Cedar Grove High School’s first coach is being honored 50 years after his iconic role as leader of the Panther pack.
During the Cedar Grove Alumni Association’s 49th reunion last fall, members discussed the idea of honoring Arnie Berg, their former head coach, at the high school’s football field. Now, with the help of Superintendent of Schools Michael Fetherman and the Board of Education, the alumni class has been given the go-ahead to install a 13-foot sign on the Panther field press box, bearing Berg’s name.
The coach is credited for creating the five-sport curriculum and athletic program at CGHS which, according to the alumni association, still exists today. Berg is also said to have developed inter-school and intramural programs such as cheerleading, twirling, the marching band and parent-driven Black and Gold Club, according to a representative of the alumni association. In addition to founding the clubs, Berg served as head coach of the football and wrestling teams.
Though the Cedar Grove Board of Education previously viewed the concept for the sign, the diagram, facts and figures of the project were presented at a July 28 meeting by alumni association members Jimmy McAndrew, Larry Wiener and Daria Selepouchin.
McAndrew, Cedar Grove High School’s first quarterback, made the proposal with pride and excitement as he stated that the project, estimated to cost $11,000, would be funded entirely by donations acquired through the alumni association.
The plan also calls for a 5- by 5-foot black and gold silhouette of the panther mascot.
This would be “your panther, not my panther. Your panther is much cooler than our panther. Ours is kind of lying down. Yours is kind of going for it,” McAndrew said, comparing the original 1960s mascot to the panther CGHS is associated with today.
The signs will be made by Matthew Beneduce McGrath of Verona, known for township signs he’s created for Montclair, Fort Lee, Roseland, Union City and his own hometown. “It will be illuminated with 12-bolt LED lights. The letters are hand carved into plywood and filled with gold flakes,” McAndrew said, adding that the sign would require no maintenance due to its high quality.
McAndrew said the alumni association needed the board’s approval before they could have the signs manufactured. Being that the proposal was not on the agenda, the board could not officially approve the project. However, because it would be of no financial cost to taxpayers, board members were able to accept the signs as a gift.
“The current board and administration is in full support,” Fetherman stated in an email to the Times. “It’s been made clear to us by several alumni that Coach Berg had a tremendous influence on their lives. This small gesture represents a lasting show of gratitude for an influential educator that made a positive difference and serves as a reminder to others of the importance of saying ‘thank you!'”
McGrath makes one sign a month, according to McAndrew. So the group has set an appointment to begin production of the display in October. McAndrew said they plan for the sign to be ready in time for the 50th class reunion of the Class of 1964 in November.
Members plan to have the first class and their first coach recognized where it all started 50 years ago; on Panther field.