As pandemic restrictions lift, more leisurely activities are showing up on people’s calendars, among them high school reunions.
For one Ward Melville High School class, it’s all about plus one. Toward the end of 2019, members of the Class of 1980 began planning their 40th reunion. A few months later, planning came to a stop due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now the class is gearing up for their 40+1 reunion at Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa in Port Jefferson, July 31.
The class was one that grew up during a time when the area saw an increase in population with people arriving due to jobs at the recently built Stony Brook University and the construction of homes in the alphabet section of Stony Brook.
Charlie Lefkowitz, who along with fellow former classmates Kim Keady, Lesley Hunter and Paul Magidson is planning the reunion, said with members of the planning committee living across the country, a lot of planning was already being conducted using email, phone and Zoom.
Lefkowitz said at the beginning of last year, they began to see the slowdown in responses. Even though New York State lifted restrictions slightly at the beginning of last summer, the committee knew the 50-person limit wouldn’t be enough to accommodate everyone and people from out of state wouldn’t be able to make it.
“Pulling the plug was not a very hard decision, because a lot of people were coming from, especially in California and from Massachusetts, states that were so restrictive,” Lefkowitz said.
While they tossed around the idea of canceling the reunion altogether, they finally decided to plan a reunion for 2021.
Keady, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, said it helped that their former classmates had trust in them that they could pull it off.
“We were really lucky because our classmates just had faith in holding steady and pausing, and they just trusted us,” she said.
“People have lost folks and been very fearful for good reason during this time. I think that gratitude levels are going to be really high.”
— Kim Keady
Lefkowitz said while there are still some people who can’t attend due to other events or health reasons, in the last few months the response has been overwhelming with more than 100 attending so far. He added that planning was still touch and go at first at the beginning of the year because even though restrictions were being lifted, there were still some state-mandated requirements at the time such as no dancing and wearing masks when not eating. He said once the number of vaccinations increased and the infection rate decreased the group became more optimistic.
“Everyone’s saying it’s 40+1,” he said. “We’re one year older and one year wiser.”
Hunter, who will be traveling from California, said a friend who is an epidemiologist looked at the venue to check out the airflow in the party room, and they are making sure Danfords keeps the doors of the room open. She indicated it made the decision to go ahead easier after their friend looked at the room.
“She said you don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Hunter added. “It’s the best as we know it could be this summer.”
Keady said she believes the reunion will be even sweeter.
“People have lost folks and been very fearful for good reason during this time,” she said. “I think that gratitude levels are going to be really high.”
The reunion will include a memorial event the night before at West Meadow Beach for those who have passed through the decades followed by drinks and cocktails at The Bench in Stony Brook, one of their former hangouts. Keady and Hunter added that the Class of 1981 has been invited to join them, too, making it not only “plus one” for the added year but the added class.
For more information, visit www.wmhsclassof80.com.