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Black History Month: Three of the all-time great athletes at NFA

Editor’s Note: Our Black History Month series has recognized some of Norwich’s finest athletes, all of whom attended NFA. This is the fourth in our series.

 

These celebrated athletes persevered in the face of adversity and sometimes with minimal prospects of success.

Judy Pemberton Bell, Class of 1982

Bell was a member of the basketball and track teams all four years of high schooland served as the captain of the girls’ basketball team her senior year. She was the first Black female student athlete to play varsity basketball at NFA. She was named Class Athlete and received Charles P. Hamblen Award

Bell was a two-sport athlete at NFA, competing for four years in basketball and track. During her track career, Judy was always one of the top scorers. She competed in the 4x100 relay, the 4x400 relay, the 200, 400 and long jump. The track team won three consecutive SAC titles during her career. The relays that she competed in set school and conference records, and the 4x100 was named All-State.

Bell attended Eastern Connecticut State University, where she continued her track career. She earned All New England honors in the 400 and 4x100 and won the New England Open Title in the 200. She became the first female track All-American in the program’s history.

She qualified for national competition twice at 200 meters, twice at 400 meters and once as a member of the 4x100 relay, three times running to All- American honors. In her career, Bell broke program records in the 200, 400, long jump and as a member of the 4x100 and 4x400 relays; still today these records have not been broken. She was inducted into Eastern Connecticut State University Hall of Fame in 2006 for track and field.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, former head track and field coach at ECSU, stated: “Judy’s decision to attend ECSU elevated the entire team. With Judy came Elgitha Wilson, Bonnie Edmonton and a host of others. Judy worked very hard. Her dedication and performance paid off as she achieved All-American honors in the 200 meters and 400 meters as a freshman. In her sophomore year she achieved All-American honors again in the 400 meters.”

After college, Bell worked for the state Department of Correction from 1987 to 2009, when she retired. She then became a campus security officer at NFA from 2009 to 2015.

Today, Bell is the event coordinator for Kids Christmas, a nonprofit organization that gives toys and clothes to low-income families (most needed at Christmas).

This is the program that her mom, Elizabeth Hall-Hurley, turned over to her sister Pastor Brenda Stone, who is now the president. Bell assists her sister Brenda in managing the nonprofit.

Bell is also event coordinator for Forward Push Empowered under CEO Pastor Brenda Stone. This is a program to help push women forward in fulfilling their dreams and goals; in their purpose.

Bell was inducted into the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, receiving the Sportsperson of the Year Award. She was inducted into the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and is listed in their 50th Anniversary Best of the Decades-Decade 5 (2001-2010). She was also inducted into the NFA Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

Bell resides in eastern Connecticut with her family.

John Mansfield Newson, Class of 1987

Newson was a member of the football, indoor track, and outdoor track teams all four years of high school. He was named Class Athlete and the Marty Gilman Scholar Athlete and received the Robert O. Fletcher-Charles Willey Cup, a Memorial Fund Scholarship, the Arnold I. Redgrave Football Trophy, and the Hartford Courant All-State Athlete Award for indoor track.

Newson’s athletic career at NFA was phenomenal: he participated in 12 seasons and earned 11 letters. He was varsity football captain in 1987, All-Eastern CT Conference Selection in 1986; varsity outdoor track co-captain (1986-87) and Honorable Mention High School All-American in 1986 and varsity indoor track co-captain 1986-87; All-State 1983-87. Career points in Track: 583-1/4.

Newson’s four years with indoor and outdoor track were full of championships and records. He set school records in the 55 meters, 300 meters, 4x400 relay and long jump. In 1985, the 4x400 relay team won the state title, and in 1987 John won the State Open long jump title. The outdoor track seasons were full of the same types of accomplishments. John set school records in the 100m, 200m, 4x100 relay, 4x400 relay and the long jump.

Newson received a full athletic scholarship from University of Rhode Island, where he participated in varsity football for four years and was captain in his senior year. He participated in varsity indoor and outdoor track for two years and was on the Student Athlete Council to the Athletic Director. He received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in May 1992, earning a dean’s list designation in fall 1991.

Newson attended Western New England College School of Law, earning his Juris Doctor in May 1995. Honors he received were: Western NE College Merit Scholarship 1994-95; Massachusetts Black Judges Book Award; Western NE College Diversity Scholarship for Academic Merit and Norwich Rotary Scholarship.

Newson worked as a research assistant for Western New England College School of Law as well as a legal intern for the Office of Legal Counsel to the Governor, Faulkner & Boyce P.C., and the Law Office of John N. White. He worked as a judicial research clerk in New Haven Superior Court, as the sole owner of The Newson Law Firm, and as an assistant public defender for the state Division of Public Defender Servces.

In November 2010, Newson was appointed judge of the Superior Court by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and is currently assigned to oversee the criminal docket in the Judicial District/Geographical Area Court at Windham.

Some of Newson’s current activities include membership in the Connecticut Bar Association, the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, NFA Corporator, the Norwich Rotary Sunrise Group, and the New London County Bar Association.

Newson was inducted into the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame as Sportsperson of the Year in 1987; as Attorney Newson in 2011 and is listed on their 50th Anniversary Best of the Decades-Decade 6 (2011-2017); he was inducted into the NFA Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

The legacy continues, as Newson was the recipient of the Robert E. Alves Memorial Award in 1984. This award is presented to an outstanding freshman athlete in two or more sports at NFA. His daughter Alyssa also received the Robert E. Alves Memorial Award in 2020. Newson still resides in Connecticut with his family.

Jeffrey A. Rose, Class of 1980

Rose served as captain of the basketball and baseball teams. He was also a member of the Varsity N Club and National Honor Society. He was named Class Smooth Talker and Class Athlete, and he received the Robert O. Fletcher-Charles Willey Cup.

Rose’s strong family foundation during his upbringing in Norwich’s Laurel Hill area was instrumental in his successful academic and athletic careers. His family members provided his foundational understanding of, and passion for, athletics, and he was able to grow and develop his skills, despite regularly facing racist people and practices, due to the love and support he received from his family and several key individuals whom he met within the Norwich public school and youth athletic systems.

Rose participated in the Norwich Little League, Senior League, Pee-Wee Football and other leagues. When he entered NFA, he earned his varsity letter in football in his freshman year. He lettered in basketball for four years, becoming captain and winning MVP honors in his senior year, along with All-Conference awards in 1979 and 1980. He also captained the baseball team, having earned three varsity letters; he was co-MVP and first team All-Conference twice.

Rose was selected as a Southeastern Connecticut All-Star Team starter, in basketball, to play against Patrick Ewing’s Ridge and Latin Team in 1980; an All-State selection in baseball, he played American Legion baseball for four years and also played in various local adult baseball leagues and tournaments.

Rose enrolled in Yale University, where he earned varsity letters in baseball for the 1980 and 1981 seasons; he was a four-year starting quarterback on the championship intramural tackle football team. He was a four-year starter at point-guard on the three-time championship intramural basketball team.

A Florida resident since 1994, Rose left his successful health care administration career in 2002 and became a teacher, coach and athletic director at the Palmer Trinity School in Miami-Dade County. He coached basketball and continues to coach baseball and golf while teaching mathematics to middle to high school students.

As the athletic director at Palmer Trinity, Rose operated more than 50 teams and he also spent four years as the assistant athletic director at Miami Northwestern High School, a nationally recognized athletic powerhouse school where countless student athletes receive D1 scholarships annually.

Rose credits his strong family values and his Norwich experiences as significant factors in creating the diligent work ethic and pursuit of excellence critical to his success in southern Florida. He currently resides in Miami with his wife, Patti, and their two children. He was inducted into the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

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