On July 13, Donora will host an All-Class Reunion, inviting anyone who graduated from Donora, Monongahela, Ringgold, and Mon Valley Catholic high schools to be in attendance.
The event is two-fold: first, city counsel gave permission to block off McKean Avenue for an afternoon street party which is to run from noon until 6 p.m. Event organizer Larry Price said, “Mon Valley Catholic standout Andre Smith is our D.J. at the block party. There’s also going to be a car show and some activities for kids.”
Those preparing for the event say the streets of Donora will be buzzing. Jim Brice, one of the event’s coordinators, said, “I think we have probably got about 25 vendors — food trucks and all that. The best part is it’s all free. You just walk down the street, see old friends, and go on to the next one. It all came together.”
The second part of the day-long event will run from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m., when the venue for the festivities shifts to the Donora’s borough building located at 603 Meldon Avenue. Entertainment will be provided, including Valerie (Lawson) Griffey who will perform, singing with the band, Universal Love. Price added, “We also have D.J. Nik Nice.” However, the tables for that event sold out rapidly, all of them gone by January.
Brice said, “That was 10 people to a table and we have 30 tables sold out. We are getting such a huge turnout, you would not believe it, going back to graduates from 1945 like (former Donora High School and Pitt University great) Bimbo Cecconi.”
Both Brice and Price expect many big name local sports legends will be on hand. That includes major league baseball star, Donora’s Ken Griffey Sr., Ulice Payne, Yogi Jones, and Scott Zolak.
Griffey hit .296 over a sterling career which spanned 1973 through 1991 and he was a vital cog in the Big Red Machine which won the 1975 World Series and repeated the following season.
Donora native Payne was a Ringgold basketball great who played on Marquette’s 1976-1977 NCAA championship squad under Coach Al McGuire. As a Ram, he helped his team to a third-place finish in the state tournament and he was named captain of the Pennsylvania All-Star squad for the 1973 Pittsburgh Roundball Classic.
Yogi Jones, also of Donora, was a scholastic All-American who played in the Big 33 game and was on the All-State squad. He also was named a high school All-American, and later became a star and co-captain at Pitt. He went on to become a standout football coach, most recently as the defensive coordinator with Bethune-Cookman.
Zolak is a former Ringgold Rams, University of Maryland, New England Patriots, and Miami Dolphins quarterback. He once was Dan Marino’s backup. In his senior year with Maryland he was invited to play in the Blue-Gray game in Alabama where he captured the MVP trophy for his fine performance, going 15-of-25 for 254 yards in the passing department. Over his NFL career, Zolak connected on 50% of his passes.
In addition, Donora High School graduate Reggie Walton, now a federal judge who presided over a 2011 spotlight perjury trial involving baseball star Roger Clemens, has indicated he will attend.
Furthermore, at least several local coaching greats will be in attendance. That includes Donora/Ringgold basketball coaching legend Fran LaMendola who, among other things, won 265 gams over 20 seasons and guided his Dragons to the WPIAL championship game with his 1967-1968 squad which featured Bernie Galiffa, Malcom Lomax, and Griffey. His Rams won the WPIAL championship in 1973.
“We also have the ’95 Ringgold basketball state champions,” said Brice, ”and as many people as we can from last year’s Ringgold baseball state champs.” Yet another standout team expected to be well represented is the Ringgold basketball team which nearly won the state championship behind Payne, Scott Nedrow, Mel Boyd, Mike Brantley, and Joe Montana. Brice said he spoke with Montana. “He said he would love to make it happen, but he’s got a busy schedule.”
Brice added that Butch Lignelli is coming from Baltimore in order “to see people he hasn’t seen in 55 years. Donnie Miller is coming from Arizona, and Brantley lives in Chicago, and he’s coming.”
The event will draw graduates from all walks of life. “It’s not all sports,” said Brice. “It’s everybody.” At one point Price indicated he was hoping to get a crowd of about 2,000 people, but as early as February Brice said, “I think he’s beyond that right now.”
The Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum will have special, extended hours that day, running from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and will host a book signing by a Donora author.
Among others working on the planning of the event are Tom Thompson, Joe Ravasio, Carl Crawley, Chuck Smith, Brian Lawson, and Earl Gilpin.