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Reunion Weekend Brings Back Fond Memories for Attendees

Natalie Heard Hackett

Thursday, July 24, 2014 • 8:40am

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The fourth Montclair High School All Class Reunion (MHS ACR) took place this past weekend at Nishuane Park. The biennial event, which occurs every other year, brought together close to a thousand people for a weekend of festivities.

Planned as an annual event in 2009, the group returned in 2010 and then decided that they should plan the reunion for every other year in Montclair.  What began as a one day cookout in 2009, is now in its fourth year, has become a biennial event and has evolved into a three-day weekend that is completely free of charge. 

The activity-filled weekend for all included guided tours of Montclair High School, an alumni basketball game, a meet and greet, picnic in the park and a farewell brunch.  

Excitement filled the air on Friday while spectators packed the gymnasium at Montclair High School for the Alumni All-Star basketball game. It was a special treat to see the alumni cheerleaders cheering the team on. They performed routines and cheers for fans in unison to a cheering crowd.

After the game, alumni gathered for a meet and greet at a local restaurant.  

At the meet and greet, Debbie Williams Johnson, Penny Kennedy Jackson and Patricia Robertson Sellers, who all graduated from Montclair High School in 1974, gathered and shared memories. 

Debbie Williams Johnson (’74) said, “I was a Soul Stomper.  We won the National Championship.”  Her friends chimed in and the excitedly shared their fond memories of being Soul Stompers.  A drill team, which was led by Father Brady from St. Peter Claver Catholic Church.  “We were the first ones to open the first Disney World and we also went to the Indianapolis 500 and marched on the track.”

Penny Kennedy Jackson (’74) jovially chimed in, “I was a Soul Stomper too!  I was 13 when I joined the Soul Stompers.  If it wasn’t for Father Brady, there’s a lot of things I would never have done.  I would never have been able to fly on an airplane.  We also got to see Mario Andretti and stayed overnight at the convent with the nuns.” 

Patricia Robertson Sellers (’74) added, “I was a Soul Stomper and I remember after they came back from the nationals, then I joined.”  She excitedly continued, “We went to Disney World on Opening Day to perform!”

The Soul Stompers won the National Championship, traveled to Disney World and all over the country with Father Brady to perform.  They were the first group to ever be invited back to the Indianapolis 500 to perform twice.

Now in its fourth year, the MHS ACR is bigger than ever and more diversly reflects the population of the Montclair High School alumni. 

The MHS ACR festivities included a music-filled all-day gathering at Nishuane Park on Saturday.  With lawn chairs and tents pitched, alumni danced to the music of their era and mingled with fellow alums.

MHS ACR committee member, John Mintz (’70) said, “I was honored to be on the reunion committee for the last year and I have been involved with this reunion for years.  It’s a fabulous event, we get a thousand people to come, and we got probably close to two hundred people Friday night for something that, Toi, our leader said was going to work and it did.”

The gathering brought together alumni, families and special friends.  People, like Lawrence Edmonds, who grew up in Montclair, but have moved to somewhere else, also found their way back for MHS ACR weekend.  Edmonds, who attended Montclair Public Schools and moved out of Montclair while in high school, said, “I didn’t graduate from Montclair High, but I came because I grew up in Montclair.  I’m happy to be here.”

Mayor Jackson, presented the MHS ACR organizers with a resolution on behalf of the township.  Freeholder Brendan Gill presented the MHS ACR organizers with a resolution on behalf of the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Also in attendance were Deputy Mayor Robert Russo and Montclair Councillor Renee Baskerville.

On Sunday, the MHS ACR weekend concluded with a farewell brunch that took place at ‘The Office’restaurant. 

“It was a fabulous event.  To see all of these people show up and have a good time to cross all kinds of barriers, class, economic levels, all on a free event that only the sale of a few tshirts covers is phenomenal. Kudos to all the Montclair graduates that are involved.  The comraderie, the friendship, and the love that we all feel for the high school is amazing,” added Mintz.

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