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FR&A Photo Gallery: Bill Grippo Retirement Roast

Dan Bocchino and Bill Grippo, left to right, at Grippo’s “Retirement Roast” on May 30.

Nearly 400 people came out to The Marigold on Hamilton Street May 30 to honor a man who, over the past four decades, has left an indelible mark on the township.

In the process, they raised money for a new arts scholarship.

Bill Grippo, MacAfee Road School’s principal, has worn many hats over the last 40 years – educator, politician, prolific fundraiser – and he was celebrated at a “retirement roast” for all of them.

The “roasters” were people who represented various stages of Grippo’s educational career: Carl Wade, who hired Grippo in 1977; Hillcrest Elementary School principal Al Fico; MacAfee Road School teacher Laura Franzi; former schools Superintendents Frank Pepe and LeRoy Setitz; MacAfee Road School PTO co-president Dan Bocchino; Tony Jackson; former Board of Education president Eva Nagy; Janet Salzman, Janice Regan; Nick DiMeglio, Kim Gordon and Mony Balou, the “MacAfee Trio,” and Grippo’s children.

Also participating in the roast, although via video, was First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens senior pastor, the Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries.

Among other things, the speakers touched on Grippo’s fundraising efforts – he led the campaign to raise money and rebuild the Villagers Theatre, he fundraises yearly for the township’s July 4 celebration and, most recently, helped raise money to build the Arts Gazebo in the Municipal Complex on DeMott Lane.

Grippo’s also been known for stunts to inspire the kids in his school to reach goals. As part of the MacAfee Road School’s “Grow a Garden of Readers” program, Grippo in 2014 promised his Pre-K to 4th Grade students that he would sleep on the school’s roof if they read 20,000 books by year’s end. They did, and he did.

Grippo has spent time in a dunk tank, where kids who excelled in the reading program could take turns dunking him, and allowed himself to be duct-taped to a wall at MacAfee as a fundraiser for the school’s “Positive Behavior Support In Schools” program.

Terri Seggio, head of the Middle School’s theater arts program, served as the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies. Opening remarks were delivered by schools Superintendent John Ravally.

“I think we can all agree that you’ve earned the next chapter in your life,” Seggio said. “We wish you good health, days that start a little later, more causes to support and many years to enjoy your beautiful family.”

Grippo also received a number of proclamations during the night, from state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, Mayor Phil Kramer, Somerset County Freeholder Director Brian Levine, Board of Education president Nancy LaCorte and Roberta Mitchell, president of the Franklin Township School Administrators Association.

“This is all about the kids,” Grippo said at the end of the evening. That sentiment was borne out by the fact that a portion of the event’s ticket price went to help fund the nascent Bill Grippo Performing Arts Scholarship.

Grippo said that “several thousand dollars” had been raised for the fund.

Here are some scenes from the night:

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