A reunion to remember

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By Katie Stiefel
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

A single email started it all.

After 40 years apart, forgetting the existence of one another, Jack and Clarice Thompson came in contact during the planning of a summer get-together for the East Lansing High School graduating class of 1949. Clarice sent a response to the initial emailed invitation and Jack replied with a witty comment. The rest was history.

The first emails were sent in the spring of 1996 when Clarice, a widow, was living in California and Jack, divorced, still resided in East Lansing. Although this was their first contact in 40 years, they remember meeting during their junior year of high school in the building that is now the Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbott Road.

Clarice grew up in a house on what is now Collingwood Drive, while Jack lived in different houses in the greater Lansing area but spent much of his adolescent years living in a house on Bogue Street. The two became more acquainted when Clarice was a senior at Michigan State University, working at the Union, and Jack was taking night classes and working with the university food services.

“We walked home one evening together. We stopped at the campus drug store and had a Coke,” Jack said.

The two remained acquaintances after the occurrence but nothing more.

“That’s just what you did in the ’50s,” Clarice said.

When their 45th high school reunion date was set in 1995, Clarice was unable to attend. Jack was the coordinator for the summer get-together a year later, and that is when they started emailing and calling each other on a daily basis for two months before the party.

“We hadn’t seen each other in 40 years, she came for three days over the Fourth of July, and we decided to get married,” Jack said.

They got married three months after reuniting in 1996.

“My choices when I retired were to go to Oregon and babysit or come back to East Lansing where I grew up, where there’s a lot of stuff going on and Jack, so we thought, let’s give it a try,” Clarice said.

Rather than sending formal invitations to the wedding, the couple sent out emails. About 80 people attended the wedding: their close family members, high school classmates and many of Jack’s co-workers, as he still worked for Michigan State University.

Clarice’s daughter was her bridesmaid and Jack’s son was his best man.

“My mom looked very beautiful and was so happy. I was glad that she wouldn’t be spending her time alone,” Clarice’s daughter, Erica Gordon, said.

When the minister of the ceremony said ‘who gives this woman?’ there was a shout from the audience saying ‘we do, the class of ‘49!’ from their fellow high school classmates.

Clarice moved from California to start her life with Jack in East Lansing and after 18 years of marriage the couple agrees that they are still compatible.

“We have a lot of common interests, so I think that’s probably what I enjoy most,” Clarice said.

Jack, 83, and Clarice, 81, do almost everything together.

“We have the same background and have the same tastes and we both like music and local history,” Jack said.

Gordon said that the way her mother’s life worked out makes sense because of the person she is.

“My mom has had a very full-circle life. She’s right back where she started and she’s done so many amazing things, and it just would seem really appropriate that she should end up all wrapped up with a little bow right where she was,” Gordon said.

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