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Wantagh High School Class of 1999 20-Year Reunion July 2, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Education, Personal, Photography.
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Updated at 3:15 PM with an open letter James Walsh penned for the reunion Facebook group.

Wantagh High School‘s Class of 1999 convened at Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall on Saturday night for our 20-year reunion.

Most of us hadn’t seen each other in person since the 10-year reunion held at Lido Beach Town Park, but we kept in touch on Facebook and Instagram. In the months leading up to the reunion, a Facebook group was created by my classmates Lisa Leone, Katelyn Brucia, Liz Napoli, and Sharon Oliveri. (For the reunion, and for this post, we’ll be going by maiden names.) Invitations went out in March and I was among the first to RSVP.

When classmates in the group began posting photos from our senior year, I decided to dip into my photo scan archives and share my own. I posted pictures from the last day of classes in our sophomore year…:

Mike Gabriele, Scott Hammer, Mike Howley

…junior year:

Steve Fitzpatrick, Chris Maffeo, Mike DiMarco, Brian Schneider

…and senior year:

Mr. Ron Cliszis (social studies; and in this case, study hall), Heather Greene, Paul McNamara, Nick Allocca, Liz Napoli, Ryan Csajko; Corey Prinz and Jason Landman among those in the background

As well as the 1998-99 Spirit Night:

Joe McCaffrey (holding the trophy after we finally won), Keith Mekeel, Sharon Oliveri, Kyle Lennon, Greg Hoffman


Michelle Corbo Harclerode (Ms. Corbo) (social studies), our class advisor

…the senior prom:

Amy Vassallo, Laura Grasso, Katelyn Brucia, Jill Hintze, Lisa Leone


Rich Mekeel and Maureen Geis (Class of 2000)


Mrs. Fran Browne (special education) and Mrs. Julie Magnuson (English)


Mr. Ron Cliszis and Mr. Kevin Ryan (social studies)

…and graduation day, which occurred 20 years and two days before the reunion:

Me receiving my diploma


Heather Greene receiving her diploma


The moment of recognition


Mike Chimeri and Dara Schmidt


Mike Chimeri and Mike Howley

One day before the reunion, Barbara Blum asked if I could check the yearbook for a couple of photos of her. Before doing that, I decided to scan a double-page photo of most of the class standing in the Wantagh High School courtyard. It wasn’t easy syncing the two pages, but here’s what I ended up with:

I posted it to the Facebook group and to my own timeline, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many of my fellow classmates shared it in their timelines. I decided to post the original scan to my Google Drive and make it shareable. The file is huge: 54.7 MB with a resolution of 8383×5484 pixels.

More pictures from the past can be seen later when discussing Kat Foray.

Reunion day finally came, but the reunion itself wasn’t until 7PM. I woke up over 13 hours before then. I passed the time by exercising, watching videos by YouTube channels I subscribe to, watching sports, and preparing a Blu-ray disc for a home video conversion client.

Finally, at 6:45, I got a ride down to Mulcahy’s, arriving a few minutes later. Lisa, Katelyn, Liz, and Sharon were finishing setting up as I walked in. Unfortunately, we would have to contend with a live band starting at 8:00, which made conversation tough, but we all managed.

I had a wonderful time catching up with my classmates and, if married, meeting their spouses. Among the topics I discussed were my involvement with WCWP, photography and videography for student plays at Leo F. Giblyn School in Freeport, attending the final round of this year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, and my love of instrumental music. I even recommended David Benoit to Nick Allocca. He kept saying David’s name to me to check if he remembered correctly.

I was pleasantly surprised when our class advisor, Michelle Corbo Harclerode (as noted earlier, she was Ms. Corbo to us), dropped by in the third hour. I had no idea she’d be there, and she and I were so happy to see each other. The same could be said for all my classmates. Ms. Corbo – who was also my global studies and homeroom teacher in two of my four years – put her class advisor hat back on and called for a group photo:

It wasn’t everyone, but it was most of us. Ms. Corbo and I are in front, followed by (from left to right) Erin Weiner, T.J. Penzone, Brad Schwartz, Laura Mulle, James Walsh, Helen Liotta, Katelyn Brucia, Kyle Lennon, Laura Grasso, Liz Napoli, Kelly Guarino, Dara Schmidt, Rich Mekeel, and Joe McCaffrey.

This was one photo out of 70. I posted it and the rest on Facebook and ten (the limit) to Instagram, most of which I’ll post here shortly. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I made several new Facebook connections out of it. Among them were Kathy Stuart, my 7th grade science teacher at Wantagh Middle School, and Dr. Tom Troisi, my high school assistant principal. Both were complimentary of my photos. Ms. Stuart, in particular, noted that her husband – Sal Mulé, my 8th grade science teacher – “loved seeing all of these familiar faces!!”

Ms. Corbo remarked:

I cried when I saw all of you. I have had the privilege of being at Wantagh for 25 years. When I received this invite, I knew I had to go. You all look wonderful. I’ve been blessed to know all of you. May your journey continue to be amazing. See you at your 30th. … You are all amazing. Thank you for including me. You forever will hold a special place in my heart.

The feeling is mutual.

I’ll conclude this post with most of the rest of the pictures (with married classmates identified by maiden names):

Name badges:

In loving memory of Brendan Kelly, Kat Foray…:

…and Seporah Raizer:

A framed photo print of what ended up in the yearbook:

Raffle items:

Sharon Oliveri, Dara Schmidt, Laura Grasso, Liz Napoli, Dana Smith:

Rob Krumm, Nick Ferraro, Glenn Wieboldt:

Barbara Blum and her husband Matt Carr, Ilyse Leibowitz and her husband Larry Rukin, Cheryl Wynne and her husband Steven Evans, and Erin Weiner:

Erin’s husband Jason Mansfield was there, but I didn’t think to ask him to get in. Photo ops are fast-paced and you can forget to think.

Paul Kregler and Matt Roseland:

Ilene Cohen, Kelly Guarino, Dara Schmidt:

Dara Schmidt and Mike Chimeri:

Keith Mekeel, Mike Chimeri, Kyle Lennon:

Erika Lewis, Helen Liotta, Sharon Oliveri, Cassie McNamee:

Paul McNamara and Mike Chimeri:

James Walsh, Brendan Noonan, Mike Chimeri, Nick Allocca, Tom Oak, Kevin George, Ryan Csajko:

Nick Allocca and Sharon Oliveri:

Tom Oak and Brendan Noonan:

John Prussack and Mike Chimeri:

Barbara Blum, Erin Weiner, Kristine John:

…and me:

Mike Chimeri and T.J. Penzone:

Dana Smith, Katelyn Brucia, Kelly Guarino, Laura Grasso, Ilene Cohen, Liz Napoli:

Joe Pascarella and Steve LaRosa:

Jesse Katcher, Steve LaRosa, Joe Pascarella:

Posing with the photo of Seporah Raizer are Erin Weiner, Barbara Blum, Kristine John, Ilyse Leibowitz, and Cheryl Wynne:

I posed with Kat Foray’s photo:

Kat and I first met in Freeport. We were in Mrs. Immoor’s 4th grade class at Giblyn and Mr. Pompei’s 6th grade class at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School, seen here:

Kat with Joe McCaffrey and Tara Scro on the last day of classes our senior year:

Kat with Trisha Kingsbury and Bret Malone at the senior prom:

Kat, Seporah, and Brendan Kelly are deeply missed by us all.

Katelyn Brucia and Trisha Kingsbury:

Katelyn Brucia, Trisha Kingsbury, Geoff Waugh, Lisa Leone:

Trisha Kingsbury and Mike Chimeri:

Trisha Kingsbury, Rob Krumm, Lisa Leone, Kevin George:

Erin Weiner, Barbara Blum, Geoff Waugh, Katelyn Brucia, Lisa Leone, Trisha Kingsbury:

Rich Mekeel, John Savage, Joe McCaffrey:

Dave Gross and his wife Joanna, Mike Chimeri, Mike Sereno, and Jenna Careri with her husband George Baldwin (left):

Katelyn’s husband Kevin McCabe – no relation to the one I see every April at Smooth Jazz for Scholars – took the picture.

Helayne Hashmall and her wife Jaimee Shalhevet, and Steve Hirsch:

Gina LoBello and her husband Brian Ferguson:

Meg Stone and Brad Schwartz:

Brad Schwartz and Mike Chimeri:

Mike Chimeri and Class of 1999 Advisor Michelle Corbo Harclerode:

Cheryl Wynne, Ilyse Leibowitz, Michelle Corbo Harclerode, Barbara Blum:

James Walsh and Matt Roseland:

Rich Mekeel, Dara Schmidt, Joe McCaffrey, T.J. Penzone:

Laura Mulle, Helen Liotta, Michelle Corbo Harclerode, Alyssa Motschwiller:

Ryan Csajko, Nick Allocca, Mike Chimeri, John Savage, Tom Oak:

Steve Hirsch and Meg Stone, in their 11th year of marriage:

It’s raffle time:

Laura Grasso won the first:

Dara Schmidt and Glenn Weiboldt won the other two:

Glenn Weiboldt and Mike Chimeri:

Brad and Stacy Schwartz, Matt and Molly Roseland, and James and Amber Walsh:

Brad Schwartz, Matt Roseland, Mike Chimeri, James Walsh:

Rob Krumm, Kevin George, Paul Kregler, Nick Ferraro:

Jenna Careri, Katelyn Brucia, Meg Stone, Dara Schmidt:

Katelyn’s husband Kevin McCabe, Mike Chimeri, Meg Stone, Jenna Careri:

Mike Chimeri and Jenna Careri:

We’ve known each other since 7th grade Spanish with Mrs. Brown.

Dana Smith and Brendan Noonan:

Ilyse Leibowitz, Barbara Blum, Gina LoBello, Erin Weiner, Kristine John:

Jesse Katcher, Justin and Christy Kaplan:

Jesse Katcher, Justin Kaplan, Mike Chimeri:

Dave Bauer couldn’t make it, but FaceTimed with Steve Hirsch so we could say hello:

Katelyn Brucia, Tom Oak, Brendan Noonan:

Rich and Maureen Geis Mekeel (Class of 2000), Keith and Kelly Guarino Mekeel, Kyle and Ilene Cohen Lennon:

A wave goodbye:

This turned out to be as comprehensive as a concert or LIU Post/WCWP Homecoming Weekend recap. Thank you for reading every word and for viewing every image. Until the 30th reunion, so long.

3:15 PM UPDATE: James Walsh wrote a poignant open letter in the reunion Facebook group, which he granted permission to share here:

An open letter to the class of ’99:

I really was torn (as I know many of you also personally expressed) about whether or not to travel back to see so many people that I haven’t spoken to in nearly 20 years. Was it really worth the investment of time and did I really want to revisit those days, when I was such a different person with different priorities and ambitions (over half of our lives ago and before God crashed into my life and literally changed my heart)? It was fun to hear that so many of you shared that same internal conflict before choosing to just do it and come home!

What I discovered on Saturday night is that this wasn’t just a night to see old friends and the “Class of ’99” but it was an opportunity to see the “Class that helped mold me into the man that I am today.” It was also an opportunity to allow two worlds to collide and to introduce the love of my life (Amber Megan) to those who had the greatest influence over my life in those formative days and years. (By the way, thank you for telling such nice stories to Amber and for making me look better than I deserved.) I didn’t just graduate with you (all 201 of you!), but was literally nurtured and invested in by so many of you! For this, thank you!!!

Thank you for loving me, when I was an insecure and growing boy and teenager. Thank you for laughing at me, when I stapled my fingers together in the 2nd grade (and then telling your students about it 30 years later, Meg! ). Thank you for skipping “religion class” from time to time so that we could play basketball together! Thank you for playing a silly sport made of pigskin for thousands of hours with me. Thank you for being three of the best friends that I ever had in life and for traveling to be in my TN wedding. Most of ALL, thank YOU (all of you) for being such an incredible part of my life story. Honestly, I didn’t realize how important you were to me, until Saturday night and my drive home with Amber Megan the following day.

Please consider me indebted to you for the rest of my life. Please know that I really do LOVE you. Please stop by and spend a night or a week, the next time that you are driving through North Carolina (seriously). Please allow me to be one of your first calls if/when you need a friend/resource (inbox me privately anyone that desires to exchange personal contact information. It would be a great joy to stay in touch!!!). You’re the Class of ’99 and you are MY people!!!

Just wanted to share a handful of the millions of thoughts that have flooded my mind and heart, over the last 72 hours before it was too late and this Facebook group is once again shut down for another 10 years.

My heart overflows with love and affection for you, Class of 1999.

You are loved!!!

James Walsh

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Comments»

1. Wantagh HS Class of 1999 10-year Reunion | MikeChimeri.com - July 2, 2019

[…] 20-year reunion recap […]

2. Donna Russell - July 2, 2019

Wonderful pictures of the reunion!

Mike C. - July 2, 2019

Thank you so much.


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