Anyone expecting the “Coming Home” reunion held this weekend at Dover High School to be joyous celebration of what it means to be a Senator would have found their expectations right on the mark.
While the reunion might have had an occasional twinge of sadness over days past and friends lost, overall it was four days of good memories, music and companionship.
From June 12 to June 15, school alumni were invited to bid farewell to the past – as manifested by the school building on Pat Lynn Drive – and to welcome the future at the new building going up on Del. Route 8.
Many of the weekend’s events were held at the old building, which opened in 1965 and closed out its career this month. Tributes also were made to the original school, now Central Middle School, and to the William Henry High School, a segregated school whose students merged into Dover High when it closed in 1966.
But many felt the current building, due to be demolished later this year, shouldn’t be thought of with sorrow.
“It’s not the building, it’s the people,” said Ken Ollweiler, who entered Dover High as a freshman during its first year of classes. “It’s the teachers you had and the friends you made.
“They can take down a building, but they can’t take down those memories and the relationships you’ve developed.”
“We had good times, made great friends and met great teachers,” said Kay Ann Thompson Serman, Class of 1973. “My favorite teacher was Miss Olivia Smith. She was like a second mom.”
After a round of parties thrown throughout Dover Thursday and Friday, more than 1,200 alumni and their families gathered at the school Saturday. There, they danced for hours, played kickball, watched basketball games, attended a fashion show featuring styles across the decades and took one last tour of old hallways and classrooms.
Overall, attendance topped 2,000, with some people coming from as far away as California. One alum took the bus to Dover, taking 18 hours to make the trip.
Saturday’s highlight came when the alumni crowded onto the football field for a multi-generation class photo.
But the weekend overall was spent catching up with old friends and going over old memories.
For Sheldon Weiner, Class of 1973, who now lives in Marydel, the highlight of his career was going to driver’s ed and getting his license.
Another was when a pom-pom girl fell into a car trunk during driver’s ed class.
“She just tripped and fell,” Weiner recalled. “The trunk closed and locked her in.”
Roy Wright, Class of 1981, had his photograph taken near a blank wall, a place that, more than 30 years later, still held a particularly vivid memory for him.
“I was walking down the hall with my girlfriend at the time, and one of the football players started to mess with her,” Wright said. “I started to say something, but I was pretty scrawny. He just picked me up and put me against that wall. My feet were off the floor.”
Bruce Bynum, Class of 1979, recalls bumping into a classmate in the hallway − and being cold-cocked in return.
“I didn’t see him coming, but I saw him leaving,” Bynum said.
Sunday’s high point was a ceremonial torch walk, with the joining of torches brought from William Henry and Central Middle. Once the flames were combined at the old Dover High, a single torch – unlit due to safety concerns − was carried to the new school, by incoming freshman Alexis Jones, symbolizing the advent of a new generation of Senators.
All of the work, money and time that went into planning and pulling off the reunion was well worth it, said reunion committee member Jean Thompson Taylor.
“You cannot put a price on what happened this weekend,” she said. “It was just so fulfilling, watching all the people. Someone would see an old friend at the other end of the hallway, and just throw their arms up into the air and yell and run toward that person. It was just magical.
“It exceeded all of my expectations. It was just phenomenal.”