A sad conversation is taking place in my corner of the online world.
For months a dedicated group of my high school classmates has been planning our 40th reunion - Aug. 19-20. They are tenaciously seeking and urging the rest of us to sign up and come.
Facebook has caused the details of our event to go viral among Stonewall Jackson High School grads. I predict an excellent turnout, perhaps the best ever.
In recent weeks the online conversation has turned to classmates who have passed away.
The last count I read was 47, more than 10 percent of our class of 413. (There's disagreement about the size of the class, but that's the number I recall).
We were the class of 1971 at the yellow brick school on the West Side hill.
We are in our late 50s now, so perhaps our mortality rate is to be expected.
Realizing that didn't make it any less sad to thumb through the pages of my yearbook and match the names of the deceased with their youthful faces.
Several grew up within walking distance of my own childhood home, and I knew them from a tender age.
When I was in the fourth grade, I had a party in my backyard. My mother let me invite whomever I wanted.
It was an all-white crowd, with one exception, and my mom talked about that child for years.
Lawrence Hale climbed on a tree stump in our yard that sunny afternoon and proclaimed, "I am the greatest."
This would have been 1962. Cassius Clay, who later would change his name to Muhammad Ali, had won the Olympics two years earlier. The boxer's personality was a factor in his worldwide fame as much as his athleticism and color.
My pal was no fighter, but he was loaded with personality and always a class favorite.
At our 20th reunion, I danced with Lawrence and we chatted.
I thought I knew the world of my childhood as well as the back of my hand, but he and some other black class members gave me a glimpse into an alternate universe.
We started school in the late 1950s, after the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools. Of course, that didn't happen overnight or without a struggle.
Like many white children, I was oblivious to this. There were black kids in my classes from first grade on, but I had no idea this was unusual.
However, they apparently were quite aware of how the world was changing. Perhaps their parents were trying to prepare them for the difficulties they might encounter.
Lawrence told a riveting story that reunion night at Edgewood Country Club, a place he would have been allowed to enter only through the service door when we were kids.
In third grade, our whole class was invited to a birthday party at the West Side roller skating rink. I remember it well because I had a crush on the boy whose birthday it was, and I was very excited about going.