For a group of graduates from Mater Dei High School’s Class of 1974, planning for the 50-year reunion has been a true bonding experience and as much fun as the reunion itself.
MEMBERS OF MATER DEI HIGH SCHOOL’S CLASS OF 1974 POSE FOR A PHOTO IN THE SCHOOL’S ICONIC GROTTO. PHOTOS BY LOU PONSI/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
A small committee of Class of ‘74 members began meeting a more than a year ago and meet once a month to plan the reunion, which is taking place July 20.
But beyond the actual planning and dividing up tasks for the festivities, planning meetings have allowed the 50-year graduates to socialize and form new friendships with old classmates, said Linda Ruiz, who heads the eight-member committee along with Mater Dei classmate Joanne Hutter Fierro.
Fierro and Ruiz have attended every reunion except the 10-year reunion.
MARLA FRAZER HENDERSHOT, LEFT, AND DENISE DEE KNACK, MEMBERS OF MATER DEI HIGH SCHOOL’S CLASS OF 1974, LOOK AT CLASSMATES’ PHOTOS IN AN OLD YEARBOOK DURING A RECENT PLANNING MEETING FOR THE CLASS REUNION.
And food and beverages are a staple of every meeting.
“Believe it or not, I did not hang around with one of these classmates in high school,” Ruiz said of her fellow committee members. “I didn’t even know several of them.”
The committee meets monthly and then weekly as the reunion draws near, but committee members talk and exchange emails almost daily, Ruiz said.
JOANNE HUTTER FIERRO, A MEMBER OF THE MATER DEI HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1974, SHOWS OFF HER GRADUATION CAP DURING A RECENT PLANNING MEETING FOR THE UPCOMING 50-YEAR REUNION. PHOTOS BY LOU PONSI/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Class of ‘74 graduates are living across the country and around the world and social media has been a useful tool in locating classmates, always the most difficult part of the planning process.
Classmate Marla Frazer has lived in several states since graduating and recently traveled from her current home in Colorado to attend a planning meeting held at Mater Dei High School.
Frazier, who learned about the reunion from Class of ‘74 Facebook page, hadn’t attended a reunion since 1994.
“When you’re at our age there’s so much to look back on,” said Frazier. “I maybe missed out on this or that or I wish I’d done this differently or that differently,”
She continued, “This is like redemption to become friends with people who maybe I wasn’t friends with in high school. It’s awesome”
Fierro, who last attended the 45th reunion, said she discovers new classmates at every planning meeting.
“Trying to track down classmates has been the more challenging,” Fierro said. “Now the fun part really starts where we get to plan the actual event.”
Of the approximately 425 members of the Class of ‘74, 32 have died and a memorial takes place at every reunion to remember those who’ve passed away.
There are also several notable members of the Class of ‘74.
One is Most Reverend Bishop Jaime Soto, bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento.
Bishop Soto always attends the reunion on Saturday and then celebrates Mass on the Mater Dei campus on Sunday.
“He comes to all of his reunions too, so he’ll be there,” Ruiz said.
Another notable Class of ‘74 member is Maurice Sanchez, who made history in 2022 when he was unanimously confirmed as associate justice of California’s 4th District Court of Appeal, Division 3, becoming the first Latino and first person of color to serve on the bench.
Ric Olson, lead guitarist from the 1980s band, Berlin, is a member of the class.
Planning committee member Rose Alvarado Monsanto of Oceanside has attended several reunions and been part of the committee since the 40th reunion.
Monsanto said she had to work to help her family pay for the tuition, so she didn’t get the opportunity to get involved in social activities outside of school.
Reuniting with old friends and making new ones is the main reason she stays involved.
“I feel that having communication or friendship with people who we have lost touch with is really important,” Monsanto said. “My goal for the 40th, when we had it, was to say hello to every single person who came because I wanted to feel that I met everybody. I think our class was so close because we were so small.”
If you’re a graduate from Mater Dei’s Class of ‘74 or know a graduate who would be interested in attending the reunion, send an email to [email protected].
Planning committee members are Joanne Hutter Fierro, Linda Stockhausen Ruiz, Rose Alvardo Monsanto, Patti Gay Buoy, Sylvia Mora Munion, Marian Ryan, Denise Dee Knack, Leslie Tennyson and Marla Frazer Hendershot.