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Letter after 2002 Reunion, by Karen Cotter Roughton

posted Jul 22, 2012, 7:35 AM by Largo Gold

Dear Alumni and Associates:

I hope you have all had time to reflect on the extraordinary weekend we recently experienced at the Belleview Biltmore. For those of you that couldn't attend, I hope you will make plans to join us for the next one because it was a weekend I will never forget as long as I live.

It started for some of us on Thursday night with the fireworks and some late night commiserating in the pub. I was so hyped about the weekend that I couldn't sleep a wink. Friday was exciting as everyone was arriving and recognizing old friends and classmates in the lobby. Friday night was for registration and cocktails and getting reacquainted with long lost friends and making new friends. The food was wonderful and the 300+ people there seemed to have a wonderful time. Later, a panel was set up and staff, including Bob Abben, Sr., Dusty Durst, Bob Cotter, Jr., Joe Donahey and Herb Melleney, recounted the behind the scenes and often "untold stories" of how things got started and how things were maintained. There were so many stories that I had never heard before and some that I could have listened to again and again. I was hoping it was going to last all night and was ready to go up to my room for my pillow and blanket to settle in. Again, I had a hard time sleeping and walked the halls in search of the legendary Belleview ghosts. I never did see any.

Saturday we boarded the bus and cars for our caravan to the high school where we toured the band room and gathered again as a group. Thanks to Chris Benoit, the current band director, and Alumni, Tom Seery, we were able to spend a while walking through the hallowed halls of Largo and I think we all felt the "sweet afterglow" as we had an impromptu rendition of the Lord's Prayer and the Alma Mater in the courtyard. As I was peering out through my misty eyes, I found I was not alone in my emotions. I think the most nostalgic moment for me was standing on the stage in the auditorium. I could actually see and feel the ranks lined up at attention going through inspection while the section leaders were breaking down instruments and adjusting plumes. I think that was the closest thing to perfection I will ever experience.

After the tour of the band room, we again boarded the bus for the Largo Library. The Band of Gold exhibit was amazing. Evie Rose, her committee and the library staff did a remarkable job on the Legacy Project. For all of us that had lived the life and walked the walk, the pictures truly were worth a thousand words and a thousand memories.

There were no planned activities for Saturday afternoon and I found myself missing all my friends. I went to my Mom's room and we talked about how Dad would have loved all this, and how proud he would have been. We laughed and cried because he wasn't there, but then agreed that he probably was.

Saturday evening was, for me, an evening of magic. So many of the people there were a lot younger than I am, but we had parallel lives as teenagers. We were all part of something, to this day, we really can't explain. As I was talking to Meredith Harvey, Jeff's wife, she said she was finally realizing what all of this BOG experience was all about. Celeste Navon said we were lucky to have had something like this in our lives. I wondered if we had taken it for granted back then. In some ways I think we did. I think we knew we were different than the other bands, but did we really know how unique we were as an ensemble of people? Listening to the speeches and presentations on Saturday night it hit me that this group of people were my extended family. I knew that night if I needed a friend to talk to, I could pick up the phone and call just about anyone in that room and hear a friendly voice on the other end, and they could do the same. What other group anywhere can claim that common bond of love and friendship. The evening truly was a celebration of the heart.

As I was addressing the group later, I could feel the presence of my father in the room and I could feel his pride. Proud of what we had become and proud of us all for carrying on the tradition of greatness. I don't mean the greatness of the Band of Gold. I mean the ideals of greatness as people. The integrity that we learned was inside all of us, the ability to adapt to change, pride in the face of adversity, and the presence of greatness that can only come to you when you have done the very best job possible. These are the ideals of greatness in which my father would have been most proud.

As I drove back to South Carolina on Sunday, all I could think about was how I didn't want it to be over. All I could think of was the extraordinary "magic" of those past three days. Linda Fannin Menken and her committee put on an event that is hard to describe. The saying, "you had to be there" is an understatement. I hope they all know now, the magic they brought into my life. On Monday I had such a feeling of depression - something was missing! I had several emails from people and they were all describing the same "symptoms". More and more emails came and everyone seemed to be suffering the same malady. Neil Mayhew said it best: we were all suffering Post Reunion Melancholy Syndrome or PRMS. I felt better that we had a "clinical" name for it! I think the only way to cure this is by getting together and doing this all over again. The next one will hopefully include all those that couldn't join us this time. And as the saying goes, "you ain't seen nothin' yet"!!!

Thank you Linda for what you and your committee did to immortalize our BOG institution. Thank you Evie, for the Legacy Project that will hail our achievements forever. And my personal thanks to the Alumni & Advisory Boards for allowing me to be your President. It has been an honor beyond my wildest dreams. And last, but not least, thank you to the band members, band parents, and loyal friends who brought joy and love and purpose to my family. You were our strength when our lives were so filled with sadness. My father is the sunshine we will all bask in for the rest of our lives. Thank you all for sharing in this magical weekend.

With Love and Appreciation,

Karen Cotter Roughton
President, LBOGAA