New Friends Are Wonderful, But Old Friends Are Gold

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Nick Reiher

By Nick Reiher

I am blessed.

Not just because Pastor Jana blessed me for putting our church’s first craft show (Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Faith Lutheran Church, 353 N. Midland, Joliet, crafters sign up at or 815-725-4213) in our calendar and on our new website,

But in many others ways.

Several weeks ago, Tammy and I attended my 50th reunion of St. John Bosco Grade School. My classmates – Trudy, Charlotte, Antonette, Marge and Michael – who put this together, did so with the fervor of the invasion of Normandy. In fact, I joked if they had planned that one, the war would have ended six months earlier.

Tammy and I had a nice long talk with Marianne Comerci-McCauley and her husband Mike. Fond memories of the then-bustling Belmont-Central business district in Chicago.

Although I had seen a good number of the classmates at a 2019 gathering, and at a few dinners since, I reunited with many I had not seen in, well, 50 years.

Dan Bordignon, who had a hockey net in his basement where we shot plastic pucks. Not as easy as it might sound since there was a water pipe guarding the net. But every now and then, we’d bank one off the pipe into the net and feel like Stan Mikita.

Cathy Hapanionek. Luckily, when I first knew her even before kindergarten, her last name was Yanos. Actually, Tammy and I saw her in 2008 at the 25th anniversary of her brother Rich’s ordination. Father Rich co-officiated when Tammy and I got married in Bricelyn, MN, at a Lutheran church. Pretty risky in those days. Working out fine.

When Cathy saw me in 2008, she cried out, “Nicky!” Tammy still gets a kick out of that. I was Nicky all through grade school among my friends. Nuns called me Nicholas. We won’t go there.

So, it was Nicky until I got to high school. Gordon Tech. Home of the Mighty, Mighty Rams. Now, it’s DePaul Prep. We won’t go there, either.

Then, it was Reiher. You were placed in homeroom according to alphabet, and I was called Reiher by most of my friends, teachers, etc. “Mr. Reiher,” if we were being formal, or someone needed something.

Almost never Nick. Until I saw a dozen or so of them again last Saturday at an annual golf outing put together by Crest Hill resident Richie Schlitter. For most of us, it’s really an endurance test to see how long we can go swinging a club before our (fill in the blank) goes out.

At one point, my cart partner Frank said he had to go back to his car to get some Tylenol. I asked if Advil would do, because, well, you never know what’s going to ache these days.

Frank told me he had arthritis and a new hip or two, and he was getting a tad sore. We all made it through 16.5 holes, leaving early only because Richie wanted to get a group picture, and some guys had to head out. But we had been at it for more than four hours, after all.

There was a wedding in the clubhouse, so we couldn’t go in there and loosen up our forearm muscles. Too bad for the club. With this group, they probably would have made more on us than the wedding.

So, the group of us sat outside on the metal chairs and proceeded to empty the golf cart Jasmine had been driving around all day. We shared a lot of memories. A lot of good times.

One shared a not-so-good time. He was fine now, but told us a while ago, he had three heart attacks in one day. One put him, and his head, on the floor, another happened in the ambulance and another at the hospital. He was in Denver. They had to call his wife in Chicago and let her know.

I was sitting next to Quigs, the guy who helped get me thrown out of history class for talking. I know he went through prostate cancer surgery. He’s doing well. Richie had shoulder surgery, but he’s good enough now to play some golf and hoist a few at Fritz’s.

I am blessed that I am in relatively good health. Sciatica and a bum Achilles tendon don’t compare to what some of these guys have gone through.

And I am blessed that I still get to see these guys a few times a year. I hope we can do it for many more.

I also am blessed my St. John Bosco classmates found me and thought enough to invite me back into their lives. They’ve also adopted Tammy, and I love them for that.

So, at that reunion, those of us in the Class of ’73 got up for a picture. Charlotte stood next to me, and I instinctively put my arm around her and drew her closer.

Charlotte was my first friend in kindergarten. She asked me if I wanted to be friends. Luckily, I said yes.

Some 60 years later, we’re still friends. How cool is that?

Blessed I am.


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