Panther Pride peaked at a current all-time high Sunday afternoon inside Johnston High School’s famed Edward L. DiSimone Gymnasium.
Some 30 people, all of whom have so proudly worn the Columbia blue and white from the 1960s to the 2000s and have brought honor, glory and fame to their alma mater, were inducted into the prestigious JHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
“This class is representative of Panther Pride through the history of our school,” said James Hopkins, who chairs the HOF committee and continues to uphold the tradition that the late Gary V. Mazzie founded nine years ago. “Today, we’ll honor multiple sports stars that have won championships and landed honors in many different sports.”
Hopkins, a former teacher-coach at JHS, told an attentive audience “today we continue the extraordinary tradition Gary Mazzie started for the purpose to honor those men and women who achieved academic success during their undergraduate years and have gone on to successful careers in many fields.”
Sunday, the HOF Class of 2019 included people from the business community to first responders as well as a highly-decorated career in the military.
As his voiced cracked with the emotions of joy, Hopkins emphasized: “We also have inductees who have worked tirelessly for the athletes of this school and who continue to show the love of their school and community by putting in countless hours on the Hall of fame committee.”
One such person was David Taraborelli, a former Social Studies teacher who was inducted for a third time into the Athletic Hall of Fame but this time under the Coach/Contributor category.
Taraborelli, you see, was the long-time assistant coach to legendary Panther basketball coach Bob Smith and is steeped in JHS sports history dating back to when he was a key player for the 1963 state championship baseball team who continues to volunteer his time on the HOF committee along with his former baseball teammate Ed Skovron.
Sunday’s induction ceremony also featured a dash of pomp and circumstance when four of JHS champion cheerleaders escorted Normand Paquin, Class of 1997, to his seat amid a standing ovation in honor of the one-time Panther football and basketball standouts extraordinary career in the military.
Paquin, who has numerous commendations including the Purple Heart and Bronze star, was honored with the Gary V. Mazzie Lifetime Achievement Award and received another standing ovation following his after-dinner address at Cranston Country Club.
Joe Acciardo, current football and baseball coach at JHS, and members of his 1995 Class B state baseball champion Panthers were also honored under the team category. The squad included coaches Michael Cianci and Steven Frederick and players Dean Beliveau, David Christie, Bryan Cutlip, Anthony DeCicco, Joseph Desmarais, Stephen DeMeo Jr., Derek Dutchover, Matthew Gambardella, Joseph Hicks, Michael Iafrate, Matthew Lepore, Fabio Milano and Erik Skovron.
The individual inductees were: Louise Amore, ’84; Stephen Banspatch, ’71; Allegra DeLuca, ’01; William Hawkins, ’00; Evan Hopson, ’13; Donald Jackson, ‘64; Brenden Pappas, ’13; Erin Rocchio, ’80; Jessica Saccoccio, ’05; Joseph Scotti, ’02; Adam Seaburg, ’04; and Jason Simoneau, ’95.
Allan McGillivray, former teacher-coach and a member of the HOF committee, did what Hopkins and others concurred was “a great job as our master of ceremonies” and Sunday’s induction ceremony featured music set up by JHS Music Department Chairman Ronald Lamoureux.