As basketball season is nearing the start of district play, many area schools have recently hosted what has become an annual tradition.
Courtwarming or homecoming is a night for alumni to come together and reminiscence on their time in high school and the bonds of friendship that were formed during the years the students spent in the classrooms of their respective schools.
Part of the homecoming tradition is the crowning each year of a homecoming queen.
Friday night at Smithton Schools, the tradition continued as senior Annie DeHaven was chosen by the student body as the 2016 queen.
DeHaven was not the only homecoming queen to be recognized during the evenings crowning, as 27 queens from the last 57 years were also in attendance at the crowning.
“I remember when we did this in 1989 and I thought it was such a wonderful idea,” Becky (Shull) Williams said. “I thought it was time that we did it again.”
Williams, a member of the Smithton Board of Education, was chosen as Smithton’s homecoming queen in 1988.
“I just remember thinking that it was an honor to be chosen as the queen,” Williams said. “I really thought that I was representing the school when they called my name.”
Williams said she started to contact the queens after looking through the yearbooks and records at the school.
“I started in October trying to contact everyone,” Williams said. “I used Facebook and had a lot of help in contacting them, Barbara Kasak and Mary Anne Thomas really helped me a great deal, but eventually I got a hold of them and we were surprised by the number who said they could come back.”
For Andrea (Hoehns) Kullman, coming home was not a long trip.
Kullman, an ELL teacher at Horace Mann Elementary in Sedalia, had the honor of being chosen queen at homecoming, Christmas dance and prom at Smithton.
“I know I was quite surprised when I was chosen queen each time, but I think homecoming may have been the most special because it was voted on by the entire junior high and high school,” Kullman said. “I have so many vivid memories of that night, playing Sacred Heart and the dance routine that we (the cheerleaders) did.
“I may not have said it at the time but I loved high school,” Kullman added. “I still keep in touch with so many of my classmates. This year is our 25th reunion and it just seems so hard for me to believe that it has been that long ago.”
For sisters Debbie Green Murray and Jana Green Birdsong and Ramona Basham Kronke and Bernadette Basham Antoine, the memories they share are perhaps different as they are the only sets of sisters to be chosen as homecoming queen at Smithton.
Kronke was chosen in 1984 and was the last underclassman to be chosen queen.
“After the year I won they made the decision that only seniors could be nominated,” Kronke said. “I remember that our mom gave us both a piece of advice that I still remember to this day.
“She told us when we were sitting on the stage we needed to remember that win or lose, we had to cross our legs at our ankles and not our knees when we were sitting on the stage because she didn’t want us to be unlady-like,” Kronke said. “We all still remember that and laugh but it was really good advice.”
Kronke added that she felt it was a great honor to have been chosen and was especially grateful for Smithton to have hosted the reunion this year, allowing the women the opportunity to share their stories and friendships.
Murray and Birdsong may not have shared any family advice but being named has special meaning to them.
“I don’t remember any advice that Debbie gave me; I think she said I had to earn it on my own,” Birdsong said with a laugh. “I do remember thinking to myself that here I am up against a beautiful blonde and brunette and here I am a redhead.
“I didn’t think I had a shot so I was really shocked when they called my name,” Birdsong added. “It really was an honor to be chosen as the queen, especially after Debbie was too.”
Murray was chosen queen in 1973, four years before her sister in 1977.
“I remember my outfit so clearly, it was a palazzo pant suit and I loved it,” Murray said. “I feel the same way Jana does — it was just such an honor to be chosen and then to come back is very meaningful too.
“When you think about all the water that has gone under the bridge in all these years it just really makes it so special,” she added. “That’s what homecoming is supposed to be about, coming home and being with your friends and family again.”
Six of the women chosen as homecoming queen could not be a part of the celebration Friday night as they have died — Myra Garst Templeton, Sandy Momberg Dieckman, Patsy Curry Herrick, Nancy Schutte, JoAnn McFarland Perusich and Karen Anstine Lamb.
Lamb was crowned in 1994 and McFarland in 1980. Both women lost their lives to cancer this year and Williams said the school wanted to recognize all the former queens but due to their deaths, this year wanted to pay tribute to Perusich and Lamb.
The daughters of both women were asked to represent their mothers at the ceremony. Although McKenna Perusich could not attend, Madison Lamb represented her mother and sister Ericka during the event.
“My mother had such great memories from school that she would tell my sister and brother and me about all the time,” Lamb said. “Those memories helped me get through so much of the difficult times after losing her.
“The memories and bonds she made were really important to her and they are to my family now,” she added. “She really loved it here a lot and she always said she wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484