Just Friends Reunion held in West Philly

The committee for the annual Just Friends Picnic, from left, Rosa Lacy, Rashon Early, Margie Ragan, Peggy Rudd, Carl Lacey, Salena McGriff, Don Hackney, Geri Martin and Tosin Ajanaku. — Photo/Robert Mendelsohn

Last year, I met new friends and had a terrific time at the Sixth Annual Just Friends Reunion at West Philadelphia’s Carroll Park. At this year’s reunion, I felt as though I was among old friends with all the warm welcomes and hugs.

The enjoyable reunion was attended by schoolmates and friends who grew up in this neighborhood during the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s and attended George Brooks, Hanna, Belmont, Hoffman and Barry Elementary Schools; Shoemaker, Holmes, Sayre and Sulzberger Junior High Schools and Overbrook, West Philly, Bartram, Dobbins, Bok, Girl’s High and other Philadelphia Schools.

Gerri B. Miller, the energetic reunion organizer and West Philly High grad explained why Carroll Park was so essential to the gathering. It seems as though everyone intersected at the park at one time or another during every season of the year. Carroll Park is a central landmark in the neighborhood with memories that abound.

Gerri and Herb “Bubbles” Rogers were the originators of this wonderful event. Although Herb was unable to attend, his close friend, Ralph Hunter, from New Jersey, canvassed the crowd collecting signatures for a super large greeting card sent to Herb with love and good wishes.

I spoke with Fanni “Wookie” Moran and her lifelong friend, Pat Russell. Both of these beautiful ladies attended Brooks Elementary, Shoemaker Junior High School and Girls High together. They also graduated from Temple University together and found themselves working for the same employers on occasion. To their great surprise, both of their daughters decided to become veterinarians. Their incredible friendship continues to this day and Pat leads a senior roundtable where Wookie is a member.

Among those “Out & About” enjoying great food and conversation were: Patsy Maundy, Wilfred Morton, Ralph Hunter, Kenny Davis from New Jersey, Shirley Ferron, Maxcine McDaniels, Connie Ritchie-Reid who traveled from Virginia, Betty Reid Vivian Butler and Bobby Johnson. Frances Swan, sister of Pat Russell, was also spotted having an absolute ball.

This lively lady is a serious party watcher who loves to bake delicious cakes and will celebrate her 98th birthday in October. Carole Robinson and her brother, Harold Robinson, who traveled from Washington, D.C. also had great fun seeing good friends.

It was a real treat to see some of the yearbooks that West Philly High School grads, such as Rosalie Lacy 1956, shared with friends and school mates. The smiles and laughter were contagious. I also met Linda White, Overbrook 1966, there with her lovely family representing four generations.

I had the pleasure of meeting many members of Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity Inc., proudly wearing their official gold and black, and leaning about the organization’s history from member Bill Blount. Among other members attending the reunion were Bob Powell, Irving Briddell, Wendell Whitlock, Kim Artist, Bill Blount, Joe Godfrey, Dave Dickson, Norm Robbins, Ed Burnley, Jim Davis and Gus Lacy. Bill also referred to the late Judge Herbert Hutton and the late Judge Ronald Merriweather among the many distinguished members.

The fraternity has a rich history. In 1951, five male students attending West Philadelphia High School, led by G. Bruce Taylor, joined young men from all sections of Philadelphia to found a fraternity for young men in high school. This idea was unique and notable for several reasons.

There had never been a fraternity of Black high school students in Philadelphia previously and Dr. John N. Williams, Polemarch of the Lambda Nu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., agreed to sponsor Alpha Phi Beta under the fraternity’s “Guide Right Program.” In April 1951, 19 young men were inducted into Alpha Phi Beta. New members registered their Charter with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“Our Charter Brothers and those initiated in the 1950s are now senior citizens, and many are deceased. Those of us who remain are proud of ourselves, and our contributions to our society during times when all Black people were so repressed. From our beginning as a social organization, and continuing through our individual lives, Alpha Phi Beta Brothers have made meaningful contributions to our society. Many of us have filled prominent roles in government, the judiciary, medicine, business, education, the ministry, law enforcement and the armed forces. We are proud of our enduring commitment to our community, and especially to be there for all of our Brothers.”

Congratulations and best wishes to Gerri B. Martin, reunion committee chair, and committee members: Don Hackney, Margie Regan, Peggy Rudd, Carl Lacy and his wife Rosalie who did a great job to make this event a huge success. Gerri is especially proud of the positive young people, Rashon Early, Salena McGruff and Tosin Ajanajil who volunteered their time to work with the senior committee.

Have a fantastic week “Out & About” everyone!

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