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"Ville" reunion a big draw in West Medford

Posted by Travis Andersen  May 27, 2009 11:20 AM

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West Medford resident Cheryl Middleton and son Kevin at the Ville reunion.

By: Travis Andersen
Town Correspondent

You can always go back to the "Ville," a close-knit neighborhood in West Medford, thanks to the energy and dedication of three longtime residents.

Rita Cosey, John Reid, and Letha Roberts hold a neighborhood reunion every three years on Memorial Day weekend. This year's event drew more than 200 guests, many traveling from out of state.

"It's a very friendly area where we grew up, so that's why people always come back," Reid said.

He got the idea for a reunion in 1996, after attending Cosey's 50th birthday party. The following year he and Roberts - who were kindergarten classmates - billed their 50th bash as a Ville reunion.

"We thought it would only be a one-time thing," Reid said.

Instead it's a five-time thing, and counting. An e-mail list, fund-raiser, and neighborhood blog have kept friends in the loop.

From left: Ville reunion organizers Letha Roberts, John Reid, and Rita Cosey.

Each reunion has a theme, and Cosey chose "We Are Family" for 2009.

"Because the community always embraced you," said Cosey, who moved to the Ville at age 16 from Cambridge.

The three usually settle on a theme at the last minute, Roberts said.

"Something happens and it sparks."

This year's festivities included breakfast at the West Medford Community Center, a tent party with music at Dugger Park, and a black-tie dinner at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.

But people came mostly for the camaraderie.

"This is home," said former resident Bette Chisholm, 75, who came in from San Antonio with her husband Rocky.

They left the Medford area in 1987, after Rocky retired from the Air Force.

"It's good seeing the old folks again," he said.

All of those folks have nicknames, according to Steve Parris, a retired Medford fire lieutenant who grew up in the Ville. He now lives in Lynn.

Parris' friends call him "Snake," which he declined to explain, with a laugh. He's attended all five reunions to keep in touch.

"I try to come back as often I can, because I may not see them again," he said.

One of his close friends, Wilfred "Wolfie" Fraser, came up from Maryland for the reunion, his third.

The recently retired NBC cameraman and engineer said many families settled in the Ville after World War II, launching clubs and civic groups.

"It's one of the oldest black communities in the US that's still a community," he said.

Fraser hopes younger residents will continue holding the reunion, which has received two city proclamations from Mayor Michael McGlynn.

"[The reunion] is very important," said Cheryl Middleton, spokesperson for West Medford Community Spirit, a group that holds outdoor events and dances.

Middleton brought her 6-year-old son Kevin to this year's reunion, in part to keep the Ville's spirit alive for future generations.

"That's exactly what we're trying to do," she said.

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11 comments so far...
  1. I didn't attend because I didn't think I would know many people since I've a new comer, as they tell me, only been here 46 years, but my friend Bobbye Booker, who sat with me in church told me I would know a lot of people, so next time I will go. Seems people come from across the country and that's great. I did see "Wolfie" and spoke to him. I knew him. I asked if Butch Stoner was here but never found out. He used to lead the drill team that my kids were in and then we visited with him when we went to New Mexico. Next time I will attend.
    My kids grew up here, in fact Kim was born here and she thinks there's no place like the Ville. Wouldn't live any place else. It is a great place. I've loved it here.
    I would like to get a mug when you order them.
    Congratulations to the organizers!! Keep it going.
    Gwen Blackburn

    Posted by Gwen Blackburn May 28, 09 08:39 AM
  1. i was really wishy-washy about attending the reunion, once you add your airfare, car rental, and cost of the tickets, it is not just a drop in the bucket. i'm so glad i stopped being CHEAP and decided to make the investment. it was well worth it. i danced all nite on saturday, and got a chance to catch up with folks on sunday. the only complaint i have is that it's over all too quickly. time flies when you are having fun. i never even had time to eat anything.
    it's really funny because i never lived in medford, but i grew up in medford.
    i grew up in burlington, all my cousins lived in the ville, so i exported myself to the closest town were people looked liked me.
    it is great coming back to place where everyone knows your name.

    Posted by lorraine matthews-sanders May 28, 09 10:31 AM
  1. What can I say!!! This is the first West Medford Reunion that I have missed. My grandson just graduated from high school in Alpharetta, Georgia so that is where my family I had to be. I live in Framingham, MA and get to see a lot of Medford and the old (young) timers that still live there. I would like to get memorabilia on some of the activities that happened at Shiloh Baptist, WMCC and any other events that took place in West Medford. Does anyone remember the Lend-A-Hand Club, Junior Matrons, the Yadnomes to name a few. At the moment I am in Mississippi visiting friends and relatives of my husband. Upon my return I will see who I missed by not being able to attend. Everyone take care and will see you all the next time if not sooner.

    Love, Joyce

    Posted by Joyce Finley Stamps May 28, 09 01:51 PM
  1. It was unbelievable... I saw about 30 people in had not seen for about 30 years..

    Posted by Gina May 28, 09 08:11 PM
  1. As a lifelong resident of the Ville, this was my very first reunion that I attended and I had a great time. I am so glad to be part of such a wonderful community. From Friday's Jam Session right on down to the Dinner Dance Sunday it was a really nice time and if you've never been, you have missed something really special. But don't fret, just make plans to come bacl to the Ville in another three years!! Thanks so much to all who had a hand in putting this event together and thanks to everyone who came all the way from whereever (or right around the corner!) for coming to keep the Ville alive!

    Posted by Cheryl May 29, 09 10:02 AM
  1. We want to thank John Reid and the rest of the Ville Committee for a great reunion. This is the third one that we've attended and we look forward to the next one. It was a wonderful time to be with our family and friends and talk about the good old times and see the new West Medford Community Center building. Everything was great and again Thanks for all that went in to making the weekend so special.

    Rocky and Bette

    Posted by ROCKY AND BETTE CHISHOLM May 29, 09 06:22 PM
  1. I love these things! As usual this was another great effort by Johnnie and crew! Thanks for all your hard work, I had a great time! And yes i want a mug too. See you at the next reunion!

    Posted by Donna Furey-Skinner May 31, 09 12:26 AM
  1. My family has been in the "ville" since the year before dirt! My grandfather was a Pullman Porter on the road with Mr. Williams.. My father served in WWII with many of the fathers of those with whom I grew up. We used to call it "West Deadford" because there was nothing to do.. "we thought"..But, now as a 63 year old, I realize how very special and unique a community we had. I honor those who came before us and on whose shoulders we stand. What a legacy !! and how wonderful to have the reunions.. The Jam Session was not to be missed!! The dances were great.. God willing I will be back again in 2012.. and bring my mother this time! ( she is 85+ and still going strong!)l

    Posted by Cheryl Evans May 31, 09 03:23 PM
  1. First a huge thanks to the reunion committee for yet another fabulous event. This has been my third and as long as I am able I will attend these very, very special gatherings. Like others, I now know how fortunate and blessed we were to have been brought up in such a special community; seeing my buddies, former neighbors and relatives was a surreal experience. I have to smile as warm thoughts play over and over again as I reflect on the weekend.
    Thanks to all of you I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with and I look forward to catching up with those I missed......... the next time. Until then, be healthy, happy and blessed.

    Posted by Joe Parham a.k.a. Chuck June 1, 09 06:19 PM
  1. I've lived here in the Ville all my life, my mother father and grandparent lived here. My three children and my wife grew up here there's no place like the(VILLE) great place for kids to be (it take a village to raise a child) and I was one of then. The spirit lives on. Thanks to all the organizers. All the good people how showd up for the great time, see you all next time. WOLF.

    Posted by Billy Williams June 15, 09 01:04 PM
  1. Three months later, I am STILL fondly reminiscing about the many special moments of this year's reunion. I have always said that "one never feels like a stranger upon their return to the Ville." Having been gone for 25 years now, I can truly appreciate the specialness of such a close-knit community and I so enjoyed seeing and spending time with all of the many family and friends who attended. My sincere thanks to John, Rita and Letha for all their hard work in making these reunions such an enormous success. Am anxiously awaiting 2012...hopefully I will see you then!

    Posted by denyse furey-tate August 31, 09 06:47 PM