TORRINGTON – Donna Cay Heinz keeps track of 1,700 people for the Trailblazers Alumni Association.
Heinz, who graduated in 1951, is the secretary of the alumni association. In some respects, it’s a full-time job.
“It takes a village to do it,” Heinz said. “Everybody has to be on board.”
J.B. Hays, Heinz and three other committee members – Marilyn Olson, Marilyn Glandt, Dick Vandel – are the alumni tasked with bringing 50 years’ worth of Torrington High School graduates together for a reunion weekend that typically takes place every other year in June at the Goshen County Fairgrounds.
The group was supposed to hold a reunion in June 2020, but it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they will plan for 2022, when they’ll meet for the first time since 2018.
Alumni who graduated 50 years ago are added to the database and invited to the reunion. Right now, that means the classes of 1938-1972 are represented. Last banquet, Heinz said there were roughly 350 people in attendance.
Keeping people abreast of Torrington happenings is a challenge, especially when a lot of the alumni aren’t on social media. It’s a challenge Heinz and Hays came into accidentally.
Hays graduated in 1966. His father, Bob, was treasurer of the alumni association during its start in the late 1970s.
“It’s nice to see classmates and other people that we knew from high school,” Hays said.
Despite the joy of bringing classmates together, the work is tiring. Hays and Heinz are hoping younger alumni soon take up the torch.
“The problem we face, realistically, is as we go along, more and more of the classes that have graduated don’t look at a reunion as anything special,” Hays said.
“We don’t want the whole thing to fall apart, but if somebody doesn’t step forth it probably will happen after this next reunion,” Heinz said.
Ideally, someone living nearby who graduated less than 50 years ago would join the committee so they can be involved long-term, they said.
The committee sends a newsletter with updates on alumni, information on upcoming events and Torrington happenings. Based on the list of 2018 reunion attendees, it’s clear most alumni opted to stay in Goshen County, but many have moved out of state, and some have made their way to other parts of the world. Last reunion, they had attendees from 22 states, plus Canada and Hong Kong, Heinz said.
Heinz, Hays and the rest of the committee meet to plan reunions, enlisting husbands and wives to help stuff hundreds of letters to be sent to classmates.
If you’ve had a change of address in the past 18 months, Heinz wants to know. She needs to update her database.
“We keep our eyes and ears open,” Heinz said. That entails keeping track of obituaries and fielding phone calls and emails from thoughtful relatives of deceased alumni.
Heinz said they recognize deceased classmates at each reunion, which sometimes reveals mistakes in their reporting. Last year, two alumni approached her and Hays to let them know their names were on the deceased list, but they are, of course, alive.
“I guess I took their word for it,” Hays said.
Glandt, a graduate of the class of 1956, posts in a Facebook group of Torrington residents former and current called “You know you’re from Torrington, WY when…” to update the list of “lost and missing alums.” Alumni and relatives eagerly post addresses and thank-you notes.
“Believe me, it’s a job,” Glandt wrote to one grateful user.