BENTON CITY -- The surviving graduates from Kiona-Benton High School in 1952 have some advice for the class of 2012.
-- Be thankful for what you have.
-- Be respectful to each other and be there for each other.
-- And, most of all, never stop having fun.
So say the remaining nine members of the original class of 18 who have been holding reunions almost every year for the last half-century.
"We're a family, and we have been ever since school," said Jean Rhodes, one of five classmates who still lives in Benton County. The other four are scattered from Chelan to Nashville, Tenn.
This year's gathering was at Benton City area home of Don and Betty McCall, who have been reunion hosts for several years.
Class of 1952 graduates began showing up Thursday, and some will linger until today, McCall said. Their side yard is a parking lot for motor homes, and the living room is packed with chairs and conversations, two or three occurring at once.
They've held reunions in Nashville, in Chelan, at campgrounds scattered around the state and even surprise gatherings for 50th wedding anniversaries.
Bob Harris, who has held several reunions at his home in Chelan, said the class of 1952 was fun-loving then -- and still is.
"They can have a fun time just about anywhere, even at a rest stop," joked McCall's son Don.
"And we'll keep on doing it as long as we keep kicking," said Rhodes, whose maiden name was Finley when she was a Ki-Be student in 1952.
Harris, student body president then, recalls the day all the seniors cut class so they could meet at a big rock outside town to paint it with a big "52."
"When we got back, we got disciplined and were told all our money we'd saved to pay for our senior sneak would be confiscated. So we decided to throw a big dance for the whole town at the community hall, and nobody knew we used the senior sneak money to do it," Harris said.
The plan was for the money to be gone before the school officials could grab it, he said, grinning.
"We had a lot of fun in school, a lot of fun since, and we're still doing it," Harris said.
Joking aside, the Class of 1952 has a special reason this year to gather in Benton City.
Faye Maddox of Nashville, whose husband Russ died in 2008, will be presenting a $2,000 scholarship in his memory Tuesday at the Kiona-Benton High School awards ceremony.
"Russ always wanted to do something for the school, to give back for what it meant to him growing up," Faye said.
Having no father around and a mother who died during his senior year at Kiona-Benton High School meant Russ was without family except for his classmates.
"It was like brothers and sisters for him," Faye said, adding Russ often would stay at the homes of his classmates just to have a place to eat and sleep.
Russ Maddox ended up working for and later owning a graphics arts business with five stores in Tennessee, where he married and raised a family.
His widow said Russ always wanted to share some of that success with his hometown high school.
The scholarship will be available for five years, and is intended to go to a graduating senior involved in the community and deserving of help in furthering their education, Faye said.