A little before 7:30 tonight, the stands will fall silent, the band will play "Taps" and a hero will come home in style.
The scene will be Guckeyson Memorial Stadium at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. That stadium has been named for Bill Guckeyson for 30 years. But it has never had permanent lights. Tonight, just in time for the B-CC-Whitman varsity football game, it has them.
However, the lights would never be there without a spirited community effort -- or without a boost from a bunch of West Pointers to whom Bill Guckeyson was extra-special.
The story of the stadium lights begins more than a year ago. A committee spearheaded by B-CC parent Sydney Tredick decided to raise $70,000 so that B-CC could join the five other Montgomery County public high schools whose playing fields have lights. The idea was to increase attendance at B-CC sports events, to offer popular school-based activities on a weekend night and to forge a closer relationship between the school and the community.
Seventy grand was a tall order, as the committee well knew. And the fund drive got off to a fairly poky start. By last spring, only about half the money had been raised, despite widespread efforts.
How widespread? As tonight's souvenir program will note:
"The school community has washed cars for lights, phoned for lights, danced for lights, biked and hiked for lights. They've shown off cars for lights, sweated for lights and met and planned and begged for lights." But there wasn't enough to show for all that effort. The lights looked a long way off.
Enter the West Point class of 1942.
Bill Guckeyson (pronounced GUY-ki-son) had gone to West Point after graduating from B-CC in 1933 and from The University of Maryland in 1937. After graduating from West Point in 1942, Guckeyson was sent overseas as a fighter pilot.
He was killed in action over Spendal, Germany, on May 21, 1944 -- but not before he downed seven German planes. Capt. Guckeyson was awarded the Purple Heart, three Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster.
That record alone would make John William Guckeyson quite a hero. His record as an athlete was nothing less than stupendous.
The son of a trapeze artist with the Barnum and Bailey circus, Guckeyson was a three-sport star at B-CC.
He was captain of the soccer team and was voted the most valuable player. In track and field, he was the first Maryland high schooler to toss the 12-pound shotput more than 50 feet. His record in that event stood for 28 years. He was also the state champion in the 80- and 100-yard dashes. In basketball, he led B-CC to its first county championship as a sophomore, and led the team to the state finals as a junior.
Guckeyson did not play football at B-CC because there was no varsity team there in the 1930s. Even so, Maryland offered him a full football scholarship, which Guckeyson accepted.
He was a star halfback at College Park. In one game, he punted three times for a total of 210 yards -- an average of 70 yards per kick. In his senior year, Guckeyson was all-Southern Conference and an honorable mention All-American. He turned down numerous professional offers.
With that sort of resume, it's no wonder that Bill Guckeyson was elected president of the West Point class of 1942 only weeks after the class assembled. Nor is it any wonder that The Far-Flung Fabulous Frolicking Forty-Twoers (as they call themselves) jumped for their wallets as soon as they learned that money was needed for lights in Bill's honor.
The size of the West Point '42 donation won't be official until the FFFFs hold their 45th reunion later this month. But Sydney Tredick says it'll be "close to $3,000." That sum is a major part of the $50,000 the committee finally raised. The committee took out a loan for the remainder, and tonight, Guckeyson Memorial Stadium will be lit by permanent lights for the first time.
If only Guckeyson could light up the place with his presence. But failing that, a smart salute, please, to the B-CC community, which saw the need and didn't spare the shoe leather.
I hope Mr. Conventional Wisdom is reading this -- the guy who always claims that Washington has no home town spirit because we're all too busy handicapping the Iowa caucuses. B-CC put a hole in that bum rap about as effectively as I've ever seen a group of locals do it. I hope that Sydney Tredick and her gang take a long bow under the lights tonight. They've earned it.
I hope the same for the FFFF delegation who will attend tonight's ceremonies. Sounds as if you guys had yourselves quite a class president. But then again, when $3,000 comes flying out of your pockets for a cause like this, it sounds as if Bill Guckeyson had quite a bunch of classmates, too.