South County Beat

Group of AGHS grads celebrates more than 50 years of friendship

clambert@thetribunenews.comJanuary 8, 2013 

Back row, from left: Mary Alyce (Richardson) Phipps, Cheryl (Cint) Everett, Karen (Smith) Armstrong, Joann (Zogata) Outland, Gayle (McFadden) Harbert, Mary (Phelan) Metz; front row, from left: Linda (Blankenship) Olson, Kathy ( Lovett) Abney, Ida Mae (Mize) Wilson, Mary (Hare) DeChance.

COURTESY PHOTO

In a little over a week, 10 women will travel from various parts of the country — from as far away as Virginia and as close as Arroyo Grande — to meet in Avila Beach.

The gathering is an annual, much-anticipated event for 10 friends who have known each other for more than 50 years. This year’s gathering will mark their 15th annual celebration, said Cheryl Cint Everett, a Creston resident who contacted The Tribune to share her friends’ story.

Some of the women have known each other since kindergarten in 1954. They’ll celebrate their 65th birthdays this year.

“They knew you in Camp Fire, in kindergarten, in sixth grade,” Everett. “They remember this teacher and that one. These girls know you for who you’ve always been.”

They all graduated from Arroyo Grande High in 1966. They stayed in touch over the years, but didn’t get together regularly.

That changed in 1998, when they all turned 50 years old and decided to go on a weekend cruise to Mexico.

Since then, they’ve met for a girls’ weekend every January, over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. This year, they’ll get together at a house in Avila Beach, where they’ll mix cocktails, share stories and photos, and go shopping.

Someone brings a stereo, turns on ‘60s music, and the women sing and dance — “stuff you’d never do in front of your husband or grandkids,” Everett said.

Ida Mae Mize Wilson of Sun Valley, Nev., serves as the bar maid. Mary Phelan Metz of Nipomo plans to bring jars of her apricot jam. At the beginning of the weekend, the women toast Linda Greer Key of Arroyo Grande, who died of cancer in 2008.

“We have celebrated children and grandchildren, mourned deaths of parents and loved ones, illnesses, marriages, retirements, milestone birthdays,” Everett said. “Every year we get together and pick up from last year.”

Many live in the area — Joann Zogata Outland and Gayle McFadden Harbert live in Arroyo Grande; Linda Blankenship Olson is in Los Osos.

Others come from farther away: Kathy Lovett Abney is in Carpinteria; Mary Hare DeChance will travel from Sacramento; and Karen Smith Armstrong lives in Palm Desert. Mary Alyce Richardson Phipps, who lives in Virginia, is traveling the farthest.

“It’s great to have nine sisters you can always count on, not only during our special weekend, but all year as well,” Everett said.

Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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