By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
The motto of Tucumcari High School’s Class of ’83 was “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Thirty years later, good times rolled once more as the 1983 grads returned to organize the 2013 Rattler Reunion.
The reunion events, the luncheons, mixers, golf tournament, and parade, culminated Saturday night with the traditional Grand Banquet held at the Tucumcari Convention Center.
The banquet seated 424 Tucumcari High School graduates from all years (except, it seems, 2013. No one stood for this year at the annual roll call.) and their families and friends, according to Pamela Clark, president of the Tucumcari Alumni Association.
Clark said about 550 graduates returned to Tucumcari to participate in the events. The Rattler Reunion continues to be the largest annual single-school alumni gathering in New Mexico, she said.
Jay Walker, one of the organizers for this year’s events, proclaimed the reunion an “outstanding success.”
“We had good turnout at all the events and it all turned out real nice,” Walker said.
Donna Cassidy, who shared chairperson duties with Walker, said this reunion “surpassed all of the others I have attended.”
“People seemed really excited for this one,” she said, “and there was a lot of participation.”
Good times continued to roll at the Grand Banquet as the graduates of years ranging from the 1940s to the present saw a performance by Tucumcari High School’s current cheerleading team, coached by Dawn Bilbrey, class of ’88, and heard a keynote address from Tucumcari’s Jim Keith, who, at age 71, continues to win international accolades for his skills as a blacksmith and tool maker.
Before the program got underway, however, Master of Ceremonies Curt Jaynes called for a moment of silence for classmates who were deceased, especially fallen veterans.
The solemnity was especially poignant for the host class of ’83. A total of 18 of their classmates have died in the past 30 years, including Ray Blassingame, Juan Cordova, Ronnie Welch, Amanda Knight, Nathan Martinez, Larry Bell, Sharon Davis, Lynn Humphries, Michael Pacheco, Charles Blea, Manuel Baca, Geraldine Sandoval, Mike Woofter, Leonard Montano, Buster Shook, Felix Gutierrez, Michael Yost and Lester Howell.
In his presentation, Keith reviewed his career and talked about visits in recent years to Brazil and Japan, where he taught blacksmithing skills. Brazil in particular, he said, is passionate about horses, including American quarter horses and saddlebred varieties
His Japanese hosts, he said, were endlessly curious about his blacksmithing techniques.
Keith also showed slides of artistic work he has crafted with his blacksmith’s tools, including sculptures that include finely detailed flowers.
Keith’s business, Jim Keith Tools, has manufactured blacksmithing tools for customers worldwide for 20 years. He sold it recently, but continues to perform blacksmith work in the Quonset building that housed the business.
Special thank-yous were delivered from Class of ‘83 to the following:
Pamela Clark, Class of 1980, President-Tucumcari Alumni Association; and Michelle Shipley Jaynes, Class of 1987, Member-Tucumcari Alumni Association. They received flower arrangements and gift cards.
From the Tucumcari Alumni Association, gift bags containing Planet 66 candy bars, Route 66 vinyl “fuzzy” dice, “Road Trip” decorative license plates went to:
Parade Marshalls — Dr. George Evetts and his wife Lanell Maddox Evetts, both from the Class of 1953.
Parade Marshal Escort — Mary Jimenez. Mary Jimenez, wife of Casey Jimenez from the Class of 1953. Jimenez donated her time and her vehicle t escort the parade marshals during the reunion.
Class of 1983 — Donna Cassidy, Tim Farrow; Cleo Kent-Vandersalm, and Jay Walker for coordinating class activities, including the parade float, class lunch, T-shirts, wall decorations and memorial tribute, as well as for their work in hosting this year’s reunion.
In another traditional ceremony, Veronica Lopez Sandy, a member of the organizing committee for the Class of ’83, passed the hatchet, the symbol of that responsibility, to her sister, Yvette Lopez Fazekas, class of ’84, for the 2014 Rattler Reunion, currently scheduled for July 31-Aug 2 next year.