Through the years of going to school, working and relocating to various destinations, life brings us a great list of contacts. We meet a new group of people during every stage of our lives. Life is full of surprises, but how many chances are there that we would run into an old grade school friend after 53 years?
This lucky surprise happened to four former Warren residents, Sandy Lape McCormick, Jill Clingan, Lynette (Ruschak) Mason and Tere Tereba. McCormick and Clingan lost touch with their friends, Mason and Tereba, until a few surprising occurrences brought them together. Even though these women relocated, Warren pride and fond childhood memories are what brought this group together.
Sandy Lape McCormick, currently of New York, has many fond memories of her childhood on Roselawn N.E. in Warren. She attended Lincoln Elementary, East Junior High, and Warren G. Harding High School, where she graduated in 1966.
“It was very ‘Leave It To Beaver’-ish and very innocent,” McCormick said. “You could walk to each other’s homes and there was a great comfort. You did not feel restricted, and it was very open.”
McCormick is a stylist for CNBC, ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox News and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. McCormick said she has kept in touch with her friend since eighth grade, Jill Clingan, who today resides in Santa Monica, Calif. McCormick and Clingan both attended Syracuse University.
Clingan said that she and McCormick became friends in junior high. She said that she went to Garfield Elementary School with Mason and Tereba and then they transferred to Lincoln Elementary, while she stayed at Garfield Elementary. Clingan said that she and McCormick have been friends through thick and thin.
“We hung out with the same group of girls, had many sleepovers, spent hours on the phone together. We watched ‘American Bandstand’ on TV together, attended the Kenley Players at Packard Music Hall, drove to Cleveland with our mothers to shop,” Clingan said. “We took a graduation trip to Chicago in 1966 and stayed with my brother. We double-dated for the Warren G. Harding prom. We packed for college together and drove in two cars there for our first year. Our parents became friends. Sandy was with me throughout my father’s illness as her mother was for my mother. My father gave Sandy away when she married the first time. He tried to be a surrogate father to her after her own father passed away while we were at Syracuse,” Clingan said.
Clingan moved to Los Angeles in 1973 to be closer to her parents, who lived in Palm Springs. But distance didn’t put a damper on their friendship, attending each other weddings and spending holidays together.
“Our friendship has remained a constant in my life since we first met at East Junior High School in the early ’60s,” Clingan said.
About 10 years ago, an amazing coincidence happened when Clingan and McCormick ran into a friend from the past.
“Sandy was in California visiting me,” Clingan said. “We were out to dinner with my husband and daughter. Sandy and I happened to be sitting on the same side of the table. I looked up and noticed a couple at another table leaving. They lingered putting on their coats and I looked at the woman. She looked like a girl we had known in elementary and junior high school. I said to Sandy, ‘I think that is Tere Tereba!’ We called out ‘Tere,’ and she turned around. We told her who we were and quickly made plans for lunch at the Polo Lounge.
“She couldn’t believe it, and neither did we. I don’t know how I recognized her except that she looked pretty much the same as she did in school. I last saw her probably in 1961, and by that time, it was 2006. So 45 years later, Tere and I see each at least once a month. A few years later, Tere reconnected with Lynette, and we all met for drinks and dinner. Now we have added Lynette to the circle,” Clingan said.
Tereba, a former resident of Atlantic Avenue in Warren, said she lived in the Warren area until she was 12 years old, when her family relocated to California. Tereba eventually became an innovative fashion designer, an actress and a writer.
“It was fun living in Warren at the time,” Tereba said. “You could ride your bike, climb trees, and the neighborhood I lived in was a middle-sized neighborhood. Sandy and I were best friends. I went to Garfield School till I was in third grade. Then I went to the ultra-modern looking, Lincoln Elementary School, which had really cutting edge architecture.”
Tereba said it was great to finally reconnect with her friends McCormick, Clingan and Mason.
“Sandy and Jill are like sisters, and I am so happy to see Sandy and Jill,” she said. “Jill has become a close friend, and I am so glad I ran into Lynette, who is another nice addition to the group.”
Tereba was at a gallery in Hollywood and ran into another Warren friend from the past, Lynette (Ruschak) Mason.
Mason said she went to Garfield School with Clingan and then she went to Lincoln.
“I left Warren when I was 13, moving with my family to Las Vegas for a year,” Mason said. “My family returned to Ohio, but we lived in Cortland and I went to Lakeview High School where I graduated.”
After graduating from Kent State University, Mason eventually moved to Los Angeles. In nearby Santa Monica, she ran into her grade school friend, Tere Tereba.
“I was assisting a friend of mine at a gallery that she manages in Santa Monica, where there was an exhibit of photographs of artist David Hockney and Andy Warhol,” Mason said. “A woman kept admiring one of the photos of Warhol and seemed interested in possibly purchasing one. I wanted to get her information in case she decided not to do it that night, so I could follow up. She then told me her name was Tere Tereba, which stunned me. I then told her who I was and stunned her. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half after that in the gallery, slowly catching up.”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t maintain a long friendship with these women once we moved out of Warren when I was in 7th grade,” Mason said. “I always remembered them, but never thought I would see them again. Meeting up with them again after all this time has been quite wonderful, and we have had some fun times talking about those school days and so many other friends from that time as well.”
In November, Lape McCormick, Clingan, Mason and Tereba got together to celebrate their 65th birthdays together in Los Angeles. They had a dinner at celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills restaurant, Spago.
“We had a great time,” Clingan said. “We hired a driver and met for cocktails at Tere’s place. We had dinner at Spago, and then visited the Polo Lounge and ended the evening having drinks and dessert at Chateau Marmont. Lynette brought pictures from elementary school, I brought music for the limo. Sandy made a sign. Tere had vintage napkins. It was great to be together,” Clingan said.
Growing up in Warren was the beginning of many great things for all four women, and they can’t forget the town that brought them together.
“We are women who went away and did interesting things,” McCormick said.