by N. Jean Green
Because Walnut Street Orthopaedic School was for the disabled, it made us a close-knit group, almost family, while we were students. As I grew older, I craved the friendship of fellow students. I made luncheon plans for two of us to meet. When I phoned to confirm our plans, I was stunned to learn that my classmate had died.
I phoned Arselia (Block) Ensign, one of our teachers, to brainstorm reunion ideas. In time, Darrell Sweet, a fellow student, and his wife, Pat, helped make up our reunion committee. Important early planning evolved around transportation, barrier-free building access and acceptable foods for those with difficult hand coordination.
Newsletter invitations with maps were mailed to those for whom we had addresses. Word-of-mouth along with an ad in the Lansing (MI) State Journal roused some interest. So did an internet search and searches through Lansing Eastern and Sexton High School yearbooks for graduates (because Walnut School was not a high school).
Our first reunion was held at the barrier-free Deerpath Apartments Clubhouse in East Lansing. The second year we met at The PIAM Centre of St. Johns, where we were introduced to the business Arselia and Al Ensign had built to help disabled people live independently. We were landlord for a day in the model home that demonstrated materials that help disabled live independently in their own homes.
Our third reunion was at our old school building, where we ate in the same dining room as when we were kids. We took a tour through classrooms, but the physical therapy room was gone, as was the rest room where we were forced to be quiet on cots and heated blankets on school afternoons.
The Deerpath Clubhouse is now where all reunions are held. A full-size kitchen is conveniently separated by a bar from the adjoining all-purpose room with overstuffed couches and dining tables with cushioned chairs. A cozy fireplace makes the room homey. The all-purpose room requires a security deposit.
Entertainment has included chat-sessions, an adult show-and-tell and a speaker sharing Rotarian History. The Rotarians were a vital helping hand to students at Walnut. A warm invitation is extended to any Walnut student to join us for upcoming reunions, held the third Saturday of each September. Contact Jean Green, [email protected].
About the author
Green began freelance writing in the early 1990s and currently freelances through her East Lansing, Michigan, home. She’s been published in The Mature Michiganian, The Messenger and Mere Oaks Newsletter.