It was a lovely weekend in St. Francisville, LA. Four graduates of the USMA Preparatory School, Class of 1957, who enter with the Class of 1961 were on hand to celebrate the marriage of their fellow soldier and classmate, John D. Purdy, to Elaine Bird. Joe Maio, John Lawton, John and Terry Grisoni, and Gabe and Susie Gabriel assemble on Friday afternoon with many of John Purdy’s and Elaine’s family and friends for a wonderful home-cooked Louisiana meal prepared by friends of Elaine from Monroe, LA. The food and friendship were warm, in more ways than one, and enjoyable. After the supper, the ex-GIs, including John’s friend from high school in Florida, Jim and Jane Pike, retired to the lounge for reminiscences. For several hours tales of exploits at New Paltz State Teachers College, the town of Newburgh and other places along the Hudson Valley were covered. I am certain they were greater this weekend than forty-four years ago. It is wonderful how time and maturity make exploits so much more vivid. Each participant then had an opportunity to update the others on current situations and times in between, to include tours to Vietnam, common friends we did not realize we had and how many children we had and where they were. Gabe brought pages from a scrapbook his mother had made. Included were pictures from Stewart AFB, letters of acceptance to the Academy and a cartoon drawn by Bob Boykin. Also there was a copy of “Results of Term-End Examinations,” dated 27 January 1958 that testified to the academic prowess of those assembled. Under the paragraph ending “declared proficient” was “Class of 1961, D1, Gabriel, HR.” Under the paragraph ending “are conditioned in the academic subject(s) listed” was “Class of 1961, F1, Purdy, JD, Mathematics.” Under the paragraph stating, ”To be placed on leave without pay and allowances pending re-examination:” were “Class of 1961, H1, Grisoni, JF, Mathematics” and “L1, Lawton, JP, Topography.” Not to be outdone, Joe Maio admitted that he appeared on the Term-End Examination list the following June. So, we all had Turnout Stars on our B-robes. What a crew!
Saturday, while Elaine and John made final preparations, with the help of Joe, the rest of us toured one of the plantations and its outbuildings and property. John and Joe joined us on a trip across the Mississippi River to a lovely restaurant and wonderful Cajun lunch. What was left of the afternoon was spent doing what was important to each individual, such as, napping, reading, or rehearsing. That evening we assembled in a lovely amphitheater for the wedding ceremony. It was a beautiful ceremony and celebration. Elaine and John introduced their family to us, recognized the persons in attendance and the roles they may have played in their lives, interspersed music that was important to them, to include Joe Maio singing Army Blue. After the ceremony we all gathered in a lovely hall of the Hemingbough Plantation for the reception. A grand time was had by all and we got to know Elaine’s and John’s family and friends better.