Bonnie Brae Alumni
Reviewing the 2004 Bonnie Brae Alumni Reunion
On Friday evening October 8th the alumni, dressed to the nines, assembled at the Cuisine Restaurant in Basking Ridge for a great buffet dinner (chicken parmesan, fried shrimp, roast pork tenderloin, salmon and baked white fish, assorted fruit and lettuce salads and soups, several desserts, etc.), and to meet with past and new friends. The restaurant was crowded with another reunion and a large birthday party, but we managed to sit together at six tables, two of which stayed past the closing time catching up on many years. Although many who attended this reunion also attended the 2000 reunion, this was the first Bonnie Brae reunion for about half of those who attended. The reunion prior to 2000 took place in Daytona, Florida in 1992.
Then, on Saturday morning at 7:30 we reassembled once again at Bonnie Brae in the old Dining Hall. In all, 24 alumni, many wives, and two daughters (those of George Seymour and James Thompson) attended one or both events. Unlike the previous reunion in 2000, a few guys were at BB in the 1960s, and one was from 1979.
The annual autumnal color change had begun (photo left), and the BB staff greeted us with fresh coffee, tea, bagels, and muffins. Slightly after eight o'clock George Seymour opened the meeting, explaining the busy agenda, and then introduced Bill Powers, Bonnie Brae’s new CEO (photo right). Bill spoke about Bonnie Brae today, and provided a case example of how a child gets to Bonnie Brae, and the three stages of learning and self-discovery that are necessary for transition back to the community. Today's focus on interpersonal skills training is something we did not receive systematically, and could have used.George also thanked Drina Simons, Bonnie Brae Development Director, for all of her hard work in preparing for the reunion, and then he introduced Charles Merton, an alumnus who now serves on the Bonnie Brae Board of Trustees. Charles provided a detailed insight into the Trustee’s purpose and process. Next, the alumni were invited to stand and say a few words about their years at BB. More than a dozen alumni accepted that offer including Bob West, the former alumnus who later returned to serve as Bonnie Brae Assistant Director (photo left), Ike Keay, George Singletarry, Dr. Lee Davis, Art Tharp, Tom Sweeney, Bob Tharp, Charles Seymour, George O’Brien, David Counsil, Chuck Maney, James Thompson, Joe Corvino, Robert Osborne, David Kelsar, etc. Some of the alumni comment was serious and touching, whereas much of it was quite humorous recounting both events and pranks.
Following "memory lane," we went outside for a group photo (see the bottom of this page) that included families too. Like the 2000 Reunion at BB, we ate lunch with the current BB boys and some of the staff in small groups of five or six. The boys at one table (photo right) were somewhat shy but politely answered all questions and were surprised that I had lived at Bonnie Brae for five years. This photo shows Brian, Cliff (BB Supervisor at the new Roebling cottage), and Derek---just kids wondering about their future. Mostly the boys were curious about job options, including the military service (the place that many of looked to after living at Bonnie Brae). As many of you know, Paul's Cottage was donated in 1928 to honor son Paul Roebling by Mrs. Roebling. Many of us value great memories of house parents and friends from our days in Paul’s. Last year that cottage had to be torn down, and it was replaced and dedicated this year with Roebling Cottage, which we toured after lunch.
After lunch we went to the “BraeVision” Studio, a state-of-the-art video production studio where George Seymour gave a brief visual account of the Alumni WebPages, and stated that they had been accessed more than 8,200 times since the counter was added on March 25, 2000 (the Alumni website was first created on Feb. 27, 1999). He also noted that the Bonnie Brae Alumni "line" was quite long dating back to 1916, and that the current alumni linage is 70 years long. The alumni membership includes three men who went to Bonnie Brae in 1934 (Charles Asmanes, Bob Leslie, and Harry Moore). The Bonnie Brae Alumni (Blue & Gold) Line is long, proud, and filled with great success stories, and our Bonnie Brae Alumni family tree story needs to be told. Next, Coach Melvin showed us three of four video clips about Bonnie Brae from days long gone that had been created in the BraeVision Studio by the Coach and the boys. Each alumnus present was given a VHS video tape that included all four titles (Alumni Video, Millennium Show, Merton’s Video 1955, and the Bonnie Brae Video).
Back at the old Dining Hall George projected 153 photos on the large screen that he obtained as slides from Robert Persiko, son of a previous Director, Fred, and his wife Lenda. Fred passed some years ago, but with Jeff Everitt, George visited Lenda in Colorado seeking BB memorabilia. The slides, (including pictures of Bill Gundel, Frank the cook, Walt Parks, Mrs. Lenda Persiko, Leo Elias, Dutch Hendershott, Reverend Rath, “Chiefy” Kania (the camp director), the pond, the barn, the camp, inside and out of the cottages, several dozens of pictures of boys at work, in sports, at play, etc.), were converted professionally into pictures and covered the years, 1956 to 1967. Another set of 36 pictures was shown from earlier years, and the alumni had a great time calling out the names of friends, staff, acquaintances, and telling stories. Then Ike Keay showed still another set of slides from a different time period, again appreciated by all, including the guests and current BB staff.
The walking tour, led by Bill Powers and Drina, included entry into Osborne, Kiwanis, Roebling (the new Paul’s) cottages, the pool area, and then the barn. Each place held strong memories for us, and stories from those days came alive with the retelling.
Close to the end of the day, the Alumni Association made a presentation of a check to CEO Bill Powers who accepted it on behalf of Bonnie Brae. The check serves as a small token of thanks for all that we received so many years ago. As seen in this photo, the check was enlarged, and each of the alumni who attended the reunion signed the border of the enlarged check and included the years that they lived at BB. The enlarged check will be displayed on the Bonnie Brae cafeteria wall, and the inscription will read "Gift From the Bonnie Brae Alumni Reunion 2004." Many thanks to the alumni who so generously kicked in to support this presentation. The Alumni also gave Bill Powers a personalized sweat shirt with his name and title on it together with the BB piper.
In addition, the alumni presented an award (a set of candles and a check) to Patricia Hilgendorff (payable to BB in honor of Pat) who retired the day before the reunion after working at BB as an educator for more than 34 years. Drina also received an award as well as a box of Sees chocolates for her work in support of the reunion. Having heard our alumni stories all day, she immediately said, “No hunkys!” and the group broke up laughing. Bill Powers gave George Seymour an appreciation gift of a folding wallet handmade by the BB boys in math class constructed entirely from Duct Tape.
Just before the alumni only meeting at 4 p.m., the door prizes were awarded. Linda Davis, wife of Lee Davis, won the Guest Drawing, a box of specialty cookies. Art Tharp won the Alumni Drawing of a BB alumni logo sweat shirt. Chuck Seymour won an alumni sweat shirt for the longest distance traveled.
At the alumni only meeting (Drina took the ladies for tea and chocolate), we agreed to design a set of Alumni by-laws. Anyone interested in supporting that, please contact George.
The 2004 Alumni Reunion Photo taken October 9th. Names will be added soon.
Click on this or any picture for a larger view.
This page is a draft version and being updated as time permits. Coment welcome.
Consider joining one or more of the Bonnie Brae Alumni Committees! We can use your assistance.
George Edw. Seymour.
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