The Class of 1966 of Booker High School celebrated its 50th class reunion last weekend in Sarasota. With a graduating class of 88, over 20 class members were i n attendance .

Reunion activities began with a fish fry on Friday night at the Hunter-Stevens Building. Saturday’s activities included a trolley tour of Sarasota, the Ringling Museum, Lido and Siesta Key beaches, and downtown Sarasota. The highlight of the tour was seeing Booker High and the Newtown community as they are today.

The reunion banquet was held on Saturday evening. In lieu of a banquet speaker, each of the classmates had an opportunity to share their life stories over the past 50 years. Some classmates had not seen each other since 1966. “We talked about our lives and what we have been doing over the years,” said Felicia Redden Williams, the banquet chairperson. “It was very interesting to hear some of the stories and learn some things about each other,” she said. “We had a chance to really just sit and talk about our lives,” said Johnny Hunter, Sr., who was the class president. “This reunion was a onetime experience – you don’t get to go to many 50 year class reunions,” he said. “I’ve always believed that it’s important that we come together and celebrate each other.” Hunter says he sees his classmates as family members. “I look at my classmates as my family – an extended family. For 12 years we went to school together and became a family. Once we graduated and began our life journeys, we started another family. The reunions give us an opportunity to come together, check on each other and show the love and unity we’ve had for many years,” Hunter said.

Members of the class of 1966 were together until the 7th grade. “We had 152 classmates then, but after 7th grade, some went to other schools t h a t were closer to them,” Williams said. “We graduated with 88 in our class and over the years, we’ve lost several classmates.” A candlelight ceremony was held in their honor at the banquet.

Traveling farthest to the reunion was Armenta Bennett who now lives in Houston, Texas. “I came back for the reunion because I wanted to see my classmates, family and friends,” Bennett said. “My father still lives here so I do get to return to Sarasota for a visit. I was happy for the opportunity to come back to see my classmates and visit with my father, my daughter and my nieces. I was grateful to be able to see them all.”

Laura Houston Ross came from Jacksonville. She says this trip was a long time coming. “I had not seen some of my classmates in 50 years,” she said. “It was really good to see them and find out how everybody is doing. I had attended a grand reunion in past years but it was pretty special getting with my classmates after 50 years,” she said. The class salutatorian, Charles Pearcey was also in attendance.

The next reunion is planned in five years when they come together for the 55th, but they are planning to get together for their 70th birthday celebration. “In the past, it was good seeing everyone but coming together after 50 years, was the best!” Redden said. Hunter went on to say, “It was great reuniting with my classmates and I call it a family reunion because we are family for life.”