October 31, 2010, was a day that our Quartet, the original members of Rare Occasion, will fondly remember and add as another treasured event in our history of singing barbershop together. The day marked the 80th birthday of our bass, Bill Manion, a member of the BHS for over 45 years. Bill’s wife, Nancy, started planning in April 2010 to have a surprise party for Bill and also a reunion of Rare Occasion, the Quartet that he was instrumental in founding in early 2000 in Danbury Connecticut. Our original Lead, Paul Just and his wife Janet, upon Paul’s retirement as a math teacher in June 2006, moved to Homosassa, Florida, from Danbury, Connecticut, where we all sang with the Danbury Mad Hatters Chorus. Upon moving to Florida, Paul joined the Hernando Harmonizers who meet in Weeki Wachee, Florida.
In early 2009, while visiting the Just’s, Bill and Nancy Manion decided to relocate to Florida, and in June 2009, sold their home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and bought a retirement home in Timber Pines in Spring Hill, Florida, about 20 miles from the Just’s. Bill also became a member of the Hernando Harmonizers, and he and Paul are helping to form a new quartet, which began rehearsing in November.
In order to have a Rare Occasion reunion, Jim Hopper, baritone, and Fred Baran, tenor, made plans to fly down to Florida to attend Bill’s surprise birthday party on Sunday, October 31st, and attend the Hernando Harmonizers regular rehearsal the following evening. We took along some Rare Occasion uniforms for Bill and Paul, and while we had not sung together for over four years, we fell right back into our familiar “groove” with some favored songs from our old repertoire.
Needless to say, Bill was very surprised when he arrived at his birthday dinner party at Nouvelle Cuisine Restaurant in Spring Hill and saw Jim Hopper and his wife Marti, and Fred Baran sitting at the table in their Rare Occasion shirts, singing Happy Birthday. As for our singing, we received many compliments, and as Bill is wont to say, “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.”
Paul and Janet were excellent hosts and kept us “under cover” until the Sunday dinner so that we not spoil the surprise. On Monday afternoon Bill and Nancy hosted us for a luncheon and cookout at their beautiful new home in Spring Hill. While warming up to sing for the Harmonizers at their Monday night meeting, the original Rare Occasion sang for many hours and remembered most of the songs from their repertoire of over 40 songs. Rare Occasion is still singing with the Mad Hatters in Danbury, Connecticut, and Robert Golenbock, Lead, and Terry Dunkle, Bass, have replaced Paul and Bill, respectively.
Bill Manion is a retired nuclear engineer who is still active as a consultant, and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Nuclear Society. Jim Hopper and Paul Just are retired math teachers, and Fred Baran enjoyed a 31 year career with Texaco. Robert Golenbock is a pediatrician and Terry Dunkle, a former editor with Reader’s Digest. We originally chose the name Rare Occasion to mark how infrequently we were able to get to rehearse due to business travel commitments and work schedules.
We ended our reunion with Bill and Paul, by singing at their rehearsal meeting of the Hernando Harmonizers, who were gracious hosts, then joining them for some post-meeting fun and singing at Carrabba’s, their local gathering spot. Whenever I hear the Boston Common singing “That Old Quartet of Mine,” it takes me back to the numerous, wonderful singing appearances that we enjoyed as members of Rare Occasion, and especially to Bill Manion, the great man and friend who initially brought us together.
Our thanks also to Nancy Manion and Paul and Janet Just whose plans and accommodations made the whole weekend possible.