Perfect Party Venue for Every Villain JEMeration….
by Cate Murway
TWICE upon a time…
Yes! A most successful 50th Reunion was hosted May 6, 2017 in Maria Hall at Villa Joseph Marie in Holland, PA.
The Class of 1967 reserved the three story Italianate style mansion with the dramatic elliptical staircase that brings drama to the entrance foyer to welcome almost ½ of their original class of 72 students who attended.
The dining area accented by fluted columns and pilasters along with the tall paneled doorways offered an additional ambiance of elegance to their event.
The late VJM alumna/ art teacher, Sister Madeleine Bunevicius, S.S.C. restored the mansion, room by room to its original grandeur. A basement fire caused by faulty wiring had devastated substantial portions of the estate but this living piece of history was restored and reopened in September 2014 with the first VJM HS Wall of Fame induction.
The first day of school for the Class of 1967, dubbed Villians, was in September 1963.
The young students with “a neat, girlish hair-do and NO makeup, who wore a hat, blouse and skirt with black crepe-soled, soft rubber heeled shoes” entered the building. Sister Benetta was the Principal.
Their first day, 50 years later, the forever friends entered Maria Hall to celebrate their Reunion.
Maria Hall had been used as both a dormitory for boarding students and for the Sisters who educated them. Several of the rooms were used for classroom space through 1932-1960’s.
Mary Ann Theresa [Keating] Davis visited Maria Hall where her daughter, Mary Beth Theresa [Davis ‘96] Walinskas now works in Advancement, for the VJM Christmas Open House.
“The last time I was there was for my Senior retreat and I remember the phone under the steps that the boarders had used to call home. Some of us still get together every once in awhile; usually about 15 of us at the Buck Hotel for Christmas. I suggested doing something special for our 50th at Maria Hall.”
They kept the Blue & Gold theme and everyone “was in agreement and worked together”.
Her VJM binder from “back in the day”, along with additional cherished memorabilia, “one girl even brought her prom dress” were on display.
“For the gold and the blue we will cherish
Ever in our hearts so true
We will fight for the right
And will always be true”
Bonding began for the young girls on their almost 2-hour bus ride from Five Points. “It was fun. We sang Beatles songs! Villa was a small school out in the boondocks. My best friend, Sandra M. [Lewin] Price [Sandy’s sisters are also VJM alumnae, Dolores J. [Lewin ‘75] Ross, Patricia A. [Lewin ‘69] Lank and Karen D. [Lewin ‘71] Dively] was going so I decided to go there too.” Her late parents, Mary Agnes and Army veteran John Edward, a Reedman’s comptroller had always wanted her to go to a private High School.
Mary Ann had “twirled the baton since I was 8” and the NHS student continued to perform in competitions with The DeAngelo Diablos, the 1967-68 grand national senior baton twirling corps champions. She and Sandy practiced every Sunday for 3 hours. At Villa, she was voted Secretary, a class officer her sophomore year.
Mary Ann lost her mom when she was 20 and her late sister Diane Bernadette [Keating ‘75] Geddes was only 13. Nieces, Kellyann Bernadette [Geddes ‘05] Rogers and Shannon Mary Geddes ’09 continue the family tradition as JEMS.
P.S. VJM Fine Arts Teacher/ Band Director, Ralph Joseph “Sonny” Facenda, Jr. is her cousin!
After graduation, Mary Ann and Mary Russell carpooled to BCCC, cementing their friendship.
“The closeness of the girls, the smallness of the classes and the encouragement of the sisters and teachers all contributed to building my confidence to be the person I am today -- more than anything in the world I wanted to be a wife and mother, and my dream came true. Also, that confidence and determination allowed me to pursue following my own path to working from home and eventually establishing my own medical transcription home-based business so that I could be there for my children -- which, to me, is the most important job in the world!”
Mary [McGlynn] Russell traveled every day from her Maple Street home in Bristol Borough. At one time, both of her parents, Joseph Edward and Hannah Agnes [Ennis] worked at Rohm & Haas until Mr. Otto Haas discovered they were married. He fired her mother who was the phone operator.
Mary’s father died when she was only 16 and her mother had contracted polio when she was young.
Her extended family incorporated her friends, her bus buddies to VJM. She and Barbara Riley, Mary Ann Flatch, Jo Homan and Beth Little boarded the bus across the street from Lower Bucks Hospital at 7:30AM and arrived at school by 8:40AM.
“I was sheltered growing up but I felt protected and like I belonged there at VJM. It felt like family. I had never had chili until I went to Villa and had it in the cafeteria. We had meat and potatoes every night and the macaroni & cheese my mom made.”
From November 1966 through 1967, Mary drove Barbara to school in her dark green-blue Chevy Malibu.
“There were only 7 cars in the lot.”
Mary’s favorite class was English, “I liked to diagram sentences. No math! Algebra, trig and I didn’t get along very well.” She was a cheerleader and roller skated at Rollerama on 413, competitively dance skating and figure skating until 1968, traveling to Delaware, MD and NJ for competitions.
“My best turns were on one foot. Once my rollers caught on the floor and I fell, I retired from skating.”
Mary recalls the proms at Somerton Springs. “We had to stop at the Nursing Home first to get our dresses inspected. The Sisters gave us a sweater to wear if the dress was too risqué!”
Special memories included her Father-Daughter Dances frosh and sophomore years with her dad.
Villa Joseph Marie was most likely the only school hosting Father- Daughter Dances at that time.
She and MaryAnn Davis were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and now their entire families are friends.
“The Reunion was beautiful and everyone on the committee brought their own talents and MaryAnn kept everyone on track. We were happy that everyone had such a wonderful time. The piano player, Scott McAllister provided 1960’s music.”
Barbara A. [Reilly] Squillace continued her education at BCCC to become a medical transcriptionist and she was the Director of Volunteer Services at three Aria Health hospitals. She and Mary have been friends since they attended St. Mark School together. Barb grew up Buckley Street. Her father, Bernard “Ben” Charles Reilly is the oldest living Lower Bucks Hospital Board of Director member and he was once the AFL-CIO Financial Secretary of Bristol.
“Everyone at Villa was like one. We meshed. We were friends with everyone. It was such a bonding experience.”
Dolores Helen “Dolly” [Unfreed] Korimsak worked at Fischer & Porter and is currently secretary for GE Water & Process Technologies. She has only the fondest High School memories.
“We had all nuns and it was a welcoming place. We got a good education. I had a job waiting for me due to that I graduated from VJM!”
She recalls waitressing only on the weekends at the Robin Hood restaurant, during the breakfast rush.
“I was so happy to be able to have the Reunion at Maria Hall. I wanted to go to a Catholic HS.”
Her mother drove her back and forth in their 1958 green and white Mercury, “a big old thing”.
“Everything at Maria Hall was really perfect. The best thing was that ½ the class was at our Reunion. Nothing was a chore. Everything was wonderful. Marguerite Adams was awesome! She had everything done. My parents always said you can eat off the floor. Still can!”
Marguerite’s sister, Mary Jane ’69 and her daughters are JEMS as well: Kelly Ann ’97, Megan L. ’99 & Katelyn M. ’04.
Barbara Ann “Bobbi” [Setkowsky] Coyle shared “I feel like I am home. Life is a whole big dance. The dance was wonderful. It’s all about the preparation. 50 years and everything came together. Don’t you think that is miraculous?”
She attended the now closed St. Casimir’s School in South Philadelphia, taught by the Lithuanian nuns.
It was part of the first Lithuanian Catholic Parish ever founded in Philadelphia. Her family moved to the NE and she worked at St. Joseph Nursing home earning $1.00 an hour while she was a VJM student.
She visited and stayed at the Motherhouse at times after graduation. “My friends were the nuns. I was an artist. I helped the nuns. It was a very personal, beautiful relationship. I offer to do artwork for Villa to this day.”
Sister Maggie Bagdonis, S.S.C. was her first grade teacher and she served as a pallbearer at her funeral.
Bobbi attended Philadelphia Merchandising School after graduation and was hired immediately for a summer position in drafting/ engineering working with ink on blueprints. Her sister Carol [Setkowsky ’66] Dangelmaier was a boarder at VJM and she works in blood research. Their father, Joseph Setkowsky worked for the City of Philadelphia in permit issues and their mother, Mary was a homemaker.
Bobbi is a true entrepreneur. She started her own craft business and then a confectionary business and for the last 14 years she owns BSK Liquidators, an estate liquidator business.
“If you work hard, you will succeed!” She helps people who are poor and people who need furniture.
“Every morning I do the best I can for God.”
She felt that everyone in her class was unique and that they brought their different expertise to the Reunion. “Mary Ann is such a great coordinator!”
Jacqueline Ann “Jackie” [Gsell] Sinibaldi grew up in Philadelphia, a member of St. Jerome Parish.
Jackie was bussed to school. “It felt like we were on the bus forever into the farmlands and country. Sometimes one of them yelled “dead cow on the road” when we stopped and we all jumped up to check!” She was a member of the bowling team, the athletic club and the art club and she sang in the Choral Belles chorus. Her mother Loretta worked in the Navy yard and her father Jack was a government employee. “My mother wanted me to attend VJM.” Jackie is retired from the Court of Appeals.
“Villa helped prepare me as a young woman to go out in the world and I made such good friendships. We call ourselves “Villa Sisters”. I have such fond memories. Life was just so simple.”
Having their 50th Reunion at Maria hall was most impactful.
“It was wonderful. It was perfect. Everything just worked out. I praise Mary Ann and Mary for all the organizing and legwork.”
Class President Candy C. [Biskis] Juliff , a retired medical technician who’s step- daughter was also Class President Michelle [Juliff’83] Conway, traveled to VJM by bus from the NE. Candy attended the Women’s Medical College & Hospital of PA [WMCP] after graduation upon her father’s suggestion.
Her late parents were insurance salesman Francis Vincent and Bertha Eleanor [Connell] who was a secretary. “I had a fabulous time at the Reunion. I was so nice walking through the halls looking for our lockers. It was just so fun! It’s the laughter, the proms, the friends that you make. I wouldn’t change a thing!”
Madeline Frances “Mother Mattie” Ward is a Deputy Clerk. She was Secretary to the Honorable Norma Sondra Levy Shapiro [July 27, 1928 – July 22, 2016], a US federal judge, a pioneering jurist in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The alumnae surrounded the computer, each taking an opportunity to chat with their beloved classmate, Sister Margaret Zalot who was unable to make the trip from Chicago for the event.
Sister Margaret requested that that they all sing their school song!
“Down through the years
You'll find us cheering rallying to your call”
Additional Reunion squad included Teresa “Terri” Veronica [Poole ] Androutsos and Elizabeth Farrell Beth” [Glynn] Ulanowski who invested many hours to make this event most meaningful. Beth’s sister Maura Josephine [Glynn ‘77] Moore and her daughter Alyssa Marie Garnich ’02, and their sister Margaret Rose “Meg” [Glynn ‘69] Baun are VJM alumnae.
Kathy Kupka ’67, proprietor of Kathy Kupka Photography in VA, prepared an emotionally enthusiastic 10- minute memory program titled “Our Days at Villa” using pictures procured from her Class.
An alumnae’s family restaurant, ‘Christine’s in Yardley’ expertly catered the event with exceptional gourmet food prepared with a continental flair, original creations by her husband Chef James Armetta.
Christine [Heys ‘84] Armetta’s daughter, Jacqueline will graduate in 2019.
So, it really DOES take a VILLA. Once a JEM…. ALWAYS a JEM!
The Class of 1967 ~ forever friends, bound by loving experiences.
“For it's Rah! Rah! Rah! for VJM
We pledge our love to you again”
To arrange a tour or to reserve Maria Hall for special occasions, please contact alumna Melissa Amour 215.357.8810 X115 or e-mail email@example.com.
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