ANDOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ – Six Sussex County sports legends were inducted last night into the Sussex County NJ Sports Hall of Fame, at a special dinner and ceremony at the Farmstead Golf & Country Club.
“Tonight we have a great class, it starts with a state champ, and ends with a state champ,” said Gunner Frauenpreis, the organization’s president, who also emceed the evening’s festivities. “Sports are just another class that prepared you for life. What you learned on the field, prepared you for what you are doing today.”
Frauenpreis himself received his induction in 2007, and, is a 1978 Pope John XXIII Regional High School graduate.
Among the inductees were: David E. Beach, a 1984 Pope John XXIII Regional High School graduate; Cori Harrington, a 1998 graduate of High Point Regional High School; John Kozdeba, who graduated in Newton High School’s Class of 1942, and was chosen in the Veterans category; Anna C. Murphey, a Sparta High School graduate, and retired photographer from The New Jersey Herald; Stephen J. Stefkovich, a 1968 Franklin High School graduate; and Richard L. Zandarski, Jr., Newton High School’s Class of 1978.
After the invocation, and later the benediction by Monsignor Kieran McHugh, Pope John XXIII Regional High School’s Principal, the inductees received their honors.
Honoring John Kozdeba
Kozdeba was the first to be honored. Dick McKeeby, who is part of the Veterans Advisory Committee, presented Kozdeba with his plaque.
Maryann Roe, the group’s treasurer, told The Alternative Press, the Veterans induction is given to those who were athletes, and are now in the 60 and up age range.
“Way back when there wasn’t the competition available, there wasn’t that avenue,” said Roe, in terms of the ability for these athletes to be honored.
McKeeby said he looked up to Kozdeba when he was a student himself, and reiterated how the younger generation, including McKeeby’s own grandson who drove three hours to attend the ceremony, look up to Kozdeba.
“John is a humble, quiet, gentle man, but don’t challenge him to wrestling,” McKeeby mused.
McKeeby pointed out in Kozdeba’s wrestling heyday, he was one of the bareback wrestlers, because, shirts were not donned in the sport back then.
Among Kozdeba’ sports accolades are: 1941 NJ State AAU Championship (he pinned three former NJSIAA state champs), 1942 NJSIAA Champion, 1942 National AAU Second Place New Orleans (lost to Oklahoma A&M student), and 1963 second place NJAAU (lost to Gene D’Alessandro, National Hall of Fame Member, and Rutgers Varsity Star, who was then 38-years-old).
His sports career was not the only place where Kozdeba was recognized for exceptional achievement. In spite of having a farm exemption, Kozdeba served in the Army Air Force, as an award-winning B-17 gunner, who flew 17 missions. While flying over Berlin in a bombing raid, Kozdeba narrowly escaped when one of his plane’s engines was hit, and, landed in Sweden with the plane’s navigator. The remainder of his crew were POW’s, having been captured in Denmark, while Kozdeba and the navigator made it to England.
Today, at 88 years old, McKeeby pointed out how Kozdeba still bails hay on his family’s farm on Houses Corner Road in Sparta; once a creamery, the farm is now a gravel pit, which Kozdeba runs with his son, and grandson.
Kozdeba nodded, as he received his award, and quietly said, “I’d like to thank everyone for making this possible.”
Honoring Stephen J. Stefkovich
“Can you imagine if Steve played when we had a three pointer?” Frauenpreis asked the crowd about the next honoree, Stefkovich. “How everything would have changed.”
“Steve was indeed a role model to those following him,” Frank Virtue pointed out especially about Stefkovich’s talents in basketball (Stefkovich also played baseball).
Stefkovich was nominated by Patrick Condon, a childhood friend, who prior to passing away in Oct. 2011, gathered Stefkovich’s stats for the Hall of Fame, and asked his daughter, Heather, to go forward with the presentation.
Heather Condon presented a special plaque to Stefkovich with his accomplishments. Condon told The Alternative Press she met Stefkovich for the first time last year.
Coined as a “pure shooter,” Stefkovich was recognized by some well-known college coaches including Dick Vitale of East Rutherford, Lou Rossini at NYU, and Bob Knight from West Point. Stefkovich accepted to play at NYU. Stefkovich pointed out although NYU gave up the sport at the end of his sophomore year, the university still lived him to their end with the scholarship he had been awarded.
Some of his awards included: 19 and 23 points her game in state tournaments; the Sussex County scoring record from 1965 through 1968 (the 1968 Rams had a 18-5 record, and while during his career there, the team was overall 59-32); All-State and All-County in varsity basketball in 1967; The New Jersey Herald 1st Team for 1965 through 1968; Skyline Conference 1st Team from 1966 through 1968; Newark Evening News All-Group Titles for 1967 and 1968; and, in 1967, Stefkovich made The New Jersey Herald All-Sussex County Team, and Newark Evening News All-Group 3rd Team for baseball.
Stefkovich was especially blown away by Heather Condon’s presentation, he said, which “took him by surprise.”
“This is probably less about the inductees, and accomplishments, than the relationships we made along the way,” said Stefkovich.
He recognized his coaches, even back to Bruce Smith in Ogdensburg.
“Everyone wanted to play ball with him, because everyone had a good time, and you could see everyone loved him,” said Stefkovich of Smith.
Stefkovich fondly remembered his friend Condon.
“Pat was not blessed with a tremendous athletic body, but he had a lot of desire,” Stefkovich said. “Pat asked to play ball with me, because it made him better.”
Stefkovich recalled a time when Condon blocked one of his shots.
“I heard about it for the next 45 years, to his last days,” said Stefkovich. “I think it was one of the greatest things that happened to him beside his daughter, Heather.”
Honoring Anna C. Murphey
Frauenpreis introduced the next inductee, “Our next inductee saw everything through a lens.”
Mark Schulte presented the award to Murphey, who had photographed thousands of Sussex County athletes throughout her career, some of them, while during her tenure with The New Jersey Herald, she photographed as student athletes, and later as school coaches.
Murphey’s portfolio extends beyond Sussex County from state politicians, actress Olympia Dukakis, The Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and Nobel Prize Recipients, including Dr. John C. Mather, a Newton High School graduate.
“I always welcomed her on the court,” said Schulte, who has officiated sports throughout Sussex County. “She enhanced scrap books of all athletes, and also sports officials.”
Schulte recalled how Murphey captured him during a game, with a baseline call at Pope John, and, he ended up taping Murphey’s photo to the coach’s door with a note, “’It was a good call, and, still is a good call.’”
“Anna was always there to get the picture right, whether we got the call right, I have always appreciated your work not just the sports,” added Schulte.
Murphey said she has enjoyed the challenges with sports photography, as well as watching several students progress through their grade levels, and sports achievements, and especially those who return to their alma maters to coach.
“It’s like being a teacher with the continuity,” Murphey said. “It’s been a pleasure.”
Honoring David E. Beach
Jeff Beebe introduced the next inductee, David Beach. Frauenpreis nominated Beach for his successes in football, baseball, basketball, and track.
“What a great night for David and his family,” Beebe, who grew up with Beach, said. “David put his marks on the field, and his name in history.”
“All the Beach brothers are superior in their own right,” Beebe added, with Beach having followed his three older brothers, who had their own high sports achievements.
Beach, now a United States Secret Service special agent in charge of the Washington field office, played through college at Bucknell University, where, even as a freshman, he broke into the starting lineup midpoint into the season.
His achievements took root at Pope John XXIII Regional High School, where he led the football team to the League Championship, and North Parochial B State Championship, only losing two games in three seasons. His highest achievements were earned during his senior year, when he was a two-way starter, when he was also captain, and MVP. That same season (1983), the team took both the 11-0 SCIL, and North Parochial B State Championships. Beach scored 234 points, 37 touchdowns, six two point conversions, and 1800 yards rushing, garnering both point and rushing totals that held as school and league records for more than 10 years. Chosen as the Daily Record’s Player of the Year, Beach was selected for the following first teams: All SCIL, All Area, All West Jersey, All Parochial, and All State.
“What matters is what makes David different,” Beebe said. “What it comes down to is I never knew what a workout was until I met David Beach. David was never a ‘rah rah’ kind of guy. I never met anyone who had the work ethic, and commitment that David had. When it was time to play, no one played it better. He worked very hard for what he got.”
Beach thanked his family, and his parents, who he said taught him, “You can be everything you want to be, everything worth doing is worth doing right.”
He also recognized his older brothers, who, he said, “blazed a trail to live up to.”
“It was an honor and privilege to wear the Pope John uniform,” Beach said. “I played with 150 to 200 players over my four years, and every person is equally responsible.”
Beach remembered fondly coach Vic Paternostro, who passed away in early 2012.
“What made him [Paternostro] so special, he demanded we demand the most of ourselves,” Beach told the crowd.
Concluding his speech, Beach also asked parents, and coaches to urge student athletes to demand the best of themselves as well.
Honoring Cori Harrington
Michael Casserly, now Vice Principal at Wallkill Valley Regional High School, introduced Cori Harrington. Casserly, who knew Harrington when she was a student, described Harrington as a “fluid God-gifted athlete,” with talents, he added, which she carried into the classroom.
A 1998 High Point Regional High School graduate, Harrington played field hockey, softball, and basketball.
“When you have talent, you have to devote time to do the very best,” Casserly added.
He described the support Harrington received as, “unparalleled.”
“In my humble opinion, she’s the greatest Wildcat player of them all,” Casserly stated. “She played hard, she played smart, she played with a competitive pride, which is hard to replicate.”
In field hockey, Harrington earned three varsity letters; made 1st Team SCIL in her junior and senior years; in her junior year chosen for the 2nd All-West Jersey and All-Area 2nd team; senior year she was in the 1st Team for All-Area, All-West, and All-State; and made the All-Star game as a senior.
In basketball, Harrington was the All-Time leading scorer for both boys and girls at High Point, and third All-Time for girls for Sussex County, with 1900 career points. She led her team all four years in terms of scoring, and in her junior and senior years, was team captain, and MVP. She was named for the following teams: 1st Team SCIL (three years), 1st Team All-Area (junior and senior years), 2nd All-Area Team (freshman and sophomore years), 1st Team All-West (senior), 2nd Team All-West (junior), 2nd Team All-State (senior), and the Mt. Olive Christmas Tournament. She holds a High Point record for girls, of 40 points, with 30 scored in the first half. She was also the SCIL leading scorer, with 24.5 and 25.8 points, in her junior, and senior years respectively.
In softball, Harrington was a four-year starter at shortstop, was co-captain, and as a senior, named MVP. She was the first girl to hit the ball over High Point’s fence. She was named to the following teams: 1st Team All-SCIL (junior and senior), 1st Team All-Area (sophomore and senior), 2nd Team All-Area (junior), 1st Team All-West Jersey (senior), 2nd Team All-West (junior), and 2nd Team All-State (senior). She still holds High Point’s record for the most triples (six in a season), was named outstanding student athlete by the NJSIAA, and Athlete of the Month by The New Jersey Herald, and Sussex Bank.
She won a four-year basketball scholarship to the University of New Haven, with varsity letters each year, and played 101 college games. In Harrington’s junior and senior years, she was the team’s second leading scorer.
Harrington, who is now a teacher at the Montague Elementary School thanked her family most especially, for their support.
“It’s a great honor to be standing up here, we played because we loved it, it was the best time of my life,” said Harrington as she received her award.
Honoring Richard L. Zandarski, Jr.
Richard L. Zandarski, Jr., was the final recipient to be honored.
Gene Conquy, who had been Zandarski’s coach for wrestling at Newton High School, and was a Hall of Fame inductee himself in the first class of 1976, told the audience to, “Read the program, and see what he’s done, or we’ll be here when the cows come home.”
Those accomplishments for the 1978 graduate included achievements in football, wrestling, and track.
For football, he earned three varsity letters, 1975 through 1977; was starter for offense and defense for three of his years; was part of the All-SCIL Team in 1976 and 1977; won the league scoring title for 96 points; was named to the All-Star Football Team; was chosen as The New Jersey Herald Athlete of the Month in November of 1977; and, won the 1977 Soren “Dutch” Rusch Award as outstanding high school football player.
In track, Zandarski earned his varsity letter for the long jump, high jump, and javelin.
Garnering his induction mostly for wrestling, Zandarski snagged three varsity letters 1976 through 1978; took second place in 1976 in the National AAU Tournament in Ohio; was third place district winner in 1977; and, in 1978 was first place district winner, and first place region winner, as well as having placed third in the state tournament. His high school wrestling made him a pick for The New Jersey Herald, and The Daily Advance Teams. Awards received included the Coach Henry Borsch, and Dr. Jesse McCall Memorial Awards. He was chosen for the NY, NJ, PA All-Star Team, which competed against the Polish National Traveling Team.
Zandarski wrestled while at The College of William and Mary, and Trenton State College.
He coached at Newton, Jefferson, and Mendham High Schools; was a coach and teacher at Sussex County Technical School; and now volunteers as a coach for both Stillwater-Fredon, and Kittatinny wrestling.
Zandarski quoted the Kenny Chesney song, “I Didn’t Get Here Alone,” to describe his journey, with the support of coaches, teammates, family, and friends.
“I truly feel about my induction here tonight, we’re all fortunate,” Zandarski said. “Some of us are natural athletes, others of us didn’t get there that way. Some of us had to work very hard to master our skills.”
To all the honored athletes, Frauenpreis said, “Tomorrow, when you wake up, it will be different. Welcome to your new team, Sussex County Hall of Famers.”
Gary Chiusano (R-24), Assemblyman, who was also inducted in 1995, told The Alternative Press, “This is a great night, because we recognized the contributions of student athletes’ successes on the filed, or gym. Continuing in careers in coaching, business, and service to the community.”
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