WEST ORANGE, NJ - The 37th Annual West Orange Oldtimer's Day will be held on Saturday, September 14 at Colgate Park beginning at noon with a batting practice, followed by the awards ceremony and a short exhibition baseball game. This will mark the first Old Timer’s celebration without the leadership of the legendary John Healy who recently passed away. According to Committee Representative Bill Kehoe, “John will be sorely missed by all of us Colgate Kids as well as the thousands of children that were fortunate enough to have him as a classroom teacher and school principal.” John’s contributions will memorialized by the placing of commemorative plaque at Colgate. Following the awards ceremony and the game, the scene shifts to Connor Hall at Our Lady of Lourdes for a reception.
Many outstanding athletes will be honored this year. Robbie Pansulla earned his Colgate stripes on the baseball field. He was a standout player in every youth baseball league at the park. As a young adult he twice led his adult softball team to championships. Pansulla learned his lessons of giving back well and currently serves as an advisor to the Scotch Plains Youth Baseball League.
Joe Storm was an athlete for all seasons. He was a three year standout middle linebacker for the WO PAL Mustangs. Joe was a stellar guard on the basketball court. He played in the High Noon, Afternoon and Night Leagues at Colgate as well as for the team at Our Lady of Lourdes. Joe’s high school and collegiate basketball career was hampered by a series of unfortunate injuries. Storm also excelled on the baseball diamond participating in all the Town youth leagues including the PAL League. Later in life Joe played on seven championship teams in the Men’s Softball league.
Mike Peer also played all three major sports. He was an all-star little league baseball player and a PAL football player. On the gridiron Mike quarterbacked his Edison Jr. High team and would later win two defensive Player of the Week honors at Mountain High School. While at Edison Mike was the captain of the basketball team. He went on to have a solid high school basketball career at Mountain HS. where he captained the team and won a Christmas Tournament MVP Award. Mike is quick to point out that he learned the game of basketball at Colgate Park.
The Colgate Reserve League served as the springboard for Pete Mitola. He continued on the diamond as a solid player in the Town youth leagues and the PAL Baseball League. He continued to be active as an adult playing for many years in the men’s softball league. Pete also participated in all of the Colgate basketball leagues. His fondest memories include the 1976 United States Centennial Celebration and the old Fourth of July celebrations that were held in Colgate.
Like so many others, Jim Huber got his start in the Reserve League under the tutelage of John Healy. He was an outstanding baseball player for the Little League, the PAL Baseball League and Our Lady of Lourdes where he served as team captain. His talents landed him on the Mountain High varsity squad for three seasons from 1974-1976. In the fall he was a quality long distance runner for the school’s cross country team. No slouch in the classroom, Huber was his senior classes’ Valedictorian. To this day, Jim can still be seen doing his road work on the streets of WO and also participating in a great many local races. For as long as anyone can remember he has served as the starter for the Annual Fourth of July races.
Richard “Dickey” Woods was a well-known kid at Colgate Park. He was a fixture in the park growing up and was a first rate baseball and basketball player. Dicky played in every youth league and more often than not he excelled. Later in life he participated in the Men’s Basketball Night League and also had a long run in the Men’s Softball League. His affable nature and infectious laugh made him one of the most well liked “Colgate Kids.”
George O’Rourke played youth baseball and participated in many other programs around Colgate Park. George found has real “life passion” when he first dipped his foot in the Ginny Duenkel Pool at age six. He swam for the Town’s summer team for the next eleven years and also competed year round for the team from the West Essex YMCA. George went on the swim scholastically for Mountain High Schools and on the collegiate level for Rowan University. On both squads he served as team captain. O’Rourke continues to participate in competitive swimming as a member of the US Masters Swimming organization. Like many others fortunate enough to grow up in Colgate, George gave back by coaching his two boys in little league for a number of years.
Ralph Minelli rose thru the baseball ranks beginning with the Reserve League. He continued to play baseball in the Little League and the Babe Ruth League. Ralph went on to be a solid performer for the Rams of Mountain High School. He competed collegiately as member of the team at Kean University. Minelli also played varsity football for Mountain having received a solid football background playing for the PAL Mustangs. A fixture at Colgate Park during his youth, Ralph also participated in all the youth basketball leagues.
Ralph’s younger brother Drew Minelli was an outstanding basketball player. He participated in all the youth basketball leagues and built a well-deserved reputation as a hard-nosed guard who always gave 100%. He took his considerable skills to Mountain High School where he had a great career. Drew also participated in all the youth baseball leagues at Colgate. Minelli matriculated to Montclair state where he was eager to continue his hoop career when he sadly passed away at such a young age.
The Zeevalk’s of Ashwood Terrace where an outstanding WO family. With the Ginny Duenkel Pool literally in their back yard, all the kids spent hours in Colgate Park. It was with great fondness they remember their Mom Barbara ringing the dinner bell - loud enough for all the kids to hear – and quickly heading home. Bob, Nancy Billy and David all took full advantage of all the amenities at Colgate. If they weren’t interacting with the counselors at the Rec Shelter they were playing baseball, touch football, tennis on the old clay courts, sleigh riding or ice skating on the flooded tennis courts. Bob, Billy & Nancy attended West Orange High School. Bob ran cross country, wrestled and played football. Billy’s athletic promise showed early as he was a medal winner in the annual Fourth of July races. He carried that running ability to high school where he ran for the school’s cross country team. Nancy became an outstanding cheerleader for West Orange High School. David known affectionately as “Little Zeke” had an outstanding Little League baseball career and went to Mountain High School where he became a varsity soccer player. The Zeevalk’s were one of original families to join the Ginny Duenkel Pool. Family patriarch, George still swims there daily at 91 years young while still residing on his beloved Ashwood Terrace.
In the case of inclement weather, the festivities will shift to Connor Hall at Lourdes’ beginning at 2:00 PM. Call the Rec Department’s Weather Hotline at (973) 243-1115 for updated info.