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By Jane Fusco
Most class reunions take place on milestone anniversary years and can be a time of mixed emotions as classmates meet again.
For Johnston High School’s class of 1972, reunions take place about every six months, and are more like a family gathering for a party.
The get-togethers began in 2010 when Donna (Cagno) DiSanto ran into a former classmate, and vowed to get together. That led to the idea of getting together as many of “the girls” from school as possible for a reunion.
Prior to this, the class of ’72 milestone reunions were sporadic if at all.e class of ’72 milestone reunions were sporadic if at all.
DiSanto took to Facebook, the Internet, word of mouth, even calling the parents of classmates, to contact as many girls from the class as she could find for a brunch at Twelve Acres restaurant in Smithfield. About 30 women attended. What was supposed to be a two-hour event turned into an all-day affair. At 4:30 pm, the management of the restaurant had to ask the lingering group to leave because they needed to set up for evening events.
“The girls had such a good time that they said we should do this again,” DiSanto said, and planned another get-together the following April. “This time I was able to get more people through word of mouth, and it just kept going on,” said DiSanto.
DiSanto dubbed the group the JHS Babes of ’72.
She plans the reunions in April and October but continues to contact more class members throughout the year. “With each event I hope to get more people together,” she said.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of their high school graduation in 2012, the group established a scholarship in the amount of $1,972 for a graduating senior given at that year’s Honors Night award ceremonies held at the high school. The award was presented by members of the class of 1972, along with Johnston mayor, Joseph Polisena, himself a member of the class of ’72. David Marchetti, owner of Marchetti’s restaurant in Cranston and a JHS ’72 graduate, provided a restaurant gift card for the scholarship winner. For many of the presenters, it was the first time in 40 years that they had once again walked the halls of Johnston High School.
Photos of the get-togethers were posted on Facebook after each event and caught the attention of many male class members who wanted to be included. The guys joined the festivities in the Fall of 2015 and more are coming to each gathering. With the addition of the guys, the name of the group changed to the JHS Babes and Hunks of ’72.
“I was really excited and looking forward to seeing everyone, some that I knew since grammar school,” said Steven Salzillo, “The memories came flooding back right away.” Jack Baffoni agreed. “The connection between many of my classmates was so great, even after all these years,” he said.
“Well there must be something in the water in Johnston because I was quite surprised how well everyone looked,” Vito Marcaccio said after attending his first reunion. “It was great to catch up and find out what peoples’ lives had become. So many were nurses, teachers, business owners and even attorneys.”
Some out-of-state class members come back to town just for the event.
Lisa Catuogno Clark moved out of state when she entered the military after high school and lost touch with many school friends.
“These reunions not only give me an opportunity to reconnect, but also provide a chance to get to know one another as adults,” said Catuogno Clark. ”I found interesting, intelligent, multi-faceted people that I only had a glimpse of in high school.”
Debra Aiello likes that the frequency of the get-togethers “reflect a sense of connecting with each other rather than competing.”
What will this close-knit group of former Johnston High School classmates do for their 45th anniversary coming up in 2017? Those plans are in progress, said DiSanto, but undoubtedly, it will be a memorable celebration among a very special group of classmates and friends.