Woog's World / A class act, part 1
Published 11:57 am, Thursday, July 21, 2011
Last month, the Staples High School Class of 1961 gathered for its 50th reunion. That class is unique --students began their high school careers the day the new North Avenue campus opened -- but each group thinks it's special. If I responded to every request to write about every reunion, I'd wear out my "Woog's World" welcome very quickly.
What's worth reporting about the Class of '61, though, is its website. More than 100 members took the time to write detailed "autobiographies" about their lives in the five decades since graduation.
As expected there are many doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, social workers, Wall Streeters, service members and business owners. There are homemakers and home builders, clergymen and clergy women, recovering alcoholics and drug users, divorcees and classmates who married (sometimes after divorces).
Reading the writings of those graduates is fascinating. They show a breathtaking range of life experiences. They demonstrate that there is life after Westport -- and that Staples provided a foundation for those lives.
The stories are unique to the Class of 1961. But they're also universal -- at least, they're the kinds of tales that can be shared by many other Staples classes, before and since.
In 1988 Jack Adinolfi sold his family dry cleaners in Westport and moved to Vermont. He and his wife built a log home on 11 acres, raising milk goats, freezer pigs, chickens and donkeys. He also worked at the Okemo ski area, where he won a trip to a Virgin Island resort. His experience handling hazardous waste at the dry cleaning plant came in handy: He became the resort's hazmat officer. These days, Jack and his wife live full time in a 36-foot trailer, traveling around the U.S. whenever the spirit moves them.
Wendy Berger was working in the emergency room at Columbia Presbyterian when Malcolm X was shot across the street. In the elevator, his bodyguards told her that he had died. "He was already dead," she wrote. Incredibly, she was also the nursing supervisor at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles the night Bobby Kennedy was shot. Patsy Cummings attended "the university of Greenwich Village," supporting herself as a waitress in cafes where Bob Dylan sang. She started a Moroccan export business, discovered photography, produced a book on Haitian dances and voodoo culture, married an innovative art dealer, moved to Mexico, and for 30 years ran a restaurant/bar there. She recently opened a cooking school there.
The year Ted Dreyfus spent as an exchange student in Brazil was "transformational." It led to a career in Latin America -- including organizing a fisherman's cooperative in the Amazon, running a cattle ranch and forestry project in Argentina, and developing a low carbon economic strategy for the president of Guyana. He also served as an assistant to Mayor John Lindsay. Ted and his wife are currently building a ranch in Uruguay.
She continued in theater, and wrote a play about teen dating violence that's been seen by half a million high school students.
In 2002 she went to India to talk to about sex trafficking. That led to two plays, raising worldwide awareness of the issue.
Star athlete Bill Gish spent a college summer hitchhiking cross-country. He joined the Ringling Brothers circus, and for nearly three months worked as a roustabout. He joined the Marine Corps reserves, finished college, trained as a stockbroker, then "stumbled into" the flower business through a local newspaper ad. Forty years later -- after selling his company that grew to 30 acres of greenhouses, and over 100 employees -- he lives on his original four acres in Southern California.
Don Law is president of Live Nation New England -- "the world's leading producer and presenter of live entertainment." He also developed Comcast Center, the Massachusetts venue twice named "Top Amphitheater in the U.S." by Billboard Magazine. Don co-founded NEXT, "the world's first fully automated, high-volume reserved-seat ticketing system." He's involved in many non-profit and charitable causes, including Stop Handgun Violence, Kids at Risk and the AIDS Action Committee.
After Staples, Kip Martin's band the Ramblers played with Chuck Berry, Dion and the Belmonts and the Tokens. While producing a TV show for John Zacherley, he booked live acts like James Brown and the Beach Boys. As founding artistic director of the Classic State Company he mounted 100 productions of Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen and Sophocles.
He moved on to be a freelance director/designer and composer for national and state theaters, living in Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Helsinki, Stockholm, Riga, Minsk, Ankara, Istanbul, Belgrade, Seoul and Singapore.
That's not all that members of Staples' Class of 1961 have done. In fact, we're only (and selectively) into the M's. Next week, "Woog's World" explores more accomplishments of this amazing -- but very representative -- group of grads.