Santa Fe New Mexican
Recalling glory days
Tired of just sharing memories at funerals, organizer holds reunion to relive youthful moments, meet old friends
Ralph Ortiz is always one for old friends, good company and good stories. The problem was where the meetings always seemed to happen. The 75-year-old former football and basketball referee and 1962 Santa Fe High graduate said he often ran into friends, former classmates and colleagues he had not seen in years at funerals or memorial services. The conversations had a very familiar theme to them.
“They would say, ‘Hey, I gotta see you! Let’s get together and talk,’ ” Ortiz said.
Ortiz decided to take matters into his own hands three years ago and formed an “all-classes” reunion, which invited graduates from the Santa Fe area from any year to get together and talk. On Friday, about 75 people were present for the event at the Elks Lodge No. 460, with many of them graduates of
Santa Fe High and St. Michael’s from the 1950s and 1960s. But graduates from Albuquerque Manzano, Los Lunas, Las Cruces Mayfield and Mora also dotted the registry.
It was twice the size of last year’s event, which encouraged Ortiz that his work at inviting people — mainly by word of mouth — proved to be successful.
“What it is, people love to come together,” Ortiz said. “They like to see their own friends. It’s why I like going to Fiestas [de Santa Fe]. You know why? You hear, ‘Hey, man! Where have you been? Let’s go to La Fonda and go have a beer.’ You talk about old memories and old classmates.”
If anyone was going to pull it off, it was the ever-affable Ortiz.
“That’s Ralph,” said Sandy Bertram, a 1961 graduate of Santa Fe High. “He’s always done that. He’s always pulling everything together. He’s an organizer.”
Even though it was a celebration of friendship, it was also a time to remember friends and classmates who had passed away. A pair of tables had a series of “in memoriam” cards, where people put down the names of Santa Fe graduates who had passed away. For the first time, the event had a memorial ceremony for a classmate, and the Santa Fe High Class of 1961 celebrated Victor Gurule, who died in 2018.
A group of more than a dozen classmates congregated in a lower atrium, where a photo of Gurule sat on a table and music played as they swapped stories of years past and posed for photos. A group of football teammates of
Gurule’s talked about their time on the gridiron, playing on Magers Field.
Richard Robinson, a 1961 Demons graduate, remembered wearing some of the first fullfaced helmets that replaced the old leather ones. His head was almost too big for the helmet, and it proved to be problematic when he played against Albuquerque High in 1960.
“Mine would fit so tight that I had to push it back,” Robinson said. “A guy blocked me and knocked out [Robinson’s front] teeth. These aren’t Mother Nature’s; they’re the dentist’s.”
Ramon Encinias, also a member of the ‘61 class, said it wasn’t hard to remember old classmates, even if it had been awhile since they had seen each other.
“I recognized him,” Encinias said of Bertram. “He was a big, sprawling individual when he was playing football. And he still is.”
David Osuna, a 1973 graduate of Mayfield, came to the event because he knows Ortiz from their time as basketball referees and his mother-in-law is a Santa Fe High graduate. He was fascinated by his observation that while a lot of the people at the event might be familiar with each other, they didn’t really know each other until they start sitting down and talking.
“They know each other, but they don’t know each other,” Osuna said. “People are talking about different people they know, and we were talking to some people about people that we know over there [on the other side of the room]. I just know that Ralph has worked hard to get people from Santa Fe together so that they can appreciate each other.”