GREENVILLE — They were doctors and lawyers and teachers and engineers. They came from Australia and Arizona and Florida. They ranged in age from 17 to 99.
They had one common thread — they were graduates of Greenville High School (GHS).
The 125th annual Greenville Alumni Association convened for a banquet Saturday evening in the renovated GHS cafeteria, especially honoring those who graduated in 1964, 1954 and 1944 who were celebrating their 50, 60 and 70 years since graduating from Greenville High.
“We have one thread of commonality,” said Lloyd Walker, from the class of 1947. “We are Greenville alumni.”
While some graduated from the current building, others went to high school at the former Central Intermediate School, now the site of the Flat River Community Library. Some criticized certain teachers, while others boasted how she was the best teacher ever. And many, many reminisced about their high school years.
Keynote speaker Lonny Garvey, from the class of 1964, shared how his father, his uncles, his brothers and himself all graduated from GHS. Garvey had planned, like many in his family, to go into tool and die making.
“And then in 1968 Uncle Sam called,” recalled Garvey. “I remember it clearly. It was September 1968 on Friday the 13th.”
Garvey shared stories of the first week he was in Vietnam, he witnessed seven American soldiers being killed — and that was the first of several times he eluded death. In 1970, on a sniper patrol in Vietnam, he was hit. Following a medevac rescue from a rice patty, a ride to Japan to a military hospital, and surgeries, he was ready for rehabilitation in a Chicago hospital.
“The Army gave me a full retirement,” he said, and in 1971 he went back to school.
Wearing a full body cast, Garvey attended Montcalm Community College to receive an associate’s degree. Later schooling led him to Ferris State University, Central Michigan University.
Various occupations over the years took him to places like Washington, D.C, Chicago, Grand Rapids, and back to Washington, to Greenville, Miss., to return to Washington again.
“And then 9/11 came,” he recounted.
He was bicycling to the Pentagon when the plane hit that location.
“Washington, D.C., was not the same after that, and it was time to move back,” Garvey said. “We settled in the south Greenville suburbs: Belding.”
Garvey said all of his classmates could share their own stories, all but the 22 who are no longer living. A yellow rose was placed in a vase to honor those 22 classmates.
Jeff “Doc” Day was presented the Outstanding Alumnus Award for his 35 years as an athletic trainer for the district. When told he had won, Day humbly said, “Oh, nonsense. There are many others more deserving than me.”
Day shared that over the years the number of coaches he had worked with that strongly taught the power of ‘we.’
“‘We’ is the influential piece that shows how there are so many who care about the wellness of the GHS athletes. It is how ‘we’ take care of ‘our’ kids,” said Day.
Day shared how, in 1969, basketball coach Larry Taylor decided that Paul Jorgensen was a better athlete, and cut Day from the basketball team.
“My role then became helping others,” he shared. “Dr. Rice helped me get into sports medicine, Dr. Youn let me work alongside him, and there were many others who taught the power of ‘we.’”
“I am blessed to be where I am today,” Day said.
Then began the roll call, with members of each class standing to represent their classmates through the years.
Hilda Hawley, 99 years old, and a former resident of Florida, was the oldest alumnus, representing the class of 1933.
Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.