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By Connie Leinbach
Potter Garrish made his annual visit to Ocracoke early this year and was the oldest to attend the Ocracoke School Alumni Association banquet.
Garrish of Dover, New Hampshire, was the sole member of his 1947 graduating class.
“The graduation ceremony was in the church,” he said while awaiting the evening festivities May 13 in the Community Center.
By contrast, this year’s graduating class has 17 members. Because of the historic few numbers in each graduating class, Ocracoke School reunions include all classes.
“Mama had two in her class,” said Doreen Gaskill Robinson about her mother Aldavann Gaskill of the Class of 1959, who attended the banquet.
Jenny Mason, Class of 2000 and secretary of the association, said she had 10 in her class.
“That was a whopping big class,” she quipped.
Among the multi-generational families attending was the Gaskins group with four generations, said Marlene Gaskins Mathews.
Along with Mathews, Class of 1973, was her sister Donna Helen Boor, Class of 1971, her sister Lou Ann Gaskins, and their mother, Annie Lou Gaskins.
Also attending was their brother Earl, Class of 1985, and Earl’s daughter Amanda, Class of 2014, and son Spencer, who is among this year’s seniors.
Their brother Keith and his daughter, senior Kaylee Gaskins, who received the Alumni Association scholarship, rounded out the clan.
Potter Garrish watched the speakers and awardees with his first cousin, islander Mickey Hoggard.
After two years of college, Garrish joined the Air Force and remained with the military for 23 years. He lives in Dover, New Hampshire, but visits every September.
“He loves to come home,” Hoggard said.
Maybe that’s because of Garrish’s fond memories of island life as a young boy.
“We never had a bare minute,” he said about all of the things to do in a day. “We were always busy with something.”
Each year, the alumni association inducts the current graduating class into its ranks and family members are invited to attend.
They also honor a class from the past and this year the Class of 1967 was honored. Out of 10 who graduated that year, only one attended, islander Anthony Mutro.
Association President Trudy Austin, who was the MC, gave a rundown of what life was like back in 1967.
“Gasoline was $.33, the average cost of a house was $14,200, the average price of a new car was $2,750 and minimum wage was $1.40,” she said.
Keynote speaker School Principal Walter Padgett, who will retire this year, praised this year’s graduating class.
“People do not realize what a great community we have,” he said. “Our kids are a reflection of their parents. We have very few discipline problems and they work hard at academics and athletics.”