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Bellmar High School alumni share special bond

| Saturday, April 19, 2014, 5:00 p.m.
This handcrafted sign welcomes visitors to The Bellmar Room at the North Belle Volunteer Fire Department’s social center.
This handcrafted sign welcomes visitors to The Bellmar Room at the North Belle Volunteer Fire Department’s social center.

It is, as reunions go, rather unique.

No prizes for traveling the longest distance or having the most grandchildren.

“The basic idea is to bring together anyone and everyone with ties to Bellmar High School to enjoy the special bond we share,” said Fred Fundy of North Belle Vernon, facilitator of the third annual All Bellmar Reunion. “We want people to have fun, to reminisce, to rekindle old memories and create new ones.”

This year's reunion will be held from 2-7 p.m. June 20 in The Bellmar Room on the lower level of the North Belle Vernon Volunteer Fire Department's social hall at 545 Broad Ave.

Fundy, a 1952 Bellmar graduate and a former teacher at his alma mater, said the organizing committee is anticipating another increase in attendance at the event.

“We had over 300 people at last year's reunion, which was more than the initial gathering in 2012 and a good indicator of the positive reactions,” he said. “And even before it was over, they were asking about the date for this year's reunion. Inquiries about the date and what will be taking place have increased over the ensuing months. It's obvious they enjoy and appreciate the concept.”

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-Joanne Cunningham Manetta; 1954-Gloria Tracey; 1955-Dale Hamer; 1956-Don DeFazio; 1957-Joyce Theakston; 1958-Mary Ann Fryske Basits; 1959-Carol Pocky Chacko; 1960-Randy Jesick; 1961-Linda Patrick; 1962-Alvera Gantner Zolock; 1963-Barb Toth Moskala; 1964-Sam Smichnick; 1965-Paul and Donna Zubovic; and 1966-Helen Paskan Bednarczyk.

Those individuals will contact their respective classmates with details about the June 20 reunion, but anyone not receiving notification should get in touch with the designated chairman of their class.

Others on the planning committee are Sondra Bruce, Joni Kelley, Dolores Frazier, Sandy Stinogle, Darla Belsick and John and Sharon Zunic.

Moskala reaffirmed that 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 emphasized that the Class of 1966 was part of the newly formed Belle Vernon Area School District, but their diplomas indicated that they were graduated from the “Bellmar Division.”

Fundy said this year's event again will feature a menu of ham and vegetable trays, buns, potato salad and pasta salad, coffee and soft drinks. Attendees, however, are welcome to bring their own libations (other than coffee, water or soda) as well as “other assorted snacks and goodies,” he said.

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 6.

“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 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 2012 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 have attended the previous All Bellmar reunions offered similar sentiments.

“It's a lot of fun,” said Daryle Ruby, a 1961 Bellmar graduate now living in Ocean City, Md. “My wife Nancy, who graduated in 1962, and I have attended all of our traditional class reunions, but the All Bellmar event is unique in that it brings together graduates from the complete history of the school. It offers an opportunity to meet and talk with those who preceded us and followed us and share so many great memories.”

Jesick, a 1960 Bellmar graduate, who lives in Indiana, Pa., said the reunion is special in his perspective because it affords the opportunity to “again see classmates, friends and other acquaintances, some for the first time in more than a half-century.”

“I have found it easy to talk with anyone, everyone from the Class of 1952 on forward to those graduates from the classes in the mid-1960s because of all we have in common,” Jesick said. “We all went through the same building and the same classes with most of the same teachers. It's a wonderful way to socialize, not via social media, but in person.”

Which is in keeping with the original idea of the reunion.

“There is no generation gap,” Fundy said. “It's a reunion that spans the ages.”

Ron Paglia is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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