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Alumni cherish memories of the past
by Jessica Garcia
Jun 29, 2008 | 816 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Tony Contini - Friends and relatives recognize and pay homage to those who lost their lives in battle in a memorial service that concludes Sparks High School’s third reunion.
As high school sweethearts at Sparks High School in the early 1950s, Ben and Charda Piccinini walked from one end of Sparks to the other: from 11th Street to the east end of what is now Victorian Avenue. They went to movies at the only movie house in town. Ben played softball while Charda liked to watch football and baseball games. Not long after high school, they were married but always recounted their high school experiences.

“I liked my teachers and I wasn’t bratty,” Charda said. “I liked going to school.”

The Piccininis have fond memories of their teenage years at Sparks High, as do many other alumni who met this weekend for the school’s third alumni reunion. Former Railroaders held a grand celebration at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Friday night and enjoyed a barbecue lunch on Saturday.

On Sunday, a bright, beautiful morning helped finish out the reunion against the backdrop of bagpipes playing and silent prayer for former fellow students who had died. A brief memorial service provided the past graduates a chance to honor old friends who gave their lives defending their nation.

Alumni came from as far as Australia to be a part of the event, said Holly Odle, president of the Sparks High School Friends and Alumni Association, with others coming from as far as Texas.

“We had a really good turnout,” Odle said. “We had a really good committee this year. It was a group effort (to gather the alumni).”

Odle said the association charges alumni $20 to attend one reunion to offset the cost. Alumni may also choose to become lifetime members for $100. The association also accepts donations from anyone.

“I loved high school,” said Odle, member of the class of 1974. “It was a small community and you knew everybody. Now, you don’t know anyone.”

Bob Seavey, of the class of 1973, said he enjoyed reuniting with old acquaintances.

“Like a lot of people, it’s good to see friends I knew a long time ago,” said Seavey, 52. “I lost track of them, it good to find out what happened with them.”

Seavey, who was raised in Sparks but now lives in Tucson, Ariz., said his experiences since high school have taken him all around the world, though much of his family is still in the Silver State.

“My kids are fourth-generation Nevadans,” he said. “I liked the community (growing up). It was a nice size – not too big, not too small – and I liked the people.”

Seavey said that while he didn’t know anyone personally who died while serving in the military, he said he did know of students older than him who served and died in Vietnam. At Sparks Memorial Park, a list was created with names of Sparks graduates who died in military service. The alumni association did its best to make the list as current as possible, but families filled in names if they knew of others not already on the list.

The morning commemorated veterans, living and present. After silent prayer, “Taps” was performed on the bagpipes by father/daughter team Army Sgt. First Class Michael and Mariah Connell. Connell, whose father also served in the military, is a guardsman for the Army National Guard and has served in the United Kingdom, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and in Arkansas.

“It was my duty,” he said. “I knew I had to go. The DOD (Department of Defense) has had me for 39 years of my life.”

He has taught Mariah, 14, to play the pipes, but said as far as a military career goes, it’s “the end of the line” for a family history of service. He hopes she will go on to receive a college education, something he’s just now taking advantage of through the Army.

“There’s a point where the fighting has to end,” the father said.
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