ThatMomentGORHAM — Fifteen minutes before the noontime luncheon, Art Lekousi and his wife, Freda, both dressed in navy blue shirts, sat at a reserved table at Ocean Garden Restaurant waiting for the rest of his classmates to arrive.

Since the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Portland High School, the class of 1945 has gotten together almost every year. The gathering used to be at the Village Cafe in Portland, where the owner, Amedeo Reali, was a class member, so he didn’t charge extra for the room.

But his restaurant closed in 2007, right around the same time Millie Gendrolis, who organized the annual event, died of cancer.

Still, the tradition has continued. Anna Paolilli was put in charge because she was the only one with a computer, she said. And although the venue has changed almost every year, it’s always on the first Friday of August, so people can make travel plans in advance.

This year, Paolilli printed 60 address labels and sent the invitations around June 1. A few classmates living in Florida said they couldn’t make it because they planned on coming to Maine in September. Five of the envelopes came back undelivered, maybe because those classmates had moved to nursing homes, Paolilli said, or somewhere else.

The four tables she reserved were more than enough for the 10 classmates and their spouses or younger family members who drove them.


Fred Baker left his car out front while he walked his wife into the restaurant, returning after he parked it.

“Where do you want us to sit?” asked Irma Baker, who was two years behind him in school. “I just don’t want to be by the air conditioning.”

Every guest who arrived got a name tag clipped to stapled-together sheets of paper with the lyrics to the school song and an updated list of deceased members of the class, which lost six to World War II before graduation. Nowadays, Paolilli said, “there’s always two or three.”

She handed a packet with a filled-out name tag to Abe Fineberg, the other member of the two-person reunion committee.

“Here you go, Abe, so you know who you are,” she said.

The Finebergs sat at a table with Paolilli, and the Bakers ended up across from Lena Walsh, who grew up with them in East Bayside.


Across from Lekousi was Dick Catir, who had a band in high school with his brother that played all the dance halls. The classmates both ended up working for the school district. Lekousi, who was known in high school for his ping-pong skills, became a teacher, and Catir was a building supervisor.

At the table next to them was K.P. Foley, who worked all through high school and went on to a 42-year career at the telephone company. She never got married and Fineberg likes to joke about why.

“She’s been after me for 70 years,” he said, as his wife shook her head.

With everyone there who was expected, the guests perused the menu, pointing to the prices.

After they put in their orders for baked haddock and fried seafood platters, the waitress informed them that a salad bar came with the meals.

Catir skipped the salad bar because he has too much trouble walking. That’s why he never went back to Hawaii after his wife died five years ago. They had met in woodworking class as freshmen, his best memory from high school.


But the classmates talked more about the present than the past – their health, the weather, who they’d seen and how the food was, their hands shaking as they buttered their rolls.

By the time the entrees came out, everyone was stuffed and asking for to-go containers. Soon Styrofoam and plastic bags were being passed around the tables. Still, most managed to make room for dessert.

Paolilli cut up the cake she got from BJ’s – it had blue and white frosting with a picture of Portland High School and a bulldog drawn on top. It was impossible to tell from her demeanor that her husband had died a few weeks earlier. She put the extra slices on paper plates and wrapped them in napkins for people to take home.

As the couples and their classmates got up from their seats, they told one another “Take care” and “See you next year.”

“We have a great group,” Fineberg said, “what’s left of us.”


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