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Class project

Bill Althaus
'My photo from Vera means the world to me …' said Oak Grove High School senior Josie Simpson.

After watching many members of the Class of 2020 grow up, Oak Grove professional photographer Vera Fish came up with an idea to take away a bit of the sting of a COVID-19 pandemic senior year.

"I had to do something," Fish said. "I have a camera. I knew I could get a list of the Oak Grove High School seniors, so I went to work."

Through social media and word of mouth, Fish let the 2020 senior class know that she would visit their homes and take a senior picture, free of charge. And when she took her final photo – of her son Timothy – she had made lives a bit brighter and happier for 93 seniors.

"These kids needed a lift, something good to happen, and so did I," Fish said, "so I began my journey."

She contacted the Oak Grove Police Department, to let them know that she would be traveling through town, mask and camera in hand, to take these photos.

"I didn't want them to think, 'Why is this crazy woman driving through town, going from house to house, during the pandemic,'" she said. "They were fine with the idea, so I started going to homes from 10 a.m. to dark – and we had some kids who lived outside of Bates City and some who lived way south of town and others who lived way north, and it didn't matter where they lived, I wanted to take their photos."

Josie Simpson was photographed in cap and gown with Mickey Mouse ears, Becca Dowell is standing alongside her horse she shows in 4-H competition, and Jaret Adams stands proudly in front of his car that his father rebuilt.

"My photo from Vera means the world to me; honestly, it does," Simpson said. "I look at it and smile because I have my cap and gown and the Mickey Mouse ears – and who doesn't smile when they think of Mickey Mouse?

Dowell added, “We got so much taken from us our senior year, but Vera's photos helped so many kids enjoy one special moment during the pandemic. I've been working with my horse for about two years, going to shows at our local 4-H chapter, and it was just perfect to have the photo taken with my horse."

Adams said his photo is special for many reasons.

"At the time the photo was taken, I didn't want to leave my house. You just didn't know what could happen to you," he said. "And Vera not only comes and takes this great picture of me with my car, in front of my house, she risks getting sick by doing so many great things for the seniors from the high school. That's pretty amazing to me."

Fish also helped organize a senior parade.

"We had our parade two weeks ago,” she said. “I talked to the Oak Grove Police, again, and they were wonderful. I also worked with Jim Armstrong from the Parks and Recreation Department, and we had 120 kids in 116 cars. It went from the pool, through downtown and ended up at Webb Park. We practiced social distancing – just like I did while taking the senior photos – and it was just a day to remember."

A day that will help take a bit of pain away from all the special days that were missed – including prom and Project Grad, where were recently canceled.

"I was the student director of our last play, which we didn't perform," Simpson said. "It was supposed to be the week the quarantine started. We missed out on so much, but because of Vera we have lasting memories, memories that mean more than most of us can even imagine right now. I think it might take awhile before we really realize what she did for us."