In the 25 years since they graduated from Linton High School, the members of the Class of 1987 grew apart, as graduates often do.
The school merged with Mont Pleasant to become Schenectady High School five years after their graduation. The cafeteria doubled in size. An elevator and a pool were installed, and the A and B wings were connected.
Also, 11 fellow classmates died.
The former classmates who joined to form a committee to organize a 25th class reunion were in the midst of tracking people down when they heard story after story about a former classmate who had died.
“Eleven of them passed away in 25 years,” said Courtney Erickson, 43, who was on the committee. “When we heard those people who said ‘This person died,’ and ‘That person died,’ that’s when this shifted from just a reunion to something we could do to give back.”
On Saturday, about three dozen friends and family of the deceased met on the front lawn of Schenectady High School. They listened as a priest read lines from a somber poem in front of a sugar maple tree they had planted in honor of their lost classmates. They leaned over a small white bench inscribed in their honor. And they released blue and white balloons — Linton’s school colors — after a moment of silence.
The time for celebration had passed. The reunion the night before had lots of good food and good dancing, classmates said, but they were glad to have a chance to remember their friends who couldn’t be there for it.
Erickson spoke about the first girl he ever really loved — Amanda Daley — and friends gathered him in a hug as he began to tear up.
“She was one of the motivating factors for me,” he said. “She grew up with me at Elmer Avenue Elementary School. We were in the school play together.”
It was “Peter Pan,” and she played Tinker Bell, while he played Captain Hook. Erickson called it unrequited puppy love and said they were good friends since fifth grade.
“I spent every Christmas Eve with her and her family from 1983 to about 1992,” he said.
Daley died in a car accident in May 2006 on the way back from Orlando, Fla. She had dreams of skating in the Olympics. Erickson used to watch her practice in Lake Placid.
There were other Linton High ’87 graduates who died too young — like Joe Della Ratta, the trumpet player who performed in Carnegie Hall and died in a car accident.
“A lot of them passed away from leukemia,” said Erickson. “There was a suicide, car accidents. As time went by, the numbers went up.”
Cindy Little died from breast cancer at the age of 36. Her parents, Jane and Morgan Little, drove from Delaware to attend Friday’s reunion and Saturday’s memorial.
Classmates fondly remembered Little as an incredible basketball player who ran track and cross country, as well. After all of the Littles had grown up and moved to Delaware, Cindy Little wanted to move back to Schenectady so her kids could know about the place where she grew up.
“She was very open,” said Jane Little, 70. “Cindy was very outgoing, very loving, very friendly. She did anything for anybody and touched many lives.”
Jane Little still remembers how many points she scored during her high school basketball career.
“996 points,” she said. “Can you believe it?”
Members of the Class of 1987 who were honored at Saturday’s memorial were: Chris Garrett, Cindy Little, Cindy Bowman, Amanda Daley, Samuel Cook, Joe Della Ratta, Brett Petersen, Keith Stallica, Justin LaPier, Victor Hume and Ed Mandigo.
An inscription on their memorial bench, which now sits in front of Schenectady High School, reads: “In loving memory of the Class of 1987. Those who have passed on will never be forgotten.”