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2013 Port Jervis High School Hall of Fame Class

 

Kathryn SimmonsKathryn Simmons

Class of 1938 Posthumous Award
The late Kathryn Simmons was a woman before her time. After graduating from Port Jervis High School, Kathryn earned a nursing degree from St. Catherine’s Hospital School of Nursing in Brooklyn, NY. In 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor, she was one of the patriotic young women who responded to the nation’s call for military nurses. Her service in the Navy Nurse Corps included a tour of duty at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Years later, the World War II veteran was one the first women in the country, and the state of New York, allowed to become a member of in a VFW post. Kathryn went on to be the first, and only female veteran, to ever serve as Captain of the VFW Tri-State Naval Ship in Port Jervis.

When Kathryn came home after the war, she cared for tuberculosis patients at the former Otisville Sanatorium. Later, she worked as an operating room and obstetrics nurse at the former St. Francis Hospital in Port Jervis. At this time, her adventurous spirit also led her to take flight lessons at the then Matamoras Airport. It was here that she met her future husband, the late David Simmons, Jr. They married in 1947 and spent the rest of their lives in Port Jervis, raising their four sons and working for the betterment of the community.

They were both instrumental in the formation of the Port Jervis Little League and Pop Warner League. An avid volunteer, Kathryn also served as a den leader, PTA president, and as a member of the Catholic Daughters of America and Congressman Benjamin Gilman’s service academy appointment committee. Additionally, she was actively involved with education, serving as the president of the Port Jervis School District Board of Education and vice president of the Orange-Ulster BOCES Board. During her 15 years on the two boards, she worked tirelessly on behalf of special needs children. BOCES honored Kathryn for her contributions by naming a section of the special education building in her honor. After her death, the Tri-States Naval Ship VFW established a scholarship at Port Jervis High School in her name.

The Simmons’ sons and many of their grandchildren children are graduates of the Port Jervis School District.

 

Richard RobertsRichard Roberts

Class of 1966
Former district administrator and Orange County legislator Richard Roberts has dedicated his life to serving the people of Port Jervis. Prior to his retirement in 2005, Roberts spent his entire professional career in the Port Jervis School District where he served - first as a teacher at both Port Jervis High School and Middle School, then as the High School dean of students, summer school principal, Middle School principal and assistant superintendent for instruction. After he retired, Roberts continued to serve the district as a member of the Board of Education. In 2006, Roberts received the Mid-Hudson School Study Council Award for Excellence in Administration for the indelible mark he has left on the schools.

A committed public servant, Roberts served the City of Port Jervis as a councilman, councilman-at-large and mayor. He also served with distinction as Orange County Legislator for eight years. Additionally, he has held leadership positions in numerous local organizations to include the Tri-States Chamber of Commerce Board, Port Jervis Free Library Board of Trustees, Laurel Grove Cemetery Association Board of Directors, Port Jervis Fire Department, the Orange County Planning Federation and Kiwanis.

Roberts also worked tirelessly as the City Historian and longest-serving member of the Minisink Valley Historical Society to preserve the history of his beloved home town. This led him to lead two of the City’s largest celebrations – the Diamond Jubilee in 1982, which he co-chaired with Irene Hoppey, and the Centennial in 2007. In addition to organizing both year-long celebrations, Roberts updated the City’s history and designed a new Port Jervis flag for the Centennial.

He is currently a licensed realtor in Port Jervis and remains active in numerous organizations. He and his wife, Michele, have two grown children and four granddaughters.

 

Judge Robert OnofryJudge Robert Onofry

Class of 1967
Surrogate Judge and Acting Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Onofry is the first ever Port Jervis resident to be elected to a county-wide judicial office.

Onofry practiced law in Port Jervis for three decades. After graduating with honors from the New England School of Law, he became an associate with the law firm of former Congressman Benjamin Gilman, until 1976 he returned to his hometown to accept an associate attorney position with the firm of Cuddeback, Cuddeback & Wells, the oldest continuous family law practice in New York State. Two years later, he became a partner and the firm name was changed to Cuddeback, Cuddeback & Onofry. He continued to practice law in Port Jervis for the next 30 years, expanding the practice base to include probate, estate planning, real estate, contract, corporate, municipal and trial work.

Onofry also worked for the betterment of his community, serving on the Board of Directors of the former Mercy Community Hospital, the Biondo Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan Counties. The former Rotary president, provided 25 years of service to the Port Jervis School District as a Board member, past president and school attorney. One of his greatest legacies is the educational endowment funds, totaling $1.5 million, he established to provide academic scholarships for Port Jervis graduating seniors. Onofry is also responsible for acquiring, as a pro bono legal counsel for the Port Jervis Little League, the 5.7 acre parcel in West End which now serves as the home of the Port Jervis Little League.

In 1996, Onofry embarked on his judicial career and was elected Port Jervis City Court Judge where he established the first Drug Court. Twelve years later, Onofry was elected to a 10-year term as Orange County Surrogate Judge, becoming the first ever Port Jervis resident to be elected to a county-wide judicial office. The following year, he was appointed Acting Supreme Court Justice for the Ninth Judicial District, judicial district encompassing five counties. He currently serves in the dual capacity of Surrogate Judge and Acting Supreme Court Justice, where he presides over all Surrogate, probate, guardianship cases and civil jury trials in Orange County.

Onofry has received extensive recognition for his judicial writings, to include published opinions in the areas of products liability, negligence, fee arbitration, municipal and contractual arbitration. He also regularly serves as a guest lecturer and panelist for continuing legal education seminars for the New York Bar Association and the National Business Institute. He has also been a member of numerous professional organizations including the New York State City Court Judges Association, The Orange County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association.

He and his wife Linda continue to reside in Port Jervis. They have four children and five grandchildren all of whom have proudly attended, or are currently attending, the Port Jervis School District.


Kevin BirminghamKevin Birmingham

Class of 1971
One of the District’s most beloved educators, Kevin Birmingham was voted favorite male teacher for over two decades by the graduating classes at Port Jervis High School. Prior to his retirement in 2010, he served as the chairperson of the Social Studies Department.

Birmingham, who graduated fourth in his class, entered the field of education after earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree from SUNY Cortland. Following in the footsteps of his mother, Tillie (Franzen) Birmingham, ’30, who taught in the district for 40 years, he returned to his alma mater to teach social studies. During his 30 year tenure, he did much to advance secondary education in Port Jervis. In addition to coordinating the Practical Business Education Program with Kolmar Labs, he initiated and coached the highly-successful interscholastic Mock Trial Team where students participate in simulated trials to learn about the legal system.

Additionally, Birmingham, who holds an adjunct professor’s certification from Syracuse University, taught and helped expand the Syracuse University Project advanced psychology course, providing over 1,200 Port Jervis students with the chance to earn college credits.

He also served as a member of the District Leadership Team and represented the district on the BOCES Instructional Council for 15 years. During his distinguished education career, Birmingham, who also holds a master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, has authored or co-authored numerous academic plans. These include the District’s Excellence and Accountability Program Plan and the original Plan for Participation, and New York State’s Economics and Participation in Government Activities Curricula, an award-winning model for school and business collaboration for the Wall Street Journal.

He and his wife Linda have two daughters, both of whom graduated from Port Jervis High School at the top of their classes. They reside in Sparrow Bush.

 

John BellJohn Bell

Class of 1985
Delaware Valley School District superintendent and former Port Jervis assistant superintendent John Bell is well respected and greatly admired on both sides of
 the Delaware River.

That popularity was evident this summer by the large contingent of supporters from both school districts who traveled to Williamsport, PA, to watch him umpire the 2013 Little League World Series. Bell, who was selected for the honor from thousands of umpires, has been officiating since 1986 with his dad and fellow Port Jervis Hall of Famer, Frank Bell, who served as the long-time president of the Port Jervis Little League, which his grandfather helped found.

This has been a banner two years for Bell, who was appointed last June to serve as superintendent of one of the area’s largest and top ranked school districts. Delaware Valley School District, which has over 5,000 students, offers prekindergarten classes, block program honors courses, and over 20 Advanced Placement classes. Bell, who was selected for the position after a nationwide search, has a proven track record for building high performing schools. This year, under his leadership, Delaware Valley High School qualified as one of America's Best High Schools by US News & World Report and named one of Americas Most Challenging Schools by the Washington Post.

One reason why Bell has been able to accomplish much in a short time is he knows the community well. In addition to residing in the district with his wife, Lynne and two school-age sons, Bell previously served on staff as the assistant principal and principal of the Middle School for five years. He went on from Delaware Valley to Minisink Valley where he was quickly promoted from middle school principal to assistant superintendent for instruction.

In 2006, Bell returned to Port Jervis where he served with distinction as the assistant superintendent for instruction for six years. Under his leadership, academic achievement increased by 20 percent and student were given unprecedented access to technology. He was also responsible for establishing the Alumni Hall of Fame and helping to found the Port Jervis Educational Foundation.

Throughout Bell's career, he has always been actively involved in his beloved hometown. In addition to volunteering with the Little League, Bell serves as a member of the Bon Secours Community Hospital Foundation Board. Professionally, he was a member of the New York State Council of School Superintendents and served for two years as president of the New York State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

Evan MackEvan Mack

Class of 1999
An international pianist, performing solo artist and composer, Evan Mack has toured all over the United States, Barcelona, and South Africa with special performances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Mack’s career was launched in Cincinnati while he was completing his master’s and doctorate of musical arts from the world-renowned College of Conservatory of Music. During this time, his choral suite, Langston Hughes’ Dream of Freedom, premiered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This work was later published worldwide by Hal Leonard. In Cincinnati, Mack also composed Angel of the Amazon, which premiered in May 2011 by Encompass New Opera Theatre at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City. The opera continued a run as the Main Stage Award Winner with the Boston Metro Opera. The original cast recording was released worldwide by Albany Records.

Since Angel of the Amazon, Mack has received numerous premieres and commissions. The Charleston Ballet has given multiple performances of his ballet, Pinocchio. His two-piano work, American Groove, is being performed all over the world by the Westhuizen Duo. A new choral work, Of Fire and Form, is slated for publication. His new opera, The Secret of Luca, is being performed across the United States with great acclaim.

His newest opera is an adaptation of the best-selling novel, Roscoe, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy. A workshop of the opera is already slated for summer 2014 by Opera Saratoga.

Mack is currently on the faculty of Skidmore College and lives in Albany, NY, with his wife Kristin and their two sons, Carter and Henry.

Mack will be performing a concert of his music at Bethel Woods on Sunday, October 20. The performance will include the Port Jervis High School Choir, which will perform Mack’s composition Langston Hughes’s Dream of Freedom. The event is free and open to the public. Reservations can be made through Education@BethelWoodsCenter.org.