High school’s first graduates reunite 50 years later

About 200 YVHS alum gathered at HAwk's Landing on Saturday for the 50th Reunion Celebration.

YUCCA VALLEY — Back in 1969 Yucca Valley was an emerging community without streetlights, Joshua Tree National Park was just a monument and Yucca Valley High School was in its very first year as a brand new junior/senior high school. This weekend, Yucca Valley traveled back in time as the first six classes of YVHS converged for a milestone reunion.

A year and a half ago, graduates from the first few classes at YVHS were on Facebook and joked about the upcoming reunion.

“We threw out the question, ‘Oh are we going to do anything,’” said reunion co-chair and class of 1969 graduate Julie Thixton. “A few of us decided to take it on and we wanted it to be a big milestone event for the city just like the formation of the school was a big milestone event.”

Thixton, Patricia Strayhorn, Art Miller Jr., Sally Rasmusson, Robin Magee and Mary Wiseman formed a committee and began planning the three-day event, which kicked off Friday at an ice-breaking bowling party at Yucca Bowl.

“It was a wonderful night of reconnections, conversation, old friendships reestablished and new ones formed,” Thixton said.

The following morning, attendees split up between a golf scramble at Hawk’s Landing and a hike to the Barker Dam and a tour of Key’s Ranch. The main event was later in the evening. Hundreds of people gathered at the Roost Café for the reunion dinner.

“After 50 years, we got 200 people to show up,” Thixton said. “We actually sold out. It was amazing.”

The evening featured a memorial video to honor classmates who have died, two raffles for a YVHS banner and quilt made by Rasmusson, a drawing for nostalgic posters, old yearbook photos and more. Proceeds will be donated to the school.

Marilyn Steely, one of the original staff members at YVHS, was honored for her years of service to the school as a counselor and a teacher. Committee members welcomed her as the guest of honor and said she left an imprint on the life of every student she encountered during her years at YVHS.

“We are better people because you gave us the best part of you,” Thixton said at the reunion. “You left a legacy of grateful, and may I say literate students, and we love you.”

Justin Monical, principal of YVHS, attended the dinner.

“What a celebration of what this community is all about — family,” he said. “Hats off to where it all began.”

Also in attendance was 1977 alum and recent winner of the Spirit of Yucca Valley award, Scot McKone.

“It was a magical, one-of-a-kind reunion that I’m sure we’ll never see again,” he said. “It was epic.”

The celebration continued Sunday with a tour of the campus and lunch in the multipurpose room.

Thixton and the rest of the reunion committee thanked everyone who helped them put on the events, including Yucca Bowl, Hawk’s Landing and YVHS for hosting. They gave shout-outs to Jimmy Rauch for organizing the golf scramble, Jerry Pierde for leading the Barker Dam hike, Pattie Newton Barber for leading the Keys Ranch tour, Tommy and Barbara Walsch for capturing the event on film, Ricky Koukal for acting as the master of ceremonies, Autumn Koukal for donating gifts and everyone else who helped make the reunion possible.

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