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The 2013 reunion for Sturgis High School students who graduated more than 50 years ago drew its largest crowd to date, with more than 160 in attendance at the Sept. 28 event.

It was the first time 92-year-old Margit Wilcox, from the SHS Class of 1939 attended, but she hopes to make it back to the annual event.

"I just heard about (the reunion) this year, and thought it would be nice to come," said Wilcox, who lives near Union Center.

Saturday was also the first time retired professional baseball star and former NFL player Carroll Hardy reunited with his classmates from the Class of 1958.

Hardy, who makes his home in Colorado, is still the only player to pinch hit for Ted Williams.

Six of the seven members of the Simons family who graduated from Sturgis High School were in attendance Saturday night.

They include Gladys Simons Edwards, Class of '56; Walter Simons, Class of '48; Clara Beth Simons Peterson, Class of '50; Vonda Simons Jensen, Class of '58; Kay Simons Ingalls, Class of '58; Vern Simons, Class of '46; and Freda Simons Wilson, Class of 1947.

Brother Wayne Simons, Class of 1953, was unable to attend this year's reunion, but Peterson said the siblings look forward to the event every year.

"We just had dinner together, and we all look forward to the reunion every year," she said.

Others, including organizer DeWayne Hayes, SHS Class of '48, haven't missed a reunion since he and Dana Caldwell planned the first reunion in 1990.

Hayes said the first reunion of the classes of 1947, 1948 and 1949 was held back in 1990. After a few years went by and classmates were unable to make it to the annual event or died, the attendance began to dwindle, so they decided to include the classes of 1946 to 1950, he said.

"Finally, about six or eight years ago, we decided to include anybody that graduated 50 or more years ago from Sturgis High School or St. Martin's (Academy). That's when it really started getting everybody involved," said Hayes. "If it was only our (original) three groups, there would have only been about 30 people here."

Hayes said the event, held the last Saturday in September annually, usually draws a crowd of around 100.

While some classes continue to plan their own reunions, the annual gathering of the graduates from more than 50 years ago is always a popular event.

"As we get older, our stories get a lot better," Hayes laughed. "I used to be the emcee and I used to tell the same stories each year because I figured everyone would forget them by the following year."

Caldwell, a longtime radio personality, has taken over the reigns as emcee, and entertains the crowd with jokes about forgetfulness, wrinkles, poor eyesight and stories he remembers from high school and growing up.

He wasn't saying whether his jokes were the same as those from last year.

"I was expelled four times my senior year," said Caldwell. "I don't remember why, but I'm sure it was for the same reasons most kids got expelled."

His "you know you're over the hill if you have any of these symptoms" list drew almost as much laughter as Guy Edwards' round of Norwegian jokes, which was followed by an introduction of those in attendance.

The 2013 event included 30 members and spouses of the Class of 1953 who were celebrating their 60-year reunion, as well as several members of the Class of '58 who were celebrating their 55-year reunion.

Herman Walker, from the Class of '53, said he and a couple other classmates began contacting Class of '53 graduates about 18 months ago. Even though Walker lives in Nevada, classmate Bill May lives in California and Bob Knapp has homes in Sturgis and Arkansas, they managed to get 30 classmates to attend their 50-year festivities this past weekend.

In addition to the Sept. 28 banquet for students who graduated more than 50 years ago, the Class of '53 also held a social on Friday night and a Sunday dinner.

Walker said with today's technology, it's easy to keep in touch with fellow classmates. Although some still rely on the U.S. Postal Service for communication, most keep in contact via email or telephone.

Hayes said while a core group of graduates typically attends the reunion each year, there are always new faces.

He and others in attendance agree the best part of the reunions is reminiscing with former classmates and neighbors, many whom they haven't seen in years.

"The best part of the reunions is just to socialize and get together with people you just don't often have an opportunity to see or visit with," Walker said.

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