A years-old idea to create a hall of fame to honor standout John F. Kennedy High School athletes through the decades is finally becoming a reality.
On Saturday, the JFK Athletics Hall of Fame will be unveiled, to give lasting recognition to alumni with myriad achievements in a range of sports. Many of them will be in attendance.
The inductees will also be honored at halftime of Kennedy’s Homecoming game against Valley Stream South on Saturday.
The concept sparked renewed discussion during the tenure of former Principal Lorraine Poppe, who retired in 2018 and died in 2019. Her successor, Gerard Owenburg, along with coaches Brian DeGaetano and Craig Papach, were enthusiastic supporters. “Twenty-five years ago, we wanted to do this, but it never came to fruition,” said DeGaetano, who is in his 28th year at the school.
The Hall of Fame, featuring a total of 53 athletes, will be in the foyer of Kennedy’s gymnasium.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be included,” said Morgan Kitton, a 2011 graduate, a former captain of the girls’ soccer and lacrosse teams and a member of the basketball and track teams. “It’ll be great to see where everyone is at today — and I’ll be initiated with my sister, Fara, who is 10 years my senior.”
Kitton had a stellar career, named All-County MVP and All-State in soccer. She went on to play at LIU Post, where she was captain of the soccer team and an All-Conference player.
“Being a leader was the best part,” she said. “I’m an attorney, so it’s helped me be more personable. Also, I like helping others succeed.”
Stephen Cavayero, a three-time Nassau County champion wrestler and a high school All-American who graduated in 1976, also said the recognition was a privilege. “I’ll be honored to be there,” said Cavayero, who will be inducted alongside his brothers, Harvey, Richard and Keith, all wrestlers.
“We were the premier team,” said Rich Lubell, class of 1974, a state champion wrestler who was a teammate of the Cavayeros’. “It was the golden age.”
Lubell received a full scholarship for wrestling at the University of Michigan, and competed in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. “It was exhilarating,” he said. “I was competing against national champions, Olympic champions and all the rest for most of my career — and I had fire in my belly. I wanted to succeed.”
Lubell went on to become a teacher, and now lives in Brooklyn. He will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame with his brothers, wrestlers Eric, Daniel and William. Eric went to Princeton after Kennedy, thanks to his success in the sport. “It was transformative,” he said. “We were a second-generation family that had a son going to Princeton.”
All are welcome to attend the Homecoming game at Kennedy at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Afterward, the Hall of Fame will be on display.