Celebrations of life and death

Published 5:24 pm Friday, July 5, 2024

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Most all of the faces looked familiar. Some had lost weight; some walked a bit slower, and most all were showing a bit (or, in some cases, 100 percent) of gray hair.

Welcome to the reunion of the Northampton County High School Class of 1971.

While we were a bit behind schedule from a traditional 50-year affair, my NCHS classmates from 53 years ago gathered this past Saturday at the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson.

There were 50 former Rams in attendance out of a class that numbered around 165. Thirty-one of our classmates joined us in spirit.

We were given name tags to wear. The majority of the faces I knew without having to glance down at that tag. However, there were a few occasions where that name tag came in handy.

For three wonderful hours, we had the opportunity to reminisce about our time at Northampton, learn about the individual career paths we chose following graduation, and shared photos of our children, grandchildren, and in some cases (not mine), our great grandchildren.

We were blessed to have three of our former teachers at the reunion: Pat Smith (History), Harold Miller (Auto Mechanics), and Terry Cox (English). None needed name tags as their faces are forever etched in our minds. The impact each had on our lives will be felt until we draw our last breath.

I even got a chance to see a copy of The Ram Page, our high school newspaper that I had the privilege of serving as Editor during my senior year. Guess that’s where I got my feet wet in a business that I’ve worked for the past 45-or-so years.

The lunch (highlighted by some of the most tender beef brisket I’ve ever tasted) was great, but the company was even better. While we are far beyond age 17, the bonds we formed way back then remain strong today.

Yes, it’s a fact that we’ve all aged, but despite our wrinkles and less-than-perfect eyesight and hearing, the memories we have of the time we spent on the outskirts of Creeksville and the friendships we forged there will last a lifetime.

Thanks to all, especially to my friend and “up-the-road” neighbor Rita Bryant Harrison, for the time and effort to put this reunion together. I look forward to our 60th reunion in 2031!

One day later (Sunday, June 30), I was part of another “celebration.” This one, however, was a bit more somber as I attended the funeral of a friend.

Jack Goldberg passed away on Friday of last week. Most will remember him as Jack Daniels, a Virginia transplant who came to Murfreesboro in the early 1970’s to launch his radio broadcasting career at what was then WWDR.

The first time I met Jack, he actually had hair….lots of jet black hair as a matter of fact. He had asked an on-air trivia question and I knew the answer, but had to drive to the radio station (adjacent to what is now Brown’s Mobile Homes) to share that with Jack. My answer was correct and I received an album as the prize.

That was 1973. It wasn’t until 10 years later when I forged a friendship with Jack. He was still at the radio station at that time, but doing more sports (local high school and Chowan College athletics). I had just returned to the News-Herald from working as the Production Manager at the Garner News, near Raleigh.

In addition to my full-time job in printing production, I started covering Roanoke-Chowan area athletics. Jack and I forged a professional relationship. We shared a common bond to promote local athletes and their coaches. He and I would share information that was helpful to our respective local coverage of high school and Chowan athletics.

We both made career moves in 1989. I became Sports Editor here at the News-Herald and Jack accepted the job at Chowan as Sports Information Director, assistant to Athletic Director, director of the Hawks Athletic Center, and Executive Secretary of the Braves Club. I spent a lot of time in his office, getting the “lowdown” on what was happening at Chowan and we would also gather there after home games where I was given the game stats and also used the opportunity to interview the coaches and players.

Then, in 1990, I had the good fortune of “covering” Jack when he took over the women’s softball program at Chowan. I discovered a side to him I didn’t know…that of being a coach, but even a better motivator and recruiter. He built Chowan into a softball dynasty….averaging 25 wins per season, which included a record-setting 36-win season in 1995.

Perhaps the biggest feather in Jack’s cap was the fact that his girls were more than just great softball players. He motivated them off the field as well, a fact that led the then Lady Braves to maintain the highest GPA of any athletic team on campus. That just didn’t happen once, but rather for five consecutive years.

And as a close friend, I also got the chance to hang out with Jack and his beautiful wife, Myrna. I watched them build a family as son Ben and daughter Emily came along. I watched Jack beam with pride each and every time the subject of his children came up in conversation. That fact continued as Ben and Emily matured into adulthood.

At Sunday’s celebration of Jack’s life, we were also treated to details of his third career….teaching and coaching at Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids. There, his softball program captured 14 consecutive conference championships and posted a spotless 108-0 league record. We also learned of the compassion he showed and the inspiration he shared with the students at Chaloner.

It’s easy to see that wherever the road led Jack Goldberg, success and accolades followed. Chalk that up to his easy-going style, wit, and always having a glass half-full (never half empty) attitude.

My world was a better place because I knew and loved Jack Goldberg. Rest in peace, my friend.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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