Seniors gather for 40th annual holiday luncheon at Clermont Northeastern
By Dick Maloney
The menu and program were traditional holiday – rolls, jello, salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pies; a Christmas musical medley; a door prize raffle. The stand-up comedy was a bonus.
Clermont Northeastern School District hosted its 40th annual senior citizens holiday luncheon Dec. 5 in the CNE Middle School cafeteria, with almost 200 guests enjoying food served by CNE middle school and high school students.
District Pre-School Director Wayne Johnson welcomed the crowd, talking about the history of the event (which started in 1979), what’s involved in planning and how district staff views the event – well, in a way.
“(District nurse) Lori Diekmann and I have been doing this for about 15 years together, and we enjoy it, and we love having everybody here in the middle school,” Johnson said. “As we get a new middle school principal every year, we have to talk them into having this, because they think it’s just a disruption, and then after they see it for a year, they don’t want to lose it. That’s Mrs. (Laura) Nazzarine.”
Nazzarine, the middle school principal, shot up from her chair and denied Johnson’s claim – all in fun – and Johnson relented
“Mrs. Nazzarine has told me all morning, ‘Why do you have to be so mean on this day?’ I just want to have everything right for our guests here.’
“The first people I’d like to thank is Mrs. Nazzarine for allowing us to have it in their building and disrupt everything about their day today, but as she, she kind of loves having everyone here and letting everyone see her building. Chuck Boothby, who is her assistant (principal), they go out of their way to help us make everyone feel welcome.”
Superintendent Michael Brandt took his chance to prod Johnson.
“Let’s do a slight correction for Mr. Johnson. He said people accuse him of being mean. Does anyone know what his nickname is? ‘The King of Kindness.’ That’s what he’s affectionately known as,” Brandt said.
Brandt then turned serious, acknowledging the crowd and the occasion.
“I want to thank you, Wayne, for giving me an opportunity to speak as they are passing out the rolls and everyone is salivating to eat,” he said. “This is quite a thrill for me. This is my fourth year here, and I’m continually amazed at the turnout and the warmth that comes into the room with everybody enjoying each other’s company. It’s a great experience for our students, our teachers, and I just want to welcome you again and hope that you have a very happy holiday season that is healthy and productive, so enjoy and we have a record number of gifts to give out today that the vendors have been very generous, so I think you’ll enjoy the second part as well. So enjoy, have a great Christmas holiday. Thank you.”
Twenty tables – two rows of 10 – were set up in the cafeteria, and most were full. Brandt said guests began arriving at 9:30 a.m. for the 11:30 a.m. event – something which amazed Brandt.
“Not living in the district, this is something new to me to see such a tremendous number of senior citizens come and support the schools, support the district and have such positive attitudes about what we’re doing here at CNE, and they’re very appreciative, they line up hours ahead of time,” Brandt said later. “They start sending in reservations in October.”
Bonnie Heming, her husband, Edward, and friends Bill Puckett, Carolyn Puckett and Bonnie Schrinner were among the guests. The Hemings returned to Clermont County from Lake Okeechobee, Florida, a couple of years ago and attended their first senior citizen luncheon in 2017. Their CNE roots are deep. Bonnie and Edward attended CNE (she graduated in 1966, he in 1964). Bonnie was on the bowling team and a majorette. Edward ran track. They have children and grandchildren who also attended CNE.
“Met at school and got married after he went in the service. Our grandson won one of the alumni scholarships. In Ohio State, last year of dental,” Bonnie said.
The Hemings attended with the Pucketts in 2017; Shrinner joined them this year.
“I enjoy coming here just to meet old friends that I’ve known for a long time,” Edward said. The Hemings live in Batavia.
Bill Puckett is a 1963 CNE graduate. He and Carolyn are Goshen residents and have been luncheon guests for “four or five years.”
“Her mother’s been coming since it started,” Bill Puckett said.
Schrinner tagged along this year. She did not attend CNE, but her children did.
“All three of them, and they’ve done well. One’s a pilot, one’s an engineer and the other one is a web person, whatever, and they’ve done well,” she said.
Those generational connections are one reason the district hosts the event, Nazzarine said.
“I think it’s great for our kids because they get to see another generation of learners that were in CNE. I think it’s also great for when our …. so it’s a real community event and I think it’s super important for us to give back to our community,” she said.
Members of the high school’s Leo Club (junior Lions Club), Student Senate and National Honor Society, and the middle school’s Junior National Honor Society serve the food, which is prepared by district food service director Terri Hoerth and her staff.
The CNE Chapter of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) set up the gym. The CNE Christmas Band, under the direction of Chris Moore, provided the music, and the Middle School Choir performed a holiday medley, led by director Katie Blasing.
Community involvement is also important, and Johnson made sure to thank those who contributed.
“I’d like to thank Kelly Cruey from Merchant’s National Bank who sponsors this event today, and Kelly is the one running around taking all of your money for split the pot. Merchants National Bank over on Hospital Drive is where Kelly is the manager, branch manager, and when I asked Kelly last spring, I said, ‘Do you want to sponsor our senior citizens lunch again?’ and Jim Evans, the president, said ‘It’s up to Kelly, and Kelly said ‘Yeah, if it’s up to me, I’ll sponsor it all the time,’ so just give her a round of applause.”
Danny Grant, of Grant’s Farm, provided the poinsettias. “We went to pick those up yesterday and he said ‘How many do you want?’ Not ‘I’ll give you 20,’ but ‘What do you want?’” Johnson said.
Gerry Fancher made tree decorations for each table, and several business donated to the door prize raffle, which was concluded the event.
Each piece made the event memorable, and is what it has become a four-decade tradition.
“It’s important and we think it’s sort of a signature event for us,” Brandt said.
These businesses donated to the 2018 Clermont Northeastern Senior Citizens Luncheon:
Alpha & Omega Building Services
Carney’s feed Mill
Clark’s Hardware (Owensville)
Deer Track Golf
Dunkin Donuts (Owensville)
Exotic Hair & Tan (Owensvile)
Joe Luigi Pizza
John Wood Insurance
Kopp & Hawley Insurance (Owensville)
Lee & Jack’s TV & Appliance
Merchant’s National Bank
Office Depot (Milford)
Park National Bank (Owensville)
Stonelick Hills Golf Course
Superior Credit Union
The Gathering Place (Newtonsville)
Winchester Carpet Outlet
About CNE Schools
CNE, in partnership with the community, will provide students with the skills and exploratory experiences that enable them to reach their fullest potential. To accomplish this, the CNE staff will:
• Strive to make children confident and creative builders of their future
• Research, design, and provide the best academic program and learning environment possible for students.
Schools in the CNE District include Clermont Northeastern High School, Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Clermont Northeastern Elementary School and Clermont Northeastern Preschool.