There are just certain memories that last a lifetime and one of mine deals with my short tenure as a member of the chorus at Central Regional High School.

If my memory serves me correct it started when I was in 6th grade at the old Seaside Heights Elementary School. Late in the school year we were visited by Mr. Op’t Hof who was the director of the chorus at Central and it was kind of a recruiting pitch to join up as we would be attending that school the following year. Of course everyone thinks they can sing and unless you were really bad you were pretty much in so sure enough in 7th grade I was on board. It really did not take very long for me (and others) to realize I had a terrible voice. I tried to hide it the best I could because I liked the chorus class and used the time to work on other things.

However I seem to remember that we had these weekly tests in which you would have to sing right in front of Mr. Op’t Hof…there would be a soprano, tenor, baritone and bass. I think I was a baritone but it really didn’t matter…I was bad and just as I would get to the front of the line I would sneak out and head to the back again.

This system worked for a while and things went pretty smoothly until sometime in 8th grade when we were getting ready for a concert. By now the wise choral director knew what I was doing and singled me out during one of our weekly tests. There was no place to hide and joined by three others I sang and he listened very intently. When the assignment was over he told me to see him after class and I knew what was coming. In a kind and gentle manner Mr. Op’t Hof told me my singing days at Central were over as my voice had changed. I begged him to at least let me sing in the upcoming concert and he agreed with one stipulation…I had to lip sync which I went along with.

However on that evening when it came time to sing “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” I just could not hold back. At some point in the song I began to belt out the lyrics and it didn’t take the director long to realize this. He gave me a stern look of displeasure but heck this was my swansong so I let the sunshine in along with others and had a good time doing so,

Raymond Herbert Op’t Hof died Sunday at the age of 82….thirty of those years were spent at Central Regional and he also directed the choir at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Beachwood for 47 years. He leaves behind his wife, four sons, 22 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. He also leaves me with a smile on my face every time I think about him.