Belmar grads give gathering another chance
Anyone who attended or graduated from Bellmar High School would do well to circle Friday, June 14, on their calendars.
That's the date for the second annual All Bellmar Reunion, and if organizers have their way, the event will be bigger and better than the inaugural gathering last year.
“That's not to say we didn't have a great time last year,” said Fred Fundy, a 1952 Bellmar graduate and a former teacher at his alma mater who is serving as facilitator for this year's reunion. “There were about 150 people in attendance, and the response was very positive. Our goal this year is to build on that foundation, draw an even larger crowd and celebrate a special tradition that all of us share as Bellmar alumni.”
The June 14 festivities will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. in The Bellmar Room on the lower level of the North Belle Vernon Volunteer Fire Department's social hall at 545 Broad Ave.
Helping Fundy coordinate plans for the reunion is a core group of Bellmar graduates serving as chairmen of their graduating classes.. With their graduating year included, they are:
1953 — Tom Quintier; 1954 — Gloria Tracey, Joni Kelley and Dolores Kwiatkowski; 1955 — Dale Hamer; 1956 — Don DeFazio; 1957 — Joyce Theakston; 1958 — Mary Ann Basits; 1959 — Carol Pocky Chacko; 1960 — Randy Jesick and Jim Potts; 1961 — Linda Patrick and Donna Petrosky; 1962 — Alvera Gantner; 1963 — Barb Moskala; 1964 — Sam Smichnick; 1965 — Paul and Donna Zubovic and John and Sharon Zunic.
Those individuals will contact their respective classmates with details about the June 14 reunion, but anyone not receiving notification should get in touch with the designated chairman of their class.
Moskala said the reunion is open to “anyone who attended or graduated from” Bellmar High School.
“Many of the young men started their high school careers at Bellmar but left in the early years to join the military during the Korean War,” Moskala said. “Some of the girls went to beauty school to study cosmetology and other students transferred to other schools and didn't graduate from Bellmar. But they are part of the legacy of our school and we want to emphasize to them that they are welcome to attend the reunion.”
Former teachers, coaches and administrators from Bellmar High School also will be invited.
Fundy said the event again will feature a menu of meat and vegetable trays, buns, sandwiches, coffee and soft drinks. Attendees, however, are welcome to bring their own alcoholic beverages as well as “other assorted snacks and goodies,” he said.
A disc jockey will provide music for dancing and the listening pleasure of those in attendance.
A $10 admission fee will be in effect and should be paid in advance to the individual class representatives. The deadline for reservations is June 1.
“It's imperative that we know how many people will be attending in order that we can order food, handle the (table) set-ups and be organized,” Fundy said. “We are encouraging everyone to let their class representatives know of their intentions as soon as possible.”
Fundy recalled that the All Bellmar Reunion concept evolved more than a year ago when his group, the Class of 1952, was planning its 60-year reunion in 2012.
“Like others from our area, we found that the numbers (of graduates) continued to diminish,” he said. “Someone suggested that we invite other (Bellmar) classes to attend our reunion, combine the groups and have one big celebration. After all, as Bellmar graduates, we do share a very special bond.”
The combined reunion was highlighted by the dedication of The Bellmar Room at the North Belle Vernon firemen's social hall. The designated area features the large engraved stone reading “Bellmar High School — 1951” that was displayed over the main entrance to the school on Graham Street. Another handcrafted sign that says “The Bellmar Room” greets visitors to the site as they enter the social hall from Baltimore Street.
“We are deeply grateful to the North Belle Vernon Volunteer Fire Department for making this space available,” Fundy said. “It's a great place for reminiscing.”
Those who attended last year's event offered similar sentiments.
“The turnout was great,” said Vance Bunardzya of Rostraver Township, a 1963 Bellmar graduate. “All the classes in Bellmar history were represented from 1952 to 1965. It's amazing that the institution known as Bellmar High School was in existence for only 14 classes but the spirit and pride that exist among those who attended (BHS) is phenomenal. Fred and his group did a wonderful job of putting the reunion together last year and we are looking forward to the same results this year.”
Randy Jesick of Indiana, Pa., a 1960 Bellmar graduate, agreed.
“The dedication of The Bellmar Room was very meaningful,” Jesick said. “And the reception that followed was a really special time. There was a lot of nostalgic conversation as we exchanged memories of classmates, teachers and the good times of yesteryear as well as enjoying tasty food and refreshments.
“It as a lot of fun, very uplifting to share a few hours with friends, acquaintances and classmates. I found it enjoyable to talk with and get to know Bellmar graduates from all the classes. We all share similar experiences in our respective three years in the halls and classrooms of Bellmar.”
Bellmar High School evolved through the creation of the Bellmarette Joint School District that was formed in 1951 by a merger involving Marion and Vernon high schools. The first graduating class was in 1952 and the last as Bellmar High School in 1965. Bellmar and Rostraver school districts merged in 1965 to from the current Belle Vernon Area School District but 1966 graduates received diplomas designating Bellmar Division and Rostraver Division.
Fundy said the reunion will serve to complement Belle Vernon Borough's Bicentennial celebration, which runs from June 12-16.
Tentative plans call for the Bicentennial observance to open Wednesday, June 12 with Family Night festivities at the large parking area behind the Municipal Building. A carnival will be in operation there and will run for four days.
“There's a lot going on that week, something for everyone,” Fundy said.
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.