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Special Class of 1961 Award to Gary & Button Hyde for Extraordinary Service to Classmates & Their Families

On behalf of the West Point Class of 1961, the Class Officers hereby recognize Gary and Button Hyde for extraordinary contributions to the Class and unsurpassed support of classmates and their families.   

In the early years after graduation, Gary and Button were mainstays at 5-year reunions leading social efforts and providing slide shows as reminders of good times at previous reunions and other Class gatherings.  Always the last two standing at a social event, they infused enthusiasm and enhanced social interaction among classmates, their wives, and guests.  More recently, the most visible method of support to the Class has been the conduct of annual Orlando-based mini-reunions for the last decade interspersed with management of our 55th Reunion and then planning for the 60th Reunion and execution of two makeup 60th Reunions.  These events allowed classmates and their wives to spend quality social catch-up interaction with long-time friends from the Class of 1961. 

Held in the Orlando area and open to all classmates, the Hydes’ minis attracted attendees from as far away as the west coast and varied in number each year from 41 to 101, with average attendance of 65 classmates/wives during the past eleven years.  In addition to arranging daily excursions to local central Florida venues and a fully stocked and 24/7- available hospitality suite at the Class hotel, each mini-reunion featured three dinners hosted by the Hydes at their home.  Attendees enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at poolside followed by dinner at outdoor tables.  Barbeque on first night followed by a “taste of Florida” on second with leftovers on third night.  Some will remember the year that a significant storm with high winds was forecast to arrive during the reunion.  Never fear, with the help of his worker bee classmate assistants and neighbors, Gary constructed a temporary wall to prevent wind from devastating the outdoor cooking and serving area.  This worked a lot better than the effort to allow usual outdoor cocktails around the swimming pool.  With help this time of both classmates and a few hearty wives, Gary directed installation of a massive tarp attached to the screen covering the pool.   Alas, the gale force winds proved too much for this engineering marvel and the tarp was ripped to shreds!  Not to worry, outdoor tables had been moved into the garage and dining took place there and at every other available flat surface in the house.

In planning for the 55th Reunion, Gary, Button and one of the reunion committeemen visited at least six hotels near West Point (including the Thayer) to determine the best venue to host our class.  Armed with a list of desired amenities and services, this planning reconnaissance resulted in selection of a hotel that not only gave reasonable room and dinner rates, but also provided virtually all the requested benefits and was less than an hour from West Point. Having surveyed the class, Gary determined that the number one request of reunion attendees was that sufficient time and appropriate facilities be provided to allow quality social interaction with classmates and their wives.  Three fully stocked hospitality suites were available and all were used extensively.  Gary also negotiated dispensation from the hotel for use of class purchased wine at our dinners saving those who chose this option several dollars for each glass of wine consumed.  However, the largest saving for classmates was in cost of hotel rooms which totaled thousands of dollars for the 385 attendees.

Planning for the 60th Reunion at West Point resulted in selection of a hotel with even more favorable perks than those of the 55th.  Alas, Covid intervened and, with West Point essentially closed, the May 2021 event had to be cancelled.  With no do-over possible at West Point, Gary surveyed the class and planned for 60th (second try) based at a hotel in the Orlando area.  But Covid was not done with the Class of ’61 and, when the Omicron variant struck, more than half of the classmates and guests who had signed up to attend this January 2022 event decided to cancel because of health concerns.  Unfortunately, this resulted in only 94 classmates, wives and guests making it to Orlando.  Not deterred, Gary organized a third 60th for January 2023 and in a different Orlando hotel allowing those who missed the makeup a second chance.   Many of the 99 attendees who made it to Orlando in 2023 were Covid casualties who had signed up but had to drop out in 2022.  Both make-up 60th Reunions were overwhelming successes albeit with smaller numbers than the 55th.  Of special note was a feature of all three class reunions managed by Gary.  Inspired by a similar effort witnessed during a trip to Israel, Gary conceived of a memorial room for deceased classmates with biographical summaries for each along with memorabilia from our time at West Point.  His reunion committeeman Bob Hampton was the architect for these well provisioned, extensively visited and much appreciated rooms of remembrance.

It is particularly important to note and applaud Gary’s masterful negotiation skill when dealing with the management of all the hotels used for the many reunions he has organized.  His meticulous attention to detail in this regard resulted in significant reduction in the cost of attendance for classmates and guests!

But Gary supports classmates in numerous ways other than by organizing and managing reunions.  Many other classmates also sponsor mini-reunions and Gary assists with computer programs he has developed with help of his grandson that he calls G III.  Among other cost tracking systems, he has a program to apportion charges to individuals for hospitality room use, with different rates for those who consume alcohol vs. those who do not imbibe.  He is also master of the “survey” that can be used to determine who wants to do what and when at each reunion.   Gary and Button also provide personal assistance for special class events.  For example, at the Kopcsaks’ last of many Pig Roasts, Gary could be found in a trailer on all-night duty with George taking turns to continually refuel the roasting pit.  And Button spent long hours in the Kopcsak kitchen helping Michele prepare side dishes among other chores.  Planning a mini-reunion – call Gary!

Gary also enhances the reputation of ’61 by supporting other West Point activities.  For example, the committee that manages Golfing Grads of USMA, held annually for more than 30 years, depends heavily on help from Gary to manage a tournament that featured participation from 17 different West Point classes in 2023.  Gary not only helps the committee negotiate contracts with the golf resorts hosting the event but also provides computer support to track registration and other important participant data.  Even more important, he supports the Golfing Grads committee with a computer program that determines tournament winners with input of scores from team and individual rounds of golf.  Before Gary’s assistance, this was a labor-intensive task, completion of which often delayed the final presentations at the closing tournament dinner.

Possibly most important among their many contributions to the class, Gary and Button go the extra mile to render personal support to classmates or classmates’ widows in times of special need and for special occasions.  Be it a funeral or time of medical challenge, Gary and Button will find a way to help and support.

Their many friends could of course supplement this list with many other ways that Gary and Button have provided extraordinary support to the Class of 1961.  To recognize their contributions, the Class officers have unanimously approved provision of a fully funded extended weekend trip for Gary and Button to attend an Army football game or any other similar excursion at a stateside location of their choice.












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