Class of 1993 remembers their fallen

So it’s the beginning of our 20th reunion, and at 1:45 a.m. on Thursday morning, July 18, and I can’t help but think how much time the reunion committee has banded together in order to put this thing on. With the help of our local 93ers, not to mention the patience of John Hekkel at Club Moderne and Scott Hatcher at Locker Room, who both endured late weekday nights so we could forget everything we just spoke about, our weekend IS FINALLY HERE!

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Our 10th Class Reunion at Smitty’s Barn

The sleepless night also brought me to think about those who won’t be joining us. One such classmate is Christian Winther, one of our exchange students from Denmark, who sent me a message after contacting him to tell me he is serving in Afghanistan. I’m sure you will join me in wishing him well while he fights for all that’s good and right for his country.

So many other classmates aren’t joining us who hail in the contiguous United States because of work strains or having the trek be just too far for a weekend visit, and all I can say is we will be thinking of you, one and all. Kudos to you for thinking of your family first and foremost, as any good, responsible parent should. Let it be known we will be tipping a few back for the good ol’ times that seem like forever ago (but thanks to Selina Pankovich and her Forget Me Not Photo Archives business, those memories are a little more clearer than ever before).

Then I got to thinking about those who can’t be with us because they paid the ultimate sacrifice. We’ve been an extremely lucky class in this regard, only losing four to death. Clarissa Walner, Joseph Windorski, Marlo Rouse and Doug Garland, we will be holding a moment of silence in your honor. You are not forgotten.

But as I scoured through the numerous faces in our Big Stack and tried to contact our former teachers, administrative assistants and administration, I found we’ve lost a few more over time.

- Anne Carpita, our former Señora and Spanish teacher as freshmen, died following a battle with cancer in October of 2010. I tried to get in touch with her husband, Jim, who still resides in Helena, but I’m not sure my message was received. I spoke with a cousin of his in Dillon and was given an E-mail address, but you know how those change over time. Of course Jim is linked to our class in another way as well as his son Tony, who was married to classmate Jennifer (Galle) Carpita passed away some time ago as well. We pass along our sympathy.

- Bob Gossack, our former science and biology teacher, passed away April 8, 2008, after a battle with cancer.

- Rich Silzly, our former match teacher, passed away July 23, 2010, after a battle with cancer.

- Pierre Tesson, our former typing teacher, among other classes he taught, and an Anaconda High School cross country and softball coach, died June 28, 2008 after a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

(IF THERE ARE ANY MORE FOR THIS LIST, AND LET’S HOPE THERE ISN’T, PLEASE DROP ME A LINE SO WE CAN GET THEM ADDED).

As a message to their family and friends, please accept our deepest sympathy of the loss of your loved ones. Whether they were our classmates or the men and women who molded us into the people we are today, we all still hold a special bond of graduating from the greatest place on earth, and may we all once again remember what the true meaning of being from little old Anaconda and calling ourselves “Copperheads” is all about.

Cheers to us all this weekend! Let’s have one to remember!

Anaconda’s Geno Wilhelm battling like a true Copperhead

I usually pride myself on how much I know about the city I love, but when I just found out today my good buddy Geno Wilhelm, the Dukiest of Dirty Duke fans, the Cheesiest of Green Bay Packers and one of the kindest men I know is in Salt Lake City battling Leukemia, I was overcome with sadness.

But above all of his sports loves in life, he is most passionate about following the stellar career of Anaconda-born and Whitehall- and Butte-bred Rob Johnson.

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This picture was in April of 2010 when Rob was with the Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Mariners. Rob signed autographs at the Sports Arena in Butte.

He’s spent thousands on purchasing gear of Rob’s in online auction houses and from charity events around Southwest Montana, and even more time checking stats and following games of all levels throughout the long and tenuous baseball seasons. And sure he’s kept most of the items he’s purchased himself, but most of the time he donates those back to worthwhile charities he’s passionate about.

Why? Because that’s Geno. And honestly, that’s Rob too.

So when my good friend Shane Wolfe told me the following news today, I cried a little. WIth so much tragedy going on around Anaconda, every little bit of good news is met with a little wetness.

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This photo was taken when Rob was still a member of the San Diego Padres. It was taken in November of 2011 at the Haufbrau when Rob came to Anaconda to speak to the local schools on the importance of making good choices in life.

That news was simple: Last week when Rob was called up to be a part of the St. Louis Cardinals as Yadier Molina’s understudy after a solid stint for AAA Memphis, one of his first calls was to Geno in the hospital to tell him the news.

And there’s the wetness again.

For sports fans, being touched by those who you idolize is a feeling like no other. I can remember the first time talking candidly with Ken Griffey Jr. (made possible by Rob being with the Seattle Mariners) I was like a little boy all over again. Sure, as Bill Foley will attest, he spurned my first request to speak with him, but after he got to know our group was with Rob, he treated us as a member of the team. I’ll never forget it.

So when Rob took time out of his busy schedule to call Geno, I must say, that’s the classiest of all class. It goes to show Rob is a man of his word. It all goes back to when Rob was a child. When the Copper Kings were in Butte, he was spurned for an autograph growing up at Alumni Colesium. He told himself if he were ever in that position, he would never let that happen. And he has lived up to every word.

Here’s the message Geno posted on his Facebook account talking about the conversation:

     “I would like to take this time to thank all my Family, friends, D.r. Nurses, Patients.If it wasn’t all the support, It would be a lot tougher. The Week of the 4th of July, Greg and Gina came down for a few days, and it was great. Pam got to go to the motel with them and relax a bit .Than on the 6th , I get a call  from the one and only ROB JOHNSON, CATCHER FOR THE MEMPHIS RED BIRDS, AND NOW HE GOT …CALLED UP TO CATCH FOR THE S T. LOUIS CARDINALS ,MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM .WHEN I GOT THIS  CALL I WAS LIKE A LITTLE KID AGAIN. i WAS LIFTED OFF THE FLOOR, AND AND BEEN ON CLOUD 9 EVER SINCE,AND ONE MORE THING TO SAY, IF THERE IS A GREAT KID OUT  THAT IS LOOKING FOR A GREAT ROLE MODEL. WELL THIS IS THE MAN.HE TREATS PEOPLE AND KIDS GREAT GIVES AUTOGRAGHS, AND WORKS HI BUTT OFF FOR HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND FANS. OH BY THE WAY HE TOOK TIME OUT OF HIS BUSY SCHEDULE TO CHAT WITH ME. SO THANKS AGAIN MR. ROB JOHNSON”
Look at what one phone call did to make the day of a guy who needed a little good news for once. I’m absolutely speechless at the length of Rob’s kindness, generosity and good will. Bob and Eileen, you two produced some amazing offspring. I can’t thank you enough for giving Rob to the world.

Above all, I can’t profess how much I must apoligize to the Wilhelm family for not knowing sooner.

Geno, you keep fighting. We’re all behind you. And if you’re reading Rob, thanks for being a guy who everyone can look up to and hopefully emmulate.