What inspired you while attending Shamokin Area High School? Was it a teacher, fellow student or an event? We all have many worthwhile experiences to share. If you would like to share your thoughts to inspire others, feel free to send information to John Clutcher. Your note could be placed on the alumni website, put in a future newsletter or shared at our annual banquet. Limit your entry to around 250 words. The Alumni Association reserves the right to edit entries based upon content and length. Include your name and year of graduation, which would be shared publically with the entry.
John Clutcher '74
Donald J. Fegley '64
I need to tell this story to the world and all who knew or ever came in contact with Phyllis Bressler. Sixty four years ago, when I was only eight years old, I met her for the first time. She made weekly or monthly visits to Lincoln School to introduce our classes to music, teaching us scales and simple songs. The class really looked forward to the days she would visit, because she made it so much fun. She had me hooked all the way back then. I was a poor coal miner’s kid who had dreams of playing trumpet like Louis Armstrong, but we couldn’t afford to buy a trumpet. Somehow Phyllis came up with the idea to try a “mello-phone” which has the same fingering pattern as a trumpet and was available through the school system. I played that thing for two years while my family saved up enough money to buy a used trumpet on a rent to own basis. Right then I knew this “lady” was an angel to me. I went on to become proficient and played in bands through grade school and high school, where she taught music classes and high school choruses. I’m STILL playing today!! She also produced and directed our high school musicals, known back then as “operettas”.
That’s where Phyllis became the most important influence in my life. I had decent grades in my classes, except for geometry (failed twice because I wouldn’t do the homework), and I seriously considered dropping out as I entered my junior year. It just wasn’t fun anymore! Again this angel sent by GOD stepped back into my life and saved me by giving me the greatest challenge of my abilities that I ever had. She was doing auditions for the show “Li’l Abner” and one day she took me aside and told me to audition. Not to be Li’l Abner which everyone thought was the lead role, but to try for “Marryin’ SAM, which was the largest, most musical role in the play. Somehow I got the part!!! Now for the challenge of memorizing all those lines and singing all those songs to get ready. She was there to help all of us and even arranged for a local voice teacher for me. If things got tough, she was ALWAYS available to help. She taught me to keep going even if you miss a line, just don’t stop. During a duet with “Daisy Mae” I lost a few words to the song and Daisy was flabbergasted but I just told her to keep going. Nobody knew that I made up new words to a line in that song. Phyllis just smiled!! That show was a big success and school was fun again, so I stayed.
The next year (senior) year, she did it again…told me to audition for the part of “Albert” and not the assumed lead of “Birdie” in “Bye Bye Birdie”. Again the largest and most challenging role in the play, with the most dialog and the most songs. Again, she managed to herd the cats and the play was a hit. What a great boost to my self-confidence…I could do anything now, if I set my mind to it.
I couldn’t afford college, so I enlisted in the Air Force. I never forgot the things that Phyllis (my Angel) did for me. She gave me self-confidence that I was able to carry with me for the rest of my 31 year military career. I finished undergrad education, dental school, general practice residency and a four year Oral & maxillofacial surgery residency. All of this because I did not quit in my high school junior year thanks to Phyllis.
This past June I was home for our fifty-fourth high school reunion and after all these years, I finally was able to locate her and say thank you to Phyllis for being the most profound influence on my life. It was the greatest feeling I’ve had in a long, long time to hug her and tell her how wonderful she is.
Phyllis is now one of GOD’s ANGELS…I believe she was just waiting for me to come and thank her before making her trip to Heaven.
RIP Phyllis Bressler…THANK YOU!!!
Dr. Donald J. Fegley, DDS OMFS
LtCol., USAF Retired
Dolores A. Fenix Sapienza ‘51
INSPIRATION came to me while attending Shamokin High School (1947-1951). MY life would not have been the same without the intellectual push I received at S. H. S. sixty-six years ago.
My closest friend (who shall remain unnamed) was 5th Honor Student academically in our graduating class. Only 1st to 5th were listed in the Commencement program. Acknowledged as 8th in my class, I was “out in the cold.”
However, I was noted in the program for my role as Editor-in-Chief of The High-Lighter, the student newspaper.
Incidentally, the publication was printed in Kulpmont, PA. Around publication time, I could skip classes, legally. (That, too, was inspirational to a young senior student.)
But real inspiration came when I was accepted as a Journalism/Sociology major at Syracuse University, class of 1955. It was a way to show off my Journalism chops.
Even more inspiring was my first job as a star-struck journalist at The Lancaster News. On The New Era, the afternoon paper, was the prize-winning reporter, Jerry Sapienza. I married him in 1958, the real inspiration of my life.
I credit S. H. S., the faculty, and The High-Lighter for influencing my intellect and emotions.
The late Jerry Sapienza became Press Secretary to Delaware Governor Russell W. Peterson. His wife, Dolores Fenix Sapienza—me—completed her Master’s degree in 1977 in Community Education at Indiana University of PA and Doctoral Studies (CAGS) at Virginia Tech. I retired from Delaware State University in 1996 as Vice President of Continuing Education.
Lastly, after eight years as Innkeeper of the Old (1832) Farm House Bed and Breakfast (Rehoboth Beach, DE), I live on Rehoboth Bay with my 15-year-old, blind and deaf Shih Tzu/Poodle, “Fu Man Chu.”
I have four adult children, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Thomas Donohue ‘51
I opted for the vocational courses (Electric Shop) in high school. My teacher, Stephen G. Kwartek, was a life altering person for me. In 1950, he suggested I contact IBM for machine information so I could read up on their equipment and possibly gain employment after high school. He gave me their address, 590 Madison Ave., NYC. Who ever heard of IBM in Shamokin back then?
I hand wrote a note on 5"x9" piece of paper and mailed it in. Soon after, I received a letter stating that I had a draft commitment to the military and to contact IBM when that was satisfied. In 1957, after 4 years in the Navy, I wrote to them. I was asked to go to Philadelphia for an interview, all expenses paid. WOW. I was living in Lakehurst, NJ - 50 miles away.
I went there, had an interview and was given a 150 question timed test. I aced it, 149 out of 150 correct. I was offered a job @ $82.50 per week. I asked why not $80 or $85 and was told IBM had a 4 1/2 week month so this was $350 per month. WOW, at that time.
I retired 34 years later, 25 years ago. As you can see, Steve Kwartek was a life altering person in my case.
04/10/2016Frank Pincoski '68The event that inspired me most was when Coal Township High merged with Shamokin High. I can remember singing our alma mater for the last time, and being a “Purple Demon” and then becoming a Shamokin Area High School “Indian". This transition helped inspire me to accept change, grow, and achieve in a new environment. While all the teachers at that time were good, I particularly enjoyed my Biology teacher, Mrs. Nancy Walker. She knew how to bring out the best in her students, while thoroughly enjoying what she did. While biology seemed easy to me, it definitely was hard work. That showed me, however, that if you’re willing to work, persevere and do your best, you will be rewarded. Thank you Mrs. Walker for not only teaching us, but for helping shape us into who we are today.
Bruce B. Clutcher ‘72
My tribute goes to retired HS band director and teacher, Larry Cooper. Mr. Cooper left behind a legacy of more than a thousand kids (now adults) with musical appreciation, developing life skills as a result of what he taught through band. It has been 40+ years since I stepped off the goal line playing Them Basses and Man of La Mancha but I remember it like yesterday. I still grind my teeth at night to our 1972 parade cadence. I tell the story to my three children (who all played in the HS band) how Mr. Cooper forced us into perfecting the half-time routine by whistling and making us go back to the beginning of the drill each time he saw one of us make a single mistake – oh, how sick we were of the first few measures! :-) My kids and wife are tired of me reliving the human staircase drill we did to the Patton Theme song, having the blind gun throw to the gun captain on top of the stairs. My high school highlight was winning the Ephrata Competition in 1970 – I never felt so proud standing on the field having our drum majors return to our formation with the trophy. Mr. Donlan (High School Orchestra), Mr. Franceschini (Jr High Band), Miss Bressler (chorus/musicals) also help develop life skills through music, to which I am thankful.