November 2023 Guest Editor, Jan Brown (LT 9)

I moved to Tallahassee in 1986. I met a lot of people in my jobs. As you probably did, I thought I would know several members of my Leadership Tallahassee class. Class IX had 30 participants, none of whom I had ever met! I rode to the retreat location of Destin with Jack Diestelhorst, pulling his boat. (Yes, we did SIMSOC too—I was a red and had to wear the deely bopper headband.) By introducing me to people that I probably would never have met in everyday life it enriched my life from that day forward. By immersing me in the workings of Tallahassee government, nonprofits, healthcare, arts and so much more, I became a true citizen of my community.

After graduation, as may have happened to your class, life got in the way of regular meetings and we all saw less and less of each other over the years. Fewer and fewer classmates were able to attend membership luncheons. Kids were growing up, jobs changed.

In 2009, I moved to Toledo, Ohio, to be close to my brother and his family. It was hard to leave my town—and I truly felt like it was my town. But family is family. In February of 2022, my brother passed away and I faced a decision as to where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I was the happiest here in Tallahassee and I came back in October 2022.

Little did I know when I was elected Big Cheese of LT Class IX, that it was a lifetime “honor.”  (We had Roman numerals back then until there were just too many classes and no one could figure out all the Xs, Vs Is and Ls.) This really came home to me when I returned to Tallahassee after 13 years. Were there friendships I could renew?

I decided to attempt to get my classmates together for a 30th reunion. I searched for emails, addresses and status of the members, messaged on Facebook, mailed and emailed strangers—and found 25 of 30 members. Unsure of the willingness of classmates to meet, I emailed the list and planned an event at a local bar for January 2023 then waited to see if anyone would show up.

Wow, what a response! Fifteen friends came and I heard from several more. Everyone was thrilled to be together again. The friendships we forged back then were still as strong as ever! Since January, we have met at the home of Jack Dieselhorst and just recently were hosted by classmate Russ Daws at the Tallahassee Museum.  We will have a holiday party on December 5 at Golden Eagle, hosted by class member Linda Dilworth.

Families are grown and grandchildren take up our time. Many are retired. We may be grayer, move a bit slower and have more crow’s feet than 32 years ago but we are still vibrant and full of life and still able to share the deepest bonds forged through Leadership Tallahassee.

Big Cheeses, it’s time to get your class together for some fun. You will be so glad you did!