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Manchester High School
437 West Nimisila Road
Akron, OH 44319
(330) 882-3291

  Class of '79 Newsletter

Vol. 9 -- April 2006

Class of '79 Newsletters are written & edited independently by MHS '79 grads, with no implied endorsement from Manchester Local Schools.

Remembering Jerry Gradisher. April 3, 1961 - January 13, 2006

Jerry was a member of the MHS Class of '79, before moving to San Diego in 1978 after the death of his mother. He later earned a Biology degree from the Univ. of California, and became a very successful mortgage broker and realtor. Jerry traveled the furthest (from CA) to attend our 10-Yr. class reunion in 1989, and was excited when we tracked him down again last year to offer our class newsletters. At that time, he wrote that he lived in a small San Diego community called Elfin Forest with his wife, 13-year-old daughter, five horses and a dog, adding: "Thanks for all the work you do to keep this group together."

Three months ago, a 27-year-old man driving an SUV very slowly (looking for an address) turned in front of Jerry, who was on his motorcycle and unable to avoid a fatal collision. His obituary said "Jerry was a delightful man who loved life and lived life on his own terms. An avid scuba diver, skier, mountain biker, bike polo player, dual sport motorcycle rider and Geocacher, Jerry was an eternal optimist and took great joy in fatherhood. His love of nature led him to one of his greatest achievements, helping the Escondido Creek Conservancy purchase & save hundreds of acres of pristine open space in Elfin Forest." He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and daughter Danielle (pictured below).

Jerry made a lot of friends, including one who was moved to write a song about him after his passing. You can hear it by Googling "Jerry Gradisher." It's the 4th or 5th item listed. A sports-race also issued a commemorative medallion in his honor, which has raised hundreds of dollars on ebay. Here in Manchester, some fondly recall Jerry as the class "bookie" who won a slew of bets during the Browns' 4-10 season in '75. After we came across Jerry's brokerage website last year, John Dillon noted that his old friend "hasn't lost his ability to 'spin' info (ha ha). I remember that Jerry always had an 'entrepreneurial' mind, as he used to gouge the rest of us, selling bubble gum for 10x the cost in middle school. His 7th grade profits probably funded that mortgage company." Yes, the guy always knew how to make a buck. His website included this teaser: "If you have an interesting request, give me a try. I am a deal maker." Jerry was one-of-a-kind, and will truly be missed.

Upcoming Class of ’79 After-Work Dinner / Social at PANCHO’S
Mon., May 1st at 6:30pm

* Who: MHS Class of ’ 79 friends…Come swap some memories.

* What: Casual dinner or appetizers / socializing (No fee…just buy your own food/drinks)

* Where: Pancho’s Southwest Grille in Green / 4325 Massillon Rd. (our own private dining room)

* When: In less than 2 weeks! Mon., May 1st at 6:30pm

EASY TO FIND : Exit off I-77 at Massillon Rd. (Rt. 241…this is only a mile south of the Arlington Rd. exit. Head south for 1 . 5 miles.

LOOKING AHEAD: Next scheduled Quarterly dinner would be Mon., August 7, 2006 (Resturant to be determined)

Where Are They Now ? ? ?

Chris Rogers / Rita Floreani / Mr. (Tom) Redding

Catching up with: CHRIS ROGERS
Commercial Banking Exec in Los Angeles

Few would argue that Chris was one of the nicest guys in the Class of '79. He's currently single (divorced), and moved to L.A. last year after his mom passed away. (Mrs. Rogers was a longtime secretary in the Manchester school system.) "I hadn't been home to Ohio in nearly 20 years until last spring," Chris says. "I'd forgotten how pretty it was and how kind all of the people are. There's a marvelous sense of community there." Here are some of his memories from school, and a brief recap of what he's been up to during the last couple decades:

Cities Where He's Lived: Atlanta (twice), Los Angeles (twice), New York

Education after MHS: B.S. from The University of Akron

Occupation: Commercial Banking

Previous Occupations: I thought that I would try banking for a year, about 22 years ago.

Hobbies: Trap and Skeet shooting. Quail hunting and fly-fishing. I like to race sports cars and motorcycles, and I enjoy playing squash.

Interesting Travels: Central America (Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador), Mexico; I've traveled most of the U.S.

Interesting Things That I Have Done: Raced in the Baja 1000, Skydiving, Counselor at a camp for children with cancer, breakfast with Colin Powell, playing catch with 49ers QB Steve Young

Sports Chris played at MHS: Football 4 years, and Track 2 years

Clubs in School: I enjoyed the Ski Club

Favorite High School Memories: Football, Study Halls (always fun)

Least Favorite Memory from High School: I can't think of any. Manchester was a great place to grow up.

Favorite Teachers: Mr. Armenti -- He made geometry interesting and you always had to be prepared for his class; a good lesson for life. Mr. Biss -- the coolest teacher. Mr. Redding -- the only reason to run track. Miss Horvatich -- the kindest teacher that I ever had.

Favorite Class: Anything with Math

Favorite Music Group or CD: Michael Buble, favorite track "Home"

The last good book I read: "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman

The last good movie: "Finding Neverland"

Chris hasn't attended any of our class reunions yet, but we're confident he'll be at the 30-Year. You can drop him a note, if you like, at

Catching up with: RITA (FLOREANI) Schwartz
"Sports mom" cuts it close in Canal Fulton

Rita married Dan Schwartz (MHS '78) in 1987, and they have a daughter, Danielle, 17, and a son, Dane, 13. They moved from Potage Lakes to Canal Fulton 16 years ago, and enjoy raising their family in the historic village. "Our children attended St. Phillip and James School, and that's also where we attend church," Rita says. "Our daughter went to Canton Central Catholic for her freshman & sophomore years and then decided to switch to Northwest to finish out her high school career. She plays softball there and is now enjoying school a lot more."

After Manchester: Rita "attended Akron U for 1 years for graphic design, then chose barber college and practiced barbering for 2 years. Later I went to beauty college and have now been cutting hair since 1981!"

Dan's occupation: My husband took over the family business, Floreani Concrete, and has been running it for 14 years.

Kids activities: Our daughter has been in just about every sport possible, but narrowed it down to just one sport: softball. Our son enjoys all the typical guy-things, such as skate boarding, dirt-bike riding, etc., and is on the Boys of Summer traveling baseball team.

Hobbies / Pastimes: "Our summers are obviously consumed with sports," said Rita. "There isn't a lot of free time, but life is beginning to slow down a bit, with the children getting older and driving. Which means I've been able to think about how fast time has gone by. High school is such a memorable time of your life, and it's fun to see my daughter going through all those experiences now - although it seems just like yesterday for me!"

Travel highlights: Our best vacation for me, so far, was this year when we took our family to Hawaii. There are so many beautiful sight and fun activities there. And it was whale season, so we were fortunate to spot some whales.and that was amazing! Most of our activities involve our children.

High School memories: My best memories are of all the great times spent with friends in school, especially on the weekends! My least favorite was when my car was wrecked at a graduation party we had at State Park.

Favorite Teachers: The only teacher that stands out in my mind is Mr. Biss. I actually enjoyed learning in his class (biology).

Favorite music: I remember listening a lot to of Journey, Stevie Nicks and Foreigner, and concerts were a lot of fun.

Good books: Not much time for reading, but a favorite author of mine would be Nora Roberts (romance / mystery).

"Dan and I have attended the 5 and 10 year class reunions and enjoyed seeing everyone. I regret missing the last two (20 & 25), but I'm sure we all look the same!!! I do see some classmates at work, and it's a lot of fun talking with them." You can say hi to Rita at

Former Faculty Focus: MR. TOM REDDING
Now Nearing Retirement at Ellet High School

Two of our former MHS English teachers, Mr. Tom Redding and Mrs. Karen Tabor, now have classrooms side-by-side at Ellet. Mr. Redding quickly replied to our questionnaire and we're hopeful that Mrs. Tabor (a favorite of many) will follow suit for our next issue.Here are a few thoughts from Mr. Redding:

Teaching Career: I've taught English exclusively for 33 years, and have two years til retirement. Taught at Manchester for only two years, leaving after the Class of '77 graduated.

Coaching Career: Coached cross-country and track at Manchester, and Gene Schindewolf was my assistant track coach. After MHS, I coached at Akron East and Akron Garfield; then in 1987, a year after I moved to Ellet, I switched to officiating and ran the track meets at Ellet for 17 years. (Big E, George Auten, Orange Bowl and the City Series Track and Cross Country Championships --- over 75 major meets)

His family includes: My wife, who many of the track and cross-country athletes got to know when I taught at MHS; and our two daughters, both in college.

Travel highlights: I've been to Europe three times as a teacher leader of student tours, but prefer the beach to anything else.

Post-Retirement Plans: If I do choose to work after 2008, it will either be with guitars or motorcycles.

Any favorite memories from Manchester? I have lots of great memories because there were lots of great kids, who obviously are now great adults. I could name about ten specifically, but that would be unfair to the others. Let's just say that if you give me a hint I'm sure I can remember all of you. Several Manchester grads have been my neighbors, parents of my children's friends, and members of my church. One even taught at Ellet.

Wild Rides: If anyone remembers it, I still have my Porsche; it shares my garage with a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.

Teaching colleagues from Manchester you really enjoyed? Mrs. Tabor, Mrs. Stroll (who is now a counselor at Hyre Jr. High), Mr. Schindewolf, Mrs.Hurt, Mr. France, Mr. Robinson, the late Mr. Conley

'79 MEDICAL UPDATE: Many of you are aware that classmate Eric Hendrickson is battling a brain tumor. Please remember to keep him in prayer as he undergoes several months of chemo treatments. To help pass the time during his hospital stays, Eric is also working on a profile for our next newsletter.

Recognize These Former Classmates?
(Google.what an interesting photo resource)

John Kozy (left) graduated early, with the class of ' we'll claim another doctor. He's a Chiropractic specialist in Vancouver, Washington. And Kathy Rubano (right), who moved after our sophomore year, is a medical administrator in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Manchester Schools Celebrate 70-Year Milestone

Ever think about the roots of Manchester's school system? It all began seven decades ago in 1936. The original High School on Manchester Road housed ALL grades, and class sizes were pretty small, so everyone pretty much knew each other. The first senior class graduated in '44 with 16 boys and 15 girls, and Gilbert T. Nolley served as both Principal ('36-'50) and Superintendent ('36-68). Read more about the "Old School Alumni" at

'79 Bank Robbery Victim: The Chilling Epilogue

Back in October, we told you how classmate Barb (Carmichael) Wilson was robbed at gunpoint while working in a Manchester bank. Three months later, in a highly publicized incident, a woman called police when she saw a man with binoculars watching a bank on Massillon Rd. Cops chased the suspect into some woods, where he dropped a loaded .45 that's still missing. The robber, Robert Peterson, later confessed to a string of bank robberies (including the Manchester bank), and police discovered a huge cache of disguises and weapons he'd used during his spree. The shocker? Only days before his arrest, he came BACK to Barb's bank early in the morning disguised as a State Highway Patrolman. He tried to convince the only worker inside (a woman, at the time) that a silent alarm had gone off, and he needed to come in and investigate. She alertly noticed something amiss, and refused to unlock the doors. For Peterson.greed and stupidity should mean decades in prison.

Mike Workman's Record is "IN THE VAULT"

Some records will never be broken.and it looks like a fete by '79 classmate Mike Workman belongs in that group. During our senior year, Mike set a school-record with a 14-foot pole vault in a track & field meet. Now we've learned that Manchester (and several other schools) no longer participate in the pole vault event, due to insurance costs.

Speaking of Track, current MHS senior Lauren Whitehill just became first Panther female to earn a Division 1-A scholarship in the spring sport. Lauren will be an Akron Lady Zip this fall.

"American Inventor?" Bob Kolar's new product may sell nationally

'79 classmate Bob Kolar is an enterprising guy. He owns a plastics firm locally, and has perfected the prototype for an elegant firemen's memorial plaque - which could one day be seen in cemeteries across the country. Similar plaques are now produced from bronze or cast aluminum, and displayed at gravesites of former heroes, such as firemen, policemen, veterans, etc. But they're often stolen for their metal-value. Bob's look-alike invention is made from injection-molded plastic, with a hot-stamping finish, and costs less than half the price to manufacture. He's already had a lot of interest, and the potential is unlimited.

On another note . . . she's no Dick Cheney (yet), but Bob's 11-year-old daughter, Samantha, went hunting with her dad a few months ago and shot a huge buck [male deer, for non-hunters] with her 4-10 shotgun. Although the shot hit its target, they tracked the deer for quite a distance and weren't able to find him.

AKRON ZIPS Sports Renaissance Traced to Class of '79

College alma mater for many of us
After struggling for respect in Division 1-A for nearly two decades, The University of Akron is now the envy of many peers. Several Zips teams have achieved national prominence, including soccer, track, basketball and football-with a Motor City Bowl appearance in Dec. Ironically, the father of one of our '79 classmates ("Mr. X") deserves a lot of credit for nudging the sports programs in the right direction. A few years ago, he was in a high-level meeting at UA where administrators were budgeting millions of dollars for new building construction. Mr. X said, "Wait a're spending $200-million, and haven't allotted a single penny for athletics," which, of course, can enhance a school's national identity. He told the UA execs that he would lay down the first $50,000 if they'd do a feasibility study for a new on-campus indoor track & football practice field. "When they took my check, I new we were on our way," he recalled recently. Last year UA opened its new Track & Football Fieldhouse, lauded as "pro quality" by members of the Denver Broncos, and one of the finest college facilities in the nation. "It was supposed to cost $18-million at first," our friend's dad told us, when we asked, "but, of course, they nearly doubled that." The result: Akron is now recruiting top-flight athletes they never could have gotten prior to the new state-of-the-art facilities. Last month, the Big East Conference even held their track & field tournament in UA's Fieldhouse, because none of their schools have anything comparable (including Syracuse).

Our Deepest Sympathies

  • Marc Bayless lost his father, Bill, in late March. Many in the area knew Mr. Bayless, who owned and operated Manchester Body for 45 years, and also employed '79 classmate Jerry Jenkins. (We were surprised to learn that Marc actually left Manchester after 8th grade and finished at Northwest)
  • Dave Stevens lost his mother three weeks ago.
  • Former Manchester superintendent Lantz Hinson died last month at age 79. He was at the helm only three years, but guided Manchester during its peak enrollment years, 1971 thru 1974, when split-sessions were implemented due to lack of classroom space. He was also there during the state basketball championship year, when our class shared the great "old" middle school for 7th grade.
  • Mrs. Peggy Sees (formerly 'Mrs. McCutchan,' our Middle School math teacher) lost her mother in March, as well. Mrs. Sees retired from teaching a few years ago, but still remembers many from our class-as well as our kids-and asked to receive our newsletters.

1979's "Next Generation" Honored at Manchester Banquets

Last month, several MHS students-with Class of '79 parents-were honored at two prestigious high school banquets. Doug & Rhonda Abrams' son, Scott, was chosen as a Minuteman in the program's 31st year. The award is special, in part, because each teacher can nominate only two students whom they consider school leaders.

Then, at the Academics Awards banquet, students were recognized for maintaining a continuous 3.5 or better GPA. Honorees included Jim & Barb (Carmichael) Wilson's son, Adam; Dave & Cheryl (Vance) Nash's two sons, Aaron and Kevin; Robert Waddington's daughter, Elizabeth; and Larry Burgoon's daughter, Kathryn. Former Cleveland Brown (and current WNIR host) Bob Golic drew raves for his motivational speech. 2006 is the 19th year for this very impressive event, which is set up in the gym with lots of decorations, round tables for each family, great food and awards (including an "Academic" letter "M"), and distinguished guests.Members of the Class of '79 assisted the Alumni Association as servers.

FREE MUSIC From "The Groovy Decade"

Check this out, when you're working online Tanya (Eckroad) Bailey told us about an online site that plays continuous music from the '70s decade, commercial-free. You'll find it at Click on it anytime to re-live some great-and often obscure, like "Life Is A Rock"-70s tunes. They mix it up well, covering each year, and in general you may agree that the best songs of the decade were pre-1976. Some schlock, you'll just have to mute --- as no one ever needs to hear Boogie Fever, Boogie Oogie Oogie, Silly Love Songs, or almost anything with "Dance" in the title.

TWO Hall of Fame Football Coaches now at MHS ? ! ?
McGee selected for 2006 honor

Legendary Garfield High School coach Bill McGee retired from teaching and coaching a few years ago, after amassing a 191-83-4 record in 26 seasons. But then, old friend and coaching colleague Jim France offered him the chance to become a "permanent substitute" at Manchester. Coach McGee is now back in the classroom at MHS for appx. 100 days each school year, and the kids immediately know they're not gonna get a free day or study hall. This year, McGee is one of six inductees into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, an honor Coach France received in 2004.

MORE FUN & FIREWORKS at the Trustees Meeting
And this time, there's a link to '79

It's official: We're bringin' popcorn to the next New Franklin town-meeting. Last month, 20-year-old Eric Hendrickson, Jr. (the son of our classmate, Eric) spoke out against a certain trustee who's been a frequent critic of the New Franklin Police Dept., questioning its operations & expenditures, and campaigning to have the Summit County Sheriff's Office take over law enforcement in the Manchester area.

According to the local press, Eric questioned the councilman's leadership, and presented a packet of information containing numerous copies of police reports related to the official, most of them involving calls about domestic disputes, but some related to alcohol and drugs.

The trustee's pizza biz has a 10-year history of repeated & numerous health code violations, according to the Summit Co. Health Dept., and was once cited for selling alcohol to minors. He's now under investigation for his connection with a Barberton couple charged with voter fraud in the last election. "It's time to take a look at who is running our community and making decisions that impact our life," Eric said.


Hoping for the trifecta: Manchester voters approved a 1.58-mil renewal levy last May, and an 8.5-mil levy in November. So far, so good. The district will be in good shape financially, if another renewal (no tax increase) is passed on May 2nd. Vote for Issue 8.

3 MHS sports websites: Manchester's Wrestling program now has its own impressive website, joining the football and boys basketball teams' unique online destinations. You can visit all of them by clicking on their links at

MHS Military Heroes: The new alumni website has a featured-link that recognizes Manchester grads who've lost their lives while on active-duty. Blaine Miller's older brother, Rusty (class of '66), was killed in Vietnam in 1968, and his fellow Marine's 30-year search for Rusty's parents is an interesting story. []

Mrs. Price "on the road again": Remember our Middle School art teacher? One of our '79 classmates recently sold her an RV, and she was heading out west. She looks pretty much the same as she did three decades ago, he said, and she's still an artist - having sold several paintings. (No, not Elvis on black velvet.)

Familiar Faces reunite: We recently saw several members of the Class of '81, who were attending a reunion session at MHS. Linda Olenick, Jayme Supina, Mark Sipos, Robyn Hill and others were there, and we heard nothing but good things about the high school. It really is amazing how nice it looks after all these years. The annual Fine Arts Festival, held this month, showcased great student artwork throughout the building.

Reunion expertise: The MHS Class of '62 has done something no other Panther class will likely ever match. They've held a reunion every five years since graduation! Next year they'll celebrate their 45-Year event with their eighth class reunion.

Alumni Golf Outing is coming up July 29 --- Class of '79: want to play ?

The Manchester Alumni Assn. is finalizing details for their inaugural GOLF OUTING event on Sat., July 29th at the beautiful Chippewa Golf Club. If you're interested in playing, or have a foursome assembled already, drop a quick note to, and we'll pass everything along to the golf coordinator, Aaron Helms (MHS '99). The cost will be $60 per person, which includes fees, cart, food & prizes; anyone is welcome to golf. There are also dozens of sponsorship opportunities (holes, flags, etc.), if you know someone who might be interested. All proceeds benefit the Alumni Scholarship Fund. Deadline for entry is June 30th, but sign-up early because space is limited.

Got a Memory.Favorite Teacher.or Something to Say? just added a message-board / blog, where you can post anything you like. The first time you click on the blog, take a minute to register..then just enter your password each time you return to add an entry. It's very easy. A '79 grad has posted the first teacher-memory.recalling Mr. McDowell's amusing General Science class with an unusual collection of students. Check it out, and add some thoughts, yourself!

Manchester Grads are Ruling the Media!

A lot of talented writers have exited Manchester High School and are currently employed by major newspapers or professional sports organizations in Ohio. Here are the ones we're aware of:

John Eckberg (MHS '71) is a Business Columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and has also written two books: "Road Dog," the true story of serial-killer Glen Rogers; and "The Success Effect: Uncommon Conversations with America's Business Trailblazers." [He was formerly the managing editor at The Signal, which ceased operations nearly a decade ago.]

Steve King ('74) has written for numerous NE Ohio publications, and is now a staff writer for He is also a frequent radio guest, discussing the Browns on WKNR-850AM. [He was formerly the sports editor at The Suburbanite.]

Mike Norman ('78) is Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Mitch McKenney ('85) is Deputy Metro Editor at the Akron Beacon Journal

Kristy Eckert ('97) is a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch.

Zac Jackson ('98) has also written for several NE Ohio papers, and is a staff writer for

John and Zac are two of the MHS grads profiled now on Each of the current six featured alums have some entertaining memories to share, including Mrs. Stephens (class of '47), our former guidance office secretary. Check 'em out, and tell the MHS grads in your family about the site.

Wise Example from the Class of '69

In talking recently with a MHS '69 grad, she related how her class had been a bit lax about planning reunions for over a decade. And then their classmate, Annette Kormanik (older sister of '79's Martin Kormanik), passed away.and they suddenly realized they were nearing middle-age, and had no excuse for not getting together regularly. So they planned an off-year reunion, celebrating the year they all turned 50 years old, followed later by a picnic gathering. And they intend to maintain their reunion schedule.

Upcoming dates to remember for Class of '79:

Mon., May 1 6:30pm dinner/social at Pancho's

Mid - July Class of '79 Newsletter, Vol. 10 due

Sat., July 29 Alumni Golf Outing -- register early

Mon., Aug. 7 6:30pm dinner/social (restaurant TBA)

Fri., Sept. 29 Alumni Pre-Game Tailgate Party at Homecoming Game

Editor's Note: Class of '79 Newsletters are written & edited independently by MHS '79 grads , with no authorization or implied endorsement from Manchester Local Schools. Our purpose is to stay in touch with our classmates in the years leading up to our 30-Year Reunion in 2009, with interesting news items and nostalgic memories. We hope this effort will encourage participation in class activities, and make it easier to locate everyone when necessary.