Nona Russo, Dennis Sher and Joseph Welsh all have strong ties to Holy Spirit High School, the Catholic school that prides itself on its academics, faith and service to others.
The Absecon school has inducted the three individuals into its 2012 Hall of Fame, based on their dedication to embodying the school's ideals, said Holy Spirit officials.
In the fourth annual Salute to the Spartans Bash, held Jan. 26 at the Carriage House in Galloway Township, about 230 people joined to celebrate the contributions of a teacher, a leader and a coach. The inductees also were recognized at an induction Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Absecon in July 2012.
The inductees are voted on by a Hall of Fame committee, based on their post high school graduate accomplishments, from school spirit to community service, said Jay Connell, Holy Spirit High School assistant principal.
Ventnor resident Nona Russo, who passed away in 2010, taught English at the school from 1982 to 2002, as well as serving as a coach to the school's varsity cheerleading team for 15 years and Drama Club moderator for 10.
Her family, including her husband Albert and three sons A.J., Michael and Joseph - all HSHS graduates - attended the ceremony last week.
"She looked at the students and faculty of Holy Spirit as if it were an extended family of hers," A.J. Russo Jr., 49, of Ventnor said. "She cared for the students beyond just what they did in the classroom, almost to the point that she became like a surrogate mother to almost every student that she taught. Regardless of the situation, students felt that they could come and speak with her."
Former student and retired Cleveland Browns NFL football player, William Green was one of them. At the news of Russo's recognition, Green traveled home for the ceremony to visit the family, Russo Jr. said.
"She kind of took him under her wing," he said of the relationship between the student and Nona Russo.
Green, a resident of Atlantic City who was orphaned by age 12, went on to play college football at Boston College, eventually becoming a first-round pick into the 2002 NFL draft.
Inspired by Russo's good works, Green has since started a youth mentoring program, Russo Jr. said.
"It really lifted my dad's spirits (to see Green)," Russo Jr. added.
Somers Point resident Joseph Welsh '77, was honored for his commitment to the school's crew program, Connell said.
Throughout his 27 years of coaching both the girls and boys teams, Welsh successfully developed HSHS crew into a premier program, with a win for his girls team at the Henley Royal Regatta rowing championships and multiple state and national titles.
"A lot of the credit goes to the people that are around me," the retired Margate police officer said.
Welsh earned his spot as a premier rowing coach, after wearing a Holy Spirit uniform himself, winning two national championships, three Stotesbury championships and one world championship.
Being an alumnus and seeing his sons graduate from Holy Spirit - his daughter is a Spirit freshman - has made the honor all the more special, he said.
"To be honored by the school that you attended, (is) one thing," Welsh said. "But knowing that your work is appreciated I guess really is a great thing. You don't look for accolades."
Margate resident Dennis Sher was also among the inductees. In addition to sending eight children to the school - the last graduating in 2003 - the realtor and real estate appraiser spent 20 years as a member of the Holy Spirit Fathers Club, serving three years as its president.
In memory of his daughter, Sher also helped found the Mary Theresa Sher Foundation. Its annual golf outing has helped raise scholarship money for eighth-grade students who will attend Holy Spirit, Sher said.
"We still continue to give back to Holy Spirit," he said. "It's an honor for me and for my family as well."
Contact Caitlin Honan: