Fifty years ago, Richard Berger invited some high school buddies from the varsity football team over to his house to hang out.
Berger’s mother cooked food for all the boys, who also spent part of the night playing cards. The next day in school, one of the boys, Charlie Jenkins, had a rare frown on his face as he walked up to Berger and handed him a pack of cards.
“I’m sorry, not everyone knows how to behave,” Jenkins told Berger.
One of the boys had taken the pack of cards from Berger’s house, and when Jenkins saw him the next day in school with the cards, he asked the other boy to hand them over.
“That’s all Charlie had to do,” Berger said. “He just looked at the kid and said, ‘hand them over’ and that was that.”
That was the level of respect Jenkins had among his peers.
Berger joined 125-plus other ’62 graduates at White Plains on Saturday for their 50th class reunion. They were also there to honor Jenkins, who died in 1995. In 2004, the class of 1962 started the Charlie Jenkins Award, a scholarship given annually to a senior at White Plains who exemplifies the same characteristics that made Jenkins so popular decades ago. They also funded the Charlie Jenkins Memorial, a trophy case in the school.
Money for the $1,000 scholarshipis is donated by the class members, but Berger said they’re hoping to find a sponsor or sponsors so the award will live on forever at the school. So far, it’s only gone to athletes.
“It’s not just for athletes, though,” said Bruce Obrentz, another graduate from the class of ’62. “That’s what the faculty has decided to do so far, but we’re not honoring Charlie just because of his athletics. He was just a good person.”
Obrentz recalled a time when they were heading to football practice after school while in ninth grade at Eastview Middle School. Jenkins saw a group picking on another student. Jenkins walked over to the group, who were positioned in the opposite direction from practice.
“He walked over and just said, ‘Hi, Don,’” Obrentz said. “Then he turned to the other kids and said, ‘leave him alone’ and they did. That’s all he had to do. Later, Don said, ‘I didn’t even know he knew who I was. I knew him, of course, but I didn’t know he knew me or my name.’”
The returning members from the class of ’62 spoke about the scholarship and about Jenkins during halftime of the White Plains football team’s game Saturday against John Jay-East Fishkill. Many members no longer live in White Plains, including Berger, who lives in Montreal, Canada, and Obrentz, who lives in Atlanta, GA
“It’s really impressive how many of you came out and came back to White Plains,” said White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach. “On behalf of all the White Plains residents, I want to welcome you home. I know you never left, even those that physically left.”