Dear Wheatley Wildcats and Other Interested Persons,
Welcome to The Wheatley School Alumni Association Newsletter # 121.
According to Substack, in the first 24 hours after publication, Newsletter # 120 was viewed 2,902 times, was “liked” 15 times, and received seven positive comments. In all, 4,660 email addresses received Issue # 120.
All underlined text is a link-to-a-link. Left-clicking anywhere on underlined text, and then left-clicking on the link that pops up, will get you to your on-line destination.
The Usual Words of Wisdom
Thanks to our fabulous Webmaster, Keith Aufhauser (Class of 1963), you can regale yourself with the first 120 Newsletters (and much other Wheatley data and arcana) at
Also, thanks to Keith is our search engine, prominently displayed on our home page: type in a word or phrase and, wow!, you’ll find every place it exists in all previous Newsletters and other on-site material. I use it all the time; it works!
I edit all submissions, even material in quotes, for clarity and concision, without any indication thereof. I do not vouch for the accuracy of what people tell me.
We welcome any and all text and photos relevant to The Wheatley School, 11 Bacon Road, Old Westbury, NY 11568, and the people who administered, taught and/or studied there. Art Engoron, Class of 1967
Remembering Principal Walter Wathey
JUNE 18, 1924 – SEPTEMBER 25, 2022
Walter W. Wathey (“Wes”) 98 of Surprise, Arizona and formerly of Woodbury, NY died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family on September 25, 2022. Born in Brooklyn, NY. He is survived by his wife Joan (nee Catena) of 72 years and sons Wes (Jan ) of South Huntington, NY , Scott of Surprise, AZ and Drew ( predeceased by daughter-in- law Bernadette Dede Wathey) of Phoenix, AZ Grandchildren Christopher ( Caroline), Kimberly, Kevin and Lauren. Great Grandchildren Reese and Campbell as well as many nieces and nephews. Taught his three sons a love for all sports, especially baseball. A passionate Brooklyn Dodger fan, his knowledge of New York baseball history and trivia was seldom matched. Loved all his grandchildren culminating each Summer with trips to Disneyland. Served as the Principal of The Wheatley School from 1961-1979. Worked as the Director of Institutional Studies at Arizona State University from 1984-1997. Wes was a proud World War II Veteran who served during the D Day invasion at Normandy, earning two Purple Hearts. He earned both his Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in Education from New York University. While at Wheatley he matriculated at Columbia University and the Doctoral program in Education. He was admired and loved by the many graduates of The Wheatley School during his tenure. “ He was completely immersed in all aspects of Wheatley, from participating in the school’s theater productions to attending the many Wheatley Wildcat sporting events each year,” according to his son Wes. “He would invariably meet Wheatley graduates in his travels and was very proud that they all would have positive comments about their Wheatley experience.” Upon his retirement in 1979, a Wheatley High School leadership award was established in his name.
‘Hood Politics And History
Writes Amy Gruskin Gerstein (1966) - “I enjoyed reading the memories of Roosevelt Field. I recall taking the bus there, feeling very independent. Many an afternoon was spent with friends in the Chinese restaurant, where we laughed and were very silly while we feasted on the lunch special, a combination plate for $1.25! Then there was usually a shopping expedition that resulted in a purchase at Macy's where I ‘bought’ something and filled out paperwork to have it sent home C.O.D. Those were the days!”
Writes Steve Miller (1967) - “High praise for Jack Wolf's (1967) thoughtful and insightful essay on the segregation/racism inherent in our history.”
Writes Jimmy Doyle (1970) - “Hi Art, My family and I finally laid my mother, Rita Doyle, to rest next to my Dad earlier this month. He was quite a hero with George Patton, though he only shared his funny war stories with us kids. I remember him going to Dr. Rubino's home office around the corner (after teaching all day in Brooklyn) to remove German 88 mm shrapnel from his legs. He still had a couple of dozen pieces left in there when we buried him thirty years ago with two bronze stars and a purple heart on Omar Bradley Drive. My youngest son, Andrew, is a Major in the Army. That makes six generations in the for the Doyles, as we got off the Famine boats in time for the Mexican War. My great grandfather lost six cousins in the Irish Brigade at Sharpsburg in the Civil War. I was named after my great uncle Jimmy, who chased Pancho Villa around Texas and Arizona with General John "Black Jack" Pershing before serving in the US Calvary in World War I.
Rita always told her children that decency was the sum total of what we did when no one was watching. She lived on Bengeyfield Drive until the day she died, at 102.
Elito Bongarzone - Writes Malcolm McNeill (1965) - Mr. Bongarzone was a B-24 pilot in Europe during WWII, which is all you have to know to understand the kind of a teacher he was.
Salvatore Signorelli - Writes Steve Miller (1967) - I sent him this apology on May 20, 2013, 50 years late, but not too late:
In 1963 I was a 9th grade student at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, N.Y. and briefly part of the Orchestra, where I played oboe, and you led. I rarely practiced for Orchestra, so naturally I was totally unprepared and playing poorly when you called me out on that. You made me stand and asked if I had practiced the piece we were playing "even once". I replied with one word: " No!", in such a way as to demonstrate that I was both unintimidated and unrepentant. You told me to get out and to wait in your office, which I did. Then, instead of apologizing, I expected YOU to apologize for trying to embarrass me in front of the group! I chose to remain in that office for some days, until you and Mr. Pearson allowed me to end my participation in band and orchestra and also return the rather expensive new oboe that had been given to me to play at no charge.
I've thought about this episode over the years and more specifically to the reaction that I have had to being criticized and responding poorly to that. Instead of apologizing for behavior I would otherwise condemn, I made a habit of defending it.
So I'd just like to say this, though after all this time you may not recall what I am even talking about:
I am sorry that I behaved the way I did in not showing you the respect that you so obviously deserved for your efforts on behalf of the students at the school. There was no excuse for not apologizing when I was in the wrong. I only hindered myself by defending an indefensible position and instead tried to turn the tables on you,
After High School, I taught myself saxophone and played tenor professionally for about 5 years, mostly in clubs and also a few concert venues. My continuing love of music clearly derives from all the musicians I have come in contact with over the years, and I want you to know that includes you. I received a valuable lesson there in 9th grade, but it took me a long time to understand it. All the Best, Steve Miller
His gracious reply came the same day:
Quite a surprise to hear such an apology after so many years. I am only happy that the incident didn't destroy your love of music. Of course I accept your apology, but it wasn't necessary; young people as well as myself often say things and do things that we wish never happened. You sound like you are having a happy life.
I learned many lessons in high school. Some obviously took a long time to permeate my skull, but the most important ones were all those that involved my relationships with others. Looking back at all that happens in a lifetime, it's easy to miss the fact that, in the constant stream of decisions that cascade into the next experience and then the next, it's wild; no one knows the result of those millions of decisions beforehand, which is wonderful, and proves that life really lives us more than the other way around.”
On Saturday, September 23, 2023 The Wheatley School Sports Hall of Fame inducted several student-athletes and teams:
David Alpert’s proud father is Hank Alpert, Wheatley 1965.
Top Left - L-R - Ted Kiamos (father of Elyssa, 1987; Tarra 1992; and Justin, 1998, Kiamos), Basketball Coach; and Bernard Hintz, Soccer Coach
Top Right - Jim O’Brien, Athletic Director; Amy Paluszek, 1983 (holding her plaque for being inducted)
Writes Paul Hennessy (1960) - “The recent comment by Wheatley’s ultimate football historian, Paul Giarmo, ’76, citing the ’59 JV team’s 7-0-1 record as second-best in school history (to the ’57 varsity’s 8-0 undefeated season) sparked recollections of the motley crew who became known as “The Bandits,” borrowed from the relentless, swarming defensive unit of the Louisiana State Tigers of that era.
The reason for the nickname (sometimes attributed to the entire ’59 team but originated and most practiced by the JV team) related to the history and participants on the team. The first-string varsity, with a 5-2 record, was the school’s third strong team in three years, and the JV—with a diverse mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors—had been its opposition in daily practices from ’57-’59.
As the JV team’s quarterback and captain, I can’t recall all the scores, but I can provide some historical context and color commentary, as Paul Giarmo. requested.
From its uniquely spirited and successful beginning with the undefeated ’57 team, the student body was electrified by Wheatley football.
The magic combination involved charismatic leadership—especially Head Coach Jack “Cat” Davis and Defensive Line Coach Bill Lawson—and outstanding talent in the members of the first class, who came from Mineola High School.
The legendary players who survived Mineola’s “boot camp” (“Blackboard Jungle” may be a slight exaggeration) were large (the line averaging 200-220 pounds), tough, and swaggering, typically clad in black leather motorcycle jackets and boots.
Some legendary players in the first class were QB Steve Perlin, who dropped out of Dartmouth to became a Marine jet pilot; halfback Eddie Kritzler, later author of a book about Jewish pirates of the Caribbean; tackle Mike Stapleton, a muscular giant, later a decorated Marine in Vietnam and a NY State Trooper; and, by contrast, bruising fullback Doug Kull—clean-cut, straight-arrow student body president who went on to become a Jesuit priest serving in the perilous Philippine hinterlands for nearly 20 years.
That’s just a sampling of the characters who inspired their successors in following classes to sign up for football in significant numbers (10-20 per class). There was a strong attraction to being where the action was – even if not many had anything like the skills or muscle of their role models.
The culture was the thing; the competitive venue was paramount, but so were the friendships and social connections.
It was a definite shock to those spirited volunteers - including my 135 lb. self - that we’d be playing against these behemoths in daily practices. The only way to stop them was gang tackling, with at least 2-3 ‘bandits” to bring them down.
We did our best - employing all the bravado (and often trash talk) we could muster. We took pride that our “rinky dinks” (as Bill Lawson, with mocking affection, referred to us) made the varsity try harder due to our willingness to take them on.
They were a rather remarkable group, players from three classes (with 13 seniors and similar numbers of sophomores and juniors), all shapes and sizes (from heavyweight wrestler Walt Brunner ’61 (235 lbs.) to Paul Samberg ’61 (110 lbs.), showing great cohesion and esprit de corps.
Having played on the 1956 division-winning Tennis Team as a freshman, I had to decide whether to play on the even better teams led by Larry Nagler ’58 (who won the NCAA championship in his freshman year at UCLA). I decided to join the football “cult” for the next three seasons due to its camaraderie (compared to being the only guy from East Williston on tennis teams dominated by players well-trained at the Roslyn Country Club.)
Playing tennis at Wheatley in the Nagler era would have been an educational experience, but - aside from the close friendships and spirited fun - the football team provided an opportunity to develop leadership skills that I was later able to apply to many situations, from being an army officer to managing communications teams on both coasts.
THE “LINE COACH LEAK”
As a final anecdote about Wildcat football’s “wild” beginnings, evidence I was having too much fun was an English class essay I wrote - fictional, but loosely based on facts-from a player’s perspective about the football experience.
A central character was a “black-hearted line coach” who delighted in spreading glass on the practice fields to toughen up his players. Not sure why I imagined this (or more importantly, dared to write it), but our English teacher, Elsie Bodnar, enjoyed it enough to have me read it to the class.
While it provided some amusement for classmates, especially my teammates, I never imagined it would be circulated beyond the classroom. But it did - long before social media - probably becoming the talk of the teachers’ lounge and certainly getting the attention of one “Wild Bill Lawson,” whose personality some found similar to the fictional coach.
Coach Lawson’s response, at every practice following the “leak,” was shouting from one side of the field to the other, ‘Hey, Hennessy, get your butt over here and pick up this piece of glass I just found!!!!!’
My later career was in journalism and reporting, but I had learned in high school never to make up fictional characters resembling real people, especially those with some power over you.
I’ve always been grateful that I was able to play high school football and quarterback an undefeated team. The friendships formed and the characters known have lasted a lifetime.
As evidence, about 20 of our classmates, six decades after our Wheatley graduation, still attend mini reunions in which we reminisce, tell tall tales, and remember fondly the ‘good ole daze.’
Writes Mark Bertalli (1990) - “In the newsletters I’ve been impressed by Paul Giarmo’s (1976) knowledge of Wheatley football. I was captain of the last Wheatley Varsity Team, Class of 1990, and have the helmet I wore. Paul might appreciate it.”
Responds Paul Giarmo (1976) - “Hey Mark,
So good to hear from a fellow Wildcat football player. Art sent me your email and I appreciate the kind words.
I know that you were on the last Varsity football team in the 1989 season. In 1990, Wheatley did field a Junior Varsity team, which compiled a 2 win, 3 loss record, according to the 1991 yearbook, but I can't find the game scores, unfortunately. And that was the end of it all.
When you and your teammates played your last game in November 1989, that was the last Varsity football game played by Wheatley until September 2007, when we joined with Carle Place to become the CPW Wildfrogs. So for 18 long years, Wheatley students had no football team to play on, the only high school in Nassau County with that ‘distinction’ until recently, when both Great Neck teams were discontinued.
So after 234 Varsity football games, the tradition ended for the Bacon Road Boys.
I used to talk with your head coach, Dan Walsh, until a few years ago at CPW games about the ‘old days’; and I know that his son, Dan Jr., was your quarterback. Were you the center?
We played several of the teams that you played against, but the Island Football Conference did not formally come into existence until the 1976 season, after I graduated. (I played four seasons, 1972-1975). We rebuilt the football program, starting at the j.v. level, and returned to Varsity play in '75, my senior season. We also helped reintroduce the junior high program, which had been terminated in 1969 or 1970 (good move, Wheatley).
In any event, memories mean a lot as we get older, and as flattered as I truly am to be offered your football helmet, I could not in good conscience accept it and deny you your hard-earned memories when you look at it. I'm guessing your helmet had what I call the "screaming wildcat" emblem on it. (Our helmets had no emblem on it, but were also bright red. Much nicer than the current white CPW Wildfrog helmets).
Anyway, I hope that the current Administration of the EWSD will read your email and mine and see how much pride and school spirit Wildcat football players had when representing Wheatley on the 🏈 gridiron.
I may eventually write a book on Wheatley Football, so please stay in touch, as well as all former gridiron greats who wore the red and white. I love hearing about all the memories.
Sorry for going on for so long about this, but old wide receivers are a ‘chatty’ bunch. LOL.
1961 - Peter Calderon - “We all have lots of memories that our former Wheatley graduates easily shake out of us. The ruminations on Roosevelt Field remind me that as youngsters this was deemed sanctified ground as the place from which Lindbergh launched his famous transatlantic flight in 1927.
Years later, in 1997, when back « home » visiting Mom and Dad , my mother insisted on buying me a new suitcase as I was debarking for Paris to advise the French government on development finance. We found it at a luggage store in the mall at Roosevelt Field. This suitcase, by Briggs & Owens, came with a « lifetime guarantee « — I assume my lifetime — and still accompanies me on our regular transatlantic journeys between New Jersey and France. In 26 years it has required only one warranty repair at the company’s headquarters, near Islip.”
THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN BY PETER’S DAD ON JUNE 6, 2009
The American cemetery at the edge of the cliffs above Omaha beach is actually US territory, so it is Barak Obama who will receive Sarkozy, the Prince of Wales and the UK Prime Minister on US territory when they hold the memorial ceremony there later this afternoon. The cemetery is groomed like the finest golf courses in the US and laid out in beautiful symmetry. Every gravestone is a simple piece of white marble, most in the shape of a Cross and a few in the shape of the Star of David. Each gravestone has an American flag planted at its base. Colin Powell, when he was US Secretary of State, was quoted as saying that America had ventured abroad over the course of its history to defend liberty and democracy, and the only thing it ever asked of foreign governments was a piece of land to bury its dead. Many US, British and Canadian veterans have shown up for the ceremonies. Judging from the television images, most of those veterans still alive are surprisingly spry, although some are transported in wheelchairs.
Grandpa marched across France with the US troops during July and August of 1944. He arrived in Paris within a few days of its liberation, which was on August 25-26, 1944. Grandpa spent a couple of months in Paris where he made many friends, including Louba Lubetsky, a distinguished French lawyer of Russian/Jewish heritage who has been very hospitable to me over the years whenever I visited her in Paris. You may have seen some of the photos of Grandpa in uniform in Paris with her and his other friends. Sometime in late 1944 Grandpa was sent to the city of Reims (which of course is the capital of Champagne), where his job was to establish an administration (a type of government) to replace the administration that had been established by the Germans and the Vichy government during the war. He worked with local French citizens and became friendly with a younger soldier who worked for him and whom he re-visited on a couple of occasions in later years. Grandpa told me that, during his stay in Reims, because he did not smoke, he exchanged his cigarettes (which were rationed to all US soldiers) for champagne and perfume . By the way, Reims is famous in the US not only because of its champagne but also for the series of paintings of its Cathedral's facade by Monet, showing different hues hour-by-hour, which you may have seen in New York.
I am filled with nostalgia (and some tears). I wish Grandpa were still alive and I could return with him to this piece of land. There are many older soldiers who appear to be in surprisingly good shape. I imagine that the chairs are reserved for those soldiers and paratroopers who actually arrrived on June 6 and June 7 to fight the Germans. But there are undoubtedly others who arrived, as Grandpa and Obama's uncle did, in the ensuing weeks. I am watching the TV now and Tom Hanks is also there talking to veterans. A US military band is playing for the visitors, most of whom have already taken their seats. A large red carpet has been laid beneath the chairs facing the large marble monument. Obama and Sarkozy are just leaving Caen where they had lunch. They are being taken to the ceremonies at Colleville-sur-mer by separate helicopters. Both Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni are wearing white dresses. It is picture-perfect weather.
During the war, the US military bombed Nimes a couple of times. Nimes had strategic importance because it was a railroad crossroads for the south of France. Unfortunately, the bombing was inaccurate (the planes flew at high altitude to avoid German anti-aircraft fire and perhaps the B-47s didn't take account of the mistral winds) and US bombs destroyed the hotel particulier just next to us on Boulevard Gambetta and the charming post office across the street the was built during the reign of Napolean I (I have photos of the original post office, which had a Neo-classical arcade at its entrance.)
I hope Grandpa realized how much I was moved by the extremely warm accueil he received from the French during his final visit to France: a woman who attended the ceremony broke into tears when I introduced her to Grandpa. She said she was a small girl when France was liberated and the American soldiers gave her candy when there was very little to eat. Nimes’ former Communist mayor told Grandpa that the French had not forgotten what the Americans had done for them. A week earlier the French doctor who examined Grandpa at the hospital in Montparnasse (Grandpa had a gastric attack while we were visiting Les Invalides and was propped up against one of the marble pillars looking very much like one of Napoleon’s wounded soldiers during the battle of Austerlitz!) told Grandpa that it was an honor to care for him, that his family was Jewish and his parents and grandparents had spent the war in hiding from the Nazis and French collaborators. The next time you visit you will see the framed picture containing Grandpa’s medals from the Normandy invasion. He left it with us telling me that its proper place was in our home in Nîmes so that I could show my friends what my father had done for their country.
I hope Grandpa also knew how proud I was when he spoke French in my presence with a much more authentic accent than mine. In fact, he made a point to correct my poor pronunciation of some of those tough French vowels.
L-R - Jeanne Messing Sommer, Nancy Kurshan
Writes Nancy - “Hi Art, The photo is of me and Jeanne Messing Sommer at the September 17, 2023 70,000-person New York March to End Fossil Fuels. We have been pals since 11 years of age and friends for life.
1967 - Howard Senft - “Hi Arthur…..I started speed skating when I was 13 at the Roosevelt Feld rink. I won my first race in figure skates…..then skated in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Flushing. And let's not forget Skateland….. Also, I taught Robert “Boomer” Hecht (1967) to skate...he's still playing hockey to this day!”
1967 - Jill Simon Forte - “Memories of younger days are mostly happy. Unfortunately, I lost my dad to a car accident when I was 12, when there were no seat belts. I think it changed me into a tougher version of who I was. But one thing it lead me to was my future husband, Bob Forte (1965), because I was just tuff enough to push myself on Bob. I followed him through the halls after seeing him in the Varsity Review and telling him how great he was (having bopped to the music that his band was playing), and then coincidentally seeing him driving down Roslyn Road in his Corvette after school, when he picked me up as I was walking to my friend Jo-Ann Dembo’s house, and he gave me a ride. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 Best day ever!
1973 - Gail Gimbel - Classic Photo
First Row, L-R - Lauren Karasyk Ryan Oakley, Dana Devon, Bonnie Greenberg (in striped shirt), Amy Hershcopf, Dale Kramer (in pigtails), Laraine Hare Tanzer
Second Row, L-R - Tina Helfer (wearing glasses), Tina White(?) (partially obscured), Ellen Goodman (or Susan Marcus)
Background - Gail Gimbel
1980 - Linda Modica Dolan and Michael Baltzer - Appreciation
Writes Linda - “I love the poem by Michael Baltzer in the last issue. I didn’t know that he is a poet. Thanks for sharing!”
Guest Essay by Retired Teacher Matt Haig
Editor’s Note - The following essay is very harsh and critical of the recent and/or current East Williston School District and Wheatley School Administrations. I take no position on the thoughts expressed here, and I will gladly publish any rebuttal(s) that anyone submits. AFE
Matt Haig posted the following essay on Facebook.
Writes Matt - “I’ve taken careful time in crafting this essay because it’s important to me … and so is my dear friend, Wes Berkowitz (Wheatley Guidance) and also because our Wheatley School motto has always been, “Seek the Truth.”
1959 (Tracey Lanthier) - “Another great Newsletter. Thanks for the fine job.”
1960 (Paul Keister) - “THANK YOU, ART!!!! You are THE BEST. I am delighted to get your Wheatley School emails. My wife and I wish the VERY BEST.”
1960 (Paul Hennessy) - “The Wheatley Alumni Newsletter is remarkable for reviving memories of events and fellow students buried deep in memory.”
1961 (Peter Calderon) - “The Newsletter is outstanding.”
1961 (Nancy Kurshan) - “I love the Newsletter. Keep on keepin’ on. And regards to webmaster Keith.”
1962 (Dick Glassman) - ❤️
1963 (Marcia Friedman Mayer) - ❤️
1963 (Donna Harmelin Rivkin) - “Dear Art, Congratulations on your son’s engagement! Thank you again for another wonderful Newsletter. It brings us all closer together. ❤️🎶”
1963 (Annette Heller) - ❤️
1965 (Malcolm McNeill) - ❤️
1965 (Martha Weissberg) - “I gratefully read the newsletter sent to Wheatley graduates.”
1966 (Alison Kent Bermant) - “Thanks so much for your continuing devotion to Wheatley. You’re deeply appreciated.”
1966 (Sue Sand) - ❤️
1967 (Arthur Brown) - “Dear Art, Thank you for all your work in keeping us Wildcats up to date. Hearing from the other classmates and how they are doing is always great.”
1967 (Scott Frishman) - “Great newsletter, as usual, Art.”
1967 (Steve Miller) - “I appreciate all you do.”
1967 (Jill Simon Forte) - “Another fun read, including names I remember, even some siblings of my friends.”
1967 (Barbara Smith) - “Great as always. Congratulations on your son’s engagement.” ❤️
1967 (Sue Vogt) - “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your missives with Wheatley updates—they are invaluable. I read everything you send. Keeps things in perspective. Thanks for all you do.”
1968 (Lois Hegyi Goldstein) - ❤️
1968 (Wendy Woods) - ❤️
1970 (Maria Giordano Gittleman) - ❤️
1972 (Mary Vachris) - “Always glad to see the Wheatley Newsletter” ❤️
1972 (Lori Waltzer Bernstein) - “I enjoy keeping abreast of the comings and goings, updates and happenings, of us Wildcats. Thank you for all you do.”
1973 (Denise Paine) - “Congratulations on Ian’s engagement! Thank you as always for this wonderful newsletter.” ❤️
1974 (SuZanne Zenker Gilbride) - “I love the stories, which bring back memories long forgotten.…. My memory isn't as good as it once was, so some stories bring back bits and pieces of times gone by....” ❤️
1976 (Robin Hegyi Sisskind) - ❤️
1977 (Amy Brumer) - ❤️
1977 (Peter Fitzpatrick) - ❤️
1981 (Susan Garfinkel Cykman) - “I receive your Wheatley newsletters and appreciate the time and effort that you put into them.”
That’s it for The Wheatley School Alumni Association Newsletter # 121. Please send me your autobiography before someone else sends me your obituary.
Arthur Fredericks Engoron, Class of 1967
© 2023 ARTHUR ENGORO