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Cline column: Losing our friend and classmate Billy

On a May 31 evening, 43 years in the past, a group of 245 (give or take a few) made a short walk, held out their hands, were handed high school diplomas and, for the most part, went their separate ways into the world.
Some went straight to work, some went into the military, some went on to college and some did other things.
Twenty-six (almost 11 percent) class members married other members from the class. Some of the marriages have survived to this day; others havenít.
By now, many children have been brought into the world by this 1968 high school class. Many have been welcoming grandchildren for quite a while. Are there any great-grandchildren yet? The math works that there could be.
And on the flipside, we have lost classmates as well, which, unfortunately, is part of the game of life. Some of our classmatesí whereabouts are unknown. Even with the Internet as a tool, our 2009 reunion committee couldnít find a number of the members of the class of í68. But most are accounted for, and of those folks that ěwe know where you live,î our necrology rose to 26 this week with the sad passing of our friend Billy.
My records of classmates passing away prematurely begin with the tragic accident which took one of us way back in June 1964, right after we finished eighth grade. It was a car-bicycle accident. Then we tragically lost two more within a 30-day period during the winter of our junior year of high school.
The next one to leave us died less than a year after our graduation, a Vietnam victim.
Itís been two years and three weeks since our last reunion (our 40th, even though we were a year late putting it together). Just a few weeks before we gathered that October night, two more members of our group died. And since the reunion, we have lost four more, counting Billy.
Billy died last Thursday, 19 days after falling off a ladder while trimming a tree in his Winston-Salem yard. He never regained consciousness.
The 2009 reunion probably wouldnít have happened at all, if it had not been for Billyís leadership. Of course, no one actually wants to head up such a project, but Billy, with slight reluctance, said he would do it. But he wanted lots of help. He got it.
Billy also thought our class should have its own website so we could stay in touch, as he put it, ěas senior citizen discounts stare us in the face.î So right after our reunion, we started one. He was right about our having our own website. We can stay in touch with each other.
Yes, the world has Facebook, and some of us are on it, but the website belongs to our high school class, not to the world. Unfortunately, most of the ěstaying in touchî on the website the last few days has been difficult and sad, because we lost a wonderful friend, one of the very best our class had to offer. Billy would never have said that, so Iíll say it for him.
Perspective can be everything. Thursday, Oct. 20, was a really bad day because classmate Billy left his family and us to be with the Lord, but Oct. 20 was also a wonderful day because another classmate was blessed with a grandchild.
Life renews itself.

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