Seven decades after the Gardiner Class of 1953 graduated, its members are still gathering regularly. They will meet Saturday for their 70th reunion. Courtesy of David Fields

GARDINER — Plenty of people have been to one or maybe two of their high school reunions and figure that’s enough.

Those people didn’t graduate in the Gardiner High School Class of 1953.

On Saturday, many of the remaining graduates of that class will gather midday at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Gardiner for their 70th class reunion, just as they have for every reunion since they graduated, and for the last 15 years for quarterly lunches in Augusta.

It’s hard to say why the members of this class have stayed in contact for so long and have continued to get together. It’s not something that every class does.

Patricia Cote, who is now president of the class, said her husband has never been to a single one of his reunions. Her sister went to one and has never been to another.

“It’s hard to explain this group,” Cote said. “There’s a bond between all of us. We went through World War II, we went through the rationing and the glorious years afterwards.”


David Fields, secretary of the Gardiner High School Class of 1953, is the keeper of the class’s records as well as a large, stuffed tiger — the school’s mascot. After the class’ 70th reunion Saturday, Fields will update the records and donate them to the Gardiner Public Library. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

“We just like each other,” Robert Andrews said.

The year Cote and Andrews and their classmates graduated from the red brick high school on School Street, Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated as president of the United States, active hostilities ceased in the Korean War and in Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. They would have heard Hank Williams sing “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” or Dean Martin croon “That’s Amore” on the radio.

David Fields, secretary for the Gardiner High School Class of 1953, pages through notebooks of compiled information about his classmates Thursday at his home in Bremen. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In Maine, that year Native Americans won the right to vote and the state’s first television station, Bangor’s WABI, started broadcasting.

Some graduates went on to college, some to the military and others to jobs in the mills and elsewhere. Many stayed in central Maine, but some scattered across the United States. Even as they did, they stayed in touch and returned for a reunion in 1963.

“This class is unique, in that when we had our 10th reunion, we had so much fun it went on for three days,” said Cote, who is now the class president, said. “Everyone decided we couldn’t wait 10 years again, so we cut it to every five years, and that’s how we’ve had them.”

David Fields, who graduated with Cote and Andrews, credits their late class president Jimmy Ronco for building the bonds that has kept the classmates in touch across the decades without the benefit of social media or free long-distance calling.


Classmates credit class Gardiner High School Class of 1953 President Jimmy Ronco, left, for doing the work to keep them connected and returning for reunions. Ronco is pictured here with other class officers Jimmy Wright, secretary; Barbara Mooers, treasurer; and Ranny Lewis, vice president. Courtesy of David Fields

“As far as I’m concerned, he deserves all the credit for getting us together and keeping us together for the first 40, 50 years until other people got involved to help out,” said Fields, who, as class secretary, is now keeper of the records.

David Fields, secretary for the Gardiner High School Class of 1953, pages through notebooks of compiled information about his classmates Thursday at his home in Bremen. The class endowed a fund in their name that generates enough income to give out an annual scholarship. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Many of his classmates have known each other since the first grade. Growing up in Whitefield, he attended school there until he went Gardiner High School, making the 16-mile round trip every day.

He has two notebooks filled with photos and addresses and the whereabouts of remaining classmates, a spreadsheet tracking who has attended the luncheons and a yearbook from 1953. On Saturday, he’ll bring them to the reunion, along with the large, stuffed tiger — the school’s mascot — that his late wife found at a yard sale.

“We’ve lost — that I know of  — 79,” he said. “I have almost all the obituaries and many of the spouses, who I came to know.”

The actual roster of graduates was 99, but Fields said, but not everyone who started as freshmen in that class graduated with them. Even so, they are included in the class records and welcome at the reunions.

Along the way, the classmates have done more than just get together and catch up. They endowed a fund in their name that generates enough income to give out an annual scholarship.


About 15 years ago, Cote said, as a number of classmates died, they decided they didn’t want to wait five years to see each other again, so they started meeting in Augusta at the Great Wall restaurant for lunch four times a year, a practice that continues.

Cote said most of their classmates live within a two or three hour drive of Gardiner, and she hopes many of them will be able to attend the reunion. Several live as far away as Arizona, Texas and Florida, but it’s not clear if they will all be able travel that far.

When Saturday’s reunion is over, and Fields has updated his records and files, they will be donated and kept in the Archive Room at the Gardiner Public Library for safekeeping.

“This may be the last one for a bunch of us, I don’t know,” Cote said.

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