The weekend celebration began with Mass presided by Father Lyle Konen, C.S.s.R., a 1949 graduate. Father Gerry Funke, class of 1972, delivered the homily. The Kopczynski families were well represented at this reunion. My brother, Allan, and sisters, Carole and Marilyn graduated from SGA. Connie and Joan attended the same school, but when they graduated it was called Prairie High School.
I was honored to read the 2nd reading from Colossians, when St. Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus to dedicate themselves to thankfulness. Father Gerry spoke about the Benedictine values that encouraged all students to have a vision and a way to serve the larger community by prayer and work. The last song, "Holy God We Praise Thy Name," brought back lots more memories of attending mass in the chapel when I was a teenager and more feelings of gratitude for my Catholic education. Many graduates have moved away from Cottonwood and shared Father Gerry's comment, "it wasn't until I left the Camas Prairie that I realized what a beautiful place this is."
I enjoyed connecting with my classmates from the class of 1964, Eloise Arnzen Riener, Pat Winkes Schmidt, and Sister Barbara Bielenberg.
My sister, Marilyn, enjoyed a special visit with her classmate, Patty Arnzen, class of 1966.
Most people spent time visiting about their grandchildren, the challenges of Facebook and smart phones, and just catching up on all the years since high school.
Former Geometry teacher, Jerrry Wren and cousins, Ed Kopczynski and Wayne Wimer
Cousin Jim Reed and Classmate Pat Nuxoll
Ed's wife Josephine Kopczynski and cousin Debbie Kopczynski Stubbers
Cousin Colleen Kopczynski and her husband, Mel Jackson
My dear friend, Maxine Frei (1966) and her husband Ron Williams
My in-laws, Don and Mary Jean Wessels Arnzen (1958)
I don't have pictures, but I also had a nice visit with Edna Rickman and her son, John. Hal Rickman taught school at the Academy for several years in the 1960's and Edna and my mom became good friends, sharing their love for quilting. Marilyn and I visited with former teacher Leo Lapke and his wife and Aggie. They lived in Spokane for several years with their eight children, and Marilyn remembers the kids, some of whom are working for Catholic Charities now.
Marilyn's daughter, Karlee, asked her to take a picture of our family home. A new family is growing up there and making some changes to the outside of the house, but we hope they are experiencing the same joy that we did growing up there. A former neighbor, Donna Mager, told me she remembers playing in the orchard behind our house, building trails and secret hideaways.
Marilyn and I attended Mass at St. Mary's this morning. Their new pastor, Father Paul Wander, announced that he thinks coffee hours after Mass are important and said if people don't sign up he'll keep harping about it until they do. I remember talking to Mom years ago on the phone and it seemed like she always had something to do with the coffee hour, either making cookies or setting up the tables. Marilyn said Mom would've liked Father Paul because he talks fast and moves the mass right along. I always feel so much at home in that Church. The music always touches me and Marilyn and I both commented on how beautiful the music is every time we visit. When Mom and Dad were still alive and I would travel to Cottonwood I would tell my friends I was going "home" for the weekend. Well, Cottonwood doesn't feel like home anymore since they are gone, but I still have feelings of gratitude for the experience of growing up in a small town, surrounded by Benedictine Sisters and a large extended family.