Redwood class of ’66 dedicates plaque in remembrance of Reunion Leader

Garrett Cook

A somber yet joyful mood filled Redwood High School’s center quad as Richard Torney, a Redwood graduate of 1966, pulled back a red and black felt tarp to reveal a new dedication plaque nailed onto a grey bench. The plaque now reads, “Dedicated to Lee Florance Praught, 1948-2018, Class of 1966.”

Praught was also a graduate of 1966, and in her later years became the leader of the class’s Reunion Committee. She organized and brought together her class every 10 years to reunite and celebrate each other’s lives, all the while battling multiple sclerosis and multiple forms of cancer. Praught passed away in 2018, and on Tuesday, May 7 2019, her friends and family gathered once again to remember her and her work.

According to Robin Thomas, who also graduated Redwood in 1966, the plaque has been installed to celebrate and applaud Praught for her work as the Reunion Committee leader for their class over the decades since graduation. Thomas states that the reunions every 10 years had a positive impact on Praught’s life, which then extended as a positive impact onto her classmates lives aswell.

“These reunions, the planning, and meeting and committees, kept her going. This was what she looked forward to, it was one of the things in her life that gave her a reason to get up everyday…That to me is a memory that goes many years, because that was what was really important to her,” Thomas said.

Thomas finds the reunions to be important for her class, and believes they keep the group connected.

“I think that being able to come to these reunions as adults, and know that we have the same friendships and the same feelings with all those people that we knew in high school is really valuable to me… Coming to the reunions brings a sense of belonging, and a sense of remembering these really great times and the turbulent times that we grew up in,” Thomas said.

Jeanne Zanzi, Praught’s sister who also attended the ceremony, hopes that the plaque will not only remind people of what a great leader Praught was, but also of what a wonderful human being she was.

Jeanne Zanzi attending the ceremony to thank the Reunion Committee for their kindness.

“It’s such a thoughtful and considerate thing for the Reunion Committee to honor Lee for all her work in a memorial to her. She was always a caring person who cared about everybody. She would do anything for anybody in a drop of a hat, and that’s what I hope comes across through this memorial,” Zanzie said.

The plaque sits on the side of a bench that was dedicated by the class of 1966, overlooking a wooden Tiki statue commissioned and installed by the class over 50 years ago. According to Torney, a close friend of Praught, when the class was ready to graduate, they had a surplus of money in their class treasury and voted to buy the Tiki statue. The Tiki has had a long-running history and humorous significance to the class, first being created as an “anatomically correct” Tiki, and then falling over to be left in the mud many years later. Then, in 2004, Torney and some of his classmates reinstalled the Tiki in concrete and carved the year “1966” into the block.

Richard Torney holding a picture of Praught in front of the class of 1966 commissioned Tiki god.

Torney said that Praught loved the Tiki, and the plaque next to it is dedicated to her because of her outstanding character that touched the lives of everyone around her, even during her sickness. The plaque will always serve as a reminder of her leadership, and as a reminder of the life she lived.