Former Bosco members continue tradition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2004

More than 65 former members of the Don Bosco Boys Club, a ministry of Edmundite Missions, came to Selma last weekend to celebrate an organization that transformed their lives.

The Don Bosco Boys Club was organized

in 1947 to provide recreational activities for African-American boys – and later girls – to encourage them to seek higher education.

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The club was named for Patron Saint Don Juan Bosco (1815-1888), whose focus as an Italian priest was his work with poor youth.

In the 18 years of its existence the group, founded by Father Nelson Ziter, attracted more than 700 young people, 150 of whom received college scholarships.

The annual reunion is held on the Fourth of July weekend to celebrate friendships

and the debt to Father Ziter. Each year the $2,500 Nelson B. Ziter Memorial scholarship is awarded annually to a qualifying student.

This year’s recipient was Kanika Thomas, granddaughter of former club member Tommie Thomas, known affectionately by friends as “Doodah.”

Saturday’s program was held at the Holiday Inn and featured Thomas, a junior at Alabama State University studying health information management, who attended the event with her grandmother Ethel.

She spoke of her fond memories of her grandfather, who often watched her while she was a toddler. She said she was happy to carry on his legacy.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. addressed the group about the growth of Selma in recent years and the positive future ahead.

Councilwoman Nancy Sewall, whose husband Andrew was a Bosco member, spoke on behalf of the City Council.

Father Maurice Ouellet, S.S.E., who followed Father Ziter as St. Elizabeth parish priest from 1960 to 1965, remembered several club members from their ball games. Others he had baptized and married. He said his heart has always been in Selma.

“Selma has always remained a very special place to me – it’s the people of Selma who, after my parents, taught me love. The selflessness and love you gave me while I was your priest is still with me. When it came time to retire, I decided to come back to Selma.”

In 1965 Archbishop Thomas J. Toolen, D.D., of Mobile forced him to leave Selma because of his involvement in the Civil Rights movement. “Nothing hurt worse than when I had to leave,” he said.

Among those traveling the farthest for the event were Fred Barlow of Sun City, Calif.; John Black of Las Vegas; Rose Davis-Foster of Salt Lake City; and Theodore Jones, Nathanel Robinson and Henry Russell of Detroit.

Other weekend activities included bowling, touring the National Voting Rights Museum and a Memorial Mass at Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

Sen. Hank Sanders presented the group with a proclamation that he had written recognizing the club at the Sunday brunch.

The reunion was organized locally by former Bosco members Robert Craig and Tom Curry.