NEWTON, NJ—The Newton Pride Foundation inducted one team and five individuals at the annual Hall of Fame dinner on September 24 at Perona Farms.
The Class of 1985 Championship Baseball Team, which included Head coach Bob Melillo and assistant coach Richard Graham, along with Michael Filipowski, Helen Heckman, and Suzanne Seplow, were all inductees of this year’s hall of fame.
The dining room of Perona Farms was filled with family, friends and a multitude of Newton High School teachers, celebrating those inducted into this year’s hall of fame by the Newton Pride Foundation.
“I think it’s fantastic, a real honor,” said Melillo, “This high school is a special place and a close knit community. I taught at the high school for 31 years and ran the Pride Foundation for 10 years. So, to me it’s a great honor."
Melillo, who was the head baseball coach from 1979-2002 had 353 wins, won the 1985 group 2 state championship, was inducted into the Sussex County Sports Hall of Fame 2006, New Jersey State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame 1996, and the NJ Scholastic Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame 2006.
The 1985 Championship team consisted of players Dana Bergeron, Gary Wroblewski, Mike Bell, Dan Seplow, Joe Wroblewski, Sam Schiffer, Jim Bencivengo, Erik Pedersen, Sean Samiljian, Jefferson Herring, John Hendershot, Brian Kersnowski, George Mendel, and Keith Sachs and statisticians Karin Burke, Sarah Card, Coleen Sheehan O’Brien and Theresa Rittweger.
“Humbled!” said Heckman “Totally humbled is what I am. I am so overwhelmed to be an inductee and even to be remotely considered. I taught at Newton High School for 16 years, so I wasn’t really expecting it until they called me.”
Heckman, who retired from being an English teacher at Newton High School in 2016 is a co-founder of the Pride Foundation, was a teacher at Newton High School from 2000-2016 and is a parent and step-parent to nine Newton High School graduates, along with so much more.
Along with Heckman, Filipowski and Graham were also educators within the Newton district. Filipowski was a language arts teacher at Halsted from 1973-1977 and then moved to the high school until 2006. Graham taught special education and social studies from 1980-2011. Both were founding members of the Newton High School Hall of Fame.
Last but certainly by no means least, Suzanne Lynn Seplow, a graduating member of the Newton High School Class of 1983 was the final member inducted into this years’ Hall of Fame. Seplow was fourth in her class academically, played 12 seasons of field hockey, basketball and softball to become the Scholar Athlete of her class, and is currently the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Development at UCLA.
The Pride Foundation also made mention of a special individual whose “influence and commitment to the children of the Newton School District is immeasurable. Over the last 20 years, as a Principal, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director, the programs you have developed continue to thrive. A Special Thank you to Kurt Walton.”
“‘Pass It Along’ and ‘TRS’ echo throughout the halls and now, with your enthusiasm and assistance the yearly tradition of the NHS Hall of Fame is now in its full glory once again. A special thank you from the many students you have influenced throughout the years and the Newton Pride Foundation”.
The induction ceremony, which was after a cocktail hour and a brief speech by Newton Pride Foundation’s president Dave Petry, followed after a dinner served by Perona Farms.