Rockland Sports Hall of Fame to Induct Nine

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By Jamie Kempton

The Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame will honor nine individuals during its 47th annual induction banquet on Saturday, April 18 at the Pearl River Elks Club in Nanuet. Reception is at 6 p.m. followed by the induction program at 7 p.m.

This year’s roster of inductees includes Will Cunnane, Clarkstown North class of 1992; Charlie White, Spring Valley class of 1972; Heidi Higgins Sermabekian, Spring Valley class of 1980; Phil Consiglio, North Rockland class of 1985; Jose St. Victor, Nyack class of 1973; Wilbur Eschen, Suffern class of 1940 (posthumous); the brother tandem of Emil Willis, Spring Valley class of 1952, and Bob Willis, Spring Valley class of 1959; and Margaret “Babs” Stead, the Joseph Holland Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

“The makeup of the induction class varies from year to year but all share one overriding theme: excellence in their respective fields of athletics,” said Pete Scheibner, Hall of Fame Chairman. “This year we are proud to enshrine a former major league baseball player, two former professional football players, a trail-blazing female athlete, a champion wrestler, three outstanding multi-sport athletes, two of whom also stood out as coaches, and a highly regarded official in four sports. Rockland County’s success in the athletic arena far exceeds its small geographic size.”

Cunnane pitched for the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves during an eight-year major league career. At Clarkstown North, he was Pitcher of the Year for League I-B his senior year and allowed only three earned runs in 56 innings. White was a running back with the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Colts. He was a two-time All-America halfback at Bethune-Cookman College and two-time Rockland County 100-yard dash champion at Spring Valley.

Higgins Sermabekian was the first girl in New York State to play on a boys’ high school baseball team. She starred in basketball, soccer and softball and enjoyed an outstanding basketball career at Nazareth College. Consiglio won the 1984 New York State scholastic wrestling title at 105 lbs. and made two All-America teams. He set the Rockland County record for career victories (132) and placed at the State meet all four years.

St. Victor was drafted by the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, and was a free agent with both the Dallas Cowboys and the USFL’s New Jersey Generals. He earned a full scholarship to Syracuse University and started as an offensive tackle for three years. At Nyack he competed in football and track and coached both sports at his alma mater.

Eschen, who died in 2018, was an All-County performer for Suffern in football, basketball and baseball. He coached the Suffern Mounties baseball team from 1954 to 1972 and won a pair of County championships. He later coached the baseball team at Potsdam State College. Emil and Bob Willis were both three-sport stars for Spring Valley and varsity athletes at Springfield College. Emil coached the Tigers baseball team to the 1967 Rockland and Section 9 championship, and served as an educator, coach and  administrator at Rockland Community College for almost 50 years. Bob received a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies as a pitcher and went on to a distinguished career as a superintendent of schools in the Midwest.

Stead has officiated swimming and track & field for 44 years, volleyball for 26 years, and refereed girls’ basketball for 25 years. She holds or has held leadership positions in multiple sports and spent 34 years as a teacher at St. Gregory Barbarigo School in Garnerville. Tickets for the gala are $65 per person and $30 for children 12 and younger. Ticket deadline is April 14. For further information, contact Pete Castellano at 201-390-3245 or riverviewmall@aol.com, or use the ticket form on the Hall of Fame’s website, www.RCSHF.org.