Old acquaintances becoming new friends

Class of 1965 reunites for 50-year reunion at the Woodmere Club

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Like a bloodhound detective who finds all the clues to catch the criminal, Cedarhurst native Cheryl Rothenberg Chaves combined old school sales techniques with modern day social networking to track down former Lawrence High School class of 1965 classmates for a 50-year reunion on Saturday at the Woodmere Club.

After chance meeting with classmate Isabel Price Schorenstein in an Inwood restaurant last year, Chaves has found many of her former schoolmates and coaxed at least 160, more could be attending, to the event that will include a performance by the doo wop group the Persuasions, a DJ playing ’60s music and weather permitting vintage 1960s cars and the current Lawrence High School cheerleaders welcoming attendees.

“I was up to 3 a.m. using LinkedIn, the [enrollment] rolls of colleges, sending emails, hunting our class that was 535 to 540,” Chaves said. “Finding people after 50 years is not easy. There are marriages, divorces and deaths.”

She was able to find nearly 400 classmates. While they are not expected to attend the reunion, the class included Ira Magaziner, who was the senior advisor for policy development for President Bill Clinton, and Sir Gilbert Levine, a world renowned conductor who became known as “the Pope’s Maestro” due to his relationship with Pope John Paul II. Levine was accorded the highest Papal knighthood in 1994. Chaves also set up a Facebook group — Lawrence graduates 1965 — where people are connecting, posting photos and organizing what she called “mini-reunions.”

Involved in television sales for more than 30 years, including 17 at CBS, Chaves applied her method of turning a “no” response into a “yes, and where I do I send my check response.”

“Cheryl was in advertising/sales and she has more tenacity than anyone I know,” said Schorenstein, adding that their serendipitous meeting was “meant to be.” “One of her colleagues said ‘she could talk a dog off a meat truck’ and she found people, networked, it is unbelievable.”

It also appears organizing reunions is in her DNA, as her father, Edward Rothenberg, organized his Lawrence High class’s 50th reunion. The Rothenberg family has been in Cedarhurst since the 1920s. Chaves’ grandparents owned one of the first grocery stores in the area, Rothenberg’s, near where the Number Five School was built. Rothenberg was one of the first students to enter the school and graduated from what was the Number One School on Central Avenue in Lawrence when that building served as Lawrence High School.

“I was taken aback when I found out my dad organized his reunion,” Chaves said. “My mother told me he also [organized] his class’s 40-year reunion. “I guess this runs in my genes.” Her mother remains active at 92, and lives in Cedarhurst. Chaves’ father died five years ago.

North Woodmere resident Elysa Parker always viewed her sister as highly motivated. “She always said that there are two kinds of people in this world — reactive and proactive — Cheryl has always been the latter.”

While some classmates have remained local, Schornstein, who grew up in Lawrence has lived in Woodsburgh for the past 44 years, and Chaves was in Cedarhurst and recently moved to Manhattan, others will be flying in from several states, including California, Oregon and Florida.

A prom ticket for the class of ’65 was 19.65. The cost for Saturday’s reunion party is $119.65 per person. A Friday night dinner at Giardinetto restaurant, where Chaves and Schornstein met, and brunch at the Sherwood Dinner on Sunday are also planned. “If I didn’t do this it would be a missed opportunity,” Chaves said. “We made old acquaintances into new friends.”