JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The school year is just starting, and seniors want to have something special to remember their graduating class. Here’s one way that a graduating senior at Forest Hill High School did 60 years ago.

It is a keepsake that Lilly Packer has held on to since she made it in her senior year at Forest Hill High School in 1963. There is a modern educational edifice where her school used to be. When she went there, it was K-12 all in the same building.

Students got to do things then the don’t get to anymore.

“I drove a school bus my senior year,” said Packer.

The class of ’63 had a grand total of 83 students in it, and Packer got an idea from a quilter who lived across the street from her, to create a unique souvenir of their senior year.

First thing she did was pass out a square of cloth to each of them.

“I got everybody a little square. They signed their name and then I embroidered it and then I sewed all the blocks together,” Packer explained.

She created a class quilt, but it was much later before the signers ever saw it.

“Probably the 10th reunion,” according to Packer.

The quilt has been at every reunion of the Forest Hill Class of ’63 ever since, including the 60th reunion earlier this year. 

By now, 60 years after high school, a little over a third of the class has passed away. Packer kept up with those over the years, and as she got word, she sewed a heart or two on the names of those who died.

The first was a young man who passed just a few years after graduation. The first one is a shock. And there is one heart for a young man who died in Vietnam.

Nobody died from COVID in their class, but of all the chapters that we go through in life, graduation, college, marriage, kids and grand kids, it’s the death part that’s hardest.

“Oh, it’s tough. It really is. Because we were such a close group of folks,” said Packer.

Of course, none of that later-in-life stuff was remotely on Packer’s mind when she had her classmates sign those blocks of cloth. Now, the resulting quilt is a memorial that, among other things, reminds us all, as well as themselves, that they were here.