Cherry Celebrates 50 Years

  • Cherry Celebrates 50 Years of Students



    Twice, during their 50th Anniversary plans, the cornerstone of the Cherry Avenue Elementary School Building was the focus.


    It led to last year’s confusion about which year to actually celebrate the anniversary, since the date engraved in the cement was 1956. After checking the records however and learning that, although the building was constructed in ’56, the students did not begin to occupy the building until 1957-1958, the Cherry Avenue community designated this school year for their long-awaited celebration.


    Part of that celebration was the unearthing of the Time Capsule, but the recollection of where the capsule was buried became another elusive problem. While former staff members insisted the Time Capsule was in the cornerstone, preliminary tests indicated otherwise. As the stone seemed solid, the general search elsewhere was on. Staff members came to the grounds with metal detectors, finding miscellaneous metallic objects, but unfortunately not the desired treasure.


    As the May 29th date of the evening 50th Anniversary Open House drew closer with no luck, the Cherry Ave community was becoming resigned to certain disappointment.  In the eleventh hour, a valuable clue to support the theory as to the whereabouts of the capsule turned up. Thanks to the detective work of parent Mrs. Steck, who enlisted the service of Suffolk County News and one of its retired staff members, an old newspaper photo in the archives indicated the very same cornerstone.


    The photo of Principal Rivers and two students sealing the Time Capsule in the cornerstone with a trowel encouraged current Principal John. Stimmel to revisit the deceivingly “solid” cement block.  On the afternoon of May 28th, Buildings and Grounds arrived to extract it.




    The very next morning, Principal Stimmel convened an assembly to witness the unveiling of the cornerstone, and presumably, the opening of the Time Capsule. In attendance at the exciting event were the entire student body, the staff, and Sayville District Administrators: Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Jones, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction (and formers Cherry Principal) Dr. Geraldine Sullivan Keck, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Dan Casali, and Personnel Director Rosemary Camilliri.


    Dramatically, the pounding rhythms of Also Sprach Zarathustra (made famous by the movie 2001: A Space Odessey) filled the auditorium with transcendent harmonies as everyone awaited the revelation of a great mystery. Then, the music stopped and the gym was hushed.


    Mr. Stimmel appeared, dressed in a blue smock coat, equipped with a paint brush, magnifying glass, and protective gloves. He recounted how the search process compared with the science of archeology, with references to pop figure Indiana Jones. He also prepared the students for disappointment, should the cornerstone be empty.


    The school was charged with anticipation when Mr. Stimmel leaned over to remove the drape from the stone and shouted with joy. The students roared in response. The Time Capsule had been found! Following the advice of archeologists and historians, Mr. Stimmel used his gloved hands to gingerly lift out its contents and described what each item was. While time was not kind to the paper items which were worn and flaked with decay, the messages from the contents about the hopes and promise of the future resonated clearly, untainted by time.


    Cherry Celebrates at an Anniversary OPEN HOUSE Party


    That evening, the Open House Celebration was lively with a reunion of people and memories. Principal John Stimmel welcomed Suffolk County Superintendent Steve Levy who made a surprise visit. Sayville High School Jazz Choir sang the National Anthem. Sayville Superintendent Dr. Jones shared words of congratulations, while previous principal Dr. Sullivan Keck acknowledged many wonderful memories with the Cherry Avenue community. In addition, the Sayville Historical Society gave a slide presentation of the neighborhood.


    In attendance were those who had a long history with Cherry Avenue: 82 year-old Betty Knoell, once a First-grade teacher when the building opened and who later became School Principal, gave a sentimental address before the crowd of alumni gathered to revisit the past glories at Cherry. Present for the celebration and acknowledged in the crowd were Mary Tobi and Mary Lou Center, also classroom teachers when the building opened; and School Nurse Barbara “Bobbie” King;


    Other retired teachers who came to celebrate included: Louise Bastedo, Dena Rockwell, Judy Cherowitzo, Joanne Denison, Dorothy Lewis, Pat Kane-Acierno, Betty Ann Murphy, Janet Maystrik, Mike Demas, Pat Tresham, Lois Oster (Betty Knoell’s secretary) and another former nurse Lorraine Mattimore, who later moved on to the High School.


    Former Cherry Parents Lynn McNamee and Pat Osarchuck, who attended the 25th Celebration in 1982, were happy to be part of this one as well.


    Scheduling conflicts or distance did not deter some loyal Cherry Avenue members:

    Gretchen Duce, a former teacher, couldn’t attend the night of celebration, but came the previous day to display photos and post a heartwarming note for everyone to read. Mary Ann Kaufman, a retired teacher now in Florida, sent a great supply of pictures along with a beautiful note that encouraged her former students to take any pictures they wanted.


    After reading the article about Cherry’s 50th Anniversary plans, former Cherry Parent, Evelyn Sweeney–Cardamone and her daughters lent helping hands. Evelyn took a snapshot of Cherry Avenue and enlisted Audrey’s Bakery to donate a cake topped with the photo image in icing. Her daughter Colleen assisted Pat Tresham, one of the Anniversary organizers, in gathering the dozens of balloons (paid for by an anonymous donor) from Party Hardy. Evelyn’s other daughter, Tara, was also help set up. Cherry Avenue Physical Education Teacher Jen Finn orchestrated the Anniversary plans with the current staff and ensured smooth transition


    The reception was a bonanza of sweets and treats. While former student Jimmy Sioutopoulos, of the Sayville Modern Diner, happily donated trays of cookies, some of the teachers also donated pastries and cookies along with the Cherry Avenue PTA that supplied more cake, cookies, water and coffee.


    During the reception, Mrs. Tresham’s former student Gregory Kane, now a Ninth-grader, not only put the final touches on the gym, he cut and served the cake during the reception as well.


    All who attended the 50 Anniversary Celebration enjoyed the walk down memory lane with an eye on future memories yet to be made. And rumor has it there is still another Time Capsule on the grounds scheduled to be opened for Cherry 75th Anniversary. Mark your Calendars!



    Special thanks go to

    -         Jen Fee, the phys ed teacher for getting the Costco items- paper goods, water, cake and pastries, funded by PTA donations. Mrs. Fee also helped set up the gym and decorated the building. 

    -         Also a thank you to Bob Kempf and the custodial staff for all they did. 

    -         Linda Conrin, with the help of her husband, put together the power point presentation just for our event. 

    -         Louise Bastedo helped organize the evening event.