Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

October 1, 2013

Class reunion gathers in Speedway

By Brenda L. Holmes brenda.holmes@flyergroup.com
Hendricks County Flyer

---- — SPEEDWAY — Most people have their class reunions near their childhood home. They go back to see their old haunts and maybe a few family members after visiting with high school classmates.

Plainfield’s Lance Burris has a different experience every time his school meets for a reunion.

Burris attended Rochefort American High School, which was an American high school in a military facility at Rohefort, France. He attended the school for his freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school.

“My dad was in the Army and was stationed at a base which was 100 miles from where I went to school,” Burris said. “Because it was so far from the base, we lived in a dormitory. We would stay through the week and then go home to the base on the weekends.”

He said the experience helped him to mature earlier and become pretty self-sufficient.

“We would commute on military buses from different military bases,” he said. “They called us ‘military brats.’ It was a unique way to grow up.”

The school building where they attended was once the headquarters of Napoleon before his exile. Near the school building there was a moat that had been blocked off so the French could build ships during World War II.

“The moat had been drained but for the past five years they’ve been building a replica of the ship of Lafayette,” Burris said. “We hope to travel to see the ship in 2015. They’re going to sail the ship the path Lafayette took up the East Coast. Rochefort High School is on one of the sails of the ship.”

The frigate Hermione was linked to the Marquis de Lafayette. The original ship was built in 1779. It embarked on a trip from Rochefort to Boston in 1780.

“Our alumni hope to be there to greet the ship,” Burris said.

RAHS closed in 1958 when all military bases were closed in France. Every two years, those who attended the school get together for a reunion some place in the United States. The last time there was a reunion it was held in Reno, Nev. This year it was held in the Indianapolis area.

Many of the students went on to serve in the military, including Burris who served in the U.S. Army.

Burris is currently serving as president of the Rochefort American High School Alumni. He decided he wanted to invite all of his former classmates to Indiana to experience the Circle City. Planned this weekend was a golf tournament at Fort Harrison, a dinner at St. Elmo downtown, a tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and museum, a guided tour of Indiana War Memorial, and a Yellow Buggy Carriage tour of downtown Indianapolis.

Many of the reunion activities took place at the Hilton Indianapolis Hotel/Suites where most of the reunion attendees stayed. The RAHS alumni do several activities while they’re together. One of the traditions is to donate books to a local library wherever they have their reunion. This year, the group donated books to Indianapolis Public School 34.

Burris said he can remember traveling to France when the family was stationed there.

“We went on a ship out of New York,” he said. “It took eight days to cross. The ship we went on was a converted Army transfer ship.”

His parents were Avis and Ruth Burris. His father served in WW II and Korea.

Even though Burris spent most of his high school days in France, he ended up graduating from Horace Mann High School in 1957.

Burris was born in Kannapolis, N.C., and lived in several other places while growing up. He lived in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and California.

After serving in the military, he went on to serve 23 years in law enforcement with the Hobart Police Department. He retired as the chief of detectives there in 1988.

He and his family moved to Plainfield in 1993 so he could become an instructor at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

“I still work there as a master instructor,” Burris said.

He and his wife, Nancy, have two grown children, Brad and Brian Burris.

The Rochefort American High School Alumni Association has its own website where they share information on alumni and upcoming events. The website is www.rochefortfranceahs.org.