Many schoolgirls have promised each other they will be BFFs (best friends forever). Once in a while they do, but often, as they grow, or maybe move, their friendships fade. Such is life.
But not for a group of Genoa High School classmates who, for the past 55 years, without fail, have gathered at each other’s homes for a monthly retreat, refreshments and renewal.
The BFFs include Genoa class of 1958 members Carol (Nelson) Schwegler, Ellen (Hansen) Wilhelm, Joyce (Hood) Hertzfeld, Diane (Pfeiffer) Traver, Diane (Sievert) Gerkensmeyer, Barb (Huss) Gottschalk and Evelyn (Kreager) French.
The longtime Genoa friends,” posed for a photo at their Genoa High School 55th class reunion held
April 20 at Oak Shade Grove. They include (from left) Carol Schwegler, of Oregon; Ellen Wilhelm, of
Genoa; Joyce Hertzfeld, of Genoa; Diane Traver, of Curtice and Diane Gerkensmeyer, of Williston.
Not pictured are Barb Gottschalk, of Millbury and Marvel Nelson and Elaine Gardner, of Curtice, who
joined the group later.
The classmates went through eight years of grade school at Allen-Central and four years of high school together. “None of us would be the woman she is today without the ongoing nurturing and accountability of this group,” said Diane Gerkensmeyer.“None of us can envision life without the generative sustenance we have gained from each other in our monthly gatherings.”
The general routine of the gatherings has remained remarkably consistent over the years. The gatherings rotate alphabetically from home to home. Each hostess serves her specialty. The women know how to position the chairs around the table and where each attendee will sit. Once seated, the friends begin a marathon of non-stop conversation punctuated by food breaks.
A few things have changed, however. “We used to sit up talking half the night and then report to our jobs the next morning – but now things begin to fade by 10 p.m.,” Gerkensmeyer said. “In our younger years, we used to gregariously gallop right in with updates about children and birth control decisions, moving from there to health issues, vocational opportunities and finally to the problems of the world.
“Now, in our retirement years, we gingerly limp right into the body parts issues – of which our knowledge has greatly increased as we discover more and more parts we did not even know existed until they quit working properly,” she said. “We move from there to grandchildren, our parents’ declining health, continued retirement dreams and then it’s on to the problems of the world.”
As young adults, with the future wide open before them, the classmates agree they did not always recognize and appreciate the importance and value of the monthly gatherings. “Gradually, however, as our parents began to pass away and as our lives became more complicated, we began to appreciate the true support we each depend on from the others,” Gerkensmeyer said.
Then, the friends received a phone call none wanted to hear. One of their beloved “sisters,” Kathy (Pfeiffer) Schimming,” was dying of cancer and had only a short time to live. One by one, they visited her so each could share their love and say a final goodbye. Then another phone call and the friends together shared the wave of emotion as they mourned the loss of another friend, Evelyn French.
“After these losses, realizing there will not always be another month for all of us to be together, we began to truly cherish our time together,” Gerkensmeyer said. “And so we gather monthly,” she said. “We gather in our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and tragedies, knowing that this group of faithful friends loves us.
“What a gift we have been graciously granted over the past 55 years,” she said.