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Hummel column: Class president for 55 years

In the fall of 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States, my class elected Gordon senior class president.

For those of you who are juniors in high school, pay attention -- there is a lesson here. When you elect your class president next year, vote for leadership, vote for character, vote for stability, vote for loyalty and finally, vote for durability. Gordon was all of that, and he was our leader for 55 years, until he died on the first day of spring this year.

In those 55 years he arranged more class reunions than a class is supposed to have in that many years -- one in Las Vegas, where one of our classmates lives -- and other gatherings no other president would ever imagine. The last was an outing for a musical in Medora, N.D., in the summer of 2006. In between, Gordon and his wife Doris -- also a classmate -- kept us connected by telephone, e-mail and word of mouth with news about our classmates, illness, death, other classes -- everything we needed to know.

Gordon was one of my two best friends from the time we were about 12 years old. We played ball together (he could punt a football a mile), we sang in the same quartet, even sang together at a couple of class reunions. He had a quirky sense of humor and was easily the best looking and the most popular guy in our class of 50 graduates.

I paid Gordon and Doris a visit about two weeks before Gordon passed away. He was on oxygen and was obviously a sick man, but he was the same guy I knew when we were 12. Same boyish laugh, same sense of humor, same great pal. For three hours we remembered our old friends, our old Trooper basketball team that was second in the state tournament, our moms, dads, brothers and sisters, our families, our classmates and just about everything else since boyhood. But there was no whining or self pity. I also met a son and a daughter. When I hugged Gordon and said goodbye, I knew it was the last goodbye. I'm sure he did too.

For the first 10 or 11 years of his life, Gordon lived in Wisconsin. Somehow that made him a Green Bay Packers fan, which he remained until the end. Consistent with his quirky sense of humor, the vault for his casket was painted Green Bay green and yellow. Whether that was Gordon's idea or the idea of one of his children (who also have quirky senses of humor) I never found out.

When we drove out for Gordon's funeral, we had 10 classmates there. We don't know if we elected a vice president back in 1953, but we do have a class sergeant, Shirley, who will probably take over.

We met the rest of Gordon and Doris's family -- two more children, five grandchildren as well as Gordon's sister and brother. I got the impression they all loved him, not just a little, but dearly. Folks from his church certainly held him in high regard. Over the years, Gordon had served on the parish council as president, lector, Eucharistic minister, mass server, usher, greeter, building and grounds committee member, and he sang in the choir. That's probably why the church was packed for his funeral.

What is the definition of a life well lived? Fame? Fortune? Gordon wasn't famous and he wasn't wealthy, but his life was well lived. Mistakes? He probably made a few. Regrets? Who doesn't have regrets? Gordon served his country, was true to his friends, loved by his family and was loved by them, loved and respected by his classmates and fellow parishioners. When you add it all up, Gordon lived more than a good life -- his life was extraordinary. He had everything a senior class president or anybody else should have: leadership, character, stability, loyalty and durability. Add faith, love and service and you have one in a million. Goodbye Gordon, we will all miss you.