One of my Devils Lake Central High School Class of 79 classmates, Brad Blazer, recently passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer. The day one of my other classmates, Roger – one of Brad’s very close friends – posted on Facebook that he was gone I was incredibly sad and I found myself thinking a lot about Brad and my high schools pals. The thing I remember most about Brad was his smile and infectious sense of humor and laugh. It was a Jack Nicholson worthy smile that encompassed his entire face – big and toothy with an ever present mischievous twinkle in his eyes. I remember Brad as being one of many guy classmates who were incredibly funny and were also collectively part of the close knit Class of ’79.
The thing about growing up in a small town the size of Devils Lake – population 7,000ish – is you have some kind of connection to so many of your classmates, especially if you live in the same town your whole life. Maybe you went to kindergarten together like I did with my friend Stuart who I walked to and from our kindergarten teacher Mrs. Laber’s house. I remember we took a nap in the half day class, and I thought it was such a waste of time. Or maybe you were in the same first grade class like I was with my friend Donna and you remained best buds through grade school, high school and beyond. Or maybe you remember sitting with all of your classmates in the second grade wearing your first pair of glasses and fortunately nobody made fun of you – at least that you remember – and you went sledding behind KDLR. Maybe you went to your first slumber party and played Truth Dare Double Dare Promise to Repeat for the first time and you got your ears pierced without your mother’s permission, or were involved with some “Harriet the Spy” high jinks with Jennifer. Or maybe you experienced new school in the sixth grade with Mr. DeLapp with friends like Maren, JoNell and Jane where you created your own newspaper and collected beer cans for charity. Maybe you went to Bible Camp at Red Willow. And then all the grade schools converged and you met new people in the 7th grade and girls like Shelley and Shurette and more became your friends. You went to your first boy girl dance. You worked at the Barrel Drive –In and made notes about cute boys. Maybe a guy named Richard became your best guy friend and dated your pal Jane. You cruised Main. You tried your first cigarette, took your first drink and smoked your first joint with your friends and went to keggers at the Halgrens and camped by the lake. You had classes together and countless fun times with your pals like Brad and everybody else. You went to sporting events and the state hockey tournament in Grand Forks. The list goes on and on. And then you graduated and there is a lull. You went off to college. Some people remained friends, some didn’t. Then came Facebook many years later, and you reconnected with a whole bunch of them and you became a collective unit again.And then fast forward to now. Brad was a little late to the game in joining Facebook. But there he was just a few months ago on FB. In the hospital. Sense of humor totally intact, making us all smile and laugh again via cyberspace. His friend Roger posted updates, and we all collectively prayed. And then he was gone. Heartbreaking. But even in death his uplifting spirit was intact. He didn’t want a funeral, instead a celebration of life.