Eva Egger greets retired Caledonia High math teacher Mack “Sonny” Egger at a past Caledonia High Alumni Banquet. Until her death in February, Eva Egger had attended all but one of the annual banquets dating back more than 80 years. Her family will present a scholarship in her memory at this year’s banquet May 9. Photo by: Courtesy photo
May 3, 2014 11:04:18 PM
In an express-lane society driven by changing trends, constants come to mean more as years pass. In Caledonia, few things are more constant than the annual Caledonia High School Alumni Banquet. It's a standing appointment for all alumni the first Friday before Mother's Day. On May 9, Caledonia's graduates will celebrate the 81st annual banquet.
For five sisters -- Dotty Richards, Evelyn Thompson, Nancy Gerhart, Sandra Slayton and Donna Grant -- the alumni event has been a family tradition since their own graduations. Their mother, Eva West Egger, attended every year, except one, since it began. Egger passed away in February at the age of 96; this will be the girls' first banquet without her.
Attending the gathering wasn't optional for Egger's children. It was expected. Everyone gathered at the matriarch's home first, so they could all go together. The sisters will present a scholarship in her memory Friday to a graduating senior.
"I think I'm correct that she was the first teacher's assistant at Caledonia Elementary," said Grant. "She loved that school; she loved the children. And she was very proud to be an alumnae of Caledonia. Her class was the first to prepare a meal for the banquet (when it began), and she wanted it to continue. She wanted it to be an evening when all graduates could come back and enjoy visiting and reminiscing with their fellow classmates."
All graduates welcome
Amy Betts Williams is president of the 2014 Caledonia High School Alumni Association. The 1991 graduate is making a special effort to increase participation from more recent alumni.
The banquet is presented every year in honor of the current graduating seniors, who then become the newest members of the Alumni Association.
"I noticed last year that, from about 1980 to present, there were few classes that attended," said the third-generation CHS graduate. "I realized there is a real possibility of this event dissolving within the next 10 years, and I couldn't let that happen without knowing I tried and did everything I could, because it was extremely important to my grandparents, parents and their generations."
The banquet committee has added a few innovations this year to spark added interest. Among them is a silent auction, to benefit the association. Auction items include condo use at Orange Beach, a bath remodel and football tickets with skybox access.
"This is in hopes of the association being more active in the community and able to help others when possible," Williams explained.
Organizers also look forward to honoring alumni Friday, including Mott Ellis, for her work with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The association will sponsor a team at Relay 2015 in honor of Ellis and all Caledonia High alumni and their families who have battled cancer.
The Sherrod brothers, Dezmond and Derek, will be recognized as dual Alumni of the Year. After playing football at Caledonia, the siblings played for the Mississippi State Bulldogs before advancing to the NFL. Dezmond was formerly a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans. Derek is a Green Bay Packer.
"Both of these young men are so impressive in every aspect. Academically, they are incredibly intelligent; both finished their undergraduate degrees in less than three years and then began working toward their MBAs, which they both received. We're excited about it," remarked Williams, adding that Dezmond and his parents are expected to attend.
The 7 p.m. banquet at the Caledonia High cafeteria/auditorium is open to all alumni. (Sorry, spouses are not included until a graduate's 50th year.) The silent auction, open to dues-paid Alumni Association members, is 5:30-7 p.m. For more information, contact Williams by text or call to 662-549-1404, or email [email protected]
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.