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Charlie Herndon '78


Once in another lifetime, when I toiled along the North Carolina coast as a reporter for the Norfolk newspaper of record, the Virginian Pilot, I wrote a story about the folksy way natives spoke. Called the “hoi toide brogue” for the way they pronounced “high tide,” its distinguishing features were rolled vowels, a curious amalgam of Southern drawl and Cockney/Elizabethan-era English, and an entire vocabulary of words and expressions that was singularly theirs; a “pizer” was a porch, for instance, and if one was “mommucked,” that meant they were plumb wore out. 

But one of the more endearing expressions I heard was the way the locals expressed their age, and by extension the passage of time. They didn’t register age as a measure of maturity, as the modern world does now when we say we are, say, 63 years old. Given the seafaring nature of their lives, the old-timers would tell you, if you asked, “I’m 63 years out,” or just “I’m 63 out.” 

Not “old.” But, “out.” 

Out of the womb. Out of the harbor, out to sea. Out there, somewhere into the future, 63 years’ worth of well-worn travels. So it was when I traipsed onto the Gilman campus a few weeks ago, all those red bricks darkened by storms and the time of day. The 45th reunion for the Class of 1978 it was, an Alumni Weekend Saturday shoved inside the Lumen Center by rain squalls, and a little knot of us communing and backslapping and hugging and commiserating and catching up. How could so much time have passed? How could it have been so long ago? Forty-five out, indeed. 

It was a lovely reunion, though, what I experienced of it. After cocktails indoors and not in the tent on the lawn — I saw Jeff Himeles then, looking fit and trim, but didn’t get a chance to chat, which I regretted as he didn’t join us for dinner — we ventured indoors. Our tribe was small — just a handful of us made the festivities this year — but we dined on steak filets and rockfish in the library where once many of us were made to endure turkey croquettes and Mississippi mud under Mr. Menzies’ watchful eye. We pondered old Cynosure snapshots, enlarged and illuminated on a big screen, and tucked away Gilman swag offered us greybeards as we left, including a Gilman blue baseball cap stitched with an inscrutable “5407.” Most of us had to ask what that meant. 

But a grand time was had by all. By the time you read this, Carolyn and Mike Sotir will be celebrating the birth of their first grandchild, a girl, and Mike could hardly contain his pride. I heard some other grandchildren rumblings, too, so doubtless you’ll be seeing more soon in this space about this next wonderful milestone in the lives of many of us. That and retirements, which Mike also is contemplating with delight. Congratulations to the Sotirs!

Gee, free time and grandchildren – what ever will we do with our days!? Speaking of free time, Kraig Holt has been the avatar of our retired selves ever since leaving the daily grind behind some five years ago. “Every day is a Saturday!” he says, but that outlook hasn’t meant settling into an overstuffed chair and living the storied life of leisure for Mr. Holt. Though slowed momentarily by our involuntary but collective COVID incarceration, Kraig and Marisa are ready to resume their passion for travel — they are heading for Africa this summer, starting in Cape Town and then followed by a few safaris in Tanzania and Kenya and, for fun, a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls. In between the globe-trotting, he’ll be keeping up the pace by running six to eight miles every other day or so. Keep it up, Kraig — you’ll be in even better shape at our 50th than you were last week! 

Mark Minkowski made it in from the west coast for the reunion; he’s still working for the water management folks in California, which must be an interesting perspective on a lot of the environmental changes going on in the nation’s western precincts these days. 

And Tim Eastman finds himself working for a new employer since we last saw him; the COVID years found him making the transition from working as an independent woodworking professional to bringing his talent to the corporate world, where he advises a company specializing in fine restorations. 

The Albert family was well-represented among the 45-out revelers; both Charlie and Tolly attended and are doing well, both still gainfully employed and watching children grow, marry, and begin careers. Charlie salutes all the “brave souls” who made it out on such a “stormy afternoon and evening” for the soiree, and he reports that he’s now into his fifth decade working for the health insurance industry, a milestone made more memorable by his spinning off his own health care insurance practice after an opportunity arose late last year he just couldn’t pass up. Fortunately, all his clients have come with him, so he remains “full steam ahead.” Congrats, Charlie! 

And the Atlanta contingent was well-represented, with both Kenney Holley and Phil Cuffey making the party, despite Phil missing his original flight and arriving just in time to help celebrate. Both were reunion co-chairs this year, so an “All Hail,” to you both, and many thanks. 

Geoff Mock made the trek from Durham, part of a growing community of Maryland ex-pats living in the Tar Heel State. Of course, Geoff was one of the true pioneers, never leaving after graduation from Chapel Hill, and he finds his once urban oasis homestead turning more urbane by the day with the downtown gentrifying quite apace. He and Donna are doing their part with extensive remodeling and rehabbing of their residence, so he’s staying plenty busy with that. 

Another classmate contemplating a move south is Murray deMuth, who, with wife Susan, has been scoping out possible retirement enclaves from Key West to Charleston to Annapolis. Among the front runners: Oriental, North Carolina, a small but nautical garden spot on the Neuse River/Pamlico Sound that would more than fulfill Murray’s desire to be on the water and Susan’s passion for the golf links. (I also told him to check with Ray Cameron, who spent many happy years living in Oriental until he and Heather pulled up stakes in recent years and traded life on the Neuse for life with the moose; he’s now calling snowy Maine home, I believe.) Murray’s TWT fishing charters ( is gearing up again after a few fishing seasons lulled by COVID, so if you’re in the mood for anything from a day cruising on the Bay to offshore deep sea, check out TWT. 

A few other luminaries of our class rounded out our crew, from Bob Taylor, still plying the legal tradecraft in Towson, to David Willis regaling us all with memories of lax and other sports stars and plays on the field past and present, to Rob Moxley, who has — I think — relocated to Philly where he oversees real estate operations in some capacity from the Manhattan ’burbs to northern Virginia, if I remember correctly. Or at all.

We were also graced last week with a face I hadn’t seen in more than 45 years! Onetime member of the Class of ’78 Chris Cosby joined our merry band for the evening, cajoled into coming by fellow classmate Kenney Holley (I think). Chris is doing great, living in suburban DC and leading an office of government attorneys specializing in issues surrounding federal rules and regulations. I wish I could remember more from everyone, but I made the decision to enjoy the evening rather than take notes, and it’s quite obvious I should have just taken notes, which also would have been enjoyable, but considerably more work. Nevertheless, it was great seeing Chris, and with you so close by, Mr. C, we expect to see you for the Big 5-0 rolling around five years from now. 

As usual, class, precious few of you who didn’t make it to the reunion also did not check in via those ubiquitous alumni cards in your Gilman Bulletin. One who did, however, was Karl Miller, who tells us he’s staying busy as a research scientist for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and associate professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation. This past year, Karl received the Excellence in Science Award from the FWC and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director’s Honor Award for his leadership in captive breeding and reintroduction of the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow. In addition, Karl is completing his final year as managing editor for the Southeastern Naturalist, a regional science journal, and is currently working on his first book of poetry. He and his wife, Laura, reside in north central Florida but spend as much time as they can each year in Down East Maine.

Occasionally I can grab a glimpse or two of our classmates on social media. Did any of you see the amazing pic posted not long ago of a buff Ace Galleher working out in the gym? Very impressive, Mr. G; you’re making it very hard for any of us to complain about our middle age spread. But keep it up; you were truly ripped!

I see (and hear!) the latest musical creations from Rob Miller every so often, and if you can look him up — or hear him in concert — he’s really, really good, both with his artwork and his fretwork. Keep it up, Rob! And it’s impossible to miss what Andy Somerville’s passion has been with just a cursory check online; Andy regularly sets out for parts remote and usually rocky in the western U.S. to indulge in a serious love of mountain biking, as best I can tell, though there may be some road work and other two-wheeling going on, too! Stay safe, Andy! 

It is a marker of where we are in the hierarchy of high school reunions that there were more than one discussion among our small but hardy band of brothers last week about 1.) who among our class had passed, and 2.) how many of us would make it back for the 50th. Charlie Albert assures me that the half-century Gilman reunion is “not to be missed,” as the school treats the 50th as the most special of all reunion classes and makes a special effort to “add twists,” Charlie says, and make it even more memorable, including (in keeping with the rather dark theme) a memorial services when attending classmates speak about those who are no longer with us. “It’s said to be quite emotional,” says Charlie. No doubt. 

But let’s not overlook the larger issue: We are but a mere five years away from the biggest high school reunion most of us will ever attend, and certainly the most meaningful. So I’ll put my pitch in to please make plans now — a hard mental note — to commit to attending when the time comes. There were only a few more than a dozen of us at the 45th, which is fine but nowhere near representative of this class. To have made it this far is monumental, but to make it to 50 is truly a special moment, and as our lifetimes lengthen, it is a mere blink of the eye away. So put a big red mark on your calendars now — April/May 2028 — be there. 

With luck, I’ll be back in North Carolina by then. Neaville and I inch closer to retirement and if we can get our youngest, Cal, through the University of Maryland within the year, we’ll seriously begin making plans to escape to the Outer Banks, there – if plans go as imagined – to build a house, write at least one or two of the dozen or so books floating around my head, and end each evening with an adult beverage in hand gazing contentedly over Currituck Sound at the setting sun. At least that’s the plan. Until then, you can find me jousting with journalists in the communications office at Baltimore County Public Schools and puffing away on a treadmill at the Towson Y. 

Do not forget to send in your notes. Now that the dreadful few pandemic years have passed, there really is no excuse. And, as the esteemed Mr. Cosby demonstrated, we’d love to hear from and see all those who spent time in the class, for however short a period, and who forever have a tie to the Class of ’78. Until then, enjoy the days, gents, and even the lengthening shadows. If the most recent reunion was any indication, we still have plenty left in the tank, and miles to go. Forty-five out is impressive, but not nearly impressive enough. Keep in touch, stay healthy and happy, and carry on.


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