Saturday, July 2, 2016


Summer is a time of sunshine, picnics, swimming vacations and REUNIONS!
Recently, I had the opportunity to return to my college campus, visit my old fraternity house (yes, it's a fraternity, even though most people think fraternities are for men and sororities are for women-- that's a myth, but that's a different story) and reconnect with some of the best women I have known in my life!

It began over a year ago when, thanks to Facebook and one younger sister who created a Tau Page for Zeta Tau Alpha, Tau alums began to find one another. Many of us who attended Millikin University between 1973 and 1980 connected and began "talking" about how great it would be to get together again. Then, about a year ago, we set the dates for June 24-26, 2016 and the plans began! While it didn't turn out to be as originally envisioned due to some late planning, it was still a WONDERFUL week. While each of us was skeptical about how the weekend might turn out, all of us who made it were SO happy we did and before the end of the first day, everyone was asking when we were going to do it again! So, let me share and give you an idea of what it was like for us.

I arrived before anyone else did to make sure everything was arranged. I connected first with Vickie (O'Reilly) Buckingham and went to dinner on Thursday evening with her, her husband and her parents: one of my sets of surrogate parents through college since I had already lost both of my parents. It was a great evening and "Mom &  Dad" O'Reilly were as cheerful, fun and loving as I remembered them. After dinner, Vickie came back to the hotel with me to talk for awhile. While she were there, we tried to contact Linda Arends (aka Mrs. A.) who had been our house alum advisor and my "twin" Donna ("Libby") Higgins. We were successful in reaching Libby and told her about all of the events we had going on so that she could join us for the weekend.

Libby & I
Next in was one of my little sisters, Tammie (Albritton)! Coming in from California, she would have won the award for traveling the farthest---if we were giving out awards! After flight delays and challenges starting those new-fangled rental cars that don't use a key, Tammie actually arrived at our hotel (The Country Inn & Suites) about 1:00 am on Friday. We got together in time to go to lunch.
Tammie & I
(Color-coordinating was purely accidental!)
About the time I was meeting up with Tammie, Laura "Mutt" (Mullen) Connelly was being picked up at the bus stop by her little sister, Francie (Hayes) Brown. Mutt would have won the award for the most "challenging" trip coming in from Indiana via St. Louis and Springfield by Greyhound! 

Mutt and Francie
We contacted Vickie and made arrangements to meet her for lunch when she could get away from work.
Vickie & Mutt
(Vickie was like-minded in her color choice for the day!)
We opted to meet somewhere close to campus for lunch and wishing Mr. Ed's was still in business, chose to go to "University Dogs." The food was good, but a Mr. Ed's polish sausage, it was not....

Vickie needed to go back to work, so the rest of us headed back to the hotel to hang out until it was time to head to our dinner meeting place. While we were hanging out, we were joined by Laura "Phlip" (Phillips) Leupold who was my first little sister, Denise (Wasson) Freyenburger, Melissa (Reichart) Ferguson and Robyn (Wise) Bathon!
Laura & Robyn

Denise, Robyn, Mutt, Tammie & Melissa
Shortly before 7:00 pm, we all got ready and walked next door to a new Bar & Grill called The Draft to meet the rest of our sisters who had traveled in for the weekend!
Mutt & Peggy (O'Neill) Burton

Vickie, Laura, Tammie & Robyn

Sandra (Fendley) Theriault, Me, Libby
Melissa, Denise & Francie
Time seemed to melt away. Even though most of us had not seen one another in 35 years or more, it was amazing how all of these lovely ladies had weathered life, survived challenges, created careers, raised families and yet were the same fun, goofy, loving women they were when we shared our life at the Zeta house.
Lucky 13 Zeta sisters reunited!

Libby, Melissa, Denise & Francie

My favorite picture of the evening!
Indicative of the laughter and Zeta love shared!
Mutt, Peggy, Susan, Sandra & me
(Susan Price '91 (center) joined the group a little after we got started.)

Vickie, Laura, Tammie & Robyn
After saying good-night to the "locals" who needed to head home, the rest of us met in Tammie's room until after midnight... unwilling to give up our rekindled friendships! Some of us shared hotel rooms with old house roommates and were foolish enough to continue talking and laughing until 2:30 in the morning! Robyn and I actually recognized that we had sore throats from all the talking and laughter!

With a consensus of deciding to take our time getting ready in the morning, the six of us who had stayed at the hotel decided to go to a favorite college hangout for lunch. 

Lock, Stock & Barrel (a brand new bar when we were in college) was still there and very much the same... although to Mutt's disappointment, the wallpaper in the ladies' room had changed!

After lunch, it was time to head to the Zeta House where the alumnae organization had arranged for a student guide to lead a walking tour of the campus to all who wanted to participate. While Sandra, Francie & Susan were unable to join us on Saturday, we added Tawnie (Moma) Johnson (Libby's little sister) to the group!
Libby, Tawnie, Mutt, Tammie, Peggy, Laura & Denise
On the Zeta House front porch!
(No more porch swing...)
While on the walking tour, our "twinks" had some special memories involving recitals and the rearranging of some furniture....

Twinks: Denise, Melissa, Mutt & Tawnie
In the recital hall
When they returned from the walking tour of campus, the Millikin alumnae organization had prepared a small reception for us in the dining room of our former home.

Two closets were added to the
far end of the dining room and the
sliding door replaced by windows.
After sitting in the "Dining Room" reminiscing about houseboys,  Vergie's cooking, eating dinner with "Mom" Hand and gazing out the bay window at the old Delta Sig house, we were given the opportunity to roam the house at our leisure... more reminiscing about the rooms we lived in, who we shared them with and of climbing out the windows of the Zeta or Tau rooms to sit on the roof on warm spring/summer days. The alumnae organization has added some Zeta memorabilia which made us feel a bit more at home; knowing that they recognize it as a piece of our history. They are looking for more of our memorabilia to exhibit, so if you have any you'd like to donate... let me know!

Plaque at the base of the front stairs
recognizes the use of the house by
Zeta Tau Alpha in the past.

Wall next to the 3rd floor door to the "dorm."
Photos were from two of the last years Zetas
lived in the house.

Zeta banner hanging above the
stairs leading to the 3rd floor.
Ending our self-guided tours, we all took time to gather in the "formal" living room to share stories and even try to sing a few songs... when we could remember the words... Amazingly, the one most remembered the best? The Greek Alphabet! Anyone remember "Cuddle Bunny" or the Zeta prayer for before dinner?

And then... before we could leave... we HAD TO take advantage of the photo opportunities!

"Laura Squared"

Some people never change!
Thank goodness!
For me, no reunion, no photo opp is complete without the "Family" photo shoots!
With two of my "little sisters"
Tammie & Laura
And, by special request for MY big sister, Donna ("Blaine") Neblett... her two little sisters (Libby & me) and her "granddaughter," Tawnie.

Libby, Tawnie & me
Unfortunately, Vickie had to leave us early due to a family emergency and "Mrs. A" was unable to join us due to a family obligation and all too soon it was time to say good-bye once again to the house we all knew and loved. A house that had truly become a home to each of us during our college years.  BUT.... our reunion was not yet over!

We had reservations for dinner at Paco's Sol Bistro in Decatur. More laughter, more reminiscing and more bonding with good food!

After a good dinner, it was just too early to say good-bye and, after all, what visit to MU, our old Big Blue, would be complete without a visit to ...

Posing outside the Winery...
Anybody need to "cash a check?"
In many ways, it was the same. An extra room had been added for the pool table. Some of the booths were rearranged, but overall, it was still the Winery. And just because it had to be done, Tammie asked the waitress if Pat O'Mara (aka "Pat the Catholic") still frequents the old hangout. Although she knew him, she told us she hasn't seen him in a loooong time and before we could leave, we HAD to take a picture of the group as documentation that we had been there...

Such a fun weekend sharing memories, or learning that perhaps we're missing a few... Did I REALLY get shot in the leg by a Delta Sig with a BB gun? Who stole a Christmas tree? We had a whistle? Who really spiked the punch that caused Denise to get drunk at a house dance and spill her guts about Pepe? What was that girl's name? Did she graduate? Anybody know what happened to... Flentje? Space? Trudy? Remembering those we know have passed away... Where is ....?She's in Chicago... because that's where she was from....

Before the weekend officially came to an end, with the final six saying goodbye at our hotel, everyone got up to share breakfast and, of course, get in a couple of final photos!

With joy combined with happy tears, we said goodbye... Denise was off to Iowa to marry off two children, Laura P to her hubby and horses in Missouri, Tammie going to visit some friends and her parents' graves before heading back to Paul in California, Mutt to begin another adventure on the bus back to Indiana, Robyn seeing Mutt safely on her way before heading to St. Joe and me to say goodbye to Pop Sloan before getting on my plane out of Decatur to St. Louis & Dallas. Back to our own realities after three days of remember when and wondering how our young minds ended up in these old bodies...

One thing was certain before our weekend ended... no one wanted to say good-bye and absolutely no one wants to wait another thirty years to get back together again. Originally, I thought five years... but as Laura P pointed out... we're not that young anymore... (Killjoy!) So, the fact that we spent a weekend trying to figure out how to find more of our sisters combined with a desire to see one another again SOON, the commitment has been made to re-do this again in 2018! 

The REAL exciting part is that if we have our reunion about the same time again (versus having it at Homecoming), we can actually book the House for our dinner, have it catered and eat in our old dining room and have the freedom to relax in the living room! So, if you were there, we expect to see you in two years. If you weren't there, we SINCERELY hope you'll make every effort to be there and share the memories with us all!

The perfect ending to our weekend was sent out by our dear Denise. A reminder to each of us, that every one of our sisters has touched our lives. To all of my sisters, Zeta love and mine!

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed
for good."
So very true... ZLAM

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