Normally a class reunion is a happy time, a time to catch up with classmates you haven’t seen in a long time, or at least since the last reunion. Last weekend’s OHS Class of 1979 reunion was a happy time, although as many of you may know by now, we lost a great friend and classmate, Fred Cook, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
If there was one thing you could count on from Fred was he was fun-loving and quick to smile. You couldn’t help but have a good time when he was around. And the Class of ‘79 did just that on Friday and Saturday, having a few laughs, swapping “remember when” stories and catching up on each other’s lives – making promises to keep in better touch.
At one point on Saturday, Fred, some fellow 79ers and I were recalling those Oroville classmates who couldn’t make it to the reunion. Not because of distance or busy schedules, but because they were no longer with us except in memory – Lloyd Campbell Jr., Kathy Thornton and Ron Ficker were all we could come up with. Little did any of us know that in a few short hours Fred too would be part of that list.
Most of us found out just before the Sunday picnic that a passersby had found our Fred thrown from his little convertible Fiat off the ‘Old Highway’ (County 7). He had never made it home. After it was announced we all agreed that Fred would have wanted us to have a good time with our friends and family and not to mourn. There was disbelief, some tears, anger, denial – and self-recriminations for letting him drive home. He seemed fine when he left Saturday night, turning down offers from those who had gotten motel rooms to sack out there with them. Sunday morning we had to realize what happened couldn’t be undone — was part of life. We consoled each other, but most of all we toasted Fred’s memory, laughed and carried on.
When you come from a small graduating class like Oroville’s it’s different then going to a big school. You grow up together and everyone is an integral part of each others lives – at least until life post high school takes you somewhere else. Life is short, so cherish the good memories and if you have any not so positive memories of school let them go – make friends while you can.
I’ll remember Fred most for his smile, his laugh and his good natured kidding. We will all keep his wife Jessie and Fred’s family in our thoughts and prayers. A memorial has been planned for Saturday, Aug. 30 at 11 a.m. at the Loomis Community Church.