Gildford, Kremlin '69ers reunite for 50-year reunion


Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

The Gildford High School class of 1969 gathers to celebrate their 50-year high school reunion, along with alumni from Kremlin High School, Sunday in Gildford.

"With the ropes of the past, we will ring the bells of the future."

The class motto of the Gildford High School class of 1969 rang in the air during a joyful class reunion Sunday at Gildford Park in Gildford.

All of the seven remaining self-described '69ers from Gildford High School, accompanied by family, congregated in their home town to reflect on their schooldays half a century ago.

"This has just been so fun to get together," said Gildford graduate Cindy Johnson.

Johnson said the class doesn't regularly hold reunions, but that despite having gone years - even decades - without seeing each other, the memories come flooding back.

"Even though we're miles apart, we're still family," she said.

The plan to get all the '69ers back to Gildford for a 50-year reunion started about two years ago with Gary Engebretson and Leland Wood, having shared a few Miller Lites, realizing their class reunion was just around the corner.

Engebretson spearheaded the effort to gather everybody, tracking down phone numbers and attempting to contact as many classmates as possible. He said it took as much as six months to track down some former classmates because they've moved, changed phone numbers and don't use social media.

It was not just the Gildford '69ers that Engebretson located, either. Joining them were three students from the Kremlin High School class of '69 and multiple other Kremlin and Gildford graduates from other years.

Engebretson said that, of the Gildford graduates, he now lives farther away than anyone else, having moved to Corvallis. One Kremlin graduate who was unable to attend, is even farther, now living in Arizona.

"How do you track down people who are in other states?" he posited.

"Anybody who went to school with us was more than welcome to come," Engebretson said, citing that the small class sizes of rural Hi-Line schools makes it difficult to gather enough people for a successful reunion.

In total, 10 of the 12 remaining '69ers from Gildford and Kremlin were able to attend.

Gary Engebretson, Arthur Hanson, Donald Hanson, Linde (Kidd) Danielson, Cindy (Retan) Johnson, Mary Lou (Toner) Dees and Leland Wood, all of Gildford, attended, and Charles Dees, Jody (Beck) Ross and Tom Vosen of Kremlin attended. Even a former teacher and coach at Gildford, Gene Markuson, was in attendance for the reunion.

The group, with the help of valedictorian Mary Lou Dees, acquired a key to Gildford High School from North Star superintendent Bart Hawkins and took a tour of their old stomping grounds before holding a picnic at Gildford Park.

While rifling through class photos, old letterman jackets and other school documents, Engebretson took a moment to read aloud the class prophecy, which predicted the future of each student upon their graduation 50 years ago.

At the conclusion of the nearly five-hour reunion, the group agreed to meet again three years from the year, in 2022.

"We should have done more (reunions) over the years, but there's usually conflicts in these small farming communities," Engebretson said. "I was so happy to see everyone here."


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