President, Rockford Area Historical Society

Terry Konkle Photo by Cliff Hill

Two people contacted me with the correct answer to the last “Rockford Nugget of History” question. Helen Hessler and Carole Christensen knew that Lyle Bennett came up with the idea of having a “Golden R” reunion each year.

The first meeting of the group was in 1987 when the Rockford Area Historical Society helped sponsor the event at the time of the sesquicentennial celebration in Michigan. The initial meeting was held in the building on North Main that had been our high school from 1923 to 1960 and was so well attended and enjoyed that the committee headed by Mr. Bennett and Maxine Marcott decided to make it an annual affair. The last Saturday in June became the chosen date and the group has met every year since then.

The positive tradition continued last Saturday, June 30, 2012 as the graduates met for the 26th time. Rockford graduating classes become eligible for membership in the “Golden R” when they reach their 50th reunion, so this year the class of 1962 was the honored group. Many 1962 graduates were present Saturday along with hundreds of others from earlier classes. Over the years I have attended several Golden R celebrations for various reasons, but this year I was there in a more official capacity because I was one of two advisors to the class 50 years ago. Tom Weeda was the other.

Readers need to know that the occasion features a luncheon at noon, where those attending sit with others from their Rockford class. Prior to the meal there is an hour-and-a-half time period set aside for signing in and then meeting and talking with classmates and friends. It is amazing to watch and take part in the fellowship and to hear the stories and memories that are part of it all. It is really a special time in Rockford history.

This year Gene Berry (class of 1954) served as master of ceremonies at the meal, as he has done before, and his efforts were well appreciated because he does a fine job. When people were finished with the meal, a short program followed. Rockford Superintendent Dr. Michael S. Shibler talked about the state of the Rockford school system, highlighting the many accomplishments of our students, our athletes, our band program, our TV Studio group, our school administration and our faculty and support staff. He praised the people of our community for dealing with tough economic times and voiced his support for our community projects like the new museum endeavors. He also mentioned some of the problems faced by our district and what was being done to make things work. He did a nice job of informing the graduates of where we are educationally at the present time.

Each year a Rockford student is awarded a scholarship by the Golden R, and Spencer Gillis was the recipient for 2012. He talked to the audience and was a very impressive young man. Mr. Berry recognized all alumni in the audience who were out of school 65 years or more. He also singled out teachers, family graduates and veterans. He allowed me to inform the group about our present historical society situation and introduced Mavoric Farmer from the class of ‘61 to welcome the new class. Harold Clark represented the ‘62 class with a short response.

Members of the reunion committee were thanked and the finale was the singing of “God Bless America” by a standing audience. Betty Harris Wonders (class of 1958) was the pianist for the patriotic song.

The group will meet again on June 29, 2013. The tradition will continue.

Finally, if you haven’t been voting for the society in the Erhardt contest, please go to their website and register at Once registered, a person can vote once a day. We need your help in the next two weeks.

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The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.