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Teachers throw 90th birthday surprise party for former Alta Vista principal

Barry Napshin turns 90 on Feb. 28.

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  • | 12:33 p.m. February 26, 2020
Barry Napshin retired from Alta Vista 25 years ago.
Barry Napshin retired from Alta Vista 25 years ago.
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Barry Napshin eats dinner at Joey D's Restaurant every Tuesday before watching NBC's "This Is Us" with his daughter, Audrey Quale.

But this week when Napshin walked through the restaurant door, 20 familiar faces yelled "Surprise!"

Napshin turns 90 on Friday, Feb. 28, and Quale wanted to honor her father, principal of Alta Vista Elementary from 1968-1995.

Teary eyed with a smile on his face, Napshin went around the room to hug and shake hands with the people who he had hired more than 30 years ago.

“You shouldn’t surprise a 90-year-old like this,” he joked.

The idea for the surprise party came to Quale two weeks ago after she bumped into Paula Lavine, a former Alta Vista teacher, in the grocery store parking lot. 

At first Lavine walked up to Quale because she thought her dog was cute, but then they realized who each other were. 

Quale mentioned that her father’s 90th birthday was coming up and Lavine said she would have to get him a card. But Quale suggested the two of them throw a surprise for the former principal instead. 

Lavine started calling all of her old colleagues and they all jumped at the chance to celebrate their old boss. 

“This man was the most wonderful principal. He created a family atmosphere and he just loved the teachers and kids at Alta Vista,” she said. “It goes to show how close educators are. We’re like a family.” 

Napshin said the family broke up after he retired in 1995 and walking into the room felt like a time machine. 

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I look around at these people who I hired as young teachers and now they have children and their children have children.”

Thinking back to his time as principal Napshin sang the praises of the people sitting around the dinner table with him.

“They were an exceptional, wonderful group of people to work with. We did wonderful work for children. I am thrilled and delighted to know them.”


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