Class reunions help keep the memories alive
Jamesburg High School graduates of all classes gather for a third biennial reunion.
JAMESBURG In order to combat the seemingly inevitable erosion of the memory of Jamesburg High School, the school's Alumni Association began holding biennial, all-class reunions in 2001.
The third of the reunions was held April 30 with more than 150 alumni, past staff and faculty members turning out at the Holiday Inn in Monroe to celebrate the memory of the school, which closed its doors in 1979.
One of those who attended was James Czapiga, Class of 1969, who said the reunion had given him a chance to see old friends whom he hadn't seen in 30 years.
"Things like this are great," said Mr. Czapiga, who lives in Monroe. "The Alumni Association is a great organization."
Mr. Czapiga particularly praised Jamesburg High School Alumni Association member Ron Becker, who has become the de facto keeper of the school's flame, compiling a comprehensive JHS list of the students, staff and faculty and organizing a collection of school memorabilia.
For his part, Mr. Becker praised the willingness of alumni to keep the memory of the school alive by participating in the biennial events.
"For a small school that's been closed for 25 years, we have an amazing amount of involvement," he said. "We weren't sure how the all-class thing would work, but it's been a tremendous success. People have really enjoyed them."
Sometimes, people have enjoyed the events a little too much.
Mr. Becker recalled how a Class of '33 alumnus got a little too caught up in the fun of the 2001 reunion for some of his fellow alumni's taste.
"He was out there on the dance floor 85, 86 years old, mind you really cutting it up and we were all scared to death," Mr. Becker said with a chuckle. "Fortunately, he got winded and his wife made him sit down."
Mr. Becker said there were no similar scares this year (the oldest alumna in attendance, Victoria Lubera Vosk, Class of 1939, was a more mellow sort, he said) and the highlight of the reunion was the naming of the school's 34 all-time greatest soccer players, the Matteo All Stars.
The list of players was compiled by the school's legendary retired coach and athletic director, Richard Matteo.
Coach Matteo wasn't present to see the naming of the team (he had been released from the hospital the previous day), but Lewis Schwartz, Class of 1953, who played for the coach and maintains a close friendship with him, said selecting the team was not an easy task for Coach Matteo, who was proud of and respected every athlete who played for him.
Mr. Schwartz wasn't able to attend two all-class reunions, even though he lives in nearby South Brunswick, because he was traveling when the first one was held and attending his own JHS class's 50th reunion when the second one was held.
"But I wouldn't have missed this one for anything," Mr. Schwartz said Thursday. "(The Alumni Association) does a great job."
Mr. Schwartz, who played soccer for the high school, didn't make the Matteo All Stars where his moment of glory as a soccer player came when he was credited with a goal scored by the opposing team's goalie, he said.
He said he was proud of the fact that the 85-year-old coach is still honored and respected in the borough.
"He's a great man, was a great coach and it's good to see him still getting his due," Mr. Schwartz said.
The Jamesburg High School Alumni Association also maintains a Web site that includes a list of almost every student who ever attended the school whether they graduated or not.
The list gives both the current and former (maiden and simply changed) names of each student, their class year and (for some) current state of residence.
In many cases, it also lists the former students as "deceased" a category that comprises a larger percentage of the list each year, Mr. Becker said.
"The youngest person in the association is 44 years old and we're not getting any new members," Mr. Becker said.
The Matteo All Stars include Robert Alsheimer, 1953; Mario Appuzo, 1975; Curt Benson, 1966; Kevin Bradley, 1972; Robert Chiara, 1977; Walter Davis, 1962; Steven Deak, 1977; Richard Farr, 1950; Charles Intravartolo Jr., 1978; Raymond Jackson, 1974; John Johnson, 1962; Lawrence Kendrick, 1972; Willie Kendrick, 1968; Ezra Lewis, 1961; Gus Linke Jr., 1965; Wayne Marks, 1972; Willie Martin, 1968; Stan Massey, 1965; Richard Matteo Jr., 1969; Richard Mendoker, 1968; George O'Carroll, 1954; Richard Palumbo Sr., 1963; John Perrine, 1956; Tyrone Pettigrew, 1971; Richard Siemons, 1957; Cecil Smith, 1957; John Solook, 1961; Randy Speranza, 1973; Ernest Szabo, 1949; Thomas Thoens, 1965; Larry Thomas, 1970; John Thomas, 1974; Matthew Vaughn, 1956; and Edward Zimbicki, 1963.
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