BHS Alumni to Perform Benefit  
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Plans for a benefit to update the Jacqueline Puliafico Theatre in Bartlett High School have been on the drawing boards for several weeks.

The Bartlett High School Alumni Choir, former BHS students trained to sing in chorus by Jacqueline Puliafico, hatched the idea. Their plan was to get together in rehearsal — and they’re already there — to present a benefit and surprise “Mrs. P.,” as Jackie was known through her days at the Webster high school.

They would break the news at an appropriate moment. Ticket sales and public announcements could follow.

Then Denyse “Denny” Ruggeri, Jackie’s daughter, took a turn for the worse. A wife, mother and grandmother, and a former mathematics teacher at Bartlett High, she was a charter member of the Alumni Choir, and sang with them when they organized a benefit to buy new curtains for the Webster Town Hall auditorium years ago. Town funds simply were not available, and Jackie took things into her own hands.

Well, the public purse is still in jeopardy, and the Bartlett theater, dedicated to Mrs. Puliafico in the Alumni Choir’s first “return” performance, is pulling a worn curtain across the school’s arts stage. Another alumni performance might turn the trick, also adding much needed illumination. The Bartlett grads got things going, knowing that Denny’s long illness would keep her on the sidelines, but never thinking she’d be called to eternity. Worry, and I suspect prayers, crept into their rehearsals. Denyse Ruggeri was terminal.

Death came to her on Mother’s Day, testing faith and honor for the Alumni Choir, the depths of a family’s religious convictions — exposing Mrs. Puliafico’s life values and the love and dedication of Denise’s husband, Edward J. Ruggeri, their children and grandchildren.

Life goes on for the BHS Alumni Choir, even while God’s grand designs tug at their hearts. They’ll raise their voices in song to honor a deceased member and her family, and draw an unusual source of strength from their musical mentor, Mrs. Puliafico.

This is a true story, and the benefit plays at 2 p.m. June 12 in the Jacqueline Puliafico Theatre at Bartlett High School. It’ll be a joint event with the current Bartlett High singers.

If there are a few tears when the alumni raise a crescendo during the traditional Jacqueline Puliafico concert finale, the “Hallelujah Song,” it’ll be a sacred moment!

Andrew K. O’Keefe of Dudley, managing director of Worcester Farmer’s Markets, has a new pitch this year: “Come to the Worcester Farmer’s Market and shake the hand of the farmer who grows your food.”

Market sales will be on four weekdays, but not on Tuesdays, June 20 to Oct. 28. Stands will be set up at Beaver Brook Park most days and at Salem Covenant Church on Thursdays, both in Worcester.

Mr. O’Keefe, starting his 19th year directing farm food sales, is a retired educator and travel agency leader. His “new this season” line says, “Hardwick Winery & Vineyard.” This is a first for the field-to-sales specialists.

“Stop any day,” says Andy. “We would be happy to talk with you.” And if you think of it, ask Andy about the tours he and his wife, Ethel L. O’Keefe, led to Russia years ago, when it was an Iron Curtain nation, open mainly to the brave at heart.

Peter Slota, once a Webster selectman, has a job that takes him to Southbridge several times a week. His travel route is through Dudley, and a couple of manmade retaining pools at the foot of Tufts Hill caught his curiosity.

The pools are to the south corner to Fabyan Road, almost into Connecticut, and across from Dudley Center Road. “What was their purpose?” Mr. Slota asked as Webster’s annual town meeting was about to recess. His guess, fish hatchery ponds, seems as good as any. I date their construction to the early 1950s, and think they were abandoned after the August 1955 floods.

I’ve made a few inquiries without success. If anyone can help, Mr. Slota will appreciate the information.

-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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