Editor's Note: Newsday.com is catching up with former Long Island homecoming kings and queens to reflect on being named royalty and see what they're up to now. If you're a former Long Island high school homecoming king or queen and would like to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Although Laura Gravina was involved in several senior class activities, she wasn’t a cheerleader and didn't feel she was as well known as some of the other girls who were nominated for homecoming queen at Sachem High School. That’s why her win came as a surprise to her.
During the homecoming parade of 1974, Gravina (known then as Laura McNeill) was all smiles as she rode atop a sleek convertible. She clutched a big bouquet of flowers, and a homemade sign on the side of the vehicle declared her “homecoming queen” in bubble letters.
After high school, Gravina went on to Suffolk County Community College, and later St. Joseph’s College. She worked at the New York State Office of Mental Health for more than three decades as a mental health program specialist before retiring in Ronkonkoma.
Gravina is very much enjoying retirement, and frequently travels to the Catskills with her family. Every year, she and her two brothers, Mark and Pete, hike through a section of the Appalachian Trail. Her family spent lots of time outdoors growing up, and Gravina considers herself an "exercise fanatic" because of that.
"It's really fun to spend nine days in the woods, 30 pounds on my back, hiking with my brothers," she said. "It's a lot of fun and you meet a lot of interesting people. It's my favorite thing to do."
And even after all this time, she still has regular outings with her Sachem friends.
“It’s a tight group,” Gravina said. “We have group of girls that get together; we organized a group called ‘The Sachem Foxes.’ After we had the 40th reunion, some of the guys expressed interest and wanted to come, so now we get together every couple of months as ‘The Sachem Foxes and Hounds.'"
If Gravina could go back, she'd tell her high school self not to take everything too seriously.
“Laugh often,” she said. “That’s what I do. That’s how I got by working for 32 years in mental health.”