Taylorsville Class of 1986: Where Are They Now?
Aug 23, 2016 12:48PM ● Published by Tori LaRue
One of Jim Olsen’s favorite dance pictures from high school. Olsen helped plan the 30-year reunion that brought the '86 class together. –Jim Olsen
Gallery: Taylorsville Class of 1986: Where Are They Now? [9 Images] Click any image to expand.
It’s been 30 years since the Taylorsville Class of 1986 roamed the halls of Taylorsville High School, but a reunion on Aug. 26 and 27 brought the veteran Warriors back to their alma mater.
Because a lot can happen in 30 years, the Taylorsville Journal rounded up stories from some of the ’86 graduates, to share their post-high school experiences with the community that saw them through their teenage years.
Jeff Isbell – The Entrepreneur
Jeff Isbell would have been voted “Most Likely to Not Succeed and Wind Up in Prison,” had that been a yearbook award, he said, but times change. Thirty years into the future, he’s the owner of Sun Print Solutions, a Utah-based company that employs more than 125 people—several of them Isbell’s classmates from Taylorsville High.
“High School was a hard time that was emotionally tough,” he said. “It was horrible. I was scared to death and 17, but life is pretty good right now. I’ve made it this long, and I’ll probably make it another 20 or 30 years.”
After graduation, Isbell knew it was time to leave his parents’ house and begin to fend for himself. He started working construction, not knowing what profession he’d be interested in long term.
He meant to attend college, but by age 20 he was married with a couple of kids and found himself working as a delivery driver for a local printing company. Isbell had worked his way into management, and within 10 years he purchased the company in what he calls a “hostile takeover.”
The previous owners lived out of state, and Isbell was the boss and face of the company to the employees and customers, he said. The other employees were shocked to find out that Isbell didn’t own the company, so they backed him up when he forced the previous owners to sell him the business, he said.
“I’ve been here so long now,” Isbell said. “Financially, it’s been great for me, and I like the people. I get to choose the directions that we go, and I also like that.”
Isbell’s company bought out and merged with several other companies during the years of his ownership, but as successful as Isbell’s business has grown, he said his proudest moments have been seeing his two daughters grow up.
The entrepreneur keeps in contact with his friends from high school. His best friend, Todd Wilberger, also a class ‘86 alum, works with him, and the two spend time running together. Karen Andrews, one of the reunion planners, and Isbell grew up houses apart, and they still stay in touch.
Although he said he’d never go back to high school even if someone paid him over a million dollars, Isbell’s cherishes the friendships he made from Taylorsville Class of 1986.
Jim Olsen – The Planner
Jim Olsen’s mother was diagnosed with brain cancer during his first year at Taylorsville High. Although he didn’t tell anyone about her illness, he said he relied heavily on the support and friendship of the other teens at Taylorsville High School to get through the trial that was plaguing his family.
Several years after graduation, his mother passed away. He wrote an obituary for her in which he asked for donations for the American Cancer Society in lieu of flowers.
“When I arrived at her funeral there were no flowers, and it was stark and barren,” Olsen said. “You think someone—at least one of all of those people—wouldn’t follow directions. I was beginning to feel like I made a mistake when in walks this giant floral arrangement, and it says, ‘Sorry for your loss, Taylorsville Class of 1986’
“That’s one of those things that stays with you forever,” he said.”
Olsen, a former junior class officer and student body officer, took it upon himself to plan the school’s 30th reunion in an effort to give back to the classmates who brought some life into one of his hardest days. He and three other classmates planned the bulk of the Aug. 26–27 event.
Olsen moved away from Taylorsville to South Carolina for graduate school, but he stayed there after meeting a woman who later turned out to be his wife. While his children call South Carolina home, Olsen brings them to Taylorsville each year to get a taste of what it was like for their dad to grow up in the Salt Lake City suburb. The Olsens eat Leatherby’s ice cream, watch movies at the Redwood Drive-In Theatre and visit extended family members on their summer trips.
Nancy Mix Hedin – The Cake Artist
Nancy (Mix) Hedin described herself as a “wallflower” in high school who “wasn’t involved in too much.” Now she works full time for a health care company while raising three children and overseeing the local chapter of a service organization.
“I think it is natural to get more motivation when you get older because you see more need that you wouldn’t see in high school as a student,” she said.
Hedin dabbled in cake making for years, so when she heard about Birthday Cakes 4 Free, a California-based organization that provides free birthday cakes to financially and socially disadvantaged children and seniors, she decided to start a Northern Utah chapter in 2014.
The first cake Hedin delivered was to a 72-year-old woman who was staying at the same aging services center in which her parents used to reside. It was the first birthday cake the woman had received in her adult life, and she was thrilled, according to Hedin.
“It’s nice to make people feel better with something as simple as a cake,” Hedin said. “It lets them know that someone out in the community cares.”
Her chapter of Birthday Cakes 4 Free delivered five more cakes during 2014, and in 2015 the service organization took off as more people heard about the initiative. About 35 volunteers joined her chapter, making 152 cakes in 2015 for seniors, children with disabilities, children in foster care and women in crisis centers. They’ve made and delivered 67 cakes so far in 2016.
Hedin tries to customize the cakes to the needs and interests of the recipients. She made a football-shaped fondant cake for a foster child who loved football and a cake with fondant animals for a blind child, so he could feel the animals on the cake. For legal and other reasons, Hedin doesn’t always get to hand-deliver the cakes, but she will often receive cards from her recipients.
“We did one [cake] for a little guy in a homeless shelter in Ogden, and he sent a picture he had drawn for us,” Hedin said. “It was a two-sided picture, and in the little kid’s drawing, it shows him sad before he got the cake, and it shows how happy he was after he got the cake. It was the sweetest thing. There’s a lot of people in tough situations, so it’s nice to know you have made their day a little better.”
Sean Lucas – The Dentist
Sean Lucas and Dena Lopez met in a weight-training class at Taylorsville High School. Fast Forward 30 years, and they’re married with three kids, living blocks from where they grew up.
“I guess you could say we haven’t made it very far in life,” Lucas joked.
But despite Lucas’ physical proximity to his high school roots, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of his high school self in other aspects. Lucas said his priorities “certainly weren’t education” in his teenage years, but after graduation, he went on to get a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Utah with a minor in chemistry before moving east to get his doctor of dental surgery from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College of Virginia.
Lucas later opened a private practice in Cottonwood Heights, and his wife made Taylorsville their home once again.
“A lot of my friends still live in the area, and it is close to everything. It’s seven minutes from where I work and 15 minutes to anything in Salt Lake,” Lucas said. “I like the community, and my family is still around here. We have great mountains and skiing. It’s a great place.”
Lucas’ two oldest children, Tabitha and Preston, graduated from Taylorsville High School, too. Tabitha, 24, will finish Salt Lake Community College’s dental hygiene program next year, and then she’ll be able to work in her dad’s practice with her parents, as her mom is also a dental hygienist.
In addition to the private practice, Lucas, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves, is the Chief of Dental Services in the 302 Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. He’d always wanted to join the Air Force Reserves, but it wasn’t until five years ago that his wife gave him the OK, he said. He spends one weekend a month on base.
When he’s not working on other people’s teeth or spending time with his family, Lucas can be found skiing and boating—hobbies he’s had since high school, because after 30 years, some things haven’t changed.
Tom Brooks - The Assimilator
Tom Brooks was involved in Taylorsville High School’s French and German clubs 1986, but his time might have been better spent in Japanese club, had that been an option.
Brooks’ interest in Japanese culture, language, food and people grew after high school graduation. He met and married his wife and secured a job at Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Japan. The couple has made Japan their home for almost a quarter-century.
Within 30 years, Brooks had traded conversations at lockers and pulling out of the Taylorville High School parking lot in his 1969 Ford Mustang for “a wonderful Japanese wife who can cover most ’80s heavy metal bands and a son in college whose good looks make me question if I am his father,” he said.
“I have seen and experienced things both in my personal and professional life that I could have never imagined back in high school,” Brooks said. “My confidence and view of the world have definitely changed me, and my family, career, and adopted country have definitely changed my life.”
The 30-year reunion was the first time Brooks had seen his friends from high school since their graduation, besides his friend Jim Olsen who’d visited him in Japan.
“My thoughts of my graduating class and the Taylorsville community are the same as they were back in 1986, frozen in carbonite like Han Solo,” Brooks said. “Good, happy thoughts of mostly nice, friendly, people living in what I remember or now consider to be a small community where people would help others.”