I graduated with about 600 other students from Gardena High (part of the Los Angeles Unified School District) in the Summer Class 1967. We were the Avantes! Nearly all of us were born in 1949, and not surprisingly, nearly all of us became 60 years old last year.
It is always a shock when someone your own age dies. It is especially shocking when one is young; indeed, some of the young men in our graduating class were dead within a few years, having lost their lives in the Vietnam War or from accidents or other misadventures, but the shock doesn’t get any less as the years pass. By 2007, the death rate had risen to about 1 person per year, and the In Memory page of the 40-year reunion program contained 48 names; which was probably not all of the Avantes who had actually died by then.
Among our graduating class was Wayne Collette, a sprinter. He ran fast.... very fast. I loved to watch track meets when I was in high school. I watched Wayne run many times.
And after he graduated from high school, he went to UCLA. He continued to run fast. So fast, in fact, that he won a silver medal at the 1972 Olympics. He probably would have won more medals at that competition, but he made a mistake, a very bad mistake. He did not stand respectfully on the podium during the medal ceremony and so his achievement at winning the medal was overshadowed by the IOC decision to ban him from participating in any further Olympic competitions.
As far as I know, Wayne Collett was the only one in our graduating class to do something reported in the national news. First in 1972, and again last week, when he died.