Mark Fumusa will soon be preparing his final Longhorn wrestling team benefit spaghetti dinner.
The Pine-Strawberry Realtor and businessman is stepping away after being the chef in charge of the spaghetti dinners since the first was held more than 20 years ago.
“Those days are eight hours on your feet and I’m no spring chicken anymore,” said Fumusa. “It’s time to turn it over to someone else.”
Former PHS wrestling coach Dennis Pirch, the man who recruited Fumusa to host the dinners, says he “has gone above and beyond for many years.”
Fumusa says memories of most of the dinners kind of muddle together, but one recollection that stands out occurred in the late 1980s on a trip to California.
In the early years, the money earned at the spaghetti dinners was used to pay for the wrestling team’s trip to Southern California where the team competed in a wrestling tournament and on Sunday annually visited Disneyland. For this particular trip, Fumusa went along with the team and coaches.
“We were flying into Los Angeles when suddenly the plane dropped hundreds of feet without any warning,” said Fumusa. “It was scary.”
Pirch remembers the rapid descent was caused by a tornado that had touched down near LAX.
“(The drop) was like a great Disneyland ride,” said Pirch. “We got an exciting ride before we even got to Disneyland.”
Fumusa recalls the frightening descent as one that shook up every passenger on the plane.
Pirch says, “When we landed, everyone on the plane stood up and applauded.
“Cutter Holt (then a PHS wrestler) went up and hugged the pilot.”
Other than that scary ride, Mark’s best memories of the dinners are of the help he has received from throngs of volunteers.
Some of those who have helped include Norma Jean Scibetta, Paul Koren, Suzanne Fumusa, Joe Scibetta, Jacque Lee and Marilyn Koren.
Most every Longhorn coach, fan, parent and player has enjoyed one or more of the meals and fondly remembers the good times associated with the annual benefit.
Longtime assistant wrestling coach and PHS counselor Don Heizer recalls the origins of the spaghetti dinners.
“Dennis and I were looking for ways to earn money so the kids could go to Disneyland during the Christmas vacation,” he said.
“We came up with the spaghetti dinners. They earned good money, and we’ve never stopped doing them.”
For the first dinner, Fumusa, who had two sons on the team, volunteered to oversee the meals.
His two sons have long since departed PHS, but Fumusa continued to play a huge role in hosting the events until deciding to step down following the 2011 benefit
For the annual dinners, Fumusa and his six volunteer assistants spend the entire day cooking a spaghetti feast for the more than 500 people that traditionally attend. They use about 110 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 120 pounds of ground beef, four gallons of homemade salad dressing and 100 pounds of flour for homemade rolls prepared by Jacque Lee who has had two sons pass through the wrestling program and a third currently on the team.
Lee says it’s sad to see Fumusa step down, but she understands the reasons. Lee also says she harbors hopes that Gerardo’s Italian Bistro will next year take over hosting the meals.
Tickets for the Jan. 26 benefit are $6 per person or $20 per family. It will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Rim Country Middle School gymnasium.