Fourth of July marks more than 40 years of friendship

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Their annual Fourth of July get-togethers make them feel more like sisters than friends.

"This is the highlight of my year," said Kathryn Carney.

Carney, Brenda Lapp, Carolyn Barks and Susan Perry graduated with a class of approximately 360 in 1965 from Cape Girardeau Central High School. Friends for more than 40 years, the bond is more important than ever.

For seven consecutive years their annual reunion has been something they look forward to. The first of all the reunions began when they declared their independence in 1997, the year they all turned 50. Although the foursome didn't get together much during that 32-year span, they talked on the phone. The 20-year reunion in 1985 was the first time they'd all seen each other since high school.

"Carolyn has been the stability of our group," Lapp said.

"I would talk to all three of them and relay what was happening in each other's lives. We decided to make this a special get-together because 50 was like a milestone. When we were younger we all thought that 50 was just ancient," said Barks.

Carney added, "She's the one that brought the four of us together."

Obstacles preventing them from getting together in those years were not from lack of caring but other obligations and priorities of family. They've all been married and raised children. Divorce and death changed that. Brenda is the only one still married. She has a 16-year-old son.

What has enabled the group to continue having reunions is freedom from raising children.

Carney said, "Economically, everything went to the kids."

Carney is from Panama City Beach, Fla.; Perry traveled around regularly; leaving Barks and Lapp in Lake of the Ozarks and Cape Girardeau, respectively. Perry and Lapp go way back, having attended Franklin Elementary School together. Lapp's parents still live in Cape Girardeau, so there was an occasionally a connection there, and Perry has lived in Marion for over a decade now. Slowly it became feasible to see each other.

A group called "The Girls of '65" grew out of the 35th reunion. The group gets together for lunch on the first Saturday of each month at BG's. On average, about 15 from the immediate and outlying areas show up. It was on the agenda for this reunion.

"We usually drive past our old houses, visit Susan's mom, Cape Rock and the old high school," said Lapp.

"I saw the old Marquette's been renovated on TV," said Perry.

That's added to the tour.

Carney, who took the trip this time with her grandson in tow, said, "When I pointed out the old bridge to him he said, 'Grandma, that's a railroad track, not a bridge.'"

The biggest change since they graduated was becoming grandmothers. Carney said, "If I'd known they would be the best I would've had them first."

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