BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield High School Key Club held its traditional Thanksgiving luncheon for local seniors on Tuesday, Nov. 24. The event appeared to be a popular success with the noisy crowd. Music was provided by the singing Madrigals and a small ensemble of musicians, and the meals were provided by a local eatery. But the lower seating area of the cafeteria, where the meal is taken, was not as jammed with people as more recent Thanksgiving lunches hosted by the Key Club.
This was also observed by Glen Ridge resident and BHS Class of ’58 graduate Leanor Proto. It was the third time she had come to the lunch.
“It’s usually more crowded,” she said. “I think that was because they changed the date. Last year it was the day before Thanksgiving. You couldn’t even find a seat last year.”
Proto was with her husband, Anthony.
But the crowd still managed to make about 125 turkey dinners disappear. Rich Adams, a Key Club co-advisor, said people took seconds or left with a meal for a friend that did not attend.
The lunch is an attraction for local residents, but as one might expect, most were from Bloomfield and — like Proto — BHS graduates. Many were also attending for only the first, second or third time.
Nick and Leta Centeno came from Verona by way of Jersey City.
“We had a dental appointment,” Leta said.
It was her third time attending but her husband’s first.
Bud Pardun, 80, was coming for the first time. This was after living in Bloomfield for 53 years. He said he was a ’56 graduate of Belleville High School.
“My granddaughter is serving,” he said. “They asked me to come.”
Two other first-timers were husband and wife Joe and Ceil Raimo. He’s 60 years in the township and a BHS ’64 graduate, and she’s 65 years in Bloomfield and a BHS ’64 graduate. As with Pardun, they had a grandchild serving, a grandson, and had been asked to attend.
Joseph Ruvo sat alone. He was a ’64 BHS graduate and a 50-year Bloomfield resident. He has been to the lunch several times before. Glancing over to a nearby table, Ruvo said he knew Joe Raimo.
It was the third time Rose Gentile had come to the lunch, and she has lived in Bloomfield 50 years. She attended Barringer High School, in Newark.
“I was here last year,” she said. “The food is always good. My youngest daughter, Arlene, graduated from here.”
It was Arlene’s girlfriend, Barbara Guiliano, who accompanied Gentile.
“I told Arlene I’d pick up her mother and bring her down,” she said.
Things got a little confusing at the LaVacca table, where three men and one woman had brought a holiday air with them. At first, the only thing easily understood was that the woman was named Betty LaVacca and she was married to one of the men but it was hard to pin down who.
Finally, it came down to this: there was Betty and brother-in-law Eugene, BHS Class of ’63; brother-in-law Raymond, BHS ’59; and husband Gerald, BHS ’53. Gerald said he had lived in Bloomfield for 75 years.
“I’ve lived in Bloomfield 65 years,” Eugene said.
“You’ve never lived in any other place,” Betty told him.
“Then 70 years,” Eugene said.
Ray said he has lived in Bloomfield for 74 years but not in the same house.
“There’s one brother missing,” he said. “He’s down the Shore. He graduated from here in ’56. And all our kids came through the system, too.”
It was the fifth time the group had come to the Key Club lunch.
There will be something new to the Key Club this year, which may start another tradition.
According to club co-advisor Adams, there will be a Key Club cookie bake-off on Friday, Dec. 11 at the high school. People with a knack for cookie baking will be making them at home, and donating about 12 dozen cookies each. The cookies will be judged by local, professional bakers, but more importantly, packaged by the pound and sold at the high school. All proceeds will go to the Federation of Food Banks.
“Right now, we have 15 cookie bakers,” Adams said.
Lou Capello and Alexandra Pobuta are the other Key Club co-chairs.