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Australian woman comes home to Corner Brook for high school reunion

Deanna (Taylor) Bitar of Australia timed her visit home to Corner Brook to coincide with her high school reunion. She’ll be joining her fellow classmates from Herdman Collegiate’s class of 1968 in celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation this weekend.
Deanna (Taylor) Bitar of Australia timed her visit home to Corner Brook to coincide with her high school reunion. She’ll be joining her fellow classmates from Herdman Collegiate’s class of 1968 in celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation this weekend. - Diane Crocker

Deanna (Taylor) Bitar has many fond memories of growing up in Corner Brook. This weekend she’ll get to relive some of her high school days as she gathers with about 45 members of Herdman Collegiate’s class of 1968.

The group is marking the 50th anniversary of their graduation. 

Gene Colbourne, left, spent some time with Deanna (Taylor) Bitar on Friday reminiscing of their high school days. Colbourne is one of the organizers of the Herdman Collegiate class of 1968’s 50th anniversary reunion that is taking place in Corner Brook this weekend. Bitar came home from Australia to take part in the event.
Gene Colbourne, left, spent some time with Deanna (Taylor) Bitar on Friday reminiscing of their high school days. Colbourne is one of the organizers of the Herdman Collegiate class of 1968’s 50th anniversary reunion that is taking place in Corner Brook this weekend. Bitar came home from Australia to take part in the event.

Bitar grew up in Curling and has called Alice Springs, Australia home for the last 44 years.

She is the youngest of Ulrica and Harold Taylor’s nine children.

Her father and brother Bobby Taylor operated Taylor’s Store in Curling. Her parents and brother have since died, as have her sister Lena and another brother, William.

Sisters, Margie Moore, Olga Anstey, Carole Banfield and Rickie Murley still live in Corner Brook and sister Linda MacDougal is in Toronto.

“I had the best childhood,” she said on Friday. “The best part of growing up in Curling was the views of the bay on the patio out the front."

In the winter, they would ski and toboggan in the area that was her backyard and in the summer play baseball.

After she graduated from high school Bitar headed off to St. John’s to study nursing at the Grace Hospital. At 67 is a job she’s still doing.

In 1974, she and three friends from nursing school headed to Australia.

When they got to Australia they bought a car and spent time in Victoria, New Zealand, Queensland and North Queensland.

The friends had planned to go to Russia, but things changed for Bitar when they got to Alice Springs.

A week after they arrived in August 1975 she met her husband, Samih Bitar.

“I met him at an old-timers nurses party,” she said laughing at the memory.

By September they were dating and in October he asked her to marry him.

They got married on Nov. 27, 1976.

“We’re still super happy. I’d do it all over again,” she said.

She and her husband had three children — two daughters, Nicole Bitar, who died at the age of 21, and Carolyn Power, a Liberal member of the South Australian House of Assembly, and a son, Samir Bitar. They now have three grandchildren.  

Bitar has made many trips home over the years, perhaps not as many as she’d have liked, because maintaining a connection was important for her.

“I always promised mom I would share my kids with her.”

Sharing meant that all three spent extended periods of time living with their grandparents. Nicole for 10 months when she was nine, Carolyn for 14 months when she was 13 and Samir for three months when he was 16.

It was during her time here that Carolyn met the love of her life, Brad Power; only Bitar said she didn’t know it then. After about 20 years the two reconnected and were married last year.

Bitar arrived in Corner Brook for a month’s stay Sept. 3 and timed her trip around the school reunion. She’s looking forward to seeing the people she graduated with.

She’s been looking through old year books with her sister, Margie Moore.

“There’s so many names that are familiar and I think it will be really nice to see everybody.”

The school has changed a lot since Bitar attended and is now known as Corner Brook Regional High. But it’ll always be Herdman to her.

“It was a great school."

Herdman Collegiate’s class of 1968 kicked off its 50th anniversary reunion with a meet and greet on Friday night. Today they’ll tour Corner Brook City Hall and their old school and tonight, they’ll celebrate with a dinner and dance at the Royal Canadian Legion.

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