Chester Alumni talk, laugh — and plan for an uncertain future

| 25 Jul 2019 | 03:49

By Ginny Privitar
It was a good time, with great conversation and lots of laughs when the Chester Alumni Association held its annual dinner at the Salisbury Mills Firehouse on July 20. President Donna Scandurra DeStafeno (’74) welcomed all those present. There were 100 attendees, including graduates from the Class of 1947, Charles F. Johnson and E.J. Szulwach, right through to the Class of 2018.
DeStafeno gave special thanks to Judy Cathy Gage, Francie LaSpina, and Evelyn Retel White, Class of 1969, and John Garvilla, Class of 1979, for getting their classmates together to celebrate their 50th and 40th anniversaries, respectively.
The association's annual meeting was held after a delicious meal, which included filet mignon, chicken Marsala and other offerings.
Because of declining attendance and increasing costs for the dinner, members were given a ballot to determine the future of the association. Several choices were presented: have the meeting every two years, change to a cocktails-only meeting, or disband the association.
DeStafeno has been a major force in maintaining the organization over the years.
“As you know, I am dedicated to keeping the alumni going and hate that we even must have this discussion," she said.
She challenged everyone to bring one additional Chester alumni with them next year to increase attendance. She also asked for more volunteers, too, to work on the event.
Members voted for just a cocktail hour and meeting next year. The group will also have to find a new venue because the Salisbury Mills firehouse will not be renting to non-members in the future because of the liability involved. Other options, like the schools and the new Chester Senior/Recreation Center, won't work because alcohol cannot be served at those venues.
And the winners are...
The association awarded its scholarships for 2018-19. The winners are as follows:
Ruth Parkin Carroll Scholarship — Olga Luksha
Chester Alumni Association Scholarship — Brianna Ramos
Chester Alumni Descendant Scholarship — Jason Bell
Chester Alumni Vocational/Technical Scholarship — Nicholas Colbman
None of the four winners were able to attend. But the 2017-18 winners from last year — sisters Catherine and Jennifer Battiato — were there to pick up their awards. The daughters of proud parents Alan ('78) and Cathy Battiato (’80), they are now in the nursing program at SUNY Orange.
Two winners of the Chester Alumni raffle won a check for $182 each. There were also two main door prizes, $50 certificates for ShopRite and CVS, and other raffle prizes.
After winning a prize, John Garvilla (’79) recalled that a former teacher said "we’d never amount to anything — the whole class.”
Alan Battiato (’78) shot back, to much laughter: "(He) was right"
Much good-natured ribbing ensued about the LaSpina and Battiato families winning many of the raffles.
Alumni to hold August raffle
Thanks to local sponsors, an ongoing raffle will be held throughout August. The first prize gift certificate basket is worth more than $400, a second one holds more than $200 in gift certificates, and a third prize one is worth more than $100.
Volunteers are needed to sell the tickets at Tractor Supply on Aug. 10 and 31 and in downtown Chester on Bill Perry Day, Sunday, July 29. The drawing will be on Labor Day, Sept. 3. Tickets are $5 each or three for $10. The association hopes for the support of the community. For information, call 845-469-4893 or 845-283-5700
The slate of officers for the 2019-2020 year is:
President — Donna Scandurra DeStafeno
Vice-President — Carri Curtis Kirkland
Secretary — Evva Jeanne Burch Morgan
Treasurer — oette Musumeci Spadafora
Historian — Lorraine Boenisch Greenwood
Photos are by Ginny Privitar. For more photos visit