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November 2017

Volume 2 | Number 6

Welcome to Rise

Welcome to the November 2017 edition of Rise Grand Island the alumni newsletter for Grand Island Senior High published every other month by the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. Rise is where we connect with thousands of Islanders across the globe, keeping you and them informed on what’s happening in Purple and Gold land, and reminiscing a little bit as well.

This is Volume 2, Number 6, the last edition of Rise this calendar year, our second year as the official publication for Islander Nation. Thanks for reading us and for your comments and support.

We really enjoy hearing from those of you who find Rise in your in-box every other month. Give us a shout, especially if you or a GISH alum you know has done something new, newsy, or newsworthy. You can reach us at

Our At the Top chronicles some major changes at the place you know as Grand Island Senior High. Some of these are bricks and mortar changes; some of these are program changes. Either way, what’s new has a sense of what’s old — and permanent — about Senior High.

Check out our Milestones section to find out what award an Islander from the  Class of 1963 has won to honor her lifelong commitment to public health.

Foundation Executive Director Traci Skalberg’s Shaking the World piece in this edition will detail this year’s Tradition of Excellence campaign. Her Your Legacy article will highlight the campaign's co-chairs, Ron and Lori Depue and the special affection they have for all things GIPS.

Our Class Reunion Update let’s you know who is going to party and when in case your class is on deck or maybe you just want to crash another class’s soiree and see a few old friends.

Our From the Island correspondent Taylor Keyes updates on what’s happening at Senior High during a busy fall at the state’s fifth largest high school.

Our Distant Mirror correspondent, Mike Monk, Class of 1967, tells the story of his son’s “Golden Birthday,” a most delightful tale set in the mountains of Italy and perfect for reflecting on what is important in life.

My I’ve Been Thinking column recalls a handful of memories from my days inside Memorial Stadium as a fan, as an athlete, as a student, and then as a fan again. Plans for a significant upgrade to the stadium are moving toward being final.

As usual we’ll see what songs were popular on the radio, at the movies, and on television each decade during November going back to the 1930s.

We hope you enjoy this Rise and remember to keep pushing on.

George Ayoub, Class of 1968
Editor, Rise Grand Island

At the Top

Making Changes, Staying the Same

If everything old is new again, big events are either coming or going these days at Grand Island Senior High.

Alums who visit the campus during summer class reunions are often struck by the sheer size of the building, which now stretches from Lafayette Avenue on the east to nearly Custer Avenue on the west and Forrest Street on the north to College Street on the south.

The campus is growing, too. Next summer the city of Grand Island is scheduled to close College Street between Lafayette and what would be Kruse Avenue if it extended into campus. The block or so will be turned into green space and connect the north part of campus with the south. The closing of College Street will also facilitate a dramatic upgrade to Memorial Stadium, which is also in the works (see below). The result will be a campus of 12 square blocks, not counting another couple blocks of softball fields north of Forrest Street. Here is a map of campus now — GISH Campus Map.

Remarkable, too, is the incredible condition of the original building on Lafayette, which opened in 1955 and where those of us for several generations found our way around imagining the four wings as “fingers” on a hand. Today a new building has a 500 and a 600 wing, a separate Success Academy just east of Memorial Stadium, and a campus on South Adams Street, which houses the Career Pathways Institute.

In total, the campuses host over 2,600 students and staff every day, making Grand Island Senior High the 49th largest city in the state Monday through Friday.

The vision for the Memorial Stadium Project, led by a generous gift from Lanny Martin, Class of 1964, is to make Memorial Stadium once again the premier high school stadium in the state, an accolade it earned when it opened in 1947 after a community campaign to fund and build it. While still on the drawing board, the hope is to recreate the community energy and involvement to restore Memorial Stadium to its magnificent legacy. More on this is January.

Nor are all the changes the “hardware”  variety either. Significant “software” changes are also coming to GISH. In the coming years all students will matriculate in one of the five academies in the Grand Island Prep Academy program. The academies cover health sciences; human services; technical services; power, robotics and security; and business and communications. The change will also bring about “block scheduling” for students. A description of the Prep Academy programs can be found here in these 2 articles from the GI Independent:

Prep academies will help students thrive

G.I. Prep Academies to make big changes in school day and all four years at GISH

All told, these are considerable changes happening at Senior High, making new again the place we called home for three (or if you’re young enough four) years. Here’s what’s old … old meaning traditional, longstanding, permanent: At October’s Hall of Honor Banquet several of the quartet of new inductees reminded us what was truly important when it comes to high school. They reminded us they were “products” of public education, products of a place that prepared them for a changing and challenging world, products of a place that prepared them to be the needed change and to leave the world a better place.

The campus may be bigger, the schedule different, the curriculum unlike previous generations, but here’s to some things at Grand Island Senior High never changing.


Pushing On

Margaret “Maggie” (Peterson) Brink, Class of 1963, was presented the prestigious J.G. Elliott Award from the University of Nebraska Medical Center for her longtime commitment to and advocacy of public health. Brink was given the award during the UNMC graduation ceremonies on May 7, 2017, at Baxter Arena in Omaha.

UNMC said Brink was “an integral leader in the reorganization of public health infrastructure in York County and helped found the Four Corners Health Department, which serves Butler, Polk, Seward and York counties. She has been president of the Four Corners Board of Health since 2007. She recently served as president of the National Association of Boards of Health. (She) is known throughout the state as a tireless advocate for public health. She taught at York High School for decades and has served on the York City Council for more than 20 years. She is a graduate of Hastings College and has a master’s degree from Fort Hays (Kansas) State University.”

As part of the J.G. Elliott Award, Brink was also awarded an honorary degree by the University of Nebraska to “recognize her achievements of extraordinary and lasting distinction.”

I've Been Thinking

Impressions Built to Last

My first recollection of Memorial Stadium at Grand Island Senior High remains one of my most endearing and vivid, a sensory delight from a glorious fall night when I was about 7 or 8.

My father — after plenty of begging on my part — took me to my first high school football game, the Islanders vs. the Fremont Tigers, a rough and tumble affair I believe was won by the boys in purple and gold. I say that because everyone around us was happy afterward.

When you’re a little guy, seeing over adults or teenagers can be a challenge at a football game, so the game’s details are rather muddled.

But after the victory, Dad led me down the stairs of the west stadium, across the cinder track, and toward the gate at the north end of the field. A chill had swallowed the night. Suddenly my father took a diagonal right, cutting across the field and through the north end zone, the sacred piece of ground for which my newly-minted heroes from good old GI High were valiantly fighting moments earlier.

The grass was deep and green and cold. Dampness crept over the edge of my shoes and onto my socks. The smell of burning leaves somewhere in the neighborhood cut through the nip in the air.

The joy of my first high school football game, a win for the Islanders, walking in the end zone with my dad, and my senses connecting the dots imprinted the experience deep within my memory bank.

Memorial Stadium is poised to become big news, not simply for Senior High alumni, but for the community as well. As many of you know and as we wrote in this issue’s “At the Top” segment, a gift from Lanny Martin (Class of 1964) to renovate and update Memorial Stadium has stirred not only the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation and school district into action and partnership with Martin, but also in the community where I’m hearing a growing buzz. The final plans for the project are several months away, but suffice that, like me, Memorial Stadium holds a particular place in the hearts and minds of many who have called Grand Island home.

My contemporaries recall with great joy the all-city grade school track meet for Fifth and Sixth graders, a massive event in the spring that filled the stadium. How elementary PE teachers orchestrated hundreds of 11 and 12-year olds to field events and starting lines without ever losing one of them is remarkable indeed.

We also played the Barr/Walnut football games to packed houses, orange and purple on one side, brown and gold on the other. The annual game was a yearly, critical piece of local history writ large. And although we played other afternoon junior high games there, an internecine struggle of such magnitude could only be played at Memorial Stadium under the lights.

Nor did anyone want to miss out on a chance to be part of that history. When a Walnut teammate missed the bus that took us to the stadium from school, which was then on Elm Street in the old Senior High building, he ran all the way to the Barr/Walnut game … in his uniform, helmet on his head, football cleats clickity-clacking the nearly two miles to Memorial Stadium.

Band members will remember, too, the glorious autumn mornings of the Harvest of Harmony followed by long and sometimes grueling afternoons at Memorial Stadium for field competitions.

The stadium served as a community hub, a focal point for Grand Island whether is was music or sports or some other gathering. If it was at Memorial Stadium, it was big and it was important.

Other memories remain firm, too: I embedded handfuls of Memorial Stadium track cinders into my shoulder when my lean at the tape of the 100-yard dash turned into a tumble.

During a number of bogus bomb threats in the fall of 1967, all students were sent across the street to the stadium, where we acted as you might expect high schoolers who had been given a free get-out-of-school card to act. (No, I wasn’t the caller. But thanks for thinking of me.)

Like many of you, I graduated in Memorial Stadium, too, the makeshift stage facing the east stadium, the long wait for the speeches and finally your name.

And, of course, for those Islanders who served in the military — some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice — and for those of us who knew and loved them, the east side of the east stadium holds a deep and reverent place in our community.

Memorial Stadium is part of all our shared histories and we, a part of its … something I became aware of when I took my place in the stands and watched my son on the field of play.

A place like that imprints a lasting impression.

In the fall of 2000, I was sent to South Bend, Ind., to write newspaper columns about the Nebraska/Notre Dame football game. The Huskers won that day 27-24 in overtime and after I had filed my column, I left the press box and headed toward the north gate and my car. The sun had slipped behind the stadium and a chilly wind blew at my back as I trudged ahead, the computer in my backpack heavy on my shoulder.

Suddenly, I realized I was in the north end zone. Grand Island’s Memorial Stadium came flooding back to me.

The grass was deep and green and cold. Dampness crept over the edge of my shoes and onto my socks. And although this was the middle of a college campus, I swear I could smell burning leaves cutting through the nip in the air.

Alumni Reunions

Planning a class reunion?

We can help get you started!
Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion. We will post it to our website.

Kari Price, Alumni Coordinator
308.385.5900 ext. 1148


NOTE: Reunion information in this newsletter is current as of the publication date. To see Reunion updates and additions go to our Alumni Reunions page.

Class of 1956

The Class of 1956 wishes to extend an invitation to fellow classmates to join them at their monthly gathering. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Midtown Holiday Inn at 6:00 pm. For more information please contact Ed Felske at (308) 382-3111.

Class of 1966

The Class of 1966 wishes to extend an invitation to fellow classmates to join them at their monthly lunch gathering. They meet the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Platt Duetsche at 1:00 pm.

Class of 1968

The Class of 1968 will hold its 50th Reunion on June 22-23, 2018. Both nights will be at Riverside Golf Club. Hotel information is below. The cost for the weekend is only $50 a person including dinner each night. ($60 after May 1) A class booklet with information and addresses of classmates is also available for $10. Check out and like our Facebook page — “GISH Class of 1968.”

Registrations should be sent to: Class of ‘68 50th Reunion, PO Box 5201, Grand Island, NE 68802. Make checks payable to Class of 1968. Be sure to include the additional $10 if you want a booklet. Please include a short (100 words or so, at most) newsy “update” on your life and include any contact information you want to share: phone, address, email, social media.

Questions should be directed to or via Facebook.

Here’s to ’68 and seeing everyone in June as we celebrate our 50th Reunion.

Hotel Info: Rooms are blocked at Best Western Plus, 2707 S. Locust Street 308-381-8855 (15 rooms @$112.46); Grand Hotel, 2503 S. Locust Street, 308-384-1330 (15 rooms @$114.95); MainStay Suites, 3051 S. Locust Street, 308-382-9280, (11 rooms @$128.99 for a single queen bed, 9 rooms @ $138.99 2 double beds); and Rodeway Inn   3205 S. Locust Street, 308-384-1333, (7 rooms @$97.99  for a single queen bed and 13 rooms @ 97.99 for 2 double beds).

These are all close to Riverside. There are also hotels on Highway 281. Either way, reservations should be made early. It’s a very busy weekend in Grand Island.

Shaking the World

Your Investment Matters

Sometimes, all we see is numbers.  But students are not numbers.  They each have a story.  It is these stories that our donors invest in. 

I cried at work again today.  Why? Because your investment matters. 

Today, YOUR GIPS Foundation paid for a student to get emergency dental care because his family could not.  We all know how much a tooth can hurt.  Thanks to a GIPS Social Worker and our generous donors, this kiddo can get some relief.

Today, YOUR GIPS Foundation funded a dual-credit class for a student who had done everything right, but was not able to come up with the funds for this class.

Today YOUR GIPS Foundation funded scholarships for 8 elementary students to attend the Sing Around Nebraska experience because these kids have music in their souls and they could not afford to pay for this experience. 

This is why I cried today...because TOGETHER we are helping our students navigate through their personal and educational hurdles and providing them opportunities that they would not have.  Today and EVERY day.

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

A message from Ron and Lori Depue, co-chairs of the GIPS Foundation Tradition of Excellence Campaign…

Public education is at the root of our family tree.  We come from a family of teachers.  Both of our mothers taught in country schools in the 1940’s.  Ron’s father was a teacher, coach, and administrator for 57 years.  Lori spent many years teaching here in Grand Island at Lincoln Elementary. 

Our tree only grows stronger as the branches continue the education lineage.  Our children, Emily, Jeff, and Tim, are all products of this fine school system.  Grand Island Public Schools is personal for us.  We saw our children thrive as they followed the path from Newell Elementary, to Walnut Middle School, and to Grand Island Senior High.  They each were the beneficiary of dedicated and loving faculty and staff who made a significant difference in their lives.  In addition to their classwork, our children learned the value of hard work, commitment, and teamwork.  They were ready for college and each pursued their dreams of nurturing and helping others.  Two are teachers, one is a nurse. We are proud of them and we are grateful for their GIPS education.

So, what is special about Grand Island Public Schools?  The answer is, YOU, US, This Community.  Grand Island has always come together as a community to invest in students so that OUR tradition of excellence continues.  We did this as parents at Newell, Walnut, and GISH.  We now invest with the GIPS Foundation.  The work of our GIPS Foundation takes on so many forms including dual credit and college scholarships, classroom grants, individual grants, music, sports, and arts grants and everything in between.  So many of the stories about the difference we make for individual students are untold…but the work is powerful and it is what sets our schools apart.  Last year, with help from donors like YOU, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation delivered $1,228,210 in additional opportunities to students!

The Tradition continues with YOU!  We need your help to invest in these value-added student opportunities.  Annually, we must raise funds from donors like you so we can continue to invest in opportunities for our students that are beyond the school budget. 

We hope that you will join our family and the teachers and staff of GIPS by investing in additional opportunities for our students.  Your gift to the Foundation is an investment in excellence for our students.  The tradition continues with YOU!

P.S. Giving Tuesday, November 28, is a perfect time to invest in students.  Give the gift of opportunity this holiday season!

On the Island

News From the Halls of Senior High

An eight-page draft has been distributed to all students and staff members of Grand Island Senior High about the plans concerning the GISH Preparatory Academies. The draft proposes the installation of six personalized academies to help  students thrive, being college ready, career ready, community ready, and world ready. The freshman academy is designed for incoming students to explore interests and find where they fit into the other five academies. Other proposed academies include: Health Sciences, Human Services, Technical Sciences, Power, Robotics & Security, and Business & Communication.

To accommodate the new prep academies, the transition to a block scheduling system has been proposed. In this new system, students will still take 28 semesters of chosen electives and two semesters of physical education, along with the required four years of English, and three years of math, social studies, and science. What will change is the addition of four years of pathway electives/capstone classes. Every week will be split into “A” and “B” days. “A” days include the four core classes while “B” days include three blocks of electives and one pathway class. In the new schedule, students will supposedly have more personalized instruction, more periods of electives, longer cooperative learning activities, more time for reflection, less information to process, less transition time, and more time to look into their career pathway. The drafted timeline states that block scheduling and the freshman academy will be implemented for the 2018-2019 school year. The remaining five academies are set to launch for the 2019-2020 school year.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and an important kickstart to a productive school day. This year, a new breakfast program has been introduced to Grand Island Senior High. A “Grab & Go” breakfast is now being offered to all students and all faculty members for no cost. In previous years, when breakfast was only offered in the two cafeterias, only around 200 students were participating. This year, four “Grab & Go” carts have been placed around campus to make the free breakfast even more accessible. These carts also promote socialization, as students can choose where they eat, whether it be while walking through the halls, sitting on a bench, or at the tables and chairs around campus, they can be around their friends. Students are also allowed to enjoy their food in their first period classes, making this program even more convenient. With this new installation and the addition of four new locations, nearly 1,000 students are taking advantage of the free meal. Teachers and staff members are being encouraged to participate in this offering too, setting a healthy example for students and modeling the importance of eating a balanced breakfast daily.

October marked the end of another very successful marching band season: all superior ratings in competitions. With new director, Dr. Daniel Laing, band members, and parents were sure the band would take a few steps back in competition. Despite this change in direction, the band unified and pulled through with flying colors. The band earned best in parade at the Harvest of Harmony, and division one superior ratings in all field competitions: Harvest of Harmony, Lincoln Public Schools (LPS), and at state (NSBA). This year’s seniors (class of 2018) have experienced four straight superior seasons, something that has not happened in quite a while.

Click for GIPS facebook: GISH Band album 1 and album 2

The Islander Varsity Football team finished off another successful season. Their home game record was 3-1 with an away game record of 3-3, many lost games being very close. The team’s win-loss record qualified them for state playoffs, where they faced Creighton Prep in the first round, losing yet another close one.

Click for GIPS facebook: GISH Football album 1 and album 2

It is that time of year when the Senior Class decides on a class song, motto, flower, etc. The Class of 2018 votes are in. The class colors are mauve and ocher, the class song is the “Friends” theme song, the class motto is “Fake it till you make it,” and the prom theme is the “Great Gatsby.” The result that stirred seniors the most was the class flower: a bag of flour. This choice was supposed to be light-hearted and fun, but when it took the 34.1 percent vote over a sunflower, gerber daisy, and venus flytrap, many students, lacking a sense of humor, were enraged. An apology email was issued to the seniors along with a new poll, eliminating the option of a bag of flour and the venus flytrap.

A Distant Mirror

The Golden Birthday

Lake Como, Italy - July 10, 1989

The Monks’ rented car cruised along the Italian Autostrada north toward Lake Como, and James Monk for about the 100th time that afternoon realized with delight that this was his “Golden Birthday” and that he was now 10 years old on the 10th of July.

“Ten on the 10th,” thought James, as he twisted and adjusted the arms, legs, and head of Michelangelo, the rubber “action figure” from the television show “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”  James’s dad Mike and sister Susie had purchased Michelangelo at a toy shop near the Piazza de Spagne in Rome three days earlier. Along with Michelangelo, James had been given various other birthday toys designed principally to satisfy a boy’s natural desire to get a fair share of pure toys and a minimum of sweaters and socks. This desire was of course particularly strong on a “Golden Birthday.”

James had become familiar with the concept of a “Golden Birthday” at age nine in the summer of 1988 at his grandparents’ lake house in Okoboji, Iowa. James, his mother Janet, and sister Susie usually spent three or four weeks there each summer, with Mike joining them for a week or so. They slept late, swam, watched television game shows, read, and goofed around.  Olivia Watson from next door at the lake had explained that a “Golden Birthday” was when you were as old as the number of the day on which you were born.

“You know, like you are five on the fifth, or for you Susie, 25 on the 25th,” explained Olivia. Susie, who was now 13, had been born on May 25, 1976.

“So my Golden Birthday is next year, when I am 10 on the tenth,” said James.

James’s father Mike was the first to glimpse Lake Como as the car went down the winding road through the mountains near the lake. “Well now I’m not one to go out on a limb, but I bet 5,000 lire that this is Lake Como, gang!”

“Wow, that’s cool,” said Susie.

They were all taken by the beauty of the view from the steeply sloping mountains that closely framed the narrow southern end of the lake.  They were headed to the Villa d’Este Hotel in Cernobbio, a fancy Italian hotel right on the lake.

“James,” said Janet, “do you realize we are staying at probably our nicest hotel on the whole trip here in Lake Como, and it happens to be on your birthday?”

“I know Mom, three swimming pools, one indoors.  I wish they had motorcycles to rent, too.”

“I am looking forward to the restaurant,” Janet admitted, “Your father and I had a great dinner there the last time we were in Italy.”


“As long as they have spaghetti Bolognese, I’ll be fine,” allowed James. James had seen his fondness for this basic Italian dish grow to where he had two servings at one sitting at the Buca de L’Orafo in Florence.

“Oh, I’m so sick of your spaghetti Bolognese, James, I could scream,” said Susie. They wound down the road, exited the Autostrada, paid the toll, and drove more slowly through the little villages ringing the lake. The signs to “Villa d’Este” were as prominently displayed as the arrows to the various villages, and the Monks’ car soon entered the spacious grounds of the hotel. After they checked in, they secured their two adjoining rooms. Janet and Mike wanted to unpack a bit before donning their swim suits. The only quirk they encountered was the porter’s confusion as to what to do with the Trojan war helmet and toy sword James had received in Athens for an early birthday present. Mike assured the porter that they wanted the helmet and sword in the room and not left in the car, knowing James would not want to be far from such important possessions.

James and Susie then headed toward the pools on their own, semi-experienced travelers as they were. Janet and Mike soon joined the kids and stationed themselves on the deck of a pool that actually floated on the lake. Susie and James soon decided to explore the indoor pool. Janet swam laps at the floating pool, while Mike dozed and read as the spirit moved him. After about a half an hour, Mike joined the kids in the indoor pool, partly to see if they were alive, and partly to check out the pool for himself.

“Dad, this place is great! I love this hotel,” said James. “Come swim with me. They have this huge water jet underneath the water that you swim against, and it is so strong that it propels you back!”

“And dad,” said Susie. “They have two roped off lanes just for laps, and the water is extremely warm. It’s like a bath.” Mike did a few “can openers” into the pool, and let James and Susie dive from his shoulders. He then swam a couple of laps, returned to the floating pool, and went back to his dozing and reading, with Janet reading beside him.

  About an hour later Susie sprinted onto the deck of the floating pool. She spied her mom and dad and announced, “James and I met two children from Ireland, and we’ve been playing with them.  How long are we going to be swimming, since they’ve asked James and me to have a drink with them at the bar after swimming. The girl is about my age and the boy is one year older. They like playing with James too.”

“What are you guys going to have at the bar, a vodka tonic?”  asked Mike.

“No, dad,” Susie brushed her father off. “We’ll have Cokes or Coke lights, or Evian or something. Can we?”

“Sure,” said Mike, “We’ll go change soon so you can make your date. We have dinner reservations at eight you know.”


“I know, dad, but we have three hours,” said Susie.

Just then James sprinted onto the deck and addressed his parents breathlessly, “I’ve got to go change, I’m having a drink at the bar with our new friends, Let’s go!”

“OK … relax,” his father pleaded, as they proceeded up to the rooms.

After the children went down for their drink with their new friends, Janet and Mike enjoyed a moment of quiet and reading by themselves. Mike went out to read on the balcony outside their room, positioned himself on the chair with his legs up on the little patio table, and began to read “I, Claudius.” The balcony presented a gorgeous view of Lake Como and the opposite shore, which rose precipitously and was a misty dark green in color. Various houses, buildings, and what seemed like villas, or modest castles, dotted the opposite shore at dramatic heights. The weather was cooling and clouds now darkened what had previously been a sunny day. The cool weather and threat of rain calmed and soothed Mike as he abandoned his book and drank in the atmosphere. Moments of quiet and beauty like this invariably caused Mike, particularly when far away from his California home, to reflect upon his life. His mind drifted over his family, his law practice, his friends, his health, his finances. As usual, he found shortcomings in his attention to investments, his failure to take every possible picture to preserve the memories of his children’s youth, and his failure to communicate sufficiently with family and distant friends from college and law school. But as always, he quickly realized his general delight with virtually all aspects of his life. Now at age 40, he had little, if any, of the self-doubt or lack of fulfillment often experienced by males reaching the threshold of middle age. The only really gnawing concern for Mike was the pressure to use those years of life allotted to him in the most fulfilling manner possible.

The clouds were now thick over the lake, and a summer rain began to fall.  The raindrops were misty and light at first, but soon began to fall more heavily.  Mike grabbed his book and scooted inside from the balcony. Soon flashes of lightning were seen outside the window. Rumblings of thunder followed closely. The sights and sounds of a thunderstorm always reminded Mike of his youth in Nebraska, in which thunderstorms were commonplace. The inner sense of catharsis and relief that Mike associated with thunderstorms again rushed over him like a wave splashing him with serenity.   

“Hi!” said Susie as she came into the hotel room. She was flushed and excited as she entered. “Our new friends from Ireland are great – we’ve been playing backgammon and having drinks.  Patrick is 13 and Rachel is 11 and they are both very nice. And the have these great Irish accents. I told them I was going to come back to take a run with my dad, and they said, ‘And why would you want to go out and drown yourself in the pouring rain?’”

Susie did her best to mimic the accent of her new friends, and did a most creditable job, nicely catching the lilt and cadence of the speech she had heard. “James is still playing backgammon with them. It was James and Patrick against Rachel and me. Only James and I just rolled the dice, since they know how to play, and we’re just learning. James and Patrick won six straight games, so James thinks he’s like this great backgammon player or something. Anyway, dad, can we take our run?”


Susie, who was already an avid runner, looked plaintively at her father, “Please.”

“Sue, I was really looking forward to running, too, but we have serious lightning out there,” her father replied. “Did you ever hear about Lee Trevino or those other golfers getting hit by lightning? Outside, running around trees in a lightning storm is not the place to be…”

“I thought you liked to run in the rain and that it was all cooling and everything?”

“Yes, sweetheart, but not in the lightning, which can be considerably less cooling.”
“OK,” moped Susie, who then picked up the Michelangelo action figure and began twisting its arms and legs and head.

About 20 minutes later James came in and also began to talk about Patrick and Rachel. “They are very polite mom, and Patrick and I won eight straight games of backgammon!”

“It’s Patrick who is playing,” said Susie.

“We’re both doing it,” snapped James.

“Well, you two need to get dressed for dinner,” said their mother. “Since we have reservations in the main hotel at eight.” Once dressed in his tie and blazer, James realized he had not told Patrick and Rachel that it was his “Golden Birthday.”  Feeling more and more at home in the new hotel and having been briefly at their room after backgammon, James decided he should go over and tell them immediately.

“I’m going to go tell Patrick and Rachel that it’s my 10th birthday,” James announced.

“Hey, wait a minute, James,” said his father. “We’re headed out to dinner soon. And do you even know where their room is?”

“Sure,” said James. “I visited it for a bit.”

“Well, you’ll see them at dinner probably,” said Janet. “But you don’t have time to see them now.” 
The main dining facility at the Villa d’Este is a spacious rectangular room with large retractable glass windows on three sides, providing a full view of the lake and the opposite shore from most of the room. The shore across the lake rose steeply into the sky and was blanketed by trees, villas and green everywhere. Partially enshrouded by fog, the green contrasted sharply with the midnight blue of the lake. James, Sue, Janet, and Mike were among the first patrons to arrive for dinner, and they were given a table adjacent to a window overlooking the lake and the northern grounds of the hotel.  


After their waiter brought wine for Mike and Janet, and mineral water and a coke for Susie and James, several birthday toasts were made.  

“A toast to being 10, since that’s a hell of a good age to be! A toast to Michelangelo and the other Ninja Turtles! A toast to Italy and spaghetti Bolognese! A toast to the Red Sox!”

All four diners seemed particularly pleased that the right joyous birthday spirit had been reached. Then Sue said, “I see Patrick and Rachel.”

Patrick, Rachel, and their older brother, who looked to be about 20, and a man and woman likely to be their parents, were walking toward the restaurant across the northern grounds of the hotel, directly in front of the Monk table. Susie and James both waved. Rachel saw them and vigorously waved back with a smile. Rachel, Patrick, and family were soon seated two tables away from the Monks, also at a table next to the window overlooking the lake.

Dinner for the Monks proceeded as delightfully as it had begun, and the excellent food, service, and view relaxed everyone. James had just finished his pasta. He had chosen the local specialty most closely resembling spaghetti Bolognese, and he was feeling very satisfied. He had enjoyed a terrific “Golden Birthday,” in no small part because of the new friends he had made. But the family focus on his birthday at dinner was special, too, and James felt appropriately celebrated.

Suddenly James saw a waiter walking toward him with a cake with lighted candles on it. In fact, it was the very proper man who had greeted and seated them when they entered the dining room. James saw his mom and dad smile and saw the man with the cake coming directly toward him. In only slightly accented English, the Maître D wished James a “Happy Birthday” and placed the cake with the burning candles in front of James. James looked down at the cake and saw that it said, “Happy Birthday, James” and had 10 candles on it. Soon his parents, sister, and much of the sophisticated crowd in the restaurant were signing Happy Birthday to James. His first thought was “How did the waiter know my name and that is was my Golden Birthday?” He soon realized that his parents had arranged it.  

James then beamed a smile as the singing ended. He then made a secret wish and blew out all 10 candles with a single breath. Now his wish might come true. Mike then quietly asked the Maître D if he could cut not only four pieces of cake for their table, but also pieces for the children sitting two tables away. The Maître D smoothly assured him that it would be his pleasure. Soon Rachel, Patrick, and their brother found pieces of cake in front of them.  

They smiled and waved a thank you to the Monk table. For James, the special nature of his Golden Birthday had been acknowledged. He quietly basked in the glow of the moment.    

In Memoriam

September and October memorial list of GISH Alumni

CHRIS JOHNSON, Class of 1982, died August 26, 2017, in Colby, Kan. He lived in Boelus. He was 54.

ED BURGHARDT, Class of 1953, died August 30, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 82.

HAROLD SCHEEL, Class of 1942, died August 30, 2017, in Valencia, Calif. He was 93.

SANDY (POLLARD) HURYTA, Class of 1982, died Sept. 4, 2017, in Aurora, Colo. She lived in Fort Lupton, Colo. She was 53.

BOB LINDEN, Class of 1960, died Sept. 5, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 75.

BOB CLAUSEN, Class of 1946, died Sept. 10, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 89.

GEORGE STURM, Class of 1961, died Sept. 12, 2017, in Kokomo, Ind. He lived in Wolbach. He was 74.

DAVID HATTON, Class of 1972, died Sept. 18, 2017, in Escondido, Calif. He lived in San Diego. He was 62.

CAROL ANN HANSEN, Class of 1966, died Sept. 20, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 68.

MARLENE (KUNZE) PETERS, Class of 1955, died Sept. 22, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 79.

RAY HAYMAN, Class of 1948, died Sept. 25, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 89.

DANIEL HILLYER, Class of 1981, died Oct. 1, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz. He was 54.

JORDAN MEIER, Class of 2007, died October 3, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 29.

DEANNA LEA (BAXTER) EVERSOLL, Class of 1956, died Oct. 4, 2017, in Lincoln. She was 78.

NANCY (HOFFERBER) DEMUTH, Class of 1954, died Oct. 7, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 81.

GERALD ROUSE, Class of 1962, died Oct. 11, 2017, in Seward. He was 73.

EDITH PINKSTON, long time art teacher in the Grand Island Public Schools, died Oct. 21, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 104.

YOLANDA DAVIS-DOWELL, Class of 1978, died Oct. 13, 2017, in Colorado Springs, Colo. She was 55.

DAVE MCCARTHY, Class of 1956, died Oct. 20, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 79.

GLENDA (REIMERS) BECKER, Class of 1965, died Oct. 21, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 70.

ARLENE (LIEBSACK) KING, Class of 1944, died Oct. 28, 2017, in Lincoln. She was 90.

LLOYD WILSEY, Class of 1981, died Oct. 31, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 55.

To report an alumni death since October 31, 2017, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to

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