Friday, July 13, 2018

The NPHS Reunion Interview: Karl Krawitz, Class of 1968

Karl Kawitz on the job in 2013 in his role as principal at Shawnee Mission East High School, Kansas.
Please describe your career
When I graduated from NPHS, I attended Baker University (Kansas), where I earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.   I taught the same subject at the secondary school level for nine years.  While teaching, I went back to graduate school and earned a Master’s and Doctoral degree in Educational Administration with an emphasis on school architecture from the University of Kansas in 1987.  For 30 years, I was a building principal for four different high schools in two major school districts in eastern Kansas.  In addition, I served as a consultant for both school districts assisting in the planning and construction of more than 1.5 billion dollars in new building construction.   In 2004 I was selected as Kansas PTA Educator of the Year and in 2008 I was inducted in the Baker University Hall of Fame (Education), for my career work in the profession.  I retired the first time in 2005 and became an associate professor in educational administration at Baker University where I stayed until 2008. I returned to the same school district I retired from in 2005 and stayed until I retired a second time in 2013.

Where do you live now?  
Along with my wife Patricia, I live in Overland Park, KS, a suburb of Kansas City.  Basically, since graduating from NPHS, I have lived in the Kansas City area. We have two sons, and five grandchildren.

What was your sense of community in your class/in the school at NPHS?
I always thought we had a strong united class and a great school.  Since I lived at the extreme southern/western border of the school district (between North Plainfield and Greenbrook), it was often difficult to interact with other classmates, so at times I really did not feel like I was part of any one group of friends.  For me that completely changed once I was able to “drive” my senior year.  Who can ever forget the Saturday night canteens, dances, and athletic events? 

What experience in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person?

The one event for me was both positive and negative; however without question, it was profound.  Throughout high school, I was never a serious student.  I enjoyed everything else about school, except going to class.  Early on in my senior year, I was called to the counselor’s office.  The counselor began by asking me what I was planning to do after high school.  I said to attend college (though I had done absolutely nothing to acquire information or apply to any school).  She told me my test scores, class rank, and GPA were not at an
Karl Krawitz, principal of
Olathe East High School,
Kansas (1992)
acceptable level for college admission.  She went on to say, I should consider other alternatives.  To say the least, the meeting made me mad, even though I knew what she was saying was true.  Even though, my grades improved during the second semester it was too little too late to make a huge difference.  With few college and university offerings, I entered Baker University as a probationary student in the fall of 1968.

Do you have any regrets about the experiences during your high school years?
My only regret (besides maybe being a better student) would have been to be a better athlete.  I really enjoyed sports (still do); however I had little talent.  I really enjoyed practices, especially basketball.  

Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all? If so, how?
It is somewhat Ironic that I spent 42 years in education based on my overall experience in high school.  Schools (at all levels) place too much emphasis on standardized testing, GPA, grades and class rank.  Many of you would be surprised to know, both test scores and grades are really poor predictors of future success (however measured).  There will be many of you who will not believe research is equally divided on the subject.  This is why schools should never give up on any child.  In fact, schools should be a place where children find hope for their future regardless whether they go to college or not.

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?
My fondest memory was having the opportunity to be a member of the varsity football and basketball team my senior year. Even though I hardly ever played in a game, practice was fun, especially basketball.

What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?
Writing a forged note excusing my absence from school because of illness.  Got away with it
Breaking in: Karl Krawitz in 1972
at Olathe High School, his
first year as a teacher.
three times.  On the fourth attempt, Mr. Stec just happened to be the teacher handling excused notes that day in the nurse’s office.  Without me knowing, he had seen me the previous day in the afternoon playing pinball at Great Eastern (Anyone remember this store on Highway 22?).  Needless to say, I was caught.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?
At the time it was graduation.  Looking back, it was a change in attitude late in my senior year and listening to the advice given to me by so many of you and by some very special teachers/coaches like Howard Porter.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Monday, June 18, 2018

The NPHS Reunion Essay, By Gabriele (Gaby) Steiner Gertsch, Class of 1968

After high school I decided to go to a private Liberal Arts College in Pennsylvania (Elizabethtown), which had a good reputation. Soon after school started, I began feeling very lonely there. We were out in the country near Lancaster in the middle of Amish country. That is when relatives in Switzerland offered that I could come stay with them at any time. My brother Beat from the class of 1969 had stayed the summer with them and invited me to Switzerland.  So, I started working on Plan B.

In the summer of 1969 I went to the beach town of Wildwood, NJ. Every day I would clean rooms until about 2 PM. Then at 5 PM I would work at a restaurant. I did that seven days a week. I saved enough money to travel via Iceland to Luxembourg and I still had $400 left over, which at the time was worth 1,600 Swiss Francs. Sallie Gillen McDonald, class of 1971, traveled with me for the first three weeks. We stayed with relatives in a beautiful mansion in St. Gallen.

I worked at the restaurant Rössli in Zofingen, where I was also able to live with the owners.  It was again a lonely time for me until a friend from high school, Joanna Pandolfino from the class of 1969, came to visit. I went to see her again at her relatives in Madrid, Spain. We travelled all over Spain by train. Because she was fluent in Spanish we did not have any problems getting around. We had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, Joanna died at only 23 years old in a horseback riding accident, so I never saw her again.

Half a year later I started a farming school in Morges ("Bäuerinnenschule"). Each weekend I was allowed to go stay with someone and that is how I learned about the life of a farmer. I would never want to become a farmer! During that time, I would also go to "L'Abri," a well know American community of Christians in a small village above Aigle. Hundreds of Americans would go there because of Dr. Francis Schaeffer. I went there for a weekend and could sense the presence of God. 

In 1971, I returned to the U.S. with two friends. One of them, Felix Gertsch, would become my husband. We stayed with my brother Beat in Charlottesville, VA. Through another student, Beat had met Jesus and encouraged me to seek Him also. The Christian student group organized a weekend and that's where I met Jesus, which changed my life. I then asked Jesus, "What now?" I had the strong impression that I should return to Switzerland.

Back in Switzerland, I studied at a secretarial school and worked for many years at ESSO where my superior was very kind to me and paid me well. During this time, Felix was working in South Africa and subsequently travelled around the world. In June of 1974, Felix returned to Switzerland. Felix and I got married on September 10, 1977, and over the years we have been hosting many visitors from abroad. There were so many that I could not even count them all.

On May 20, 1979, Andreas Joel was born and 21 months later, Stefan Daniel. On September 30, 1984, I had a stillborn baby. Andi wanted to name the baby Mirjam, if it was a girl (which it was). We had just gone through the story of Moses as a baby and how Mirjam brought him back to his mother to take care of him until he was weened. I immediately had a "Yes" to Andi's wish. Because God is so merciful, He blessed us with a third child, Liliane Estella, on September 25, 1985. Everybody was happy. With three children, church involvement and visitors, I had a full schedule. 

We would travel about every three years to the U.S. to visit my parents and the family of my brother Beat. We often traveled with Beat’s family the beach or to various national parks by camper. I also visited regularly with Sallie and with Carol Martinez Weber, from the class of 1968, who I met on the first day of third grade and have stayed close friends with ever since.

Because my mother died of breast cancer at a young age I always was aware that this would also be a health risk for me. In 1997 I found a lump in my breast and that is how my story with cancer began.

After doing a total body scan the doctors also discovered something in the left kidney and I had to undergo a surgery for that as well. The surgeon was very pleased that the cancer had only grown in the kidney and not attached to the surrounding area. I continued regular checkups for 10 years until the physician said that I no longer needed to come in for checkups (for the kidney cancer). After that I had breast cancer two more times with chemotherapy and radiation.

Eighteen years after the kidney removal surgery I started having pain in my back and I also started having a weird cough. We had already planned our trip to the U.S. to meet our sixth grandchild. A few days after returning to Switzerland I went to see my oncologist. At the doctor's appointment I no longer was in pain and I also was not coughing anymore, but I had too little blood. Then it all started. A PET-CT showed that cancer had metastasized to my left hip bone, the adrenal gland and the lungs. A
bronchoscopy and a hip bone biopsy indicated that it was renal cell cancer. My oncologist could not believe that after 18 years the kidney cancer had come back and metastasized. 

From the very beginning, God has given me the promises of Isaiah 41:10 ("Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.") and I was able to experience this in the last few years. Sometimes I could hardly believe that I was treated like a VIP and I was taken seriously. It has really helped me that it was, actually, God who took care of me.

I am thankful to you, my relatives, friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord. I am thankful for your lives and the time we were able to spend together. I have to say that I have had an exciting, fulfilled and joyful life. Most of all I am thankful to Felix, for everything that he has done for me, especially in this last season of my life. God will repay him accordingly. Also, for our children, their spouses, and our six cute and lovely grandchildren I am very thankful. They have given me so much joy. I know that they have wonderful parents who will prepare them from the beginning for a life with Jesus. That is the very best you can give a child.

Gaby died, in July 2017, shortly after writing this story of her life (abridged here).
Gaby at her last birthday party, with her husband Felix.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Do You Know How to Contact These Classmates?

We have contact information for a majority of classmates from the class of 1969.  However, we are unable to contact the following classmates:
Mark A. Bartosh
Diane M. Bennett Dietz 

Dennis Bohn
Brian J. Casey
Eileen F. Dwyer Pelizzoni 

Gail Eskenazi Strocker 
Patricia A. Higgins Grizaniuk 
Patricia L. Johnstonbaugh Whisman 
Lorraine W. LaManec
Eileen M. Mahon Crawfort 

Anita L. Meeks Cair 
Constance A. Myers
Emile R. Pratt
Donna R. Radkovich
Robert M. Salerno
Joan C. Setterberg 

Kathleen A. Shovlin Grosch 
Laurie S. Smith
Richard J. Smith
Robert I. Tarnoski
Dinos Tony
Pamela L. Young

If you have any information about them, please contact:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Beat Steiner, Class of 1969

Beat Steiner hiking in Denali National Park, Alaska, September 2014.
In 100 words or less, describe your career.  
From NPHS, I went to the University of Virginia (UVA) where I majored in religious studies. I went on to Regent College at the University of British Columbia for graduate work in Christian studies. I spent three years in Christian ministry to students, but ended up as a lawyer, as I had considered doing since my freshman year in high school. I wanted a profession that was respected. Oh well. I graduated from UVA Law School in 1980, spent three years on Wall Street and then moved to Boulder, CO (my wife’s home town). I have practiced real estate law in Denver and Boulder for nearly 38 years - most of it related to ski and other resorts. I am slowing my practice down and gravitating back to ministry.

Where have you lived since graduating?
 In sequence: Charlottesville, VA; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Charlottesville, VA; New York City; and Boulder, CO. 

What was your sense of community in your class/in the school at NPHS? 
Throughout my time in high school, I worked 20 hours per week at Opdyke’s and, really, that was my community. My sister, Gaby, worked there, and, if memory still serves me, the regular crew included Judy Stanislao and her sister and mother and now husband, John Mehltretter, along with Eileen Thompson, Anita Smith, Bruce Jones and John Benassu. Such a great group to work with and some fun memories too. Mr. Opdyke taught me a great deal and opened doors for me. I owe him a lot.

 What experiences in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person? 
The positives were many: I got a good education and was ready for the challenges of university when I graduated. I had many leadership opportunities, serving as class president; lt. governor, state secretary, and governor of New Jersey Key Clubs; and delegate to the Model United Nations.  I learned a great deal about leading and following (and getting out of the way), all of which have enhanced my professional and personal life.I also learned a lot about life and love and joy from the many really nice people in our class.

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during your high school years? 
I look back at the time in high school as often being lonely, and I felt somewhat out of step – perhaps because my family situation was not great, and, in a subtle way, as an immigrant who lost my first language and connection with the land of my childhood, I was neither truly American, nor truly Swiss. I also felt quite defeated about sports in high school – in the first instance because I thought of myself as skinny, weak, and uncoordinated. I learned as an adult that I was much better at athletics than I had any idea. It proved to be a life lesson about limiting myself, which I certainly did in this respect. 

Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all?  
I recall being grateful when I graduated from NPHS, and I am still grateful now. I see now that many things I may have missed out on in high school were the result of limitations in my head, not in reality. At the same time, I accomplished a lot, and NPHS set me on a course that allowed me to succeed in many ways.

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?
One moment sticks out in my mind: One sunny afternoon in my senior year I had been excused to go speak at a Key Club event. My 1965 Chevy Impala convertible (that I bought with my own money – thanks to working at Opdyke’s) was parked out in front of the school. I felt so free – so cool - as I lowered the top on my car and drove off.

 What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?
Also in my senior year, I was doing a photo essay on Langston Hughes. To get real life photos depicting the subject matter of some of his poetry, I drove through Harlem taking pictures. One scene I captured was of three men on a street corner passing around a bottle of liquor. I got the shot and as I drove on that bottle came through the rear window of my car and shattered it. I think I ran every light between 112thand 42ndStreets. Clearly stupid (and, now I realize, insensitive and racist). I still have a couple of the pictures from that project.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?  
Being elected Governor of the New Jersey Clubs would have to be it. It allowed me to travel extensively and be inspired by volunteer community service being done by students all over the state.

Who was your favorite teacher? 
Miss O’Brien comes immediately to mind because, without her rigor, I would never have become the writer I am today. But I have to include Mr. Justus, because he was ridiculously funny and taught me German (my first link back to Switzerland).

What was your worst class? 
Calculus. My father was a chemist and a math whiz. His genes skipped right over me. I sometimes joke that I became a lawyer so I could use words not numbers. Typing comes in second. Little did I know, however, how useful that class would be, as I now spend most of most days typing (on a keyboard, mind you). 

What is your most powerful or haunting memory during your years at NPHS?
Robby Gardner’s death. Although he lived around the corner from me, I did not know Robby well. But I did see his sister, mother, and father regularly after the accident, and the sadness never left them. How could it?

How did growing up at a child of the 60s – and all the social baggage and impact that it may have entailed – impact you at the time and in your young adult years?
True confession here: I was quite conservative politically throughout high school and on into college. I truly thought that most of what was going on in the 60’s and early 70’s was reflective of the moral degradation of our society. I still think a lot of what happened in the 60’s was the moral degradation of society, but the music was awesome, the stripping out of hypocrisy and hypocritical institutions was welcome, the opening of people’s minds and hearts to matters deeper than the material world was enlivening, the civil rights movement was just and necessary, and the anti-war protests were spot on. As to the war protests, I have great remorse. How naive I was about our government. 
Beat (left), his sister Gaby (class of 1968) and his best friend Dale Simmons (class of 1966),
in front of the North Plainfield Baptist Church in 1974.  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Noel Marks, Class of 1969

Noel Marks, June 2017, Honfleur, France (in the Normandy region)
Tell us about your career
I was Senior Investigator, U.S. Department of Labor, Wage Hour Division from 1974 until my retirement in January 2015.  I independently conducted investigations of covered employers to determine compliance with various Federal Labor Laws including the Fair Labor Standards Acts, Federal Minimum Wage Law, Child Labor Stands, Family Medical Leave Act, Davis Bacon and Related Acts, Service Contract Act and others.  One of my investigations, McCaughlin vs. Richland Shoe, was decided by the Supreme Court in 1988.  

Additionally, since 1976, I have been President of my own company, Lancaster County Antique Art.  I buy, sell and appraise American and European paintings, sculpture, watercolors, rare coins, stamps, period furniture, antiques and collectibles.

Where have you lived since graduating?
Ocean Grove, NJ, 1971-1974; Union, NJ, 1974-1976; Middletown, PA, 1976-1978 (within a mile of Three Mile Island); Lebanon, PA, 1978-present (actually Cornwall, PA, but the mailing address is Lebanon, PA).

What was your sense of community at NPHS?
Since I grew up in the West End, I had a wide circle of friends from my younger days which carried on into Junior High and then High School.  Looking back, I now realize what a diverse group of friends from various ethnic backgrounds they were including Italian, Polish, Spanish, German, Middle Eastern, South American, Puerto Rican, as well as multiple religious beliefs (Catholics, Protestants and Jewish).  I considered everyone a friend and enjoyed the diversity.  My best friend, Al Muglia, lived right up the street from me and his mom and dad treated me as a son.  As a kid, I was a little slender and his mom always welcomed me with “Mangia, mangia, come eat, eat” when I was hanging out with Al.  His dad took us hunting and fishing, and included me in numerous extended family gatherings.  To this day, I rave about what a wonderful Italian cook Mrs. Muglia was and the generosity of their family. I have very fond memories of my younger days in North Plainfield.

What experiences in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person?
All of my teachers instilled in me a sense of purpose and provided sound guidance for me to get an education which has made a profound difference in my life.  I am eternally grateful for their dedication, sacrifice and efforts.  HOWEVER, the Administration, led by Edward J. Gibbs III, and specifically, Vice Principal John Messer, provided a dark, negative undertone with their heavy-handed, capricious, demeaning and unnecessary disciplinary actions.  Just where is my “Official Permanent Record” and what heinous misdeeds are listed there?  Walking in the hall without a pass?  Taking a drink at a fountain?  Standing inside the door of the school on a frigid day?  I must confess, though, I did toss more than a few spitballs back in the day!

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during your high school years?
My only regret is that I did not thank my teachers for their efforts during my high school career.  It is now too late as most of them have passed.  And I should have also spoken up more forcefully when I witnessed my friends being chastised for the length of their hair, clothes they wore, music they listened to, and expressing their personal opinions.

Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all?
Not much, really.  It was a fun time in an era without cell phones, text messages, social media, etc.  Heck we didn’t even have calculators and computers!!!  And it is completely absurd to realize many of my friends in high school were subject to discipline due to their hair, clothes, and opinions.

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?
I will always remember the wonderful cars my friends and others drove up and down Wilson Ave.  Among those that I distinctly recall are:  John Guerro’s green Dodge Charger, Rich Pellizoni’s Ford Thunderbird, Karen Von Tish’s Ford Mustang, Frank Vastano’s Canary Yellow Chevy Impala, my buddy Al Muglia’s 1965 Blue Ford Custom, (former NJ State Cop car); my sister, Jill, drove our 1968 Red Opal Kadett “Mini-Brute,” and my rust bucket 1958 Ford Station Wagon.  My friend Willie Orloff’s parents let him drive their Mercury Breezeway with the power sliding rear window that was really fun to ride around in!  We always had a blast just cruising around town and maybe once in a while we might have driven over to Staten Island to drink some beer!  Now I’m not saying I was ever in Tarry’s Tavern, which was at the base of the Outer Bridge in Staten Island, but I might have been a few times.  I still have my “Tarry’s Tavern” T-shirt around here somewhere!

What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?
How many pages do you want me to compose?  I did many crazy and/or stupid things in high school; we all did, I think.  One particular stunt that stands out was when I was given a ticket for riding on a sled in Plainfield one Christmas eve.  It had snowed and the streets were covered in ice.  After church on Christmas eve, I changed clothes and went over to Dave Giesa’s house, which was on Manning Ave. in the East End.  His Mom always thought we were saints (LOL), and she gave us hot chocolate and homemade cookies to celebrate.  Since t had snowed, we decided to go out to Plainfield Country Club to sleigh ride.  The hill out there was fabulous for sledding.  The roads were snow covered and very icy, perfect for riding sitting up on a Flexible Flyer behind a car holding onto a rope.  You slipped the rope around the chrome bumper, let out about 50 feet or so, and once you got going, it was a hoot!  Going around corners was unreal!  Dave was flying around the streets in the Sleepy Hollow section of Plainfield, near Muhlenberg Hospital, when all of a sudden, a police car spotted us.  I had told him previously that if that happened, to floor it and I would drop the rope.  Obviously, the cop shined his light on me, while Dave took off.  The cop confiscated my sled, gave me a lecture on how dangerous it was to ride behind a car on a sled, and took me to the station.  The result was a hefty ticket for “Unauthorized Hanging onto a Vehicle.”  Dave got away and I did not rat him out.  The story I concocted was that I had been sledding out at the Plainfield Country Club and asked a guy who was leaving if I could hitch a ride home behind his car.  A real bunch of bullsh*t, but I think they knew I was not going to give any more information.  This incident was published in the “Plainfield Police Reports” in the Courier News the following week.  I think that stunt qualifies as both “Stupid” and “Crazy.”  My sister, Jill, has loads of stories of my notorious exploits.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?
I was elected to the National Honor Society and served as my Homeroom Representative on the Student Council.

Who was your favorite teacher?
I had multiple favorite teachers.  Mrs. Ethel Abrams, my English teacher, challenged me to think, and defend my opinions.  Ms. Rose Bellino opened my eyes to the wonders of Chemistry.  Coach “Bud” Porter consistently demonstrated true sportsmanship and taught me to treat all people with fairness and respect.  Mr. Nelson Ernest, Band Director, who was a man with immense patience, went out of his way to allow me to play the School’s tuba.  Ms. Elizabeth Hoelter and Mr. Stephen Kovach encouraged my love of mathematics.  Mr. Russell Heeren ignited a love of woodworking that guided many construction projects during my years rehabbing and restoring houses as a landlord.  His vast knowledge still amazes me.  And Mrs. Lillian Tallent taught me how to type, which is a skill I am demonstrating as I write these lines.

What was your worst class?
Without a doubt it was French 1, taught by Mr. Gould.  I should have worked harder at the time because I really love France, French culture and its people.  My wife and I have visited France quite a few times, and when we are wandering around Paris I am at a loss when I encounter someone who speaks no English.  “J’ai besoin de plus de pratique pour parler francais.”

What is your most powerful or haunting memory during your years at NPHS?
I have two days that I remember very distinctly.  The day we were informed John F. Kennedy was killed, I was in 7th grade English, Miss Riccoli’s class, upstairs in the Old Building.  That was a very sad afternoon.  And the evening Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Thursday, April 4, 1968.  These days are etched in my memory as very dark days for America.

And another extremely sad day was when I learned Bob Gardner, who was a friend of mine and had a wonderful sense of humor, was tragically killed in a car accident that injured three other of our classmates. That accident, which occurred very near my house at the corner of Lawrence Ave and Green Brook Road, cast a pall over our class. The promise of an extremely bright future was snuffed out in an instant. Every time I go past the spot where that accident occurred I feel remorse. Those who knew Bob, and he was well liked by everyone who had the pleasure to be friends with him, were deeply affected.

How did growing up as a child of the 60’s-and all the social baggage and impact that it may have entailed-impact you at the time and in your young adult years?
As a member of the “Baby Boom” generation, I never really thought much about “social baggage,” as I was able to graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park during the peak years of the Vietnam protest movement.  I participated in numerous demonstrations and peaceful protests at Maryland and in Washington, DC.  What I learned from these activities was that we, as individuals, had rights and responsibilities which would impact social norms.  I believe we could, and we would work for a better future.  And I think the accomplishments of most of our classmates have manifested this change whether it be in business, law, medicine, and with our families.  Members of our generation have made a difference and continue to make an impact.

As an aside, I offer a hearty “Thank You” to you, Howard, for taking the time and sharing your talents with members of the NPHS class of 1969.  Not many other people are willing to devote their precious time and resources to this sort of project.  You can put this “Thank You” in your “Permanent Official Record,” (as Vice Principal John Messer would say), that is if you can find it!
Noel's 1972 University of Maryland cafeteria ID card.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Karen Von Tish Andronici, Class 1969

Karen Von Tish, yearbook photo
In 100 words or less, describe your career.  
I retired on July 1, 2013, after 40 years in education.  I taught in Lakewood, NJ, for seven years and then spent the rest of the time in Mount Laurel, NJ. I taught kindergarten, first and fifth grade and then moved into administration.  I was the district K-8 supervisor for Language Arts and then went to Central Administration, and retired as Director of Human Resources and Professional Development.  I truly believed I was where I was meant to be and loved teaching.

Where do you live now?  Where have you lived since graduating (name cities)?
After college in Connecticut, I moved back to New Jersey and have lived there ever since. I’m a real Jersey Girl.  I lived in Mount Holly, Medford and now am living in a log cabin in Medford Lakes, which is in Burlington County (southern part of New Jersey; population 4100).  It’s a very small town, like North Plainfield, and I’m very happy here trying to save my garden from the marauding deer.

What was your sense of community in your class/in the school at NPHS?  
I always had a great sense of belonging and community while I lived in North Plainfield.  The fact that the town was small and our class was only about 270 kids made it easy to get to know a lot of people. I was an “East Ender” but once we got to Junior High we all seemed to meld together no matter where we lived. My group included: Kathy Miller, Anne Proli, Emily Polskin, Eileen Thompson and Cathy Mary Reed.

I had the sense that the teachers really did care about us. Having my older brother and younger sister go through NPHS too gave a sense of continuity. This sense of community was most evident when my father died in February of our Junior year. I was blessed with the kindness and sympathy I received from friends and teachers alike.  I’ll never forget the two classmates – Tracy
In a time of need for the Von Tish
family, Tracy Sylvester and
Russell Pollack (shown here
at a student-government day)
 came through with a turkey dinner.  
Sylvester and Russell Pollack – who appeared at our front door within a few days of the funeral with a huge roasted turkey and the fixings to feed my family during this sad time. That summer our lawn was magically mowed by classmate Dave Mills who lived around the corner.  He would just appear, mow the lawn, and disappear.  It’s just one of the many reasons he will always have a special place in my heart.

What experiences in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person? 
Education was highly valued in my family.   There was often a discussion at the dinner table about how “getting a college degree will be your ticket to anywhere.”  Although we grew up at time when many young women weren’t encouraged to pursue their education beyond high school, it was a given that my sister Eileen and I would, and it was a must for my older brother, John.  With this expectation I worked hard at my studies and did well.  I learned that doing your best had positive outcomes and that I had some control over them based on my efforts.  I also volunteered to take on some extra responsibilities (like Prom Chairman or secretary of a club) and these provided me with some unique experiences and kept me involved in the school activities.   I continued to work hard and be involved beyond my job descriptions as I moved through my career. 

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during your high school years? 
I had a solid core group of friends in high school and I pretty much just stayed within this circle.  I regret that I didn’t spend more time with some of the other great people that shared classes and experience with me.  I meet people again at our reunions and realize how terrific they are and am sorry I didn’t have more contact with them as we were growing up.  I know they would have taught me a lot and I missed out on some additional memories that might have been made.  I am grateful that, even if it’s only every five years, I get to spend some time with them.  After every reunion I promise myself that I will be better at staying connected but life gets in the way as it does too often.

Karen Von Tish Andronici
Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all?  If so, how? 
No, my perspective on my years at NPHS hasn’t changed over the years.  I loved high school and growing up in North Plainfield.  If anything has changed it’s that I treasure the memories more now that I am older.   I had wonderful friends who enriched those days and brought laughter and support into my life. I had some great teachers who challenged me and helped me discover my potential.  I remember, too, the fun and the dramas with a smile on my face.  My high school years have a very special place in my heart because my father was part of it.  I know he was proud of me and I’ll always hold that thought close to my heart. I think of North Plainfield as home, in all the wonderful connotations inherent in that word.

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?  
It’s hard to select one memory.  I have so many.  Canteens and dances, cheerleading at games and just giggling with friends.  I remember buying a pack of Tareyton cigarettes on a Friday after school and driving around with friends smoking them.  I thought I was really cool. Of course, I wasn’t and it took me several tries to quit as an adult.  

What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?  
Every Christmas season my father would receive loads of bottles of alcohol from colleagues at work and other companies with which he did business.  Neither of my parents were big drinkers so these bottles got stored in the old dining room hutch that lived in the cellar.  The night of our graduation I snitched two bottles of scotch out of this stash.  One was hidden in one of my best buddies’ sailboat for us.  The other was being sold to two of my guy friends for $10.  It was hidden in the stone wall that sat on our front yard for them to pick up.  As I sat on the front porch waiting for a ride to go out that night, my mother came out to tell me we had been robbed! I hadn’t left the scene of the crime as it had been which alerted my mother.  At that point I had to ‘fess up and retrieve the hidden bottles.   It was not my finest moment.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?  
I have vivid memories from the day I was inducted into National Honor Society. The day of the induction I put on a skirt that had a falling hem which I fixed with safety pins during breakfast.  I was certain that if I had made NHS my mother would make me go and change.  She didn’t.  Then, if your homeroom sat in the auditorium balcony and you were being inducted you got a pink slip from the office and they moved your seat to the lower section.  No pink slip for me.  So I was stunned when I saw my parents enter the balcony where the families were seated.  When they called my name, I made a mad dash down the stairs to the stage.  I can close my eyes and see the smiles and pride on my parents’ faces as we had juice and cookies after the ceremony.  That was the last day my Dad left the house except to go to the hospital two days later.  He died suddenly seven days after the induction.  And 50 years and a successful career later I still think of this as my greatest accomplishment.

Who was your favorite teacher? 
Hands down… Mr. McKenna.  I had him for Bio and Advanced Bio and loved both classes. He was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject it was contagious.  He challenged us to prove him wrong and if we did we’d get an A (or was it a 4?) for the marking period.  I’m proud to say I managed to do that!  I went to college planning on being a research biologist because of Mr. McKenna.  However, my college chemistry classes were nightmares for me so I changed my major and ended up teaching.  As a teacher I was still affected by Mr. McKenna and the way he respected his students and his preparation and deep understanding of content.  I tried to emulate this as I taught my students.

What was your worst class? 
It’s a tie between Chemistry with Mr. Albert or English with Miss O’Brien.  I had a mental block in Chemistry and just couldn’t understand it.  It would be my nemesis in college too. I loved the Great Books we read but hated the discussions in Miss O’Brien’s class.  She used those big reel-to-real recorders to capture every word and we got graded on our participation. I remember ending up crying in the session where I was the leader because the really smart boys ran away with the discussion. I thought Miss O’Brien was intimidating.

What is your most powerful or haunting memory during your years at NPHS?
Shortly after our Senior year started, I saw my little sister’s best friend walk into my advanced bio class. She had a note in her hand and had a quiet conversation with Mr. McKenna.  He looked up and said “Karen, take your books.  You’re needed.”  I left the class and was told that my sister had run out of her Sophomore English class in tears.  Her friend took me to the girls’ room and even before we got there I could hear the sobbing.  Opening the door, I found my sister curled in a ball on the floor in the corner.  She was inconsolable.  It turned out that they had been studying the poem “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne.  With our father’s death being only six months earlier, it brought Eileen’s sorrow to the surface.  Her poor teacher, a brand new one, didn’t know her history and felt just awful.  I sent Eileen’s friend to collect Ei’s things and went to the main office.  After explaining the situation, I just announced that I was taking my sister home… no please may I … just that I was. I can still hear the echo of her crying.

How did growing up at a child of the 60s – and all the social baggage and impact that it may have entailed – impact you at the time and in your young adult years? 
I hate to admit it but I was pretty naive during high school. My friends looked like me and lived like me.  It wasn’t until the Plainfield riots that anything beyond my happy life penetrated my awareness.

I remember lying in bed at night with the windows open (no AC back then) and counting gun shots.  But, it was the killings at Kent State that really shook me.  I was at the University of Connecticut at the time and remember attending rallies and sit-ins protesting the Viet Nam war.  I was more involved in politics then because the war had become more real to me since the deaths of men that I knew - a NPHS classmate’s brother and a fraternity brother of John’s. It was a time of idealism for me and I had high hopes that our generation was going to make significant, positive changes in the world.  I wish we had accomplished more.

You were pretty well known for sporting around North Plainfield in a distinctive Ford Mustang convertible.  Tell us how that came about.
A 1968 Mustang convertible, similar
to the car Karen Von Tish drove.
A few months before my father died, he bought a huge Ford Country Squire station wagon.  He died in February and in May I turned 17 and got my license. I was the only driver in the family who was home so I became the family chauffeur.  My mother traded in the big car and let me choose a 1968 Ford Mustang convertible – navy blue with white interior.  It was the coolest.  Once my family duties were done I was able to use the car for myself.  I can't count the number of times I wished I still had my 'Stang.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Roberta Meiser Specht, Class of 1968

Bobbi Sprecht, 2015.  
Describe your career.  
My nursing degree afforded me many rewarding opportunities.  My career started at Overlook Hospital in the Operating Room as a surgical nurse.  Over the 40 plus years I found myself working in OB/GYN, a rehabilitation hospital in the traumatic brain injury unit onto a orthopedic practice and surgery center.  All exciting experiences.
I retired in April 2016.  No regrets!

Where did you leave since leaving North Plainfield?
Leaving North Plainfield in 1970 took me to Elizabethtown, PA, and then Lancaster, PA.  A big move in 1977 to Palo Alto, CA.  My husband and I settled in Truckee, CA (northeast of Sacramento near the Nevada border) in 1980.  We have been here for over 37 years. It is home and my love for the Sierra Nevada Mountains makes it easy to stay put.

What was your sense of community in your class/in the school at NPHS?  
Wow....that is a difficult question.  I remember being a bit of an outlier.  Not really in any one group or feeling a sense of community.  I know it was there, I just did not access it.

What experiences in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person? 
Being a follower in high school had its consequences.  I no longer follow...I have learned to be a Leader.

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during your high school years? 
Of course...let’s leave it there.
Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all?  If so, how? 
I am more realistic of my NPHS days.  Not all good and certainly not all bad.  Take what you like and leave the rest!

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?  
I loved the Saturday night dances, weekend sporting events and the theatre opportunities.  I am fortunate to have benefited from a few really great teacher student conversations.  Loved the insight into myself that a caring teacher brought to light.

What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?  
Who in their right mind would disclose that?!  I am sure there were more than one event that was dumb.  Hard to say which one gets the prize.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?  
Turning it around and being accepted into Nursing School.

Who was your favorite teacher? 
Katie Gordon, English
Antwerp, Belgium, 2011.
What was your worst class? 
Mr. Justus, German

What is your most powerful or haunting memory during your years at NPHS?
Two deaths that occurred. A teacher took her own life.  A student was hit by a school bus.  That was the first time I experienced the death of a young individual.  Very difficult to understand the finality as a teenager.

I have no idea how our current school students recover from the devastation of a school shooting.  A tragic unacceptable event that needs to end.

How did growing up at a child of the 60s – and all the social baggage and impact that it may have entailed – impact you at the time and in your young adult years? 
I loved the 60s.  The music and feeling of freedom that was emerging was awesome.  The impact, for me, was I was willing to take a few risks that maybe were not in my best interest.  I survived and brought all those experiences into my adult life.  It helped me to be an understanding and better parent to three boys.