Back to Events page

35-Year Class Reunion


Class of ’77 meets for FUNDAY at JFK School

This year was our class’ 35th reunion. The organization team and I planned the celebration to coincide with the John F Kennedy School’s FUNDAY scheduled for Saturday, the 29th of September 2012. It also happened to be the weekend of the Berlin Marathon, so participants had to arrange their travel plans early.

Campus tour

We met at 15:30 at the booth of the JFK alumni in the middle of the FUNDAY fair grounds. A number of us enjoyed the Caipirinhas that John Hagen, president of the alumni association, was preparing in the booth. I saw and met several classmates visiting the school’s party for an hour or two before that. (I was running a booth for voter registration during the day.) Frau Stockman joined us just for the meeting. Maybe some classmates practiced their Latin with her. We were also joined by some relatives who wanted to take part in the tour, e.g. my brother Benjamin (class of ‘83), his mother-in-law, and Ilse’s husband Herr Groß.

Shortly after 16:00, former principal Dr. Schürmann took us on a tour then of the campus. He started where it all began for us in the first and second floor of the elementary school (red) building. He pointed out some renovations that have been done in the past decades, most notably the installation of heating pipes in the window frames to replace the bulky electrical thermal storage heaters. Today, they also have whiteboards and video projectors in all rooms. The beloved cubbies are still part of the wall shelving.

After looking into the now extended elementary school library, we went up into the administrative (green) building for the elementary school. There was a model of the school after the renovation on which Herr Schürmann pointed out the various new wings and additions.

(That’s my brother Ben, fourth from the right)

Passing past the cafeteria area, Herr Schürmann said the lunches we had gotten, which were still cooked on site back then, tasted much better than the catered stuff he said he had to try at least once or twice as a principal. In the old big Aula, we spotted the old cubistic wall designs. I announced there that I would send out invitations soon for us to go see the next musical production “The Beauty and the Beast”, which will be preformed in the Aula in November.

We passed through the small Aula, where we’ve met for previous reunions and took a rest in the well-equipped orchestra and chorus practice rooms. Next, we crossed over to the high school (blue) building. There, Herr Schürmann pointed out that white paint had been recently applied to walls and ceilings to cover the bare gray concrete we had grown up with. We looked in a couple of former social studies rooms and chemistry lecture halls, which have also been renovated recently. Left exposed though were the murals in the halls painted by the graduation classes of the last generation of students. How come we never did something like that?

The high school library we knew has since moved, but we did see the well-equipped computer (we still used slide-rulers!), chemistry, and upon request, the physics halls. Herr Schürmann shared funny stories about what some of our favorite teachers were up to after we left the school. Down in the library, Herr Schürmann accidentally set off the alarm, so not too much time was spent there.

The last stops on the tour were the new huge sunken gymnasium and the old gymnasium.

Evening party

Everyone was able to get a ride with those who went by car, so that we started gathering at the Italian-Bavarian restaurant "Maria und Josef" (or here with map: "Maria und Josef") shortly after 18:00. It’s right next to the old entrance building of S-Bahn Lichterfelde West. Claudia Peters was there to greet us and the waiters passed out welcome drinks.

Once it seemed everyone had arrived, Claudia and I gave welcome speeches to the 30 alumni attending plus Herr Schürmann as the only faculty member who could come. I pointed out a folder with greetings for us from other classmates and teachers who couldn’t participate. We’ve have quite a string of reunions till now, so I asked for a show of hands of those who participated 5 years ago, or last time 10 years ago, and so forth. The great majority has been with us regularly. However, four were with us for the very first time: Michael Pflitsch, Max Kiebach, Christian Franke, and Manuel Nick. Their contact addresses were only recently found or they decided to finally come. Max actually traveled the furthest for this event; flying in from Florida – a first for this distance. Irini came from Greece, Klaere from Norway, André from Austria, and Kaspar from Switzerland.

Any grandchildren yet? No, but a number are on the way! We’ll be at an age next time to share grandkid baby pictures.

The buffet dinner was delicious and plentiful. Don’t know if I was able to sample everything there. Thanks to the classmates that recommended this establishment. The bottles of mineral water were free, but other drinks had to be paid for.

Later, it was time for ‘Show & Tell’. Friedhelm had coordinated the contributions and Fedor provided a video projector (‘Beamer’ in German) and a screen. I started with a topic from the earliest part of our school’s history, namely the episode of the naming of our school. Two years ago, during the 50th anniversary of our school, I was particularly interested in knowing what the exact steps were that were taken for the school’s naming. Founding principal Klaus Bewer had given a speech at the ceremony back then, but had also contributed the story in a booklet titled “Wir Kennedykinder” that the ‘pioneer’ students and teachers had compiled as well. I read Bewer’s account while standing in front of the iconic picture of President Kennedy projected on the screen. According to Bewer’s recollection, he attended Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in front of Rathhaus Schöneberg in June 1963. I knew my buddy Michael Pflitsch had been there as well, so – as an aside – I asked our group who else heard that speech (thinking only Mike would raise his hand). I was nearly knocked off my feet in amazement when at least a half-dozen hand went up, including Herr Schürmann’s. Hardly any of those that were 3-5 years old were able to grasp the significance of the event back then, but their parents may have already had the aspiration to send their children to the bilingual school, which eventually took the speaker’s name.

According to Bewer, the night the news of Kennedy’s assassination brought people to the streets in Berlin, he had the idea of renaming his German-American school. He got the process started by calling the Berlin education senator. Willy Brandt got the approval for the name then from Jacqueline Kennedy at the funeral and the school was rededicated in December. It also amused my listeners to hear how the local Zehlendorf authorities were peeved by Bewer’s going directly to the Senat.

Other classmates had presentations of pictures from Abitur parties, class groups, and various classroom activities. André’s topic was a concentration of sports activities and Martina was able to rattle off names of us as third graders while pointing out each of us on the screen with a laser pointer. Otherwise, it was the usual game of “That’s so-and-so”, “Who is that?”, and “Whatever became of…?”

The rest of the evening, we passed around old black and white photos, viewed more images on a laptop, and of course shared stories and more stories.

I’m sure we could have gone on longer, but after midnight the restaurant staff wanted to go home, so we had to leave as well. There was the option of going to a club or dancing still, but we’re not the youngest anymore.

Museum tour

We met again Sunday at noon for a guided tour of the Allied Museum on Clayallee. An American historian gave a tour of the two old buildings of the museum, which some of us remember as the old Outpost movie theater and Nicholson library respectively. The topic was “How Enemies Became Friends” and spanned everything from the Allieds’ first occupying Berlin until the withdrawal following reunification. Highlights of the tour were the artifacts of the Airlift and the building of the Wall. I got those classmates who were at Kennedy’s speech together for a picture in front of a showcase featuring that event. I had hoped for more artifacts on the daily life of American civilians back in the old days, in particular our beloved school busses, but there was nothing special on display currently. Likewise, the Hastings airplane was being renovated, so we couldn’t tour through it either. I heard that several classmates exchanges stories though about how their families were affected by or involved in the Cold War.

After the hour-long tour, we had a last get-together at the Italian restaurant Villa del Sol across the street from the museum. Herr Bewer was able to join us at a long table then that was set up on the sunny terrace. He recounted some more about how the school got its name and other stories of the school’s founding. He also remembered several of our names and particulars of our families and biographies.

It was a pleasant warm afternoon for final reminiscences. Ideas were circulated for some retreat-like reunion next time or at least that the Berliners meet casually once or twice a year in the future.

The surplus we had (mainly because so few invited faculty participating) was sent as donation to the JFK school Verein.

Thanks to the others on the organization team: Iris Gamradt-Ruge, Claudia Peter, Karsten Peters, Friedhelm von Blankenburg, Petra Linke, and Marthina Koerfer

The following classmates attended:
Tahani Adnan (Mokhtar), Alan Benson, Friedhelm von Blankenburg, Thomas Danne, Fedor Ernst, Birgit Franke, Christian Franke, André Gahleitner, Iris Gamradt-Ruge, Roy Gerstenberger, Dorothea Goldschmidt-Eberlein, Ilse Groß, Kaspar von Hammerstein, Ulrike Hennig, Georg Jäsrich, Max Kiebach, Manfred Köcher, Marthina Koerfer, Petra Linke, Andrea Müller, Manuel Nick, Thomas Nick, Irini Paicos, Claudia Peter, Michael Pflitsch, Klaere Poelchau, Joachim Pohl, Oliver Remme, Doris Timm. Peter Zuriel had signed up but didn’t show up at the dinner. Ute Remann joined only the school tour whereas John Kiernan could only join the museum tour. Karsten Peters joined later at the restaurant and again for Sunday lunch.

Here are some afterthoughts to share:

Fedor Ernst:
unserer Zusammenkommen am Wochenende hat glaube ich allen gefallen, im Vergleich zu den vorangegangen Treffen erschien vieles noch vertrauter und persönlicher. Im Grunde genommen haben viele bedauert, dass die Zeit so kurz war. Mit einigen konnte ich die Idee besprechen das nächste Treffen für ein zusammenhängendes Wochenende in der Nähe von Berlin zu planen, man kann in ein Hotel oder eine Jugendherberge gehen, inmitten einer schönen Landschaft dort gibt es Zeit für vieles: Wandern, Paddeln, Dampferfahren oder was auch immer, abends schön essen vielleicht am Lagerfeuer mit guter Mucke, morgens ein gutes Frühstück und dann farewell.. Man organisiert dies wie ein Familientreffen, vor Jahren habe ich so etwas im Elbsandsteingebirge veranstaltet. Ich freue mich auf Resonanz und wollte die hoffentlich noch guten Vibrations für eine solche Idee nutzen.

Marthina Koerfer:
ich kann mich Fedeor nur anschließen: Ich fand es das entspannteste Klassentreffen, möglicherweise hat es mit dem Alter zu tun, es wird nicht mehr schnöde nach Familie und Beruf gefragt, irgendwie hatten wir alle echtes Interesse aneinander . Und dann diese unglaubliche Nähe, obgleich ich einige tatsächlich 35 Jahre nicht gesehen hatte.
Besonders aufgefallen ist mir unsere Offenheit, man konnte auch von Niederlagen im Leben berichten, vielleicht ist da der tolerante Geist unserer Schule nicht ganz unschuldig!
Ich freu mich schon jetzt auf das nächste Wiedersehen - vielleicht schon in einem Jahr? Die Idee eines gemeinsamen Wochenendes finde ich großartig und bin gern bereit als Location Scout mitzuwirken .
Habt einem schönen Herbst,

Andrea Müller:
Ich kann mich den Schreiben von Fedor und Marthina nur anschließen! Ich hatte vor dem Klassentreffen hin und her überlegt, ob ich daran teilnehmen soll, hat man sich nach so langer Zeit überhaupt noch etwas zu sagen, geht es nur um Karriere und Positionen.....nein, dies waren eigentlich Nebensächlichkeiten. Ich kann nur sagen, ich bin sehr froh, dass ich gekommen bin! Ich habe die Stimmung als sehr harmonisch empfunden und bin immer noch überwältigt vom gemeinschaftlichen "Geist".
Die Besichtigungstour durch die Schule hat viele Erinnerungen in mir geweckt, Vielen Dank Alain, dass du Herrn Schürmann wieder dazu gewinnen konntest. Die Fotos von damals waren klasse. Dem ganzen Organisationsteam ein großes Lob, was ihr auf die Beine gestellt habt.
Fedors Idee von einem gemeinsamen Wochenende finde ich super.

Dorothea Goldschmidt-Eberlein:
...Das klingt ja von allen sehr positiv und ich kann mich da auch anschließen. Es treiben einen inzwischen doch ganz andere Dinge an, als die Karriere. Andere Aufgaben (wie Pflege der Eltern oder echte Familiendramen oder -erfolgsgeschichten) werden wichtig, stabile Ehen / Beziehungen sind Gold wert.
Ich hatte bis Mittwoch Abend noch herrliche Tage im sich verändernden Berlin, wo ich viel per Rad und U-Bahn unterwegs war (im Willy-Brandt-Haus eröffnete Steinmeier eine Staeck/Volland Ausstellung, die seit 3.10. sehenswert ist) und Zeit für die Familie hatte. Insofern ist dieser Wochenend-Gedanke für uns aus der "Ferne" Anreisende eher naheliegend. Wenn sich so ein "Brückentag" wieder terminlich einbauen ließe, wäre es Klasse.

In the meantime, do check out these two Websites:

John F Kennedy School John-F.Kennedy School
JFKS Alumni Association JFKS.NET.

Return to top of page