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'Import' Hampton Bays homecoming king still close with queen

Stefan Ebbinghaus and Deborah Clifford hang out at

Stefan Ebbinghaus and Deborah Clifford hang out at a Hampton Bays High School reunion in 2017. Credit: Courtesy of Stefan Ebbinghaus

Editor's Note: Newsday.com is catching up with former Long Island homecoming kings and queens to have them reflect on being named royalty and see what they're up to now. If you're a former Long Island high school homecoming king or queen and would like to participate, email rachel.weiss@newsday.com.

Stefan Ebbinghaus traveled from West Germany to Long Island before the fall of the Berlin Wall -- and ended up a homecoming king.

When Ebbinghaus was voted into royalty at Hampton Bays High School in 1987, the senior was surprised.

“As far as I remember my classmates had fun [voting] an exchange student their homecoming king,” Ebbinghaus said. “Later I got the nickname ‘Import King.’ ”

He also got something out of the experience much more important than a crown: a new friend, Deborah Clifford, who was named queen. Clifford, who in high school was Deborah Byrnes, was on the volleyball team and had no idea she was that well known.

They didn’t even know each other until the coronation. But more than 30 years later, they remain in touch.

“We have our class reunions and we do one like every 15 years,” Clifford said. “And then when Facebook came about, that’s when everyone became more [friendly].”

At the reunions, Clifford’s friends still call her “Queen.” She said that the moment she and Ebbinghaus were crowned was thrilling.

“I guess it was even more amazing because Stefan, being the exchange kid, [was] not just somebody we knew for our whole life,” Clifford said. “So it was kind of cool, it was different.”

Ebbinghaus is now the COO of Software4You, which provides resource and financial planning software for organizations across Europe. A divorced father of two -- Constantin and Clara -- he is now dating Tanja Klapproth, a friend from his German high school. Although he currently lives in Munich and Klapproth lives in Canada, they visit each other often and participate in Spartan Races together.

Clifford and her husband, James, live in North Sea and have two sons, college freshman Nicolas and high schooler Jacob. She is manager of the Watermill Deli.

“My life has really been my kids right now,” Clifford said. “I have another two years with [Jacob] before he goes to college.”

The king and queen saw each other at their 30th high school reunion last year. But instead of waiting another 15 years, Clifford is helping to plan a reunion in 2020, this time in Germany.

“There is about 30 of us to get over there and do this. We’re still planning, still talking about it,” Clifford said. “Knowing us, it will probably be 2021.”

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