Current members and alumni spanning nine decades along with friends and family joined together for a weekend Homecoming Celebration to be remembered. This past weekend was our second annual Homecoming Celebration featuring a Bowling Social, Gourmet Luncheon, Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Sunday MASS, and 85th Anniversary Celebration Gala. At the Hall of Fame Ceremony, Michele Owens, Cheryl Philhower-Gillick, and Ken Conklin were honored as inductees into The Cadets' Hall of Fame.
At the 85th Anniversary Celebration Gala, a video tribute titled "Women of The Cadets: The Firsts" was shown that was created by The Cadets' very own and talented videographer, Jake Hutchinson.
Our own Irving Matchen, longtime and beloved volunteer for The Cadets and author of his own Cadets Summer Blog, joined in on the festivities.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Irving, and I am a volunteer with The Cadets primarily during the summer tour as a driver. I had already made plans to attend The Cadets Homecoming, but when Vicki asked if I could blog about the weekend festivities, I was more than happy to do it. As a matter of fact, I was asked by a couple of folks if I could do a special blog. I will be the first to tell you I am so happy that I was able to attend the Homecoming. To steal some words spoken by Scott Litzenberg, “my heart is so full.” The whole weekend was filled with so much fun and fellowship with many emotional moments. Though I am not a Cadet alumn, I understand the rich pride and traditions I see when the alumni come together. For those of you who were not able to attend, I do hope I can put into words exactly what took place.
If I had to complain about anything over The Cadets Homecoming weekend, it would only have been about my drive from Washington DC to Wayne New Jersey. I left Washington DC around 3:00 pm and didn’t arrive at the hotel until after 10:00 pm. As much as I have driven for The Cadets over the years, I have never seen so much traffic and not just in Jersey. But I am so happy that I made the drive to come. Whoever made the arrangements at the Residence Inn Marriott Hotel in Wayne; thank you! The housing accommodations were top notch. But being that I’m not from Jersey, you can feel my pain when I talk about how those turn abouts are so confusing to me. Now, let’s talk about the great weekend.
The first thing I would like to do is thank all those responsible for the planning of such a great event. You know who you are, and I’m sure I spoke to many of you if not all of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for such a wonderful weekend event at the Homecoming. The festivities started with a bowling party on Saturday afternoon at the Lodi bowling lanes between 1-4. I’m all about having fun and what fun we had. Wasn’t hard spotting those arriving for The Cadets because most of them had on some type of Cadet identifier by way of a corps jacket or shirt. There had to have been at least 60 people who came out some of them I knew either as members of The Cadets, volunteers with The Cadets, or alumni (my favorites). Let me tell you those in attendance were not all local folks. There were alumni who traveled from Delaware, Portland, Florida, Texas, New Hampshire, and Boston. But there was one alumn who’s arrival drew the attention of us all, and that was John Loforte. From what I understand (please correct me if I’m wrong), the oldest living Cadet alumn. All afternoon you could hear the stories spoken amongst the alumn alway hearing that every popular phrase, “what years did you march”? There were many alumni from the 1969 first group of women who marched as Cadets in the guard. Oh, there was plenty of laughter and fun, but it came time where we had to get ready for the next event on the agenda, which was the Hall of Fame ceremony at the VFW in Garfield. This was the first of several trips for me from the hotel in Wayne to somewhere in the Garfield area, which by the way, is very familiar to me and many of the summer volunteers who have driven these parts as we did the summer show in the Clifton area.
I would like to mention though I did not attend the gourmet luncheon that was held Saturday afternoon, I was able to see a list of the attendees, and I have to say I was impressed. I heard nothing but good things about the event. All the proceeds went to The Cadets. Again, thank you to all those who attended and especially to those who organized such a great event.
The Cadets Hall of Fame Ceremony that took place Saturday night at the VFW in its own rights is a memorable location for any Cadet alumn. The site where the Garfield Cadets practiced. On this night, they had three inductees: Ken Conklin, Cheryl Philhower-Gillick, and Michelle Owens. The social gathering before the ceremony drew an even bigger crowd. I don’t believe there were any introverts in this crowd, which created a loud buzz of conversation throughout the hall. No matter the event, it is always nice to see Jeff Sacktig, a Cadet alumn and established drill writer in our activity. Jeff’s tribute to Michelle during the inductee portion of the program was moving and very emotional. I have my own personal memories of Michelle, and she truly is missed. This was my first time attending a Hall of Fame ceremony for The Cadets, and you hear so much history when someone like Ken Conklin and Cheryl Philhower-Gillick are the nominees. With so many alumni present at this event, you can imagine the stories that were being shared on this evening.
As if Saturday night’s event didn’t leave you emotionally spent, the Sunday mass in honor of The Cadets was even much more moving. It was held where it all began for The Cadets at the Holy Name Church. As I parked my car that morning, I noticed some Cadet members gathering their instruments in partial uniform, obviously part of the morning service to be held. I didn’t give them a minute’s notice before I asked if I could get a picture before moving down to the church. As I was standing outside of Holy Name Church, I noticed another group of current Cadet members walking in the traditional twos getting ready to cross the street (I posted that picture). As we all gathered inside, Monsignor Reilly welcomed everyone to the service and talked about how The Cadets were so much a part of the Parrish as well as the community. Current Cadets members were part of the Holy Name Processional, in full traditional uniform, where the corps prayer was said and later played the Corps song from the balcony. Hearing the corps song had many in tears, including myself. At one point during the service, Monsignor asked those attending mass how many were Cadet alumn, and the number of people that stood was just simply astonishing. We can’t thank those corps members enough for their memorial time given on this day. Though I didn’t see her over the weekend, I have to give a special thank you to my dear friend Linda Vitale who spent the eve of the mass sewing getting the Cadet members ready in the traditional uniform. I have watched Linda work her magic over many summers having The Cadets looking great on the field, and this Sunday was no exception. Thank you, Linda!
We’re not done. After mass, the current members and alumni took a group picture in front of the Holy Name Church before heading over to the Brownstone banquet hall in Patterson (I believe Scotty posted that picture). Again the organizers of this Homecoming simply outdid themselves and must be thanked for their efforts. The food was simply delicious, and there was plenty. The program presented will surely be remembered for a long time. A documentary of The Cadets was shown showing the beginnings of where it all started to the current day. That was followed up by a presentation of when women were first allowed to March as Cadets (1969). Many of the women were present. I had at least four of the women sitting at my table. There were so many Cadet alumni present, including a group of men that were a part of the beginning days as Holy Name Cadets. I hope you got a chance to see the picture that was posted of them. Of course, what would a weekend event like this be like without closing with the corps song surrounding the current members and old-time alums? Just a powerful moment for many of us present.
This may be old news now, but how can you not be excited about the 2020 summer with the announcement of the staff and new director. After seeing what I saw over the weekend, I have a good feeling about the upcoming summer. I’ve spent a lot of time around the Cadet organization, and I have never seen such pride and tradition that I see when it comes to your love for your maroon and gold. The one question I get asked a lot is how did I get involved with The Cadets being that I’m not an alumn of The Cadets. It’s as simple as when it was suggested to me by an alumn to get involved I did and have been involved ever since (2006). Thank you for allowing me to be a part of something so special to us all. All I can say is I’m so glad that I went to the Homecoming to experience yet another moment of why I love The Cadets so much. I want to wish everyone well as we prepared for another great summer.
Fan of the Arts