This year’s Team of Distinction is Hamburg High School’s 1962, 1963 and 1964 Boy’s Cross Country Teams. These teams were undefeated Division I Champions over three autumn seasons, compiling an impressive dual meet log of 32-0. This was a new record for the Erie County Interscholastic Conference founded in 1954-1955. These ECIC Championships were Hamburg’s 5th, 6th and 7th titles since 1954. The cross country teams during these years faced great competition at the start of their season. Strong competition in the Buffalo State Invitational brought teams from Section V, Section VI and beyond. The 1962 team finished in 2nd Place, 2 points behind the winning team. “Best showing ever out of 33 teams,” Coach Foster stated. The 1963 squad duplicated the 2nd Place finish against 31 teams. In 1964 the entries increased to 40 teams with Hamburg finishing in 2nd Place again. Definitely a signal of things to come. After the ECIC dual meet season ended, the ECIC Divisional Meets were held at Chestnut Ridge Park at the Casino. The championship races were run on a challenging course starting downhill into the meadow, running uphill to the toboggan chutes, along the roadway at the Casino to Benning Loop. Runners retraced the route back to the finish line. In Division I, “The 1962 Team ran in a “pack” to finish with a :12 second spread between runners 1-5 … Excellent work!” was Coach Foster’s reply after winning the championship. Ralph Kelly and Ray Sprickman made the ECIC All-Star Team to lead the squad. The 1963 Team also captured the Division I Championship, but encountered hazards! The prolonged, exceptionally dry autumn left training surfaces hard as rock causing more than eight runners to suffer leg, shin, ankle and broken bone injuries. ‘The squad achieved greatly because of team depth,” stated Foster. Thomas Hoffman, team captain, led this tenacious team while gaining ECIC All-Star status. The teams grew in size, talent and experience. The 1964 Team rolled onward to capture the ECIC 1962 Division I Championship for a third consecutive year, conquering teams, race courses and titles. The Bulldog’s placed Chris Hart, Edd Webster and Bruce Cook on the ECIC All-Star Team.
Foster’s teams grew in size. The 1959 Team had 27 runners. The 1962, 1963 and 1964 teams had 33, 47 and 49 runners respectively. This makes a total of 129 runners for Foster’s last three seasons.
Sectional Championships were the gold standard. Since 1950 to 1959 Hamburg had won 8 Sectional Championships. The 1962 Team lost a pre-season scrimmage to Kenmore East, defending Class MA Champion. The Hamburg harriers returned the favor and defeated Kenmore at Chestnut Ridge to capture Hamburg’s first Class AAA Championship. Leg, ankle, shin and bone injuries prevented the 1963 Harriers from defending yet finished in 3rd Place. The 1964 Bulldogs returned with great desire and won the Class AAA Championship, 10th Hamburg Sectional title and 5th Place at the State Meet in Baldwinsville, NY. “Best team exceeding 1962 Team, Best team in WNY, a top team in New York State.” – J. Foster
There are many Hamburg families from the baby boom era that would be worthy of recognition and appreciation. Some, like the Collins and Russert families, had more kids starring in Bulldog sports, and families like the Brunners have continued to give so much to the Hamburg community. It is with recognition of the contributions and accomplishments of these and so many other worthy families that the Flemings humbly accepted and shared this tremendous recognition from the Hamburg Alumni Foundation and its Wall of Fame Committee.
Bob Fleming, Sr. graduated from HHS in ’39, while Jeanne (Cullen) Fleming did so in ’41. They were not high school sweethearts. They got together after World War II and after Bob’s service as a Flight Engineer on a B-29 in the South Pacific. We were led by two members of the Greatest Generation. Bob Sr. was an outstanding student and a decent athlete. Jeanne skied, golfed and played tennis, but her passion was art and art instruction. Both obtained college degrees and worked elsewhere before returning to Hamburg in 1956. With their six kids, there was never pressure to play sports; there was only an expectation that we would be physically active and be “good at something.” Bob, Jr. (’68), Mick (’69), Molly (’71) and Kate and Andy (both ’75) all succeeded at HHS. [Jane attended high school in White Plains after Bob & Jeanne moved there in 1976.] For most of us, athletics, art and/or student government was where we met our folks’ expectations — but grades always came first at their insistence. We were expected to work hard, succeed and have fun doing it. We were taught through the years that it is just as important to do good as to do well. The sportsmanship and teamwork reinforced through decades of athletic and school activity endeavors in Hamburg helped to hone that commitment. With our parents, there was always a focus on integrity, generosity, fairness and kindness — we were taught to pull for the underdog, be it the disadvantaged, the poor or the outclassed.
Bob, Jr. went on to Cornell where he played varsity football and did well in class. He then attended UB Law School and has been a partner at the Hodgson Russ law firm in Buffalo for 35 years. He and his wife Ruth have three children and two grand-children. Mick also went on to Cornell where he too played varsity football. Mick has held a number of executive positions and now serves as the Executive Director of the American Association of Chamber Executives in Washington, D.C. Mick was selected for the Foundation’s Sports Wall of Fame in 2012. He and wife Barbi (HHS ’70) have two children and a delightful grand-daughter. Molly in Binghamton, Ashland Oregon and China before entering the health care world. She has been a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist in Burlington, VT for the past 20 years where she and her daughter Zoe reside. Andy went to Pace University where he played varsity football. Upon graduation he served as an active duty Marine Infantry Officer for three years before going to UB for law school. He and his wife live on Central Avenue in the Village where they raised their three children. He and Dan Chiacchia have their law practice in Hamburg and Andy is the Village Judge, as well. Katy went on to Pace with Andy. (Bob, Sr. was the Dean of the Law School there and a full tuition waiver for his children was part of his compensation package.) Katy obtained a B.A. but then went on for a B.S. in Nursing, as well. She has been a Nurse Practitioner in Philadelphia for the past 25+ years. She is married and they raised their three children in Lower Merlon, PA. Jane left Hamburg after the 8th grade, but went on to excel at White Plains High School before going on to Pace where she was a two sport varsity athlete. Jane lives in Northern Virginia where she has headed up a very successful Calico Corners store for more than 15 years. On behalf of the grandparents, parents, teachers, coaches, teammates and community that gave us so much to work with and work for, we thank the Foundation for this honor.
Located on the Gowanda State Road, the Water Valley School was actually two buildings — a smaller one on Stevens Road, facing the larger two-room school house. As late as 1945, children attended Water Valley for all eight of the elementary grades; graduating eighth graders had the option of leaving school entirely, a practice evidenced more commonly among farming families. Or they would move along to the high school in Hamburg’s Village, or to the high school in Eden — which was mostly a matter of logistics, personal preference and convenience. Many of the children attending Water Valley lived to the south and west of the bridge crossing the Eighteen Mile Creek, and it is to these hundreds of students and their teachers that we honor the generations of learners who attended this community school. In the school’s last thirteen years, when classroom space became scarce at Union Street School, and beginning in 1951, a good half of the Union Street third graders would meet and board the bus each morning. From there, the bus made its way – no more than a mile to the south on Pierce Avenue – to three waiting teachers and two school buildings. The kindly, soft-spoken Mrs. Josephine Hipp taught her little learners in the one-room school house facing Stevens Road. Her daughter, Susan (Hipp) LeMar recalled that her mother had been “an educator at heart, a true professional, and an encourager of every child.” Once Mrs., Hipp was retired from Hamburg, she signed on as a missionary in Costa Rica, where she resumed elementary school teaching. In the larger, two-room building taught Mrs. Helene (Tornow) Meisenheimer, known for her easy laughter and outward love of children. Miss Mary Mountain, recalled by nearly everyone as one of the best teachers ever, shared her thoughts at the time of the school’s closing: “I’ve taught in many schools,” she said, “but I’m convinced small schools are best for small children.” For eight years Miss Mountain’s classroom was in the bigger school, as was that of the larger-than-life Mrs. Meisenheimer. The kids were served the same hot lunches as they would have had at “the big school” in the Village, served by two cooks – Mrs. Dorothy Kummer and Mrs. Laura Eckhart. Everyone in the larger building ate at their desks, while folding tables would come out for Mrs. Hipp’s group. After z AL RIXTS CHILDREN IN ONE OF THE TWO CLASSROOMS lunch, it was out to the playground for organized games – or just some great fun with classmates. One former student, recalling those recesses at Water Valley, told about kickball games where the ball would end up down the embankment toward the Eighteen Mile Creek. “Nobody was allowed to chase after it – except for Mrs. Meisenheimer. Off she’d go scrambling down the hill to retrieve our ball.” He said that she went all the way to the creek to get the ball, got back, and the game continued. For more than one hundred years Hamburg’s young people attended school in the building on Gowanda State Road, a “learning community” where lasting relationships began, where academics were nurtured, and the “love of learning” could grow out of bonds among students and their dedicated teachers.
Front row: Molly, Katy Jane, Jeanne & Andy. Back row: Bob, Sr., Bob Jr. & Mick.
Barb was a four sport athlete at HHS, playing field hockey, volleyball, basketball, and softball. While lettering in all four sports, Barb achieved her greatest success in field hockey, even though she only started playing her sophomore year. One of her fondest memories was scoring a hat-trick in a field hockey game against West Seneca West in the rain and mud. She also recalls the thrill of making the Scholastic Empire State field hockey team. Barb continued her athletic career at Indiana University (IU), transferring to Ithaca College (IC) her sophomore year after IU dropped their field hockey program. At Ithaca, Barb scored the game-winning penalty stroke 1982 to win the Division III title. She competed in the NCAA Final Four all three years at Ithaca, finishing 2nd and 3rd. She also played softball, competing in the NCAA tournament all 3 years. She was captain of both teams and received All-American awards in both sports. Barb was inducted into the Ithaca College Hall of Fame twice, for both individual and team achievements. She continues to play field hockey, competing in the Empire State Games for over 15 years, winning a total of 8 medals — 2 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze. Barb said her greatest achievement came this year when she played internationally on the USA Master’s World Field Hockey team, assisting on the first goal and the team winning a bronze medal. In addition to playing field hockey, Barb is also a collegiate and high school field hockey official. She says she has had the best all worlds at HHS as a student, athlete, teacher, coach and now a member of the Hamburg Sports Wall of Fame. She is grateful for the opportunity and honor.
Bill’s involvement in Hamburg High School activities was the foundation of his formative years. He played football, wrestled and competed in track, and he sang in choral groups and played in the orchestra and jazz band. He was active in student council and as chairman of the prom. Lessons learned from these activities would serve him well for the rest of his adult life. In 1973 Bill graduated from Heidelberg College in Ohio, where he was a member of the wrestling team and a member of the 1972 undefeated National Championship football team. His credentials quickly landed him a job as a math teacher, football coach and wrestling coach in Elyria, Ohio. In 1973 Hamburg High School served Bill well again as he married his high school sweetheart, Maureen McGrath Stetler, from the Class of 1970. They raised three children. While teaching and coaching Bill attended the University of Akron and earned his M.Ed. He became an assistant principal of Stow High School where he was the sole disciplinarian for 1,300 9th and 10th graders. While in this position he started a statewide movement called “Chemical Abuse Reduction through Education” (CARE). Bill spent the next 11 years as High School Principal and Curriculum Director in Louisville City Schools. As principal he received a Venture Capital Grant from Ohio Governor George Voinovich for instructional improvement. Bill entered the Superintendence at Lake Local Schools in 1996. He turned around this embattled school to become a state leader and nationally recognized by the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. He eventually worked with the Ohio Department of Education as Executive Liaison. He later served as Superintendent of Northwest Schools in Stark County, Ohio, and as a consultant for the Educational Service Center. Today Bill is retired and resides in Canal Fulton Ohio.