By Amanda Fear & Joanna Sabato Eisman
7:10am, September 5th. Low roar of conversation carries through classrooms and halls – students eager to reconnect with their friends and start the new year. An odd boop sound rings overhead. 7:11am, cutting through the noise is a transcendental voice proclaiming, “GOOOOOD MORNING INDIANS!” For a lifetime this simple sentence stops one in their tracks; energizes and invigorates, leaves a mark on their soul. Every alumni of Toms River South knows the voice. It’s the being whose aura glows like the northern lights and whose energy is that of the sun. Only one being on earth has this gift: P. David Correll.
Students, faculty, and alumni will be converging upon Detwiler Stadium at Toms River High School South at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on August 28th, 2021, but not to ring in a new academic year as one might imagine. Rather, they are holding a Pep Rally in celebration of their beloved teacher and advisor.
P. David Correll – the voice, the heart, and the soul of Toms River High School South for over 50 years is truly a remarkable man whose footsteps are an inspiration to follow. Husband, father, grandfather. Teacher, advisor, colleague, congregant. A forever friend to many. How one can give so freely of himself to so many people and never compromise time and dedication for his family is nothing short of a miracle.
Shocking as it may be, Mr. Correll is officially retired and it’s difficult to think of anyone who deserves to be celebrated more. From fall nights with his voice rolling over Toms River during football games, “TA-TA-TA-TOUCHDOWWWWN INDIANS!” to rousing caroling of Old Indian Tom in hallways and classrooms, to being welcomed to the “Wiggywiggy wammy wammy,” Mr. Correll made everyone at South feel included and everyone whose heart he touched is ready to give back.
Within days of alumnus, Diana Graziano Bowden, Indian Princess and graduate of the Class of 1993, creating a Facebook group to celebrate Mr. Correll in late July, the page was inundated with heartfelt stories of spirit, pride, and inspiration. Kevin Hinninger, Class of 1984 shares, “Mr. Correll treated everyone with love and made them feel included and special. I remember him walking past me and my friend, Chris, in the hallways chanting Chris’s last name like a cheerleader. He recognized and gave his love and attention to someone who was frequently overlooked, and it came natural for him.” Hinninger is now a teacher in an urban school district where most of his students live below the poverty level. He states that the most important lesson he learned in education was from Mr. Correll, “equality and love.”
The Facebook group grew to over three thousand alumni and faculty strong within three days, which stands as a testament to the impact Mr. Correll contributed to the school and the community. Bowden, whose relatives have been like family to the Correll’s for decades said, “When I heard Mr. Correll really missed South after his retirement, I made a Facebook group to cheer him up!”
What began as a simple website to send post-retirement cheer to Mr. Correll quickly evolved into the planning of a pep rally in his honor, as well as a scholarship fund to be awarded to a Class of 2022 graduating senior. For those that attended Toms River South, the level of celebration makes perfect sense. Everyone wants to give back freely to the man that gave them so much over the decades during their most formative years. However, for others who cannot claim Toms River South as their alma mater, it’s difficult to explain the spirit, tradition, and magic contained within the school’s walls. Brian Smith, Class of 2001 and current history teacher at Toms River East states, “Mr. Correll’s voice not only boomed across Detwiler Stadium and the hallowed halls of our high school upon the hill for all those years – it reverberates in the hearts of every South graduate to this day. Many of us, myself included, were imbued with such a deep sense of South pride because of Mr. Correll and it never left us.”
Over time, Mr. Correll turned a small storage room into a spiritual haven filled with nostalgia, tradition and future hopes and dreams. Room D1S became the hub for each new generation to learn what their forefathers experienced. Lessons learned have been innumerable: Have pride in what you do and how you do it. Everyone has unique gifts and talents, and they are important to share with the world. Do as much good as you can, for as many as you can, for as long as you can. These are all characteristics that Mr. Correll embodied during his time at South and still embodies today. Fun. Joyful. Exuberant. Inspirational. Passionate. These are only some of the words students have used to describe their times in class with Mr. Correll. “He is the foundation on which South has remained the most amazing high school at the Shore,” Class of 1970 President, Gus Kakavas, says in his heartfelt tribute.
While he may have hung up his megaphone, Mr. Correll’s legacy will live on and if there is one thing that’s certain, it is this: Anyone who ever encountered P. David Correll, whether in school, church or the community, is better off for the experience. Every student, every day, matters to him, from the first day they step on Indian soil until the end of time. His love and devotion to mankind is beyond measure.
Let us all show Mr. Correll the undying spirit of the tribe near and far as he has done for us. Ring that victory bell. Please join us Saturday, August 28th at 4PM by storming the Detwiler Stadium for the best Pep Rally Toms River South has ever seen.
…till the sun should climb the heavens no more.
Card boxes will be at the stadium for anyone who wishes to leave written messages.
If you’d like to say “hello” to the “The Voice of the Indian” after the Pep Rally, The Correll Family kindly asks that you please wear a face mask.
To donate to the P. David Correll Scholarship Fund, please make checks payable to:
P. David Correll Scholarship Fund
C/O Debby Polhemus
Toms River High School South
55 Hyers Street
Toms River, NJ 08753