Getting ready to ‘Re-U-Knight’

Toronto High School All-School Reunion set for Labor Day weekend

REUNION PLANNERS — Among the Toronto High School Class of 1971 members who are helping to organize the THS All-School Reunion happening over the Labor Day weekend are, seated, from left, Chairman Bob Petras, Kitty Hannan Ferguson and Mark Zdinak; and standing, Karen Minnick Walker, Ann McGraw McGrath and Sue Gabriel Davidson. -- Janice Kiaski

TORONTO — Come Labor Day weekend, alumni from all over the country will “Re-U-Knight” with former classmates as part of the seventh Toronto High School All-School Reunion.

It will be held Aug. 29-Sept. 1 and include everything from a pep rally, special concert, tailgate reception and Red Knights football game to a golf scramble, parade of classes, tours, class mixers and a reunion dinner recognizing distinguished alumni.

It also will be the backdrop against the national release of author Joe Martelle’s authorized biography of the late Robert Urich’s life and acting career — “The Robert Urich Story — An Extraordinary Life.”

Toronto’s native son served as honorary chairperson of the first all-school reunion held in July 1990 and attended by more than 2,000 alumni. Held every five years, the reunions are sponsored by the Toronto Alumni Association that was organized 30 years ago.

A committee of members of the Class of 1971 are organizers of the reunion with Clyde Petras serving as chairman. Other committee members are Jackie Scalley Myslinsky, Linda Fullerton Stewart, Debbie Dials Trimby, Sue Gabriel Davidson, Kitty Hannan Ferguson, Ann McGraw McGrath, Karen Minnick Walker, Mark Zdinak, Tom Lowery and Gail Cope Saner.

Although it’s called a reunion, Petras used another word to describe what gets a “huge response.”

“It’s actually a homecoming every five years, and it’s important that we all get together,” Petras said.

The celebration of 130 years of excellence in education begins Aug. 29 with registration from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the alumni office at 102 N. Third St.; a pep rally and meet the 2019 football team and cheerleaders at the gazebo at 5:30 p.m.; and a concert featuring Jimmy Lee Hook, Class of 1981, and alumni social time at the gazebo from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Registration continues from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the alumni office. There will be an assembly symposium open only to current students and led by young alumni professionals, a new twist to the reunion.

“We have put the symposium in for students to know that being in a small school in a small town, yes, you can succeed, and we have some very successful younger people coming in and going to give a talk on how to succeed,” Petras said.

Other Aug. 30 highlights from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. include a tailgate reception honoring THS Sports Hall of Fame honorees at the stadium and cornhole tournaments, another new twist to the reunion. Tickets are being sold for specially designed THS cornhole boards made by Zdinak.

The home football game at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 will see Toronto take on Wellsville at the stadium.

Aug. 31 events begin with a golf scramble at 8:30 a.m. at Dyer Country Club and the parade of classes down Fourth Street at 10 a.m. Grand marshals leading the parade will be the Toronto High School baseball team, Division IV state champs. They will be followed by classes carrying banners designating their year, plus alumni often personalize their particular year. Sue Gabriel Davidson explained her Class of 1969 has signs that read “Peace” and “Make Love, Not War,” reflective of sentiments during the Vietnam War period.

The Festival of the Arts, sponsored by the Focus in Toronto Committee, will be held near the gazebo area on Third Street from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring crafts, art and free entertainment. It also will run from noon to 6 p.m. on Sept. 1.

Other Aug. 31 events are tours of the Toronto Jr./Sr. High School from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by the reunion dinner from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Class mixers start at 8 p.m. at various spots in town. Seven alumni have been selected as the Class of 2019 distinguished alumni, joining 44 other alumni in this distinction. The honorees to be acknowledged at the reunion dinner are:

— Kathleen Cope Harney, Class of 1960, who retired in 1993 from the Clark County School District in Las Vegas where her last major role was assistant superintendent of the community relations department in a school district that had 111 schools and more than 100,000 students.

— Peter O’Hara, Class of 1971, who entered the Army active duty in 1978 and had served to the office of the deputy chief of staff for operations and plans at the Pentagon. His final duty was as chief of plans, operations and training for training support brigade, Harrison, Ind., from which he retired in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel. He also recently retired as head football coach at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind.

— The Rev. Mario Tizziani, Class of 1972, is the pastor of St. Cecilia Parish and School in Independence. He was ordained in 2006 and installed as pastor of St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church and School in 2008. He led fundraising efforts that saw a groundbreaking of a $5.5 million expansion at the school.

— Col. Christopher Warner, Class of 1992, served as chief resident for two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, received the 2005 National Resident of the Year by the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry and currently serves as the military chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs in the Pentagon.

— Norman Winstel, Class of 1966, served in the Marines during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star medal with combat distinguished device for heroism. He retired from First Energy, Sammis Plant, and recently retired after 40 years as a Toronto volunteer fireman. For the past 40 years he has worked the chain crew at Red Knights’ home football games.

— Otis Winston, Class of 1992, was an outstanding athlete and a three-time state champion, twice in the high jump and once in the long jump. In basketball, he holds a scoring record of 1,453 marks during his high school career, and at Ohio State University, he still holds a 25-year record at the school in track. Winston owns his own production company, coaches track, is an ordained minister and enjoys acting, having appeared in such shows as “Empire” and “Chicago Fire.”

— Robert Woodside, Class of 1979, is the executive director of advancement communications at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, overseeing communications and marketing for the fundraising and alumni engagement operations. His work fueled the success of Duquesne’s Advancing Our Legacy campaign, which closed in 2013 after raising a record $165 million.

Sept. 1 events round out with church services and gatherings and class reunions and picnics.

Jane Walker McConnell, Class of 1954, initiated the idea for an all-school reunion, according to Dani Swearingen, office manager for the alumni association, who noted approximately 4,100 reunion invitations have been sent out.

For information on the reunion festivities or to make reservations for the reunion dinner on Aug. 31, contact the alumni office by phone at (740) 537-9114 or e-mail to torontohsaa@sbcglobal.net.

Organizers said the all-class reunions rekindle and forge friendships and offer a time to reminisce and remember.

“I think it’s unique because we are a small town made up of families that have been here for generations for the most part, and we’re also one of the smallest city school districts in the state so I think it kind of helps to just keep everyone connected,” Davidson said.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)