OGDEN — An Ogden family will see its fifth generation graduate from Ogden High School on Wednesday, continuing a family history of graduating during turbulent times.
Unlike their forbears, cousins Elisabeth Millard and Austin Richards won’t experience a traditional graduation. Instead, their graduation will be virtual in order to comply with public health orders and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“At first it was sad, but ... you kind of realize that it’s for the greater good ... for the people who are sick and to protect people who are vulnerable,” Elisabeth Millard said.
It also helps “knowing that I’m not the only one to have her graduation canceled or her senior prom,” she said.
While these two have a unique shared experience with their fellow graduates of 2020, they also have some things in common with their family members, who graduated in uncertain times — ranging from World War I to World War II, the Vietnam War and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It shows you the bigger picture ... how big of an impact you have on your future generations,” Elisabeth Millard said, referring to her family history.
Their family’s history at Ogden High began with Harry Slater Reed, born in Ogden in 1892. He graduated from the school in 1910, when the school was housed at its previous building on Monroe Boulevard.
Like his great-great-grandchildren Elisabeth and Austin, Harry Reed experienced a 5.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the Salt Lake area toward the end of his senior year, on May 22, 1910 — a fact discovered by Elisabeth’s mother, Kristin Millard, when she was looking into the history of the family.
Later in Harry Reed’s young adulthood, he joined the army and fought in World War I, according to family history information shared by Kristin Millard.
Harry Reed’s daughter, Sophie Reed, graduated from Ogden High in 1940 during World War II, just before the U.S. entered the war. Graduating alongside her was her high school sweetheart, Maurice Richards. Sophie married Maurice in September 1943, months after he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. During his service, he flew B-29 planes over Japan.
Sophie watched the news anxiously every day Maurice was gone to hear if any planes had been shot down over Japan, Kristin Millard said.
Sophie and Maurice’s son, Reed Richards, graduated from Ogden High in 1966, in the middle of the Vietnam War and the social unrest surrounding it. He was required to participate in the ROTC, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, during high school, he said. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army, but the war ended before he spent time in Vietnam, according to Kristin Millard, his daughter.
While he didn’t serve in Vietnam, Reed Richards still experienced the effects of the war.
“Most of us that had graduated in that time had friends that lost their lives in Vietnam,” he said.
These experiences led to his work as an attorney, including his service as the Weber County Attorney in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as later work with the Attorney General’s Office, he said. Some of his major contributions have been in victim’s rights and protecting children, Kristin Millard said.
As the grandfather of Elisabeth Millard and Austin Richards, Reed Richards represents the oldest living generation of the family that graduated from the school.
He sees his grandchildren’s experience as different from their family members’ before them.
“I think the situation that our kids are in this year is unique, far beyond any of the others because it more directly affects them,” Reed Richards said. “What does it mean for going off to college, for example. Are they going to even hold colleges? If so, how are they going to hold them? And is it a traditional experience or is it something that ... has not happened before?
“Job opportunities — same thing: What type of jobs are going to be there?” he continued. “I think we’re a little bit up in the air. So I think because of those things, I think family ties are even more important because they can give you the base and the grounding that you need regardless of what the circumstances might be around the world.”
His two children, Kristin Millard and Shawn Richards, who is Austin’s dad, graduated from Ogden High in the 1990s. There were fewer defining events during this time, but Kristin Millard recalls significant unrest with the Middle East, she said.
While Kristin Millard may not have shared the same level of drama at the time of her own graduation, she has played a role in keeping the family’s stories alive, even deliberately discussing them with Elisabeth as the pandemic unfolded, she said.
“Regardless of where your ancestors went to high school, everyone has this heritage of understanding what (their ancestors) experienced when they graduated and finding strength in watching how they overcame adversity,” she said, “and knowing that I’m not alone in graduating under these circumstances that are difficult because my ancestors did too.”
Reed Richards also said that Ogden High has played a special role in preparing the young people in his family for adulthood in the broader world.
“The school dynamics are a little bit different (now than in earlier years), but the one thing that Ogden High has always had that I think has been really helpful to me and to my children has been diversity in the population of the school,” he said.
“And so you grow up with people from all cultures and all ... races, and I think that has been very helpful ... in the community as a whole because we live in a community that’s diverse,” he continued. “If you go to a school that doesn’t have that diversity, I think you really miss something, and I think that’s one of the wonderful things about Ogden High School.”