DHS Principal Andrew Stephens, who worked in Hull before coming to Duxbury, told the assembled soon-to-be graduates that he had just attended the funeral of 67-year-old Charlie Fiest, who was the custodian at Hull High School for over thirty years.

At first glance, Fiest lived a relatively simple life, Stephens said. He wasn’t a wealthy man, and didn’t seek out attention. But when he died, over 2,000 people attended his funeral in what Stephens called “a remarkable outpouring of respect and love.”

Fiest lived his life according to three simple principals, Stephens said. First, he valued family above all else. Second, he loved what he did and took great pride in his work. He believed in being kind and doing good deeds for others. Stephens recalled the small gestures that made Fiest so special, whether it was meeting a returning student at the high school entrance with flowers after she had been out sick, or leaving a bottle of water and a fully charged walkie-talkie for the school secretary every day for 15 years.

“Over and over at the memorial, people gave testimony about this ordinary man, who, by holding true to a few key values, touched so many lives,” Stephens said. “Charlie Fiest truly had a life well-lived.”

Stephens challenged the students to follow Fiest’s example.

“Who you are and what you are made of is something that evolves over time and is made up of little choices you make every day,” Stephens said. “What will your legacy be?”

The theme of challenging the graduates to reach new heights was repeated throughout the afternoon.

“I challenge the students to explore, to question, to never settle for the status quo,” said School Committee Chairman George Cipolletti.

The students were led out by their class officers: President Sarah Wooley, Vice President Luke Cronin, Secretary Melissa Crimmins, Treasurer Emily Pakstis, Valedictorian Meg Muncey and Salutatorian Andrew Sommer.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Skeiber, who first met the Class of 2009 as third graders at the Alden School, told the graduates: “This is your day.”

“Remember to know yourselves,” she said. “Happy times, as well as more difficult or sad times ... they all have an impact on who you are and who you will become.”

Graduates were also reminded of the difficult world they head into: a flailing economy where jobs are scarce.

Citing the famous Robert Frost poem which speaks of two roads diverging in the woods, Rev. Todd Vetter of Pilgrim Church told the graduates: “I suspect that, given the nature of the world today, you will have far more than two roads from which to choose.”

Valedictorian Meg Muncey pointed to the unique sense of unity that has defined the Class of 2009 as the greatest tool in combating the challenges that may lie ahead.

“It is no secret that our current world is in turmoil,” she said. “However, as the rare class that we are, we possess the skills to accomplish feats that other generations could not even have imagined.   Through the unity of our class, we have learned to work together and take pride in each other, an important trait in our turbulent world.”

For a class gift, the Class of 2009 decided to make several donations, explained Class Treasurer Emily Pakstis.  The donations include paying for the senior cookout, a $1,500 donation to the retirement chair fund, a $1,000 donation to the Invisible Children organization, and the gift of a new tree for the front lawn of the high school.

“This tree symbolizes the new beginning of the next stage of our lives,” Pakstis said.

Class speaker Eric Doherty said his fellow classmates challenged stereotypes, excelling in all aspects of school from athletics to academics to drama.

“Each member of the Class of 2009 is the stars of their own movie,” he said.

“We are ready for the rest of our lives,” said Spencer Meine. “Show us your worst, and we’ll show you our best.”