June 22, 2011
Dear AHS Classmates,
I am so sad that I am not able to join you this weekend for our 50th reunion! I would truly love to be there! Unfortunately, the timing of the event did not coincide with our previous obligations here in Philadelphia. I think often of each of you and will be with you ‘in spirit’ if not physically. I wish you a wonderful experience together. I do feel that our class of 1961 was such a very special class and our time together at AHS informed what we have experienced for these past fifty years. I would love to hear your stories, and I have read and re-read all of the posts on our reunion website. Thanks to all who worked to put that together.
Fifty years ago today, I was a full time student in the summer term at the University of Oklahoma. I went to O.U. to begin my Freshman year a few days after our high school graduation in May 1961. I continued attending summer terms, as well as fall and winter semesters during 1961, 1962 and 1963. At O.U. I pledged Alpha Chi Omega and was active in Westminister Foundation, the Presbyterian student group on campus. I began with a major in physical sciences, but I also became very interested in psychology, social psychology, and philosophy. This triad eventually became a major for me.
At Westminister Foundation I met Clyde Griffith. Clyde, who was a midshipman at O.U. graduated and was commissioned in the Navy in May 1963. He and I were married the following September. Life with the Navy took us to the San Francisco bay area and took Clyde on frequent and long deployments to the western Pacifc (ie. waters off Vietnam). During his first deployment, I returned to O.U. and completed my remaining coursework on campus in Norman. Our daughter, Laurie was born in September, 1964. She and I lived in the SF bay area, but often returned to Oklahoma for family visits when Clyde was at sea. In January, 1966, Clyde reported to a ship based in Norfolk, Virginia. Being stationed on the east coast was a huge relief for us because it transferred him away from the waters off Vietnam to picking up astronauts in the Atlantic. Laurie and I were also able to meet him for a time in ports in the Carribean. In Sept 1966, I entered graduate school in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University. This entailed a 200 mile round trip commute to Richmond, Virginia for class-work each Monday and Tuesday, and ‘field placement’ in Norfolk the rest of the week.
The summer of 1967, introduced us to civilian life as Clyde left active duty for active reserve status and enrolled as a student at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, California, in the SF bay area. I took a job as a caseworker with Contra Costa Social Services Department, and Laurie entered her first year of pre-school. In the fall 1968, I enrolled in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. Attending Berkeley was an interesting experience on a couple of fronts: I began a clinical placement at the San Francisco V.A. hospital in the mental health unit. I also attended classes on the Berkeley campus during one of the most tumultuous years of Berkeley’s history. Student demonstrations and unrest were a constant. “The people’s park” was a “cause celeb”, as was the Vietnam war. I tried to attend classes regardless of “student restlessness”. Often classes were convened off campus in local bars, restaurants, or homes of students or professors because it was not deemed safe to be on campus. One of my most memorable moments occurred during a final exam in a classroom on campus. About an hour into the exam my classmates, professor and I became aware that the room was rapidly filling with a gaseous substance. We quickly exited the building to discover the campus perimeter was surrounded by a “wall” of national guardsmen in gas masks aiming loaded bayonets toward the campus and us! Helicopters were circling overhead and continued dropping tear gas pellets. After moments of panic, a classmate and I both dropped our books and belongings; held our palms up to indicate a non-threatening stance; and walked slowly toward the line of guardsmen who had bayonets pointed directly at us. As we neared the line, ONE soldier stepped aside and let us pass! On the outside of the campus ring, we ran away from the area as fast as we could run– each going to our separate cars and out of the community. I never returned to the Berkeley campus again, and received my MSW from Berkeley via the mail after completing the requirements for graduation. I returned to my former employer, Contra Costa County social services and worked in a child protective services unit.
Our son, Christopher, was born in the spring of 1970. I enjoyed being a mother of two children so much, that I decided to remain at home with them for a few years. These were some of my most pleasurable years. During the summer of 1971, Clyde received a ‘Call’ from the John Calvin Presbytery in Springfield, Missouri, and we moved to Table Rock Lake near Branson, MO. We had a pleasure filled five years in those Ozark mountains. Clyde was able to begin very creative work and ministries, and I followed suite. I had a small private clinical practice and also founded a pre-school and creative arts center.
As Christopher approached school age and Laurie neared middle school age, we decided to relocate to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. I took a job at Presbyterian Children’s Village (PCV) as a social worker. Clyde did more graduate work at Temple University and was employed by Delaware County Media Ministry. After several months at PCV, I became the Assistant Director. We moved onto the thirty two acre campus in Rosemont, and remained there for twenty years. During those years each of our children completed high school and college. Clyde worked in media ministry and then served a number of churches in the area. I found the work at Presbyterian Children’s Village compelling and demanding. During the two decades that I was there, the agency grew from a small children’s home to a full featured mental health residential treatment center for adolescents. We also developed and therapeutic foster care program and various community outreach programs. I was fortunate to be in a position that demanded professional and political skills, creativity, and leadership. It fulfilled my vocational goals far more than I ever could have imagined..
Unfortunately, I was forced by physical illness to ‘retire’ before the work was complete and before I was ready to do so. It has been fifteen years now since I have retired. During this time, I have learned much about the role of ‘patient’, ‘client’, and being a person who needs and receives care as opposed to being the “care-giver”.
I have also been able to follow a major interest of mine, that was sidelined while I was working. That interest is family genealogy and Cherokee/American history. This research and work has been tremendously enhanced by the internet and the links it provides to other researchers, as well as other institutions. It will likely be a passion that remains with me for my lifetime. I also enjoy needlework, swimming, reading, and listening to music. Clyde continues to serve a Church in the area and we have learned to call the Philadelphia area home. We have now lived here for thirty five years.
We think ahead for retirement, but Clyde says ‘not yet’. We visit and are visited by our children as often as possible, but not often enough. Our daughter Laurie, lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband [John] and 15 year step-daughter. Our son, Chris is married to Shari and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We feel blessed to have raised ‘citizens of the world’, but we do wish we were geographically closer.