Massapequa High school students were drenched in their school’s colors while awaiting the final call to line up for their homecoming parade last Saturday.
Their pride in being there was exceeded only by grand marshal Al Bevilacqua, a man whose work in Massapequa has transcended the South Shore, making its way to varying degrees onto television and the silver screen.
Bevilacqua was happy to be back on his old stomping grounds. He was a part of the second graduating class at Massapequa High School and returned as a teacher for 35 years. He was also well-known and respected as a wrestling coach.
“I’m involved nationally and internationally in the sport of wrestling,” Bevilacqua said. “I’ve been to over 40 states, doing wrestling clinics and things like that. When I got the call from the athletic director to participate in this year’s homecoming, I was honored to say the least.”
But away from the mat he was immortalized on an episode of “Seinfeld.” Jerry Seinfeld, also a Massapequa grad, had a gym teacher character named “Mr. Bevilacqua” officiate a rematch between him and an old sprint foe.
In addition, Bevilacqua coached Ron Kovic before Kovic left for Vietnam upon graduation. Kovic later went on to write the book “Born on the Fourth of July,” which was made into a movie directed by Oliver Stone. Kovic’s character was played by Tom Cruise, and Cruise joined Bevilacqua and his family for dinner at his home in Massapequa in preparation for the role.
Another notable attendee Saturday was former NFL player and current Massapequa school board member Gary Baldinger, who stood next to current wrestling coach Ron Serrano while Serrano pumped up the wrestling team before the parade.
Baldinger was particularly excited about the community coming together to make this year’s homecoming a great event.
He was once a Massapequa football player, and his son Brad is proudly following in his father’s footsteps as a captain of the team.
“I’ve been an e-board member for two years and I’ve lived in this community for a little over 40 years,” Baldinger said. “It’s a great town, great school district and everyone has gathered to show their pride in being a Chief.”