Joanne McKray Passes Away

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 18, 2016

August 20, 1931 – December 7, 2016

Joanne McKray died peacefully at her home in Alameda, CA December 7, 2016. Her beloved husband, George, of 55 years, died 20 days prior to Joanne passing on November 18, 2016. Her sister Marilyn Zeigler of Wilmington, NC had passed just recently. Joanne is survived by her brother, David Helwig of Flinstone, GA, her stepson James McKray of Kings Beach, CA, and her stepdaughters Shandis McKray Pilat of Auburn, CA and Linda Nelson of Las Vegas, NV.

Joanne was born in Califon, NJ to Frederic and Charlotte Helwig on August 20, 1931. The family moved to Princeton (where they lived across the street from Albert Einstein!), and then to Knox, PA. They spent World War II in Macon, GA where her father, an Army chaplain, was stationed before he was sent to France. The war ended and the family moved back north to Youngstown, NY, a suburb of Niagara Falls, in time for Joanne to begin high school. She subsequently graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio, and then spent seven years living in Greenwhich Village in New York City where she acquired a masters degree in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary and her husband.

When George finished his fellowship at NYU the couple moved back to San Francisco, George’s hometown. There he opened his law office while teaching part time at the School of Public Health at U.C. Berkeley, and Joanne took California required education courses at SF State. A year later they moved to Oakland and later Alameda. Joanne began 26 years of teaching choral music, world cultures and anthropology at Skyline High School in Oakland.

After she retired in 1990 the McKrays increased their foreign excursions, and over the years visited most of Europe and a number of countries in Asia and the Middle East. Joanne volunteered as a tutor in a literacy program and as a history docent at the Oakland Museum. Her major efforts concerned a succession of good government issues, working as a State Board member of Common Cause and a member of the League of Women Voters. They included the establishment of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, campaign finance reform, implementation of ranked choice voting, state redistricting for fairer voter representation, and government transparency. She was also active in the Alameda Democratic Club.

A private memorial gathering will be announced and held at a later date. Anyone wishing to make a memorial donation may do so to Midway Homeless Shelter (Building Futures for Women and Children, 1395 Bancroft Avenue, San Leandro, CA 94577), or to the International Rescue Committee (122 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10168-1289).

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Save the Date for our 2016 Get-Together!

Home of the Skyline High School Class of 74 Titans

Hello Classmates. Your reunion committee is working on a “Tween” reunion to be held later this year. The theme is The Class of ’74 Turns 60 in ’16. This will be a simple, no-host event, similar to those we had between our 35th and 40th reunions. The details are still in the works, but we wanted to send out a save the date announcement.

Saturday 10/15

As we mentioned, food and drink are no-host. The intent is that there will be no cover charge. We’re looking at options for live music, and are trying to find someplace that has lodging nearby for those who may be traveling, or just want to stay overnight. We hope lots of you will attend, so put the two dates on your calendar, and we’ll let you know when its safe to delete one or the other.

This message will also be sent as an email. Now is a good time to make sure we have your current email address. If you think its changed since our last mailing, please contact us. You might also check the class of 74 “Missing List” and see if anyone you know is on it. We need everyone’s help to keep our records current.

Hope to see you in October!

Back to Oakland – Our 40th Reunion!

Pano image of the skyline high school class of 1974 40th reunion.

October 11, 2014 is a date that will go down in Titan ’74 history! 

Table decorations at Skyline High School class of 1974 40th reunionThe Skyline High School Class of 1974 40th reunion was held at Oakland’s Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral. More than 200 classmates and their guests shared a memorable evening filled with conversation, dining and live music by East Bay Mudd who brought back memories with favorites from our high school days.

The two rooms were beautifully decorated by Heidi Hansen, Nancy Nelson Norman and their team of helpers. Balloon columns bracketed the entrance to the main hall, and lighted table decorations provided a fun, and unexpected, addition to the festivities. The lights in the decor ended up as wardrobe accessories!

Back to Oakland banner from Skyline High School Class of 1974 40th reunionAttendees were greeted by our dedicated reception crew of Jill Ushijima and Tim Underwood. We also had some help from a volunteer from the class of 1978 – thanks Mark Wilson! The lobby was decorated with a large banner of our reunion theme – Back to Oakland. The automobiles crossing the bridge had working headlights. Many photos were taken in front of this backdrop.

A memory slide-show played throughout the evening. A video rendition of the slideshow can be found on YouTube, by clicking this link. We also had a short video message sent by Tom Hanks, who was on location in New York. His surprise to us was a message from Steven Spielberg! Unfortunately, the video was for one-time play, so it can’t be posted.

We enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner arranged by June Hirabayashi Miller, followed by the band kicking into high gear. The dance floor filled, as the evening progressed. Please see the photos in the gallery below. They tell the story far better than words.

The reunion committee will be regrouping soon to decide when our next event will be. Subscribe to The Oracle blog by registering through the short form on the sidebar of this page.  You’ll receive email notifications of new articles so you can keep up to date on all the news from the committee and your classmate.

Also, if you’re not a member of our Facebook group, we’d love to have you join.
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Click the images to see larger versions. There are more photos on our Photo Page. If you have photos you’d like to share, please post them to our Shutterfly page, and/or on Facebook. We’ll periodically update this site with the best of those images.

What is The Oracle?

The Oracle is a Blog that we can use to share news and information about ourselves, classmates, teacher or any topic that would be of interest to The Class of 74, or those who know us. It is a public forum, so the topics should be kept concise and not too personal.

If you have a news article that you’d like to see us post on The Oracle, please send it to us. We’ll review it and post it for you. Please include links to web pages, photos or other supporting material with your article.

Reunion Committee in Full Swing for 40th Reunion

Some of the Class of 74 Reunion Committee

Some of the Class of 74 Reunion CommitteeThe dedicated members of the reunion committee have been in session since March of 2013 working on the details of our 40th Reunion. We’ve met every 2 to 3 months  to methodically go through the logistics of the event. We are still working out some of the minutia, but things are now well in hand, and we expect it to be a lovely evening.

Based on feedback from previous reunions, we’ve tried to take the things our classmates have told us to heart. The venue is in a familiar location and has quiet areas for conversations. We worked hard to keep the price point as low as possible.

We believe that the 40th reunion is a milestone, and should be celebrated accordingly. We had lengthy discussions on how best to mark the occasion, and have decided that a live band would create a sense of celebration and energy. While Tower of Power is out of our price range, Randy Haight has recommended a great band, East Bay Mudd. He has worked with them to give us a fantastic price for the evening. Without Randy’s help, we would not have such a well respected band playing for us. Thanks, Randy!

Our dinner committee, led by June Hirabayashi Miller and Leanne McDonnell Corkill, and assisted by Jill Ushijima and ???, has put together a wonderful buffet. They worked diliegently with the caterer to come up with a creative menu that fits within our budget. Nancy Nelson Norman and Heidi Hanson are in charge of the decorations that will take this reunion “Back to Oakland”.

We opted for a no host bar for a number of reasons. We initially wanted to include drinks in the ticket price, but as we did our research, it became clear that we were better off with the no host model. This way people can order what they want, and those who only want soft drinks/water don’t feel they’re paying for the more expensive drinks that others are having. Again, our friend Randy came through for us with a big discount on beverages from Costco.

One big change for our 40th is the use of email and the Internet. This Website has been created to help classmates do everything from purchase tickets to sharing news. While we have an active Facebook Group, its not everyone’s cup of tea. We want to provide options that fit your lifestyle and technology comfort level. We also have the Shutterfly site, which will be our go-to place for photo sharing, after the event. Through Shutterfly, you can download images, order prints, or create a photo book. So make sure to bring your camera to the event!

RIP Rawley T. Farnsworth

Rawley T. Farnsworth

On April 15, 2013, drama teacher Rawley T. Farnsworth passed away at the age of 87. He had retired from teaching in the early 80’s and moved to Dillon Beach, where he lived until his partner passed away. He then moved to San Francisco, where he lived for more than 30 years. Around 2008, he moved to Fort Lauderdale FL, and later Ocala FL. to be closer to family members. He passed away from pneumonia after a long, and not very successful convalescence after a fall.

In memory of Mr. Farnsworth, a Teaching Fellowship was created with ACT (American Conservatory Theatre) in San Francisco. His family, Trudi Stillwell Melohn and Tom Hanks helped to make this Fellowship possible. The Farnsworth Fellowship funds a program which sends a teaching artist to schools in disadvantages areas, who do not have arts programs available to them. This seems like a very fitting tribute to a teacher who made such a difference in so many students lives. If you have fond memories of Mr. Farnsworth, perhaps you can consider making a donation to the teaching fund. farnsworth_banner