I started college at Kansas State University in the fall of 1972. It wasn’t quite the typical freshman experience, as my sister Karen was a senior then and I had known most of her friends for years. Karen’s best friend and sorority sister was a girl named Nancy Gruver. There has never been and never will be another person on this planet like Nancy Gruver. She was born with an endless supply of happiness. She made Santa Claus look like he needed an anti-depressant. To be around Nancy was not just fun, it was an event that was not to be forgotten. I guess I should qualify this by saying that her sense of humor perfectly matched my own, but may not have had the same appeal to others less fortunate. She and I were made for each other and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute we spent together.
Nancy showed me how to have fun without anything artificial. She could make you laugh with nothing but her personality, wit and innate charm. The girl didn’t even drink and she was still the life of every party. She told funny stories and made wisecracks about everything. She could think up the silliest puns and just sprinkle them in with every day conversations. You had to pay close attention or you would miss half the funny stuff she was thinking. She was my inspiration for all the stupid stuff I did that year like growing a beard for a month and then shaving half of it off right down the middle or wearing my clothes backwards or popping popcorn in a hot oil popper with the lid off just to see what it looked like under a blacklight. She taught me about the chemical reaction of wintergreen life savers causing sparks when you chomped on them in a dark room. I may not have been much of a college student that year but I was on the honor roll for having fun.
Being around Nancy meant being introduced to all kinds of fascinating people who just seemed to follow in her wake. She was dating a guy named Steve Fair, the year that I was a freshman. Steve was also a senior and just as animated as Nancy. He took it upon himself to show me the ropes and we had some great nights together that year. He worked in the maintenance department for the university and he had keys to all the buildings so we had access to everything on campus. One night, after a few too many fish bowls of beer at Mel’s Bar, Steve decided that we needed to go swimming. He snuck us in to the pool at Nichols Gym and we splashed around for the rest of the night. It wasn’t till later that he told me we could get expelled from school if we got caught there. My grades were so bad by that time, I didn’t see that much of a problem and he was pretty confident in his sneakiness. Steve was like the older, wilder brother I never had and he was also a great friend. Sadly, the summer after my first year, Steve drowned in a rafting accident on the Snake River in Idaho. The only comfort I found was knowing that he died having fun but it still left a huge hole in my life.
Luckily, Nancy filled that space quite nicely even though she was deeply affected by his death as well. I know she cried but she never let on in front of me how hard that time was for her. I think she knew he would want us to keep having fun even without him around. People like Steve Fair would not want us to waste one minute in mourning because that would be a waste of the gift of life. He did more in his 22 years than most people do in a lifetime and his memory is with me always.
I haven’t seen Nancy in many years now but she stays in touch with Karen. I just started exchanging emails with her and I hope she will read the blog so this is just my way of adding an incentive. She will always be the one person in my life that was my most memorable college friend. We had almost nothing in common except my sister and 2 wild personalities. She made me laugh about stuff that wasn’t even funny and for that she will always have a very special place in my heart.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.