West Medford resident Cheryl Middleton and son Kevin at the Ville reunion.
By: Travis Andersen
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.