Check back here often for the latest news about the Class of 1976, including information about the next reunion (presumably in 2016 - #40!).


Be sure to submit any news and information about yourself (new job, relocation, etc), your family (new kids, grandkids, etc) - basically anything you think your fellow classmates would find of interest. Just email me with your news, and I'll post it for all to see -

Columnist on the practical value of poetry

By: TERRI ERICKSON | Guest columnist

Published: December 01, 2011 | Winston-Salem Journal


When I was growing up, my brother and I shared the top floor of our two-story house. In the hallway between our rooms, there was a dim overhead light that burned throughout the night, and a bookcase that contained, among other literary treasures, an anthology of poems by Robert Frost. This combination of inadequate lighting and good books no doubt contributed to the annoyingly poor eyesight I enjoy today, but it also helped to create a voracious reader.


As soon as our parents sent us off to bed, I would belly-crawl to the bookcase like a marine training for combat — my version of being stealthy — and select a book for the evening's entertainment. Then I'd read in the semi-darkened hallway until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. Naturally, I was supposed to be sleeping, but as Frost said in his wonderful poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," there were "miles to go" before I slept.


Those "snowy evenings" with Robert Frost ignited a passion for poetry in me that has lasted my entire life. Fortunately, I also had terrific teachers who kept that passion alive, including my fifth-grade teacher at Brunson Elementary School, Elizabeth Reynolds. She was kind enough to call attention to my fledgling poetic efforts in a way that made me feel brilliant and special, something that all children need, no matter what their skills or talents might be.


Now that I'm a published poet myself, I've come to realize through poetry readings, speaking engagements and just plain chatting with people about what I do that a lot of folks believe poetry is written by and for "intellectuals" and academics, and is not meant for the general public. Quite honestly, you could probably clear a room faster by yelling the word "poetry!" than "fire!" which is a shame since there are all sorts of poets writing all kinds of poetry, much of it very accessible to anyone.


Also, there seems to be a common perception that poetry is a valuable addition to presidential inaugurations, weddings, funerals or other weighty occasions, but should otherwise remain, like fine china, sitting on dusty shelves. In my view, poems are more like your favorite coffee cup — meant for everyday use.


I recently read an article by Candida Martinelli, "A Book that Helped Keep U.S. WWII Soldiers Sane and Humane," stating that in 1940, Pocket Books Inc. published "The Pocket Book of Verse, Great English & American Poems," which was widely distributed to World War II soldiers by the Red Cross. "Just ask a WWII veteran and see what he thinks!" says Martinelli, if you doubt the value to our troops of this little book of verse. My publisher, Press 53, has also shipped books to Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagining the soldiers to whom we owe such an enormous debt of gratitude finding comfort in poems that I and others have written gives me goose bumps.


Because it is concise, compact and full of powerful imagery, poetry has an emotional impact on readers like no other form of writing. It can transport us from difficult situations, even a terrifying and soul-challenging situation like war, into another world where we can find a moment of peace, calm and remembrance. And poems can be funny, too, making us laugh out loud. Mirroring our feelings of joy and wonder, sorrow or fear, poetry reminds us that our emotions are shared and understood by others, that we are not alone.


In fact, poetry has been invaluable in my volunteer work at the Derrick L. Davis Forsyth Regional Cancer Center. In the past few weeks, I've called upon fellow North Carolina poets such as Sara Claytor, Joe Mills, Felicia Mitchell and Marty Silverthorne to donate books for a project designed to make poetry books available to cancer survivors who are waiting for radiation and other treatments at the cancer center. To date, the chaplain's desk is covered up with poetry thanks to the generosity of many talented poets. We can't wait to make these poems available to patients.


Books of poetry aren't meant to molder on shelves, waiting for just the right occasion to read them, but reached for every day — our favorite poems read over and over again until the pages are creased and worn with age and use. But you won't know what your favorite poems are unless you read them. So go ahead. Take down the good china. Read a poem.

After 17 years, grueling competition doesn't get any easier for local fire captain

Credit: Winston-Salem Fire Department

By: PAUL GARBER | Winston-Salem Journal

November 25, 2011


Winston-Salem's Capt. Ricky Brown (from left), Capt. John Pennington, Capt. Duane Cheek and retired Everett, Mass., Fire Capt. Bill Pietrantonio, who now lives in Winston-Salem, attended the Scott Safety Firefighter Combat Challenge.


Winston-Salem Fire Capts. Duane Cheek and Ricky Brown are back-to-back gold medalists.


For the second year in a row, Cheek and Brown placed first among competitors in the Over 50 Tandem at the World Finals of the Firefighter Combat Challenge, held this month.


The competition is designed to mimic real-life firefighting situations. It's basically an obstacle course that includes climbing to the top of a five-story tower with a hose, breaking through a door, and dragging a 175-pound dummy "victim" to safety, all with a goal of finishing in less than two minutes.


Cheek and Brown's winning time was one minute and 44 seconds.


Cheek said he has been taking part in the competition since Winston-Salem started fielding a team 17 years ago.


"It never gets any easier," he said. "They call it the toughest two minutes in sports."


But he said the hard work is worth it.


"Everything we do simulates things that could happen on a fire scene," he said. "It really makes us more physically fit for the job."


Brown and Cheek weren't the only top local finishers this year. Winston-Salem team members also placed in the top three in the Over 55 individual, Over 40 Relay and Over 50 Relay.


In addition to Brown and Cheek, the other Winston-Salem firefighters who participated were Captain John Pennington, Engineer Chaz Browning, and firefighters Keith Dillon, Nick Riddle and Amy Harris.


Also competing on the Winston-Salem team was Bill Pietrantonio, a retired captain from Everett, Mass., who moved here after retirement and trains with the Winston-Salem team.


Fire Chief Anthony Farmer said that while the competitors aren't looking for a lot of individual recognition for what they do, the challenge nonetheless brings a lot of excitement to the department every year.


"You don't just go out on a day trip and compete at this level," he said.

Poet plans launch party for new collection


Published: March 31, 2011


Drawing on an eclectic background — ranging from her humorous antics during an immigration raid to the sobering reality of an unfulfilled life — poet Terri Kirby Erickson captures the human experience in a way that is earnest and uplifting. Her poems are stories that come from her heart, each line packed with emotion. Not in an oversentimental or syrupy way, but one that resonates as if she is recounting a chapter in your life story.


Erickson's third book, "In the Palms of Angels," published by Winston-Salem's Press 53, debuts in April and is the subject of her upcoming reading and book-launch party. We recently chatted about her childhood adventures in Winston-Salem, her years at Reynolds High School, her passion for Victorian mysteries and why she believes in angels...


Click here for the complete article

October 2, 2009

Kenneth Jeffreys "Jeff" Smith, 53, of Winston-Salem, died Friday, October 2, 2009 at the Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home. He was born October 15, 1955, the older son of Charles R. (Dick) and Nancy J. Smith of Winston-Salem. His educational experiences began at The Children' s Center for the Physically Disabled and culminated in his graduation from R.J. Reynolds High School in 1976. Following High School, Jeff' s employment began at Goodwill Industries and later moved to K&W Cafeterias, where he was a faithful worker for over 28 years until his retirement due to disability in 2006. He was a lifelong member of Ardmore United Methodist Church, where his fond recollections included the outstanding support and friendship he received from fellow members of his Methodist youth group. Survivors include his parents; his younger brother, Chris and wife, Shelley Smith of Midlothian, Virginia; his three very special nieces, Whitney, Katie and Ally Smith, along with several aunts, uncles and cousins. A Memorial Service Celebrating his Life will be held Tuesday October 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the Chapel of Hayworth-Miller Funeral Home on Silas Creek Parkway conducted by Dr. John Franklin Howard, Senior Pastor and the Rev. Kari Howard, both at Ardmore UMC. Visitation will follow the service. Jeff will be Inurned in a private Service at Sunset Cemetery in Christiansburg, Virginia, at the gravesite of his paternal grandparents. His family extends grateful thanks to his Hospice home-care nurse, Karen for her very special assistance and to Cindy and the highly professional and caring staff at the Hospice home for their loving support. And not to be forgotten is Minnie, for her friendship and special home-care. Memorials may be made to Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home, 101 Hospice Lane, Winston-Salem, NC 27103. Online condolences can be made at

Ben Neill’s new CD Night Science is out now on Thirsty Ear Recordings. The new music combines dubstep beats and basslines with the sonic explorations of the newly redesigned mutantrumpet. 


Ben has designed a new version of his unique electro-acoustic instrument, the mutantrumpet. Working with engineers and designers in New York and Amsterdam, Neill has greatly updated the electronic capabilities of his instrument. The mutantrumpet has been evolving since the mid-1980’s when Neill originally worked with synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog to design its first electronic interface. In 1992 Neill made the instrument fully computer interactive through a residency at the Steim studios in Amsterdam, a research and development lab for new instruments. The new mutantrumpet uses technologies from Steim as well as a new ergonomic design which now includes 8 continuous MIDI controllers and 8 momentary MIDI controllers in addition to the acoustic note and volume control from the instrument’s natural sound. The instrument connects directly to the computer via USB.


Quotes from various magazines on Ben's website -

  • Ben Neill is using a schizophrenic trumpet to create art music for the people. Wired Magazine
  • A creative composer, genius performer, and inventor of the mutantrumpet. Time Out NY
  • Ben Neill masterfully blurs the lines between electronic dance music and jazz sounds. Billboard
  • Ben Neill is the mad scientist of dancefloor jazz…an inventive and stimulating voyage. CMJ Monthly
  • 9 out of 10 rating…Ben Neill is a mad scientist, and he has discovered the formula that breaks musical barriers. Mixmag
  • Calling Ben Neill a trumpeter is like calling Mr. Spock a frequent flyer…as vibrant as the galaxies beyond, both adventurous and artful. Boston Phoenix
  • Neill works with harmonies based on numerical relationships that produce spiritually powerful resonances. The result is trippy, otherworldly, seamlessly groovy. Interview Magazine
  • Ben Neill is a musical powerhouse, a serious and individual talent. Time Out London
  • Ben has roots in the usual sources, notably Miles Davis and Jon Hassell, but he’s staked out his own terrain in the sonic landscape, mixing fractured jungle loops under his free-form improvisations. His music is like a digital river, with a different fractalized scene around every corner, the constant being Ben Neill greeting you on your way. John Diliberto, Echoes

You can buy Ben's CDs (most of 'em) through

Thursday, August 30, 2007


We just received word from Harry Corpening. Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Friends of Richard J. Reynolds Auditorium about the seats the Class of 1976 "purchased" via donation. Our seats are located in the left Orchestra section, Row K, seats K-13 and K-15. 


Check out the letter HERE with details about the Auditorium, its programs, and its website. If you want to see where our seats are located, click HERE.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Robert Deaton of Winston-Salem has been inducted into the Rhododendron Society at Appalachian State University. The award, the highest honor given by the Reich College of Education at ASU, recognizes exemplary service to education as a teacher, librarian, human-service professional or administrator. Deaton received a bachelor's degree from ASU in 1956 and a master's degree in 1958. He began his career in education as a teacher and coach, and was the principal at Reynolds High School for 25 years.


The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education honored Deaton, along with Homer Thompson, by naming Deaton-Thompson Stadium in their honor. The stadium serves Reynolds and Parkland high schools. Deaton was named Wachovia Principal of the Year in 1991.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


We are saddened to report that last Wednesday, Chuck Vaughn-Lloyd’s older sister, Terri passed away, and then on Saturday morning, Chuck’s mother passed away. The family elected not to have any obituaries in the Winston-Salem paper and had private services for both daughter and mother.  It has been a very trying week for Chuck (also known as C.W. Vaughn-Lloyd in high school) but there were a few of us there for him. 


Please keep them and their father in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


We are saddened to report the passing of Dick Spell (Class of 77), husband of Kathy Spell (Class of 76). There will be a service for Dick to be held in the backyard of the Spell's home at 11:00am Saturday, April 28, 2007.  If you choose to send flowers to the Spells their address is:

Dick and Kathy Spell

900 James Doak Parkway

Greensboro, NC  27455


Obit from Greensboro News & Record:

    GREENSBORO - Mr. Richard Martin Spell, Jr., 47, died Tuesday, April 24, 2007, at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital.

    A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 28, at his residence with Rev. George Karl officiating.

    Mr. Spell was born on July 4, 1959, in Greensboro, a son of Ann Spell and the late Richard Martin Spell, Sr. He graduated from R.J. Reynolds High School, UNC-G and earned his MBA from Regis University. A U.S. Marine Corp. Captain, he worked internationally in textiles and business consulting, most recently for Insource Inc. of Charlotte. He was an avid marathon runner, took great pride in working in his yard, enjoyed dirt biking with his boys and spending time with his family and friends.

    Survivors include his wife, Katharine Williams Spell of the home; two sons, Ryan Martin Spell and Matthew Erwin Spell both of the home; his mother, Ann Spell of Winston-Salem; two sisters, Lou Ann Spell of Winston-Salem and Karen Edwards of Southport and his dog, Roxy of the home.

    The family will receive friends following the memorial service at the residence.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Duke A.L.S. Clinic or the A.L.S. Association "Catfish" Hunter Chapter.

    Forbis and Dick, N. Elm Street is serving the Spell family and on line condolences may be made to

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

'Keep on Going'

Guy Spear's full life leaves him too busy to lament what he lost in accident

By John Dell


Guy Spear lost his leg after an accident 13 years ago. Now he rides about 100 miles a week. (Journal Photo by Lauren Carroll) Getting back up on your bike after falling off takes on a whole new meaning for Guy Spear. Spear, 68, had a horrific bike accident 13 years ago that led to the amputation of his lower left leg. The accident didn't slow him down - he maintains a pace that would leave a 25-year-old breathless.

A year after his accident, Spear, who was fitted with a prosthesis, climbed back on his bike, and he hasn't missed a beat since.

He still rides about 100 miles a week with friends, but he says that his weekly mileage isn't what it used to be.

"I was doing about 250 miles a week not that long ago, but my hip was acting up so I had to slow down a little," Spear said.

Spear, who had retired after 23 years of coaching and teaching at Reynolds and Mount Tabor right before the accident, doesn't spend all his time on his bike. He still teaches 4-year-olds in preschool at St. Paul's Episcopal Church five mornings a week. And four afternoons a week, Spear, a former English teacher, volunteers at the Sylvan Learning Center.

He also finds time to visit his nine grandchildren who are spread around the country, and he and his wife, Laurie, who is a librarian at Wake Forest, do a lot of traveling.

Spear says that he doesn't think much about the accident that nearly ended his life. But he says that making his life count is something he took from it.

The accident happened when Spear was riding on a country road south of Charlotte. A car sideswiped him.

"She saved my life, actually," Spear said of the driver. "Later, I found out she had dropped something in the car and leaned over to pick it up and kind of swerved and she hit me. But she saved my life because I could have bled to death on the spot. The artery in the leg was torn apart. I can remember lying there, and she came running up and blood was spurting everywhere.

"Well, she was an EMT nurse, and she stopped the bleeding. I would have died in three minutes."

Before the accident, Spear had become one of the state's top long-distance runners. He hadn't started running until he was nearly 40, but once he caught the bug, he was hooked.

He can't run any more, and it's something he misses very much.

"I never got back to running," he said. "Biking just became more of my thing."

He never hesitated to get back on the bike once doctors gave him clearance.

"Getting back on the bike wasn't hard," Spear said. "I guess you just do your thing and keep on going. I never got depressed or anything about it."

Spear has two prosthetics, one for everyday use and another for riding his bike. The one for his bike clips right into the pedal, and it's something that Spear helped design and build.

"I saw it at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs one time and I just kind of modeled it after that," Spear said. "I've used it for about 10 years and it's just a lot better for riding than the other one."

Spear and his wife, Laurie, passed along their athleticism to their children.

Their only daughter, Mary, died two years ago from liver cancer. She's the one who talked Guy into running in the first place.

"Mary was a long-distance runner at Forsyth County Day and was a state champion," Spear said. "When I was 39, she talked me into getting into running. My kids were athletes, but I never was - I just went to their athletic events."

Spear ran in several marathons and did very well. He had times of 2:54 in both the Charlotte and Boston marathons.

He says that running was part of what kept him sane during his high-school teaching career.

He laughs when asked the difference between teaching teenagers in high school and teaching 4-year-olds.

"The 4-year-olds are curious and just so innocent," Spear said. "Well, some aren't so innocent.

"But with high school it's very different, because they are getting ready for adulthood and college and all that, and they have a lot of anxieties. You work through all that when you are teaching."

He said that he was an accidental coach while he was teaching at Reynolds. He had not played a sport while growing up in rural Kansas, yet he was asked to coach the soccer team.

"Bob Deaton, who was the principal back then, asked me if I wanted to coach soccer," Spear said. "I said to Bob that I never have coached and have never even been an athlete. I don't even know how to motivate them. He just said 'All your kids are playing soccer in youth leagues, you'll be fine.'

"I was successful, but I really didn't know how to coach," he said. "I had a good assistant, Mike Southard, who I recommended to get the job after I left."

Spear coached again, directing the cross-country and track teams when he was at Mount Tabor.

Spear likes the variety of the ages of those he works with at the Sylvan Learning Center, where for eight years he has volunteered by helping children catch up on their reading skills.

Sandy MacRae, the director of the Sylvan Learning Center, says that Spear goes above and beyond when he works with the students.

"Guy just has a way of providing the students with more information, and he has ways of making his point that the students like," MacRae said. "He gives them more of an open window to knowledge, and you can tell he really enjoys working with them."

Spear himself is an avid reader, and one of the books he has been reading recently is Open Closed Open, a book of poems by Yehuda Amichai and Chana Bloch. It's a book about understanding where our lives lead us.

"It's fascinating to look at how and why things happen in your life," he said. "And there's a lot of that in this book."


Guy Spear
• AGE: 68
• HOMETOWN: Raised in rural Kansas but has lived in Winston-Salem for the last 35 years.
• EXPERIENCES: High-school teacher and coach for 23 years before retiring 13 years ago.
• EDUCATION: Attended Yale before graduating from Wyoming in 1962.
• FAMILY: Wife, Laurie, married 45 years. Four children, one deceased, and nine grandchildren.
• QUOTE/PHILOSOPHY: “I like to try new things all the time. Isn’t that what life is all about? My mother was a curious type of person and I'm the same way.”


From our excess reunion funds (which resulted from our keeping a tight budget and some unplanned walk ups), we were able to give a total of $1273.76 in donations. We gave $1,000 to the Friends of the Auditorium, which will allow us to "purchase" two seats in the name of RJ Reynolds Class of 1976.


The remainder, $273.76 was given to The Children's Home, Inc. Farm Fund to assist in the upkeep of the farm area of the home.


This CD contains the same PowerPoint presentation that ran during our 30th Reunion on 24 November 2006. The presentation includes a history/timeline of RJRHS, as well as several "Biggest" lists from 1976 - songs, movies, TV shows, etc.


There's also a lot of contributed "then" photos from our days at school, as well as some shots from the 20th Reunion in 1996. You'll need Microsoft PowerPoint, or the free PowerPoint Viewer (included on the CD). Then you just double click on the .pps file and the show will start running. You'll also find PDF versions of the programs we distributed during the Reunion.


Just click on the CD graphic to purchase it online securely.