Saving the Best for Last: a Love Story for the Natchez High Class of 66!

Happy 10th Anniversary to my James ♥

Dear Natchez High Class of 1966, (the longest “christmas Letter” ever!)

After we left y’all at our 40th Reunion in 2006, James and I have made quite a life for ourselves. You all witnessed the beginning of us, (unless you actually remember even earlier…James and I hanging out back in high school during The King and I rehearsals). Some of you probably spotted the potential before either one of us did.

Actually, it was pretty instant. Eye contact at the Pig Roast at Everett’s. We both knew  even before we even arrived back to our separate homes out West in June, 2006.

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                                                    Spotted this on my long drive home that June

I was the more resistant at first, not wanting to be in a long-distance relationship. (This was when I thought James still lived in Mississippi.) But when I found out that he was just across my local mountains, a mere 4 hour drive (from Bellevue to Spokane, WA.) I was a goner. No excuses. Early on, we had fun discovering the mutual secret crushes we both hidden in our adolescent friendship during our time together at NACHS.

During our first couple of years together since that reunion, the 4 hour drive was sometimes inconvenient, but both of us willingly accepted the challenge and began making room in our separate lives for each other.


Sometimes all we had time for was driving two hours each, meeting halfway between our homes but that became another sweet adventure. Talk about meeting in the middle of nowhere! This is the Columbia Gorge.

We have now lived in both our places for most of these 10 years.

Learning about each other’s’ lives since high school has unearthed so many experiences in common…and many near misses as our paths almost crossed…serendipity!

We both “served our country”, James, by being in the Army during the Vietnam era, and me, by becoming a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), our country’s Peace Corp.

                                     James in Vietnam                                           Kathie in Birmingham 

We both lived in the San Francisco Bay area at the same time, during the height of the Haight/Ashbury Hippie days.

We both travelled the country and chose the beautiful Northwest in which to settle. A couple of times, I was back in Mississippi while James was out West, in San Diego (where I had returned to after high school in Natchez) just missing each other.

We have both inherited such wonderful things from each other’s lives.

We have two homes now; one, a gorgeous mountain retreat, built by James with his own talented hands! And one, a unique suburban homestead, much of which has been built (or held together with duct tape) by my own hands.


                                            My misleading “little house”…it’s actually quite large


I get to have live music regularly in my life now, as James has continued to play off and on professionally.

He and my son connected over music right away.

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                                                             Michael and James on guitar photo


                                                                       James at a Spokane gig


James got me on the Harley


and I gave him a family

                                                                            James with his new family


James gave me his circle of friends that have been meeting every Wednesday night for over 20 years at what they call The Wheel. (This is an amazing group of folks in Spokane who gather on a mountain top to celebrate Nature and to support each other. They call it the “Church of the Blue Dome”.)


                                                                                The Wheel


And I gave him my sister’s home in the San Juan Islands where we get to house-sit every year for a few weeks.

IMG_6522            IMG_1970

 Oh, my sister’s husband is now one of J’s very best friends.

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They think they are so tough. Lenore and I think they are just HOT!

We have had great travel adventures. We’ve been back to Natchez several times, almost bought an “older home” there, and with each visit, we gained weight by filling up on real catfish and hushpuppies…oh, and fried green tomatoes and dill pickles.

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My sweet cousins and me

We took an amazing road trip on the Harley, down the West Coast as far as Pacific Grove, and camped in the Redwood Forest, which James had never seen before! (below)


We have been to San Diego a few times, enjoying the Beach Life I grew up in…


And we have both tried to make up for all the lost time by sharing our Mothers with each other.

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                                        James and siblings visiting Mother Alma’s grave in Natchez

James even went with me to visit my Mother’s grave for the very first time.

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                         My mother’s grave in the Fort Rosecrans military cemetery in Point Loma

And a huge highlight for me is that James was with me and my son and his family, when we reunited with my long lost daughter, Pamela and her family.


                                 Me, with BOTH my children at the same time…a dream come true


We have done so much to improve our two homes.

James has used his amazing skills to fix up, save and improve my Bellevue home of 40 years now. It’s over 100 years old and needed his talent. He even built me a Group Therapy Room so I could bring my practice home after I sold my long time office building. It’s really the very best room in the whole house.

And I introduced James to my 38 years long best friend and former business partner and he and his wife and James and I have added on the equivalent of another home to J’s mountain “cabin” so we can all live together as we age. (All four of us WRITE! My best friend and his wife are both published, she has even won an award ).

But James is the sleeper. He is incredibly talented! The novel he’s working on rivals anything Grisham has written and, dare I say it, maybe even our own Greg Iles. (James will deny this, LOUDLY.) I’m writing a nonfiction book that will hopefully be a legacy for my grandchildren, at least.




                   Casa Esmeralda-Before and After (named, as James often does, after Emerald Mound)

James and I are so grateful to have connected at this later point in our lives because we know we probably would not have survived with each other earlier, given all the hard relationship lessons we both had to learn.

We really wanted to come to the 50th Reunion this year, and had planned to when we thought it would be Memorial Day weekend. We were going to dance outrageously and give y’all “Something to Talk About”……………(You’ll have to get James to tell you the story of Bonnie Raitt singing that very song to him!!!)

But instead, you get the world’s longest “Christmas Letter”!

So sorry to miss you all. And I hope you turn the town upside down this weekend!!

Love and Hugs from,

Kathie Bessey Arcide and James Carl Fletcher

(although he doesn’t know I’m doing this! It is my anniversary gift to him!!) ♥

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My favorite picture!

PS Someone posted this recently.

Was it you Larry?

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Thought a blog might help me develop better writing habits so I could finally finish my book, 16 years in the writing, but so far it's mostly photos and FUN!

22 thoughts on “Saving the Best for Last: a Love Story for the Natchez High Class of 66!”

  1. What a lovely love story! Sometimes it takes us a lot of living to get to where we should have been all along, or perhaps we need to do all that living to be ready. Best of wishes, always to you and James. Happy to have found you through our blogging world! Some day we’ll have that phone conversation, I just need life to slow down a bit first.

    1. Pauses, Thanks for your comments. We never would have made it if we had tried to get together when we were younger. And though there are definitely some parts of being young we wish we could have shared, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it now. I look forward to hearing your voice.

  2. We were so happy to witness your “reunion” 10 years ago & share time with you both!
    We will sincerely miss you.
    Loved your letter to all! As always – beautifully written.
    Much love
    JoAnne & Ed

  3. Thank you for sending this to me. I am so happy for you both! I love the pictures of ya’ll and the kids and the houses! We are not going to make it to the reunion either. We have 3 grandchildren graduating in the next two weeks. Our oldest granddaughter, Whitney graduated from Auburn University last Sunday. She begins medical school at UAB in July. Our grandson, JP graduates next Thursday and our granddaughter Shelby graduates on Saturday the 21st. Please let us know when ya’ll do go to Natchez and maybe we can meet ya’ll there. It is great to hear from you! I wish we still lived down the street from each other. Love to you both! Call me sometime!

  4. What a beautiful heart-warming post 💜 Some things are meant to be and we wish you a very happy anniversary and good health and happiness for many years to come 💕

  5. What a great post. I loved reading it and seeing all the pictures. My favorite pictures were the one from when you were a hippie (I can certainly relate to that one and we may have been there at the same time at least for a day or two!) and the last one that you said was your favorite. Thanks for letting me learn more about your James and giving us all the chance to join in your celebration.

  6. Ah Kathy! It took me a while to get to the appropriate time to enjoy your posting. I am glad I waited. Special letters with special accompanying photos need to be savored. And savored I have.

    Thank you for sharing your love with us.


      1. Thanks Jill. You were there pretty early with us also. Coming to your wedding in Georgia was one of our first trips back down South. You are the one who taught me (warned me) about these Fletcher brothers!!!
        Thanks for savoring and your kind words.

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