Gary Florreich (1947-2013) was one of the chief reasons our class has remained closer than many blood siblings through the years.
Gary’s upbeat send-off would have pleased him. It featured some of the music he loved most and sang the best. As our little band of devoted classmates filed into the funeral home side by side, the tune “Stand By Me” was playing. Of course, we lost our composure – even the guys. I I had never seen them cry before – well, since we were six and someone got a bloody nose on the playground. Above, after the service, we gathered at Gary’s home with his wife Rebecca (center) who exhibited extreme grace under pressure. Norma commented that she expected to see Gary come down the stairs at any moment. So did I. From left are classmates, Al Sage, Stephanie (Gary’s beautiful daughter who inherited the famous Black Hat), Jan Eastman, Jimmy Henley and Gene Carothers. Above, Classmates Bob Marshall, Ronnie Christian, Al Sage and Phil Dickerson shared great memories of growing up with Gary. Bob delivered a heart-felt eulogy, noting that Gary was the first “Yankee” we had ever seen in West Point in the 1950s when his family migrated south. Norma Clark Atkins, Beth Hooker Herron, “Becca” and Gene (above) prepared for the long drive home from Covington, Louisiana, where we said our last goodbye. Bill Damron, who now resides in Gulfport (right) drove over for the service to make the day complete. Just like high school, the guys sat over in the corner while the girls sat in the other. It was the first time I’ve seen the guys in ties and a suits in a long long time. I must . Above left, Phil Dickerson and Jimmy “Cowboy” Harrison and below Bob and Gene.
Hazel,my college roommate and Beth (below) – what can I say? Two shining planets whose orbits converge when everything lines up correctly.
My inane reflections are merely a cover for deeper feeling for the loss of lifelong friends. Bob said it best.
It would be a long time before he erased Gary’s last phone message. Ditto for me regarding his last email which I received on Monday.
Having a life long friend is a treasure; losing one is excruciatingly sad. It was a long, long ride home, but we had each other and I think we always will.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – 1947 was a very good year.