First class: Nevada Union’s inaugural graduating class remains close
Back in 1953, Nevada Union High School was unified in name only.
Its students still attended separate campuses, Nevada City High School and Grass Valley High School, and maintained a rivalry that carried over from the football field to the classroom.
When the combined classes graduated in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, about 100 of the graduates were from Grass Valley with another 50 from Nevada City.
Maryeda Hayes Theer was one of those students.
“The vote had been to unify,” said Theer, who is now retired in Brentwood. “And so we were told we were going to have the yearbook together, which we did. And we would graduate together, which we did, at the Veterans Hall. We continued to have our classes at our separate schools.”
Somehow, the unified class became close and six decades later remains a tight-knit group. It has seen a number of their classmates pass on, while others have simply become lost in the shuffle of life.
The remaining students recently celebrated their 65th reunion in Grass Valley.
Through the years they have stayed in good contact and as they have aged, Theer said, they decided that holding a reunion every five years was insufficient. Instead, they chose to meet up every three years and cherish the time they have with each other.
“I am pretty sure we had a reunion every five years from the beginning,” said Theer, speaking on behalf of her class, “and what I think is very special is on our 60th we voted informally to not waste five more years, and have one in three years.”
The nature of their reunions has changed slightly over the years. They used to hold dinner dances, but now are more likely to have a nice luncheon where they can chat and reminisce. They never bother hiring any entertainment — they figure they don’t need to. They can all visit and enjoy one another’s company.
Senior class president Don Gallino, Theer said, assumed the role of emcee for their gatherings some years ago and has held the title ever since.
Another tradition that holds fast is the class’ pre-reunion beer and pizza party.
“Amos and Bev Seghezzi have always held their house open for beer and pizza the night before the main event,” recalled Theer. “I can remember going with my husband when he was alive. It’s a chance to see people a little extra time and it’s just fun.”
Theer holds dear memories of her high school years, one of the most vivid being of her class’ advisor, Elmer “Chief” Stevens, a well-known and popular teacher at Grass Valley High School.
In Nevada City, meanwhile, Stevens’ beloved wife Marguerite served as class advisors to the seniors there.
“I’m getting romantic in my old age but I thought, maybe that’s why we’ve got such a warm, close class. I don’t know,” said Theer.
The students of the class of ‘53 have done pretty well for themselves.
“I think it’s unusual in that there were some of us who were accepted to top ranking universities and graduated from there, and went on to good jobs,” said Theer. “We had five people accepted to Stanford. Four went and the other one went to Harvard. That’s pretty neat.”
Theer was one of the students who attended Stanford. There, she earned her masters in education and taught in Bay Area schools for 33 years before retiring in 1996.
Another class mate, Dr. Robert “Simi” Lyss, served as chief medical officer at Western Sierra Medical Clinic and retired in 2016.
Bob Rush, who graduated in 1953 as well, was one of the first athletes to be inducted to Nevada Union’s Athletic Hall of Fame and enjoyed a long career teaching track and cross country at College of San Mateo.
Theer said there simply isn’t enough time to speak to all of her classmates’ achievements, and is modest regarding her own.
“I don’t want to blow my own horn and I don’t want to minimize the others,” she said.
Theer estimates that about 24 classmates attend each reunion, a number they’ve naturally seen decline with the passing of years.
“My general impression of my high school years is that I was really busy,” said Theer. “They wanted to see us succeed and they helped us and guided as best they could I think.
“There is a warmth that prevails the group. It seems to me we draw closer with each reunion.”
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4231.
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