Hall to honor new class

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Hall of Fame is set to honor its 43rd class of inductees.

This year’s inductees are Jim Fenton, Jen Rimkus, Heather Holland Bearz, Ken Pruchnicki, Gayle Raczkowski Marenghi and Wendell Stiber. The new class will be honored at a ceremony Oct. 18 at the Continental Room on New Haven Road. Tickets for the dinner are $40 and can be purchased by one of the recipients or by contacting Ray Rossi at (203) 729-4865. Tickets are also available at the Tax Collector’s Office at Town Hall.

Heather Holland Bearz was a four-time All-NVL swimmer for the Greyhounds and qualified for the CIAC state finals and the state open all four years in high school. She held or shared records in the 200 medley relay, the 400 freestyle relay, the 100 butterfly and the 100 freestyle. Bearz is on the Naugatuck High girls all-time best list with times that have held up for 25 years. At the NVL Championships in 1987 and again in 1989 she raced to three gold medals. This led to her being named Top Senior Swimmer in the NVL.

Jim Fenton is known to the baseball world by many names — The Barrel, Portly Pitcher, Stylish Southpaw or Chunky Lefty. Third in the line of four athletic Fenton boys, he stands out as an exceptional athlete and community volunteer alongside his wife, Marty-Lee. A player in the inaugural season of Peter J. Foley Little League, Fenton threw the leagues first no-hitter and later went on to strikeout all 18 batters in a perfect game, six-inning performance. In 1957 he led Sacred Heart High School to the Class A state championship game and although New London won the title, Jim went the nine inning distance on the mound. After serving in the Army, where he had an outstanding record playing in Germany, Fenton tried out for the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins but a rotator cuff injury put an end to his career.

Gayle Raczkowski Marenghi earned varsity letters all four years at Naugatuck High for softball and volleyball. She received All-NVL recognition in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons on the softball diamond. She played seven different defensive positions in her career, including pitcher. Marenghi was also the team’s leading hitter for three seasons sporting a .450 average. In volleyball she was a freshman on the 1984 NVL championship team, earning Rookie of the Year honors. She was named the Greyhounds’ best Offensive Player in 1986 and 1987 earning All-NVL status. She went to work for ESPN after graduating from the University of Connecticut and was an important member of the team that has presented the Summer and Winter X Games.

Ken Pruchnicki excelled in basketball and baseball as a two-time All-NVL athlete. Pruchnicki led the Greyhounds in scoring on the court three straight years and finished his career with 1,076 points. As a junior he had a 37-point performance in a triple overtime win against Sacred Heart and a 40-point game as a senior in a win over Holy Cross. On the baseball diamond he led Naugatuck in hitting with a .407 average and was named Naugatuck High School Athlete of the Year in his senior season. He played on the 1994 Zone 5 Legion champions and played in the New England Collegiate All-Star Game representing the Waterbury Barons in 1996. The Central Connecticut State University second baseman earned first team All-New England status in 1997 and had a career game going 7-for-7 at the plate against Yale.

Jen Rimkus has been called the Freshman Phenom, Sophomore Sensation and Versatile Athlete. The All-NVL basketball, track and volleyball star also earned All-State status in basketball and track. As a freshman and sophomore Rimkus finished third in the State Hepthalon Championship. She was the NVL champion and state runner-up as a freshman in the 100 hurdles. She set NVL records in the 100 hurdles and the high jump and as a sophomore was state champion in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the high jump. She was selected to the American All-Star track team and competed in Barcelona, Spain. In basketball she was a member of the team that won over 100 NVL games in a row and five consecutive NVL titles. She scored her 1,000th point in the game that Naugatuck earned its 100th straight league win and finished her career with 1,170 points. She went on to star at Sacred Heart University where her coach Ed Swanson said, “Jen is the best athlete I’ve ever coached or gone against.”

Wendle Stiber, known as “Mr. Little League,” has volunteered for well over 60 years beginning with Peter J. Foley Little League. It began with his brother, Chester, asking him to rake the field after a game and has led Wendle to hold the longest tenure among the 11 Connecticut District Administrators. The District 3 Commissioner is also the State Coordinator for Little League Baseball and is a fixture at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.