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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Greco ‘starter’ class puts down roots with tree dedication

TEMPLE TERRACE — “Roots Run Deep” among students in the 1963 charter class at Greco Junior School.

So deep, in fact, that the slogan was spelled out across the backs of the vests of four ladies, who along with scores of other students from the school’s inaugural class, returned to celebrate their 50th class reunion.

The “starter kit” class, as the students called themselves, also holds the distinction of being the only group in Greco’s history to attend four consecutive grades — sixth through ninth — on the campus that has since been renamed Greco Middle School.

The school’s one and only sixth grade class was meant to alleviate overcrowding at Temple Terrace Elementary while Riverhills Elementary was being built.

The day’s celebration began with hugs, kisses and plenty of reminiscing as class members gathered in the school auditorium along with several of their former teachers.

On hand to greet everyone was the event’s organizer, Cynthia Mace Arnett, who had arranged much of the affair from her home in Stroudsburg, Pa.

“I only attended Greco through the eighth grade because my parents divorced and we moved to Westfield, N.Y.,” she said. “But while I was here, I made many good friends and I have lasting memories.”

Mace Arnett delighted in seeing her old classmates, including Pam Gaudet and Felipe Yanes, who only casually knew one another at Greco and King High, and went their separate ways following high school. The duo, it turns out, reunited at Greco’s 10-year reunion and the occasion led to their marriage that has lasted 31 years.

“It’s funny because we never dated in high school,” said Pam Gaudet Yanes. “He was really smart and I was intimidated by him.”

Also there to mark the occasion was class member Margaret Fee, the daughter of former Temple Terrace Mayor George Fee, and Patsy Bondi, mother of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and the widow of Joe Bondi, a former Greco science teacher and also mayor of Temple Terrace. That in itself, expressed some, was a demonstration of school’s deep roots and tie to the community.

“I had Margaret Fee and Cynthia Mace in my fourth grade class at Riverhills,” said Patsy Bondi, who prior to her retirement also was a teacher.

Greco charter class member Jackie Fletcher, who to this day lives not far from the school, recalled when the school opened there were no sports for girls, no gym, no auditorium and the only outside enhancement was a basketball court.

“Our PE teacher Ms. (Gwen) Woolfenden made us run in the sand and shower in the sulfur water,” mused Mace Arnett.

Prior to cutting and enjoying two cakes – one in the shape of Greco’s Lion Cub mascot – to wrap up the affair, attendees moved outdoors where they refocused their attention on a tree dedication.

The newly planted laurel oak replaces a 50-plus-year-old tree that majestically graced the campus when the school was built and was considered by many as the school’s focal point. It had to be removed several years ago due to its deterioration and potential hazard to students.

“It meant a lot to replace the tree that was lost a few years ago, the tree the school was built around,” Mace Arnett said.

She expressed her appreciation to Joe Gross, an arborist and the City of Temple Terrace’s code compliance director, who coordinated the tree-planting effort.

Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]

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