Growing up in Bernardsville, Phil Nardone played from the time he woke to when darkness fell and the games even continued until Mom and Dad’s voice pierced the fun. What will always separate him from all the others summoned home for dinner is knowing he once shared top bill with a three-time Oscar winner and 17-time nominee, who was his Old Fort Road neighbor.
Meryl Streep, a 1967 graduate of Bernards, played “Daisey May” in the school’s production of “Li’l Abner” in the spring of 1965. Nardone, a 1966 Bernards grad, was “Li’l Abner.”
“A lot of people thought she would be a singer, she had a good voice,” Nardone said.
So does Nardone, who’s professional-style pitch as public address announcer has graced Mountaineer football games at Olcott for 50 years. He will be honored Friday night by having the Olcott Field press box at Bernards named in his honor.
“I was stunned,” said Nardone about being honored.
His wife, Rose, was a fellow cheerleader and classmate of Streep’s. Nardone’s children — Jeffrey is an opera singer in Germany, while daughter Jennifer is an advertising executive — appreciate their father’s devotion.
Nardone, a Bernards Township resident, has worked Mountaineer football games since 1963, winning the job as a sophomore in high school. He beat out one other candidate.
“The reason I wanted to do this in the first place was that I wanted to stay connected to the game in some way,” he said. “I played baseball and basketball, but I wasn’t big enough to play football, but I love the game, I love the Friday nights, I just love being part of the game.”
Though Olcott was just a few blocks away, Nardone’s athletic fields were centered around his parent’s home. A lot of time was spent playing football or Whiffleball or other innovative sandlot games with Harry III and Dana Streep, whose older sister Meryl was known then as a promising singer.
“They were really into sports,” said Nardone. “We called Harry ‘Three.’ “
Nardone, an assistant executive director for Record Community Newspapers, recalls Streep’s late mother, Mary, inviting him to join her and Meryl on a trip to New York City for singing lessons.
“We get there and who was coming out after having a lesson but Beverly Sills,” said Nardone.
One of the countless things he has announced was Meryl Streep’s coronation as homecoming queen in the fall of 1966. He has announced many more homecoming queens and kings and their courts, the retirements of school administrators, the introduction of cheerleaders, the local advertising plugs and so many other things. He remembers 1963, when he worked from an open platform with rosters and whatever else he had to announce resting on a card table.
“We had to climb up a ladder to get there,” he said. “I always hoped it wouldn’t rain, and I brought a umbrella just in case.”
Now he works from a comfortable press box that will become a tribute to all games he’s worked. He has memories both good and bad of Mountaineer games. Those Thanksgiving morning games with Ridge, whose students once went to Bernards, the unbeaten 1970 team, the crushing overtime loss to Shore Regional in the 1997 Central Group I final and last year’s Mid-State 38 Union Division title-clinching rout of New Providence.
He isn’t expecting to step aside anytime soon, meaning he’ll get to do something rare.
“Usually, people don’t get the chance to see things named after them because they’re gone,” he said.