Perhaps the former No. 1 hit “We Are Family” recorded by Sister Sledge and adopted in 1979 by the World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates would have been an appropriate song for Sunday’s Johnston High School Athletic Hall of Fame Induction and Dinner.
Lyrics like “Everyone can see we’re together”, “high hopes we have for the future” as well as “And our goal’s in sight” fit perfectly for the 25 proud Panthers who Sunday made up the JHS Athletic Hall’s Class of 2018.
For Sunday’s Induction Ceremony, which was held inside Edward L. DiSimone Gymnasium on Cherry Hill and the Induction Dinner at Cranston Country Club, was indeed a splendid and superb showcase for each inductee – as well as their proud parents and friends – who no matter what year they graduate from JHS will always be part of JHS’ extraordinary athletic family.
As one person noted amid the embraces that made people feel like they were at a class reunion, “Once a Panther, always a Panther.”
Other folks, meanwhile, reminisced about how the one-time small suburban school has gone onto become well-known for its on-going sports prowess and unique reputation for competing against the Class A schools and earning respect and countless wins since 1963 when the Panthers staked claim to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s state baseball championship.
It was also fitting that “Mr. Panther” former teacher, coach and athletic director Edward L. DiSimone who now lives in Florida, was on hand to help induct – or root on as some people suggested – the Class of 2018.
DiSimone, several people let it be known Sunday, was the man who started JHS’ string of sports successes and has always been recognized statewide for the class and character he brought to Cherry Hill and to those student-athletes who have so proudly worn the Columbia Blue and White.
The one-time athletic director sat with his wife and listened to James “Jim” Hopkins, who followed in DiSimone’s footsteps after serving as a teacher and coach through many special and super seasons, hosted Sunday’s terrific tribute to the Class of 2018.
However, there a certain sadness in Hopkins voice, because his friend and former coaching chum Stephen DiMeo – who was scheduled to be inducted with the Class of 2018 Sunday – was unable to join the JHS family because his father passed away Saturday.
“It is with sadness that I announce the passing of Steve’s father,” said Hopkins. “Please take a moment to remember the DeMeo family in this difficult time. Coach DeMeo sends his congratulations to all of the inductees of this year’s class.”
Hopkins then went on to welcome the many people who filled half of DiSimone Gym for the induction ceremony and later made their way to Cranston CC for the fun-filled “Open Mic” dinner that featured many memories of sports season’s past.
Thus, the Class of 2018 Players Category includes: Ryan Anderson, Class of 2012, basketball; Gian Bianchi, Class of 2012, baseball/basketball; Justin Caparco, Class of 2013, wrestling/football; Karl Jeschke, Class of 72, baseball/football; Chris Pistacchio, Class of 2012-, baseball/basketball/football; Robert Saccoccia, Class of 1970, football/baseball; David Santangelo, Class of 77, baseball; Robert Valletta, Class of 71, baseball/basketball/football; and Alfred Williams, Class of 1990, hockey.
The coaching category included Joe Acciardo, Class of 1986 and Allan McGillivray, coach, teacher and emcee extraordinaire.
Under the team category, the 2004 girls’ volleyball team won the state champion and was inducted as a team. Those players, who were coached by Greta Lalli and Peg Guilmette, are Alicia Bubar, Krista Clayton, Lauren Ferguson, Melissa Hongkham, Chelsea Marandola, Toni-Ann Mastrangelo, Alysa O’Neill, Kristin Shakan and Nathalie Soukamneuth.
Donald Iafrate, Class of 1967, who has distinguished his alma mater by serving 42 years in the National Guard and volunteering to coach thousands of youth baseball and football players in Johnston, received the prestigious Gary V. Mazzie Lifetime Achievement Award.