Monessen grads looking ahead to encore of success

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

It didn't take long for Monessen High School's Class of 1960 to begin planning for another Greyhound Reunion.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive this time but we're not about to rest on our laurels,” said Patty Foster Bukowski of the Class of 1960s Celebration Committee. “Everyone had a good time and we're already discussing ideas as to how to make next year's festivities a repeat. We will be selecting a date and announcing it as soon as possible so people can plan their schedules accordingly.”

The third annual Oldies dance and reunion drew some 230 people to the Monessen Firemen's Social Hall in the Eastgate Plaza area of the city.

MHS classes from the 1950s and 1960s were among those enjoying the event.

“We focus on those classes but all Monessen High School graduates are welcome to attend, as well as any interested persons,” Bukowski said. “We feel this is a good way to have a true Greyhound Reunion and we encourage others to take part.

“There's always a lot of reminiscing. And Oldies music offers those in attendance an opportunity to relive the days of those great record hops at the Italian Hall and the Stockdale Fire Hall as well as dances at the Sons of Italy and the Vets Club in Charleroi and those unforgettable lunchtime tea dances at the high school. It's a wonderful journey down Memory Lane.”

Tom Hawkins, a 1960 graduate and a member of the planning committee, agreed.

“The basic idea is to bring together people who share a common bond – that is, we are Monessen High School graduates,” said Hawkins, a longtime area musician and band director, who served as master of ceremonies at the dance and reunion. “The reaction was great, people enjoyed the comfortable and nostalgic setting. They had the opportunity to stroll down Memory Lane with classmates and longtime friends. It really makes no difference what year you graduated. Memories of Monessen and the Mon Valley span the ages.”

Special recognition was be extended to the MHS Classes of 1956 and 1961 who were celebrating their 75th and 70th birthdays this year and the Classes of 1958 and 1963 who were observing their 55th and 50th graduation reunions.

“It was a great night, a double treat,” said Bob Leone, a 1961 graduate. “Our class celebrated a chronological milestone together and then joined other graduates for a nostalgic evening.”

Hawkins led a Moment of Silence in honor and memory of deceased graduates and also a special tribute to those who have served, or are still serving, in the United States Armed Forces.

Bukowski extended appreciation to leaders of the other MHS classes for their cooperation in helping with the preparations. They included Glenda Kerns Mavrakis, '55; Patty Pettko, '56; Helen Veschio, '58; Penny Rizzuto, '59; Kathy Steffey, '61; Mary Ann Hloden, '62; Bobbie Guzzie, '64, and Lorraine Hodges, '67.

“They really pitched in with a lot of time and effort to help make the event a success,” she said.

She also thanked the Monessen volunteer firemen for their “gracious hospitality ... in a beautiful venue.”

Bukowski also offered gratitude to her daughter, Amy Bukowski, and her grandchildren, Cassidy Piasecki and Ronnie Piasecki, for their “continued support and help.” She said Cassidy “has become our mascot and has been assisting with reunions, birthday observances and dances for three years.”

The Front Page, a popular western Pennsylvania vocal group specializing in the oldies and doo-wop harmonies of the '50s and early '60s provided live entertainment and recorded music was played between the group's sets.

“The music was well received,” Hawkins said. “The dance floor was crowded most of the evening as the songs rekindled a lot of fond memories.”

A new feature this year was a collection of cutout figures of Monessen High School athletes, cheerleaders, band members and majorettes. They were created by Mary Ann Kopach-Laber of Monessen, a longtime member and leader of the Valley Art Club.

“The cutouts are similar to what you find at the penny arcades or on the boardwalks at amusement parks and people got a real kick out of them,” Hawkins said. “There was a steady line waiting to have pictures taken there. We're always looking for something new to enhance the dance and this idea certainly did the trick. I'm sure we will have something else like that next year.”

In addition to Bukowski and Hawkins, the Celebration Committee comprises Carl Borriello, Ron Chromulak, Donnie and Peggy Proposky Rattay, Lydia Santoro Ciliberti, Judy DiBuono Paglia and Christine Mykovich Coates.

Ron Paglia is a contributing writer.

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