Al Berke’s basketball career at Bennett HS reached its apex in 1957-58 when he was named to the Buffalo All High first team at the conclusion of his senior season. In his junior year of 1956-57, Al was a key cog in Bennett’s march to the Yale Cup City Championship, which included a 10 game winning streak. During the entirety of his career at Bennett, Al’s superb rebounding skills, aided by his tenacity and willingness to persevere, complemented his sound execution of fundamental rebounding technique. In addition, Berke was a steady, consistent scorer, and he averaged close to 14 points per game during his stellar senior season. Perhaps the most memorable Bennett victory of his career came early in his junior year when two time defending Yale Cup champion Lafayette met an amped up Tiger squad on their home court. Bennett handed Lafayette a rare defeat on their home floor, 58-52. Berke was outstanding on that particular day. He made a key 3 pointer late in the victory, and contributed his usual dogged rebounding performance, leading to Lafayette’s demise.
Following his graduation from Bennett, he entered Buffalo St. College, where he played hoops and became a freshman starter. Berke then went on to join the United States Air Force from 1960-64. His passion for basketball still intact, he played on an Air Force team that captured a pair of championships during the 1962 and 1963 campaigns. One title team became the the Duluth, Minnesota Class AA City Championship team. That 1962 game was decided when Berke hit a key field goal in the waning seconds. The other title team was the Air Base Squadron Championship Squad. Players from various regions of the USA joined Berke to play over 50 games during this stint. Not to be denied, Al managed to be a first stringer on these extremely competitive squads.
Showing athletic versatility after basketball, Berke turned to bowling. In the 1990’s, he made cable television appearances for the Tops TV Challenge, managing to win 2 of those shows.
Berke, currently retired from a career in the automotive industry, lives in Clarence. He and his wife,Karen, have been married 46 years. They have a son, Mark, and a daughter, Lisa. Al and Karen have 7 grandchildren.
Making a difference in the community and the lives of children is what Kenya Hobbs does every day in his position as Community Engagement Specialist with Buffalo Promise Neighborhood. In his career at Bennett, Kenya was a leader both on and off the athletic fields.
He was the Co-captain of both the Track & Field and Cross Country teams, and he was the Senior Class President in 1990.
Kenya was a prolific distance runner. He participated in Track and Cross Country for three years and accumulated seven “all-high” recognitions from 1988 through 1990. In Track, he excelled in the one mile, two mile, and the one mile relay. His 1989 Cross Country team did not just stop at winning the Columbia Cup, but they historically went on to win the WNY Section 6 Class B Team Championship and become the first City of Buffalo Public School team to go to the NYS Cross Country Championships.
Not to be out-done in Track, the 1988 team was the Empire of America Relay Carnival (Small Schools) Team Champion, and the 1989 Empire of America 3200 Relay Team Champion.
The Bennett High School Alumni Association is pleased to have Kenya as an active member of the Board of Directors. As a devout Bennett Alumnus, Kenya works to better the “feeder” schools (Highgate Heights Elementary and Westminister Community Charter School) that will populate Bennett for years to come. The work that Kenya Hobbs does in our community is “transformational”, and the Bennett Sports Hall of Fame Committee is pleased to have him in the Class of 2013.
Tom McClain Jr. was a three sport athlete at Bennett who participated in swimming ( 1960), Indoor Track ( 1960 – 61 ) and Cross Country ( 1962, 63, 64 ). Tom was coached by two of Bennett’s finest coaches, Rudy Heis ( swimming ) and Elmer Rosenthal ( Indoor track and Cross Country ). As a freshman, Tom was on the swimming team, earning a major letter in the breaststroke. In Tom’s sophomore year he ran indoor track, also earning a major letter. Tom’s greatest athletic achievement came in Cross Country, where Tom was All-High three consecutive years, finishing second in the All-High Cross Country meet each of the three years.
In 1962 Tom competed in the All-High meet against ninety-six runners from twelve schools. The young sophomore’s goal was just to qualify to compete in the All-High meet, but Tom exceeded all expectations by finishing second ( first for Bennett ) in the entire city. Through hard work and determination, Tom went on to finish second in the city in both his junior and senior seasons also. A rare accomplishment in Cross Country.
Tom resides in Buffalo to this day.
Richard Mieth is a retired Math teacher that taught at Bennett from 1968 -1998. He was an outstanding Cross Country coach from 1985 – 1994, winning three City Championships and the Section VI title in 1989.
Accepting the advisorship of the yearbook, The Bennett Beacon, changed his life. What had been a luke- warm attempt to use his photography skills to capture and display Bennett’s activities, now blossomed into a serious passion. One could find Dick at any and ALL sporting events and loving every minute of it.
It did not hurt his cause that in the first couple of years Bennett experienced the madness and excitement of two All-Americans coached by Larry Veronica: Lamar Smith and Curtis Aiken. Winning consecutive State titles in basketball put Bennett on the map. This much excitement turned Dick into a “ got to be there fan”.This passion lasted for the next 19 years.
In addition to sports, Dick photographed the taping of “ It’s Academic” on Channel 4 and the Saturday mornings at Downtown Court with Mr, Shapiro’s Mock Trial Team. And of course he is well remembered for his slide shows at Ben-Ken assemblies and Class Day programs.
This avid enthusiasm for all-things Bennett over a 30 year period was supported by his wife Geri, who tolerated numerous late dinners and incomplete home projects. Dick and Geri just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the proud parents of two successful sons, Jeff and Brian. Now the joys of their lives are their four grandchildren, Justin, Connor, Brandon and Erin.
At this time Dick volunteers his time at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy on Buffalo’s East Side.
Valerie was another year round three sport athlete at Bennett. Val ran Cross Country in the fall for three years, swam the backstroke on the Swim team for four years and a four year Tennis player in the spring. The last three years of Tennis Valerie was team captain and girls MVP at the 1st singles position. She was also an All-High Tennis selection in her senior year. Valerie’s leadership is evident as she also became team captain on her Cross Country and Swimming teams.
Aside from all this activity and success in athletics, Valerie found time to become involved with the International Club, AFS, Math Team, Harbinger, and yearbook staff. Valerie was also a member of the National Honor Society and Salutatorian of her class. Perhaps her greatest achievement in high school was her award at graduation for 4 years of perfect attendance.
Valerie is a graduate of Elmira College. Now married, she works as a message therapist in her home town of Canton, Georgia.