known as Pickett's Charge. History became real in ways we could never have imagined. Many of us learned new respect for the word “swale” (“a low place or depression between ridges”) where we agreed most of us would have dropped into, and remained.
Saturday evening brought a farewell dinner at a local country club, complete with a wonderful jazz quartet playing during the cocktail hour. It also brought a wrap-up of the wonderful weekend and continued conversations that just went on and on, with promises of more to come. The camaraderie was palpable, between old friends and even between new friends.
As was said to us on numerous occasions by spouses and partners, “This is just the most inclusive group of genuine people.”
With kind regards,
Sent to all members of the Class of 1967