Once again, the evening was filled with nostalgia and reminiscence, of laughter and tears, of happy memories from years gone by.
It was a chance for friends to rekindle and renew relationships, for families to get together and honor one of their own, for colleagues and rivals to come together as one in a larger brethren called Hudson County athletics.
It was a chance for many in attendance to learn about the incredible accomplishments of West New York native Frank Cumiskey, who was a three-time Olympian in gymnastics and would have been a five-time Olympian, if not for the outset of World War II.
Although Cumiskey passed away in August 2004, several members of his family were reunited to honor their family member. And while many in attendance left before dessert was served to beat the snowstorm's wrath on their way home, the members of Cumiskey's family remained together long after the program ended, as a sign of unity for their deceased hero.
Cumiskey's story was the one that drew the most attention from the people in attendance, who never realized that such greatness blossomed in their own backyard.
It was also a night for coaches, as exactly half of the 16 inductees were honored for their participation in coaching rather than playing. Of the eight coaches honored, they collected a total of more than 2,400 victories over careers than spanned decades. It was a conglomeration of coaches never before honored in the 15 years of the Hall of Fame's existence.
Of the coaches honored, none were more emotionally moved than County Prep's baseball coach Mike Zadroga, who has won more than 500 games and four HCIAA championships at three different schools in his storied career.
Zadroga had a strong family contingent on hand and made sure to thank every one of them. It was also fitting that Ollie Gelston, Zadroga's baseball coach at then-Jersey City State College, now known as New Jersey City University, was also inducted.
In fact, there were a lot of cross-mingling between the inductees. Zadroga and inductee Bill DeFazio, the Marist girls' basketball coach, once served together as assistant football coaches at JCSC.
Inductees Tom Liggio and Bobby Lisa were of the same era and played football against each other, with Freeholder Liggio playing at St. Joseph of the Palisades and Lisa donning the red and white of what was then called Demarest, but is now known as Hoboken High School.
There was a strong track and field flavor, with coaches Stan Fryczynski of Secaucus and Jim Cifelli of Kearny being honored, along with former Lincoln High School and Adelphi University speedster Larry Ross being honored.
Both Liggio and Zadroga also pointed out in their biographies in the dinner program that they also had backgrounds in track and field, so it was a night were track took center stage with all the recognition.
"There's something special about track and field people," Fryczynski said. "They don't feel neglected. But there's a special person to handle the type of work and effort needed to succeed in the sport. Maybe there are times that track gets lost in the shuffle. But I don't think track is a minor sport. It was good that there were so many track people honored this year."
The Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2005 was also spread out well, with representatives from practically every municipality in the county. Of course, Jersey City was well represented with six honorees, followed by Kearny with three, but each and every area was recognized with an honoree.
Once again, long-time inductee and Hudson County coaching legend Vince Ascolese of North Bergen handled the master of ceremonies duties, offering his personal insights and memories of each inductee. Considering he's been a part of the Hudson County sports fabric for over 50 years, Ascolese certainly has enough stories and memories to share, and he does a fine job every year bringing those memories to the forefront.
All in all, it was a great night for everyone in attendance, especially the inductees, which also included Bayonne High School swim coach Thomas Wojslawowicz; former Queen of Peace, Harrison and Kearny football coach Ralph Borgess; former Weehawken and University of Pennsylvania two-sport standout Pete Wisniewski; and former Union Hill and Assumption College basketball star Eric Inauen, who is currently a deputy fire chief for the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue.
Jerry Meyers, who has been the president of the Lincoln Park Little League in Jersey City for the last 30 years, is the 2005 recipient of the Marty Seglio Community Service Award, given in memory of the late Weehawken resident and former St. Joseph of the Palisades athletic director who constantly gave of his time to help athletes.
A year from now, there will be a handful of more inductees and another night of fond memories, because Hudson County has always churned out great athletes over the years and there are countless more that deserve their place in the Hall of Fame. It's a never-ending cycle, one that will hopefully remain for the ages to come. - Jim Hague