First Wolfson High senior class celebrates 50th reunion

First Wolfson High senior class celebrates 50th reunion
Donnie Safer, Jerry Sachs, Jeff Gefter with Leon Yergin

It’s been 50 years since members of the first graduating class at Samuel W. Wolfson High School collected their diplomas. To celebrate, the Class of 1966 held at two-night class reunion June 24-25 at Unity Plaza and the Lexington Hotel on the Southbank.

The more informal meet-and-greet gathering at Unity Plaza in Brooklyn allowed classmates to reunite while enjoying a cash bar and snacks. At the Lexington Hotel, DJ Chill Will Barker, who is official DJ for the Jacksonville Jaguars, serenaded the crowd while old friends talked over old times and enjoyed a buffet dinner, dancing and a cash bar.

As the first group of seniors to inhabit Wolfson’s air-conditioned halls, the 1966ers represented a merger between more than 450 students from Landon and duPont Junior-Senior High Schools. The former Landon and duPont students did not coalesce well in the beginning, remembered Reunion Chairman Michele Zavon Steinfeld of San Jose. It was football season that brought everyone together and unified the student body, she said.

That year the Wolfpack devoured nine regular-season foes to be undefeated during its first season and saw its new football coach and athletic director, Bob Williams, named Jacksonville’s Coach of the Year. The All-City and All-County football teams in the fall of 1965 looked like a Wolfson roster, and the Pack went on to win the Gateway Conference Championship and the Region 1 Class AA Championship only to fall to Melbourne, 7-0, in the semi-finals of the state championship.

“We were No. 1 in the city and then we went to state,” Steinfeld recalled. “The football team’s success brought everyone together.”

As Wolfson’s first senior class, the students were able to select the Wolfpack name and the school colors, blue and red, Steinfeld said, noting at first the class thought one color should be orange or black for Landon and the other should be green or gold for duPont. “Then we decided it should be neither,” Steinfeld said. “We took so much pride in our school. Not everybody can say they were in the first graduating class. Now they say, ‘I didn’t know Wolfson was that old.’”

Becky Bayer Colangelo of San Jose, who was also on the reunion planning committee, recalled she didn’t have an escort when the Wolfson K-Club (Young Kiwanis Club) selected her to be part of its Sweetheart Court. “The guys took pity on me and got me a date,” she said. “Marion Matthews took pity on me. He was the sweetheart that agreed to take me to the dance,” she remembered. Matthews was a lucky man. Colangelo was eventually selected Miss Sweetheart.

A former duPont student, Colangelo said she was happy to go to Wolfson because it gave her an opportunity to make new friends. “I’d been with the same group since seventh grade,” she said. “Landon had been our rival. I knew some people at Landon already, but it was nice to have a shot at making new friends.”

Separated from many of her Hendricks Avenue Elementary friends when she went to duPont and they enrolled in Landon, Rose Kolchin Tincher, of San Jose, said she was happy to meet up with them again at Wolfson, a school she described as being in the “boondocks” and surrounded by cow pastures. “It was exciting for the people we knew in elementary school to be back together again,” she said.

Donnie Safer, who traveled to the reunion from Nashville, Tenn., agreed. “It was like going to a new school but with all my old friends. I did not have a sense of displacement, like I might have if I’d gone to a new school at the beach,” he said, noting he’d gone to Hendricks Avenue Elementary and Landon prior to Wolfson. At the reunion, it’s been nice to reconnect with people I grew up with.”

Several classmates joined Steinfeld on the Wolfson High School reunion committee including Tincher, Colangelo, Amelia Edwards Green, Bonnie Clark Sleiman, Leon Yergin, Janet Waldoch Travis, Angela Jansen Carter, Cynthia Horton Starkey, Cheryl Sussman Lebeau, Grace Arlene Kramer Nealis, Barbara Gefen Jaffe, Gwen Gillespie Holcomb, and Beverly “Troy” Rahn Hutchinson.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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