July 26, 2011
Summer party/fund raiser at Levittown Hall reunites old friends
Click on photos to enlarge
By JIM AYRES '63
Frank Barning asked me to provide the names of the people in this group photo. It was taken by Marilyn Monsrud Frese, class of 1963, last Saturday at Levittown Hall during a Blue Dragon summer party/fund raiser. These guys bring back lots of fine memories for me and for a lot of others who were there.
Seated left to right: Larry Vishnis ('65), Lou Zinser ( '66 -- Lou was having too much fun with sports to want to leave HS and get drafted into the Army -- extremely bright, a born raconteur like his father who pitched for the Washington Senators in 1944), Doug Catalano ('65), Jaime Garthwaithe ('66), and Tom Conway ('64). Standing: Paul Flechner ('64), your humble servant ('63), and Lou DeFrancesco ('64).
Here is background info on these gentlemen:
Larry Vishnis is a mailman in Suffolk County -- very funny guy, also went to Hofstra with him in the mid-late 60s -- graduated with a BA in FA in '69. His dad, Lenny, is a bright, wonderful, articulate 90-something youngster who practically started the Levittown Athletic Club way back in the 1950s.
Jaime Garthwaite is an institution as a mailman in Levittown. Starring in an HBO special (already shot and 'in the can') -- to be aired next spring, he said. Forget the title, but it's about the effect of economic and societal changes on suburban communities such as Levittown. Jaime and his octogenarian father, a WW2 vet and original L'town homeowner, both have significant roles in the show. Jaime said his dad kind of "steals the show."
Doug ("Cat") Catalano, is a partner in a big-time NYC law firm and perhaps one of the most successful (the way success is so often defined in America -- $$$$) DAHS grads. Went to Hofstra with him in the mid-late 1960s. He was on the Hofstra golf team and is still a scratch golfer and a hell-of-a-nice guy.
Tom Conway was a star pitcher at both DAHS and Hofstra, but left HU before graduation and was drafted into the Army and served a stint in Vietnam in a difficult and dangerous job. One of my best friends -- a great and generous guy, which he once again proved by donating his winning half of the party's 50-50 raffle to the family for whom we were raising funds. Did I mention he has always been a lucky guy!
Paul Flechner, like me, was a second-tier athlete at Division who later trained at RPI as an engineer and has dabbled in lots of things, including inventing (don't ask me what). Very bright and uber-articulate; a very good friend to have, steadfast (don't see much of that anymore) and loyal.
Louie DeFrancesco was a fine outfielder at DAHS and later at Hofstra. Very accurate, strong arm -- lots of assists, pretty good hitter. Retired banker -- great record keeper and memorabilia man (DAHS, Hofstra, US Army, early Levittown). 'Twas he who tipped me to your blog, but I don't know if he contributes anything (you might want to ask him). He and I were stationed about a mile apart at Long Binh (the Army's largest post in Vietnam) for almost a full year and each never knew the other was there, though we had been friends in high school and college. Another of my "new" best friends that I'm happy to have re-connected with after a 40-year hiatus.
Lou Zinser (as noted above) is one of the brightest guys and best story-tellers I know. Often misjudged by some of the DAHS faculty, Louie went on to a fine teaching and coaching career after college. Could have had a great career as a stand-up comedian as well. Always makes everyone around him smile, a rare talent in today's world.
Not pictured because he was too busy emceeing the party was one of the behind-the-scenes organizers of the party and a great and loyal friend of mine for over 50 years, Stan Pesner. Stan also is one of Division's most successful grads, a terrific businessman and as generous and good-hearted a person as you will ever meet. Much of this party happened because of Stan's efforts, as well as those of John "Chez" Echezuria, Tom Cummings, Marilyn Monsrud Frese, Mickey Foss and Jim Silvestri. A shout out to them, for sure.
The other photo posted here is of yours truly on the right and Bobby Lombardi. We are singing, not arguing. Bobby is a fantastic singer and was lots of folks' favorite Levittown kid, I suspect. Nice guy who was a great baseball and later softball player. He played on Doc Linnehan's 1968 world championship County Sports team and is a fine professional musician (drummer for several bands; could sing lead occasionally or backup).
The party last Saturday was a very nice time, some good fun was had certainly, but only 70 people showed up. I think the organizers were disappointed in the turn-out, but it did raise some funds for a hurting former Blue Dragon, which was part of the point. Would be great to see this event annualized, and for more of the alumni to attend, especially younger grads. The most recent class I saw on a name tag was 1978 -- 33 classes ago.