Former BHS classmates go on cruise

September 22, 2009|By JANET HEIM

BOONSBORO -- At their 25th reunion, there was talk among members of the Boonsboro High School Class of 1977 of taking a cruise for their 30th reunion.

After the 30th reunion came and went two years ago with no cruise, a group of women who have remained close since high school -- Sherry Reeder Bingaman, Rolinda Schamel Collinson, Joann Noble Lipella, Diana Ritenour Ratliff and Bardona Wagner Woods -- began talking about their impending 50th birthdays in 2009 and how to celebrate.

The cruise idea resurfaced and they decided to take the plunge.

"We decided our 50th birthdays were as good an excuse as any," Lipella said.

Ratliff, who lives in Fairfield, Pa., and works for a commercial satellite communications company, had been on two cruises and took charge of the planning. She even made matching T-shirts and answered "hundreds of e-mails" with questions about what to pack, what to expect on a cruise and so on.


"It was a full-time job getting us there," said Woods, who lives in Hagerstown and is the director of communications for 911 in Washington County.

Collinson, a special education teacher, lives in Friendship, Md.

Lipella and Woods have been friends since their early elementary school days when they were in Brownies together. Ratliff was the latecomer, having moved from Washington state in the middle of their sophomore year.

"We have been very close friends the last 30 years," said Lipella, who lives in Smithsburg and works at Fort Detrick as an accountant for the U.S. Navy.

The women, who have been getting together about once a month over the years, used the time to start planning the trip. They opened the trip to all 167 classmates, their spouses and children.

Initially, a number of classmates were interested. When plans were set for a summer cruise to accommodate the teachers in the group, the numbers dwindled because of conflicts with family vacations. The economy was a factor for some.

Even the spouses of the five women opted not to go, a decision several regretted later.

Bingaman, who lives in Boonsboro and is an accounting supervisor for the State of Maryland, took along her two daughters, ages 19 and 13.

The group sailed out of Baltimore on July 17 and cruised to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport.

"We'd like to make this an annual event. I don't know why we waited 50 years," Lipella said.

The women took advantage of the amenities on board, amazed at the quality of the live entertainment, the long list of activities, customer service and wide array of food options. They said they also enjoyed the Caribbean beaches, some shoreside shopping and their time together.

The women, who said they hope to plan another cruise in the future, said they shared one thought while on board.

"One wish we had is that more of our classmates could make it," Ratliff said.

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