Clifton Merchant Magazine - February 2022

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The First Kiss WAS YELLOW

From the Editor, Tom Hawrylko It’s our Love Edition! Readers again have shared stories of how they met and memories of that first date, as well as their first kiss. Associate Editor Ariana Puzzo wrote the Love Stories and edited entries which readers submitted. Read on and enjoy these stories and photos, taking you back-in-the-day, and often to their lives today. Lori Santos was that tall and healthy looking girl in high school. With long brown hair, she was quiet and cool with a classic but very hip way of dressing. Lori had a strong, long gait as she unknowingly strutted from school to her cousin’s car. All the boys had their eye on her but somehow I was the one that broke the ice and we connected. She was a year younger than me. We were 16 and 17. Her family had just moved into a new house next to the Perth Amboy train station and her bedroom needed painting. I managed to get myself invited to complete the task.

One day after school, we took up brushes and as good as two teenagers could, we began to paint her room yellow. The radio was on and we were laughing, having a good time. An hour or so into the job, I’m not sure if she painted a mustache on me or did I draw one on her beautifully tanned face surrounded by thick brown hair? Either way, we tried to wipe it with a cloth but it just smeered. Then somehow I was closer, smelling her scent, looking into her eyes and watching them close. We kissed. And then there was yellow paint—on both our faces. 16,000 Magazines

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We laughed. We probably kissed again. Later that year I worked up the courage to ask her to the 1975 prom. Then summer came and we lost touch. For 35 years, more or less. Our (second) first kiss was a wet one. For three decades, we never saw each other, no letters, no phone, no Facebook. But Lori was there like a siren in the back of my mind and a beat, buried in my heart. Lori and I met again in our fifties when I walked into Lori’s life—to paraphrase Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca)—in an old gin joint. She recognized me and smiled; I gulped like a teenage boy. We sat and talked about everything that evening.

Over the next few weeks, we spoke on the phone and made plans. One late spring afternoon we met for lunch near Kean College. Only seeing her once before over the last 35 years, I was not sure if I would recognize Lori. But then I saw that gait, that strut. Before we went to a diner we walked around the campus. We talked and I inhaled—memories came back in a beautiful scent. After lunch, we said goodbye but Lori and I still didn’t kiss... Soon, we made plans again, this time for dinner. We met in a Turkish restaurant, midway between our homes. Over wine, olives, pita and humus we laughed and connected. We touched hands. I thought we were ready to kiss. Outside the restaurant, I opened the door of my middle-aged dad minivan for Lori. She thanked me, climbed in and then yelped when she sat in a puddle of water. It had rained while we were inside and I left the sun roof open. Knowing I wanted to kiss her, I ran around and jumped in the driver’s seat and sat in my puddle. And then, bottoms wet, we kissed. Lori and I kissed and kissed again and enjoyed the new found passion of mid life love—and in 2014, mid life marriage.


February 2022 • • February 2022



Connor, Charlene, and Communication All love stories by Ariana Puzzo The proverb may go, “It takes a village to raise a child”, but a couple may never forgets the early support of their friends. Connor and Charlene (Gustafson) Hutchison vividly remember their friends’ support when they recounted their first kiss. “The way our first kiss happened was not some romantic ordeal. We were at a bar, all in a circle,” laughed Connor, 28. “The person who introduced us said, ‘You should kiss her’, so I kissed her.” “I went into the night wondering if he would or not,” said Charlene, 29. “All of our friends cheered because they were excited for us.” Her excitement was also mixed with an awareness that the relationship might not develop. At the time, Connor was serving in the military and they would soon be parting ways again. Even so, they had already made strong first impressions on each other. For Charlene, she had been already excited to meet him since one of her friends said that Connor was “her type”, and she found him attractive. It was much the same for Connor. “It was very easy to … converse with her. She’s an open person,” said Connor. “There were not many barriers of communication from the beginning.” “She’s easy on the eyes as well,” he added, making Charlene laugh. All about timing Although they grew up in different parts of the state, you might say Clifton is at the center of it all for Connor and Charlene. Both sets of parents, Richard and Rose Gustafson and Michael and Rose Hutchison, were born and raised in our city. They also all attended CHS, though at different times.


February 2022 •

As for their kids, Connor noted that he lived in Clifton for about a year before his family moved to Ortley Beach, which neighbored Charlene’s beach town. Connor graduated from Toms River High School East and enlisted in the US Navy when he was 22-years-old. Today, he serves as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician – E5. He is currently in his final six months of his contract for the military and plans to attend business school in the near future. Charlene, on the other hand, graduated from CHS with the Class of 2010. Later, she went on to study at Rowan University, double majoring in PR and advertising. She now works as the VP of sales at a software and technology company, Viirtue. She added that she has no plans to leave the tech space. Perhaps it was kismet that, in spite of their different trajectories, the two came together. Or, at the least, the power of good friends and the Jersey shore. Like true New Jerseyans, Charlene and Connor’s first encounter took place while down in Lavallette. The couple were introduced by their mutual friends in February of 2016 when Charlene came up from Florida for the weekend.

“We literally ran into each other,” said Charlene. “I was running out of my friend’s house to my car as he was walking into the house.” Despite hitting it off from the start, the timing wasn’t ideal. By the time she moved back to New Jersey in July of 2016, he had enlisted in the Navy. It was when he had returned home for the holidays that December that they officially began dating. Their first date was at Xina, a sushi restaurant that they both consider their favorite. Charlene recalled that the date wasn’t nerve-wracking at all because they had spent time together with their friends that whole week. “It was as if we knew each other for much longer,” agreed Connor. Next stop: everywhere Connor and Charlene agreed that if there’s one thing they’re proud of, it’s their communication abilities. For Charlene, it’s the quality she appreciates most in her husband, and the one he is most appreciative of in her. “[Charlene] complements my communication outreach well,” said Connor. “When I have an issue or she has an issue, we can squash it then and there, and we can make sure that it doesn’t spill over into everything else.” These skills have served them both extremely well, particularly when Connor was deployed to Africa after they got engaged. Originally, he was only meant to be

deployed for six months. But that was extended to eight months when the coronavirus pandemic hit and he had to stay there until June of 2020. What helped, Charlene said, was that Connor was located at a land station base and could more easily contact her than if he were at sea. “He was dedicating a lot of time just to making sure that I was in the loop,” said Charlene. “I felt comfortable the entire time.” That period in their relationship also served as Connor’s “moment of truth” in realizing how strong they are as a couple. “What solidified it was her resilience [to] my being away in Africa for eight months,” he said. “She was a rock and was my anchor to the real world and my sanity.” Both of them also expressed appreciation for the support Connor and his team received through the packages of candy and hygienic products that Clifton Cares sent during his deployment. Now as they prepare for life after the military, it means thinking about where they might move next and starting a family of their own. The couple wed on July 23, 2021 and hope to have children in the next two years. But it also means continuing to live healthy and exciting lives. “I want to see a lot of the world,” said Charlene, “and continue living in the moment because you don’t know what will happen. Don’t take time lightly.” • February 2022


Make Your Relationship

A Safe Haven Odette Coronel knows that life is hard, but the certified Life and Relationship Coach reminds her clients and loved ones that their relationships should be a “safe haven.” “A relationship shouldn’t be the source of your hardship. It should be a partnership,” said Coronel, 46. “It should be your source of support to help you get through life’s challenges.” Coronel, herself, has been married to her husband, Noel, for almost 23 years. Together, they have three children: Noelani, 22; Olivia, 19; and Noel, 17. Despite earning her certification in the last few years, Coronel said she has always possessed an interest in personal development and self-help. “I’ve always done a lot of stuff on my own in that department and have done a lot of reading on it,” she said. “It was not until a couple of years ago that I was interested in making it more of a career.” Looking Inward Although relationship coaching has been her career for a little over a year, Coronel said she has always acted as the “advice giver” among family and friends. “I have unofficially given advice to family and friends for a long time,” laughed Coronel. “I’m a big sister and cousin, and my husband and I have a great relationship.” Part of their own journey as a couple was homeschooling their children for the majority of their education. She said she believes that’s one example of “facing life’s


February 2022 •

challenges together as a team.” But initially, Coronel set out to become a health coach. It was later that she realized what she enjoyed most was the life coaching component. The understanding that these areas intersect and can affect all of our relationships is part of what she works on with her clients. “The reason why I am passionate about what I do is because I believe that the quality of your relationship with your spouse or life partner can have an impact on all areas of your life,” explained Coronel. “By improving the quality of your relationship, you will notice an increase in your overall happiness in other areas as well.” These areas, she added, can include your overall health, parenting, and finances. When she considers her advice for long-lasting, loving relationships, part of that is recognizing how we often want our partner to change or focusing on their shortcomings. “Sometimes it’s helpful to focus on our own behavior … and how we respond to things,” she explained. “Sometimes we’re engaging in behaviors that escalate or sabotage the situation or relationship without us being aware of that.” “Cleaning up our side of the table, so-to-speak, can be very helpful and create this inertia,” Coronel continued. “When we change, our partner could change.” • February 2022


Staying Grounded So, what does Coronel value most in her own relationship? “To be able to be vulnerable, honest, and your authentic self,” she said. Her and Noel grew up together in a Cuban social club, and she said they have practically known each other for their entire lives. They officially started dating at age 14. What she believes makes her marriage work is that the two

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of them “trust each other so deeply and we truly are best friends.” “We respect each other and know our boundaries,” said Coronel. “As I learned and got my training, there’s a lot that we did right without knowing it.” “We evolved in the right way and our bond has kind of solidified that way,” she continued. “Just a deeper level of communication and a deeper appreciation of each other.” The couple also own NOC Autobody and Telep Towing on Van Houten Ave. As far as her coaching, Coronel has clients all over the world and does her coaching via Zoom. To learn all about any current and upcoming services, visit Coronel added that in 2022, she hopes more people realize that many circumstances in a relationship can be neutral. “Our thoughts and perception about situations will determine how we feel and behave,” she said. “If we … remember everyone has their own way of thinking and learn to respect each other and try to understand each other … it can help us stay grounded.”

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The Actual

Girl Next Door

Work may have brought David and Joann Arroyo together, but the Clifton couple knew of each other well before they started dating in 1998. “It’s funny because we grew up in the same apartment complex in Passaic,” said Joann, 44. “Technically, we have known each other since we were 10-years-old and went to the same school.” In those years, Joann said, they did not communicate with each other. She was a safety patrol and he was a captain at their school, and they would walk home in the same direction – David with his brothers and Joann with her sister. They only started dating after high school when he was coaching basketball and she was coaching cheerleading at Mount Carmel School in Passaic. It was during David’s team’s end-of-season celebration that the future couple took notice of each other. “He was making a mess … and I said, ‘I’ll help you out’, and I cut the cake and we started chatting,” said Joann. But even before they dated, David made a strong first impression. “My first impression was his relationship with the … middle school girls.” “I got alerted to how he got along with girls,” she continued, “and how he was protective and caring for them as a coach.” David said that Joann also made a strong first impression during that first real encounter. “My first impression of Joann goes back to her helping with the party and how helpful she was,” said David, 43. “That was an eye-opener for me.” The Arroyo Nucleus Joann and David were both in agreement that when they started dating, there weren’t any other prospects that could have caused interruptions along the way. For a first date, the couple drove around and parked in Passaic Park to chat for a while. The second time they went out was to a Chili’s and before long, they were so comfortable that


February 2022 •

they started doing errands together. It was after their first date that the couple shared their first kiss. “I remember that day,” said David. “It was in the hallway of Building 33.” “We were on our way after the date and he was walking me to my apartment,” said Joann. “We stood in the hallway to say goodnight and that required a kiss.” The couple wed on May 25, 2002 and will celebrate 20 years of marriage this May. When they consider their greatest relationship highlight, they agree that it is becoming parents. The Clifton residents of over 15 years are parents to Stephanie, 22, David Emmanuel, 19, and Kevin, 17. “We have had the pleasure of watching our kids grow with their community through the Clifton Public School system, at School 13, Woodrow Wilson and CHS,” said Joann. David added that he knew for a specific reason why he wanted to have children with Joann. “One other thing that drew me to Joann,” said David, “is when my mother got sick with cancer and passed away. The way that Joann took care of my mother, I knew that she would definitely be a great mother to my kids.”





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Over the years, their children have participated in the Boys & Girls Club’s Keystone Youth Program and have won scholarships for their dedication and service. David also coached basketball at the Club for 12 years. Now, the parents are looking forward to the next stage of their lives with an all-adult family. “We love Clifton and all the great memories that we have made here with the Arroyo Nucleus, our family tag name,” said Joann. “We hope to continue enjoying more memories to be made with our grandchildren one day.”

Jennie Tietjen (CHS 2010) and Marek Gozdz (CHS 2008). Dan Garcia and Alaina Paris-Garcia (CHS 2004) with daughter Autumn and rescue dog Tyrion.

Jennie Tietjen (CHS 2010) My fiancé, Marek Gozdz (CHS 2008), and I met in 2008 while working at the Stop & Shop on Allwood Road, but we didn’t start dating until August 2012. We were kind of just friendly at work and then someone told him that I liked him and he messaged me on Facebook asking me for my phone number. We are getting married on July 14, 2022. For our first date, we went to the mall and kind of just talked for hours. Afterwards, we drove around and around because we didn’t want the day to end. Our first kiss was some time in the summer of 2012 in the hallway of my house. That summer, we hung out almost every day. He was leaving one night and gave me a kiss. It was special.


February 2022 •

Alaina Paris-Garcia (CHS 2004) My husband Dan and I met in high school when we both worked at the New Jersey Rock Gym. We got married on July 1, 2011. It was a long time ago, so we don’t exactly remember our first date, but we usually would go out to eat and then rent a movie from Blockbuster. We also enjoyed playing mini golf, going to the driving range, and playing pool. Our first kiss was outside my car after one of our dates, and I was excited because I really liked him. It’s a nice memory. The highlights of our marriage are our daughter Autumn, getting our rescue dog, Tyrion, and all of the traveling that we’ve done pre-pandemic. Some of our favorite trips have been to Alaska, Italy, and Greece.

Knapp Legacy of Service On February 27, 1960, the day my mom and dad married, they opened R.F. Knapp Roofing. It was a bold move for Dorothy and Richard. But six decades later, I’m proud to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of our family business. While my brother and I worked together until his death in 2014, I proudly continue our family business. On this page I wanted to share a few photos...and let you know how much the Knapp Family has appreciated your support and trust over these six decades. At right, in 1990 that’s my family just before my dad died... at the bottom is Richie, a great Skipper and Fisherman...and at right, that’s mom and me in 2007, supporting the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton....

Thank You, Clifton! - Don Knapp

Since 1960

R.F. Knapp


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They Are Building A

Home of Memories For Jerry Gonzalez, his first date with Vanessa Soto was “the beginning of forever.” But they crossed paths much earlier than that day in July of 2013. Thirteen years earlier, actually. The two of them had met in September of 2000 while starting their first years working for the Passaic Public Schools system. A friend had introduced them, but it wasn’t until much later that they reconnected through Facebook and decided to meet at CUPS in Clifton. What made Vanessa take Jerry out of that initial “friend zone” that she placed him in from having met through work was seeing how he behaved around her sons, Marvin (CHS 2016) and Jacob (CHS 2025). She especially noted his connection with Jacob, who is autistic. “When I saw that connection and he threw himself on the floor with him, they just clicked right away,” said Vanessa, 46. “And with my oldest, they felt comfortable. That meant a lot to me.”


February 2022 •

“To me,” she continued, “he has made up for all the absence of the boys not having a father in their lives before.” Jerry, 49, went on to say he knew Vanessa was “the one” at an early stage. Part of that came from seeing her embrace a strong faith. When he considers their relationship highlights, it was when they purchased their Clifton home in June of 2014. Less than a year later, they married in March of 2015. “We are looking to build our love story,” said Jerry. “We have been building so many memories in our home and more are to come with our family. We love Clifton.” • February 2022


Walter and Jane Beck 50 Years of Highlights We met for the first time on CHS’ graduation night in 1967. My husband’s best friend came over to my house to take me to a graduation party, and he invited Walter to come. We refer to that night as a Godwink. For our first date, we went to see the movie “The Sand Pebbles” at the Bellevue Theater in Montclair. My husband says he knew the first time he met me that he was going to marry me. I knew much later. My first impression was that I liked his friend better, but later realized what a fun, kind, and caring person he really was. Looking back, I know I truly made the right choice. Our children – Michael, 49, Daniel, 48, and Laura, 43 – and grandchildren are the highlights of our 50-year marriage. We have truly been blessed.

Daniel and Sandy Beck Stronger Together Although neither one of us remembers our first date, we remember our first kiss. One night while we were watching a movie at her house, it just happened during a conversation. I honestly don’t think Sandy was feeling the same way I was until our first kiss happened. We developed a wonderful relationship over the next few years and today have three boys: Joshua, 32; Joseph, 30; and Ryan, 15. Looking back at how everything developed over the years, I don’t think there is anything we would change. The struggles early in our marriage have become what has made us so strong together. Our steadfast commitment to each other is what I think we admire most about each other. We are perfect together. We also look at the relationship and marriage that both of our parents have or had throughout the years and use those examples as guidance to keep our love and marriage as strong as theirs.

Sandy and Matt Martinique A Kiss on the Cheek at Junior Prom Matt and I met in junior year of Clifton High School, both in the Class of 1998. We had geometry class together. Surprisingly, we never met before that even though we both went to middle school together. Our first date was to the Junior Prom, where he kissed me on the cheek afterward. I don’t think either of us knew what would become of our relationship at that time. Matt is my best friend; he always makes me laugh and he’s a wonderful father to our girls. We were married in August 2006, and we have three daughters who are definitely a highlight of our marriage – Elizabeth, 13; Stella, 11; and Kassandra, 7.


February 2022 • • February 2022


Photo by Jovo Bjelcevic

Snowy First Kiss at The Clif Anthony and I kissed for the first time just shy of a year after meeting. I was waitressing at the Grande Saloon and also bartending at The Clif. Anthony frequented both places after work and we’d get to talk often. Shortly before “the kiss”, I finished my shift at Saloon and Anthony lifted me up on his shoulders to help me clean snow off of my truck so I could drive to The Clif, above which I lived at the time. Minutes after walking in the bar, I texted him and just said, “I really want to kiss you.” He was there comedically fast, snow storm and all. We kissed under the steps behind The Clif, and Skip, the owner of The Clif, was shoveling the sidewalk just a few feet away. He totally caught us, but never brought it up. I vividly remember thinking, “This is what I waited for.” It was undoubtedly the best kiss of my whole 21 years of life. I never wanted to kiss another person again. As many people know, we now run The Clif together, so we are there all day, every day. Sometimes I’ll point at it and be like, “Hey, remember our first kiss?” The fact that I get to walk past it nonchalantly 10 times a day is actually pretty cool.

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February 2022 • • February 2022


Prime Clifton Real Estate:

Building a Marriage and a Family As Dan Norton and Susana Barbetti-Norton witnessed their relationship grow over the years, they also watched as their family grew with it. The Clifton couple will celebrate 19 years of marriage in May. But there will be others who mark the occasion with them. “We have three adult children, 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren,” said Dan, 80. “Our great-grandchildren are ages 5 and 2. It’s like starting life all over again.” Life for Dan started in Manhattan. He later lived in Queens until he volunteered for the draft and entered the US Army at age 18 in 1960. Dan was in the Army for 25 months and served as a radio operator. During that time, he was stationed in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alaska, and even Germany. Meanwhile, Susana was born in Argentina to French and Italian parents. She lived in Argentina until age 5 and then moved with family to the U.S. for two years. Eventually, her family returned to Argentina and she didn’t permanently return stateside until 1984, with her son. Despite their travels, the thing that incidentally brought Dan and Susana together is real estate. “We both were working in the same office,” said Susana, 73. “He was the manager, and I was the processing manager in Clifton’s Weichert Real Estate office.” As they got to know each other, a natural friendship developed between them. Susana recalled that her first impression of Dan was his strictness and how he almost seemed “military”, but that he was a decent person. Dan also recalled his first impression of his future wife. “I found her very attractive,” he said. “There were 70 people working there, and she did a fantastic job. A real down-to-earth person.” As their relationship became more serious, Susana ultimately transferred to the Pompton Plains office. But they


February 2022 •

both recalled with amusement those early days of maintaining professionalism in the office and their attempt at subtlety. “It’s difficult because we worked together and certainly couldn’t show affection in the office,” said Dan. “But that’s not true because she’d baby me come lunchtime … and some people who were close to us caught on right away.” The couple closed on their Clifton home in December of 2002 and, less than two years after Susana transferred, got

married on May 17, 2003. The couple closed on their Clifton home in December 2002 and got married on May 17, 2003. Today, the couple are retired, though Dan still holds a Referral License and Susana remains a passionate artist. She does shows and exhibitions for her ceramics and paintings, including a display at Clifton Public Library’s Allwood Branch, at 44 Lyall Rd. She is also a member of the Clifton Association of Artists. Together, Dan and Susana care for Susana’s mother, Helen, who turned 100 in November. They also enjoy going out together for dinner and spending time with loved ones. For a relationship highlight, Dan’s answer was simple: “I think it’s the concern, love, and feeling that we have between us,” he said. • February 2022




Some couples have a first date to remember, but one of Ektaa Rana-Green’s favorite stories about her and her husband, Danny Green, happened before they started dating. They had gone to get Chinese food with two guy friends perhaps a month or two before they started dating. At the time, they were still in high school and Ektaa was dating someone else. After everyone had gone around the table reading their fortunes, Ektaa had looked at Danny. “Dan was sitting across from me and hadn’t read his fortune, so I said, ‘What does it say?’” recalled Ektaa, 28. “He replied, ‘The love of your life is sitting in front of you.’” “It was a little awkward,” she continued, laughing. “I can’t believe that actually happened to us. He held onto that fortune for a while.” When they both consider those early days together, they acknowledge how they were lucky to grow up together. They also noted that once they started doing a long distance relationship to pursue their separate professional passions, it meant always putting forth an effort. But Danny, 29, explained that the effort is more nuanced than simply saying that a long distance relationship comes with challenges. “It’s been easy to stay with you the whole time,” said Danny, speaking directly to Ektaa. “The effort always has to be there when you are long distance, but … it was always easy to be around you.” “I never had doubts about the relationship,” he added.


February 2022 •

Mustang Sweethearts Like many Mustang sweethearts before them, Danny and Ektaa’s knowledge of each other goes far back. The two had known of each other since attending Woodrow Wilson Middle School. The pair later became varsity athletes and ran track and cross country for all four years at CHS. Part of how that happened was, while they were just friends, Ektaa convinced him to join the track team so that she was not the only freshman. The times spent sitting beside each other every day on the bus helped build a strong foundation. After becoming good friends in Fall of 2007, they started dating in December 2008. • February 2022


“My favorite thing about her has always been her sense of humor and she can make me laugh more than anyone else,” said Danny. “That’s what got me.” “For me, Danny was really good at track,” said Ektaa. “He was a driven, smart kid … and always willing to help push you to your goals. He’s someone to keep me on my toes.” By senior year, their classmates had voted them “Class Couple.” Today, the two of them attribute what makes their relationship work to how well they complement each other’s personalities. Danny went on to say that growing both together and separately once they attended schools in separate states further solidified their strength as a team. He attended Fordham and works today as a New York-based accountant. Ektaa earned her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She works as a physical therapist at St. Joseph’s, working with patients who are battling COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.


February 2022 •

Both she and her brother Hershey (CHS 2008), who is a pharmacist, chose to work there due to their mother Varsha’s 30-year career there as a respiratory therapist. “Being in separate states so long … a lot of it was trying to figure out times to be in the same place at the same time, even just for one day,” said Ektaa. “But I think it was really good for us to go to college separately.” “We were always ‘Danny and Ektaa’ in high school,” she continued. “It’s so important to be able to [be apart] and still come back and say, ‘This is what I want. I want to be with you.’” 13 years and counting Despite knowing that the other one was “the one”, Ektaa acknowledged all that the couple went through to “make it this far.” Their journey was in part connected to her cultural background and their identification as an interracial couple. “My parents are first generation here in America, and lots of Indian families expect you to marry an Indian guy because they think it would be more seamless. My parents were against us dating for a very long time,” she added, “but then Dan proposed and they came around and realized that he’s here for the long-run. My parents are super accepting now that we’re married.” The couple got engaged in 2019 and celebrated their “big Indian wedding” on June 19, 2021. They presently live in Little Falls with their rescue dog, Maui, and plan on looking for a house. Together for “13 years and counting”, it could have been a tall order to ask them to recall their first kiss. But the two of them reminisced on it with fondness and ease. “I think I had probably wanted to kiss her for four weeks. But when you’re 15 with a girlfriend, there’s not really an opportunity to kiss the girl you like,” said Danny. “I saw we had a second without other friends or parents, and I thought, ‘I have to go for it now because I don’t know when my next chance is.’” Ektaa added that she “vividly” remembers their first kiss and how they were about to leave a friend’s house when Danny kissed her on the porch. “I still get butterflies now because I’m very short and Dan’s not,” she said. “I remember trying to get my lips onto his, so I was on my tippy toes thinking, ‘Oh, this is finally happening.’”

E ast

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A Bond Like As new parents, Stephen and Nicole (DeGrazio) Antonecchia know firsthand how a child can transform a relationship. During their evening phone interview last month, the Clifton parents were navigating caring for their son Angelo, who was sick and approaching his first birthday. During that call, the duo worked in tandem; with Stephen answering certain questions at times when Nicole needed to comfort Angelo. “Having a child has definitely brought us closer together,” said Stephen, 31. “There is a common bond of raising a kid and when things are hard, you’re doing it together.” Before that bond deepened for them, they started out like many couples: as friends. They had some mutual friends that would spend time together and gradually got closer. The turn of their relationship, Stephen said, was the night that they went bowling. “I’m very good at bowling and she wanted me to teach her,” said Stephen. “That’s how the relationship started. We started talking more outside of the others.” Among their relationship highlights, Nicole, 35, said laughing from morning until night is a big one. It was


February 2022 •

No Other

further emphasized when they were asked who set their sights first on becoming “more than friends.” “I think you were feeling me [first],” said Stephen, coyly. “What?” screamed Nicole’s voice from a distance, as she laughed. “That’s not the answer. You definitely wanted to pursue me.” Their other relationship highlights are buying their first home together in December of 2018 and later, the birth of their son. Prior to his birth, they wed on March 29, 2019. If they were to offer advice to young parents, the first thing they would acknowledge is that parenthood is not easy. “Compromise is absolutely necessary and it’s OK to not know everything,” said Stephen. “You kind of just learn as you go. There’s no way to know unless you do it and there’s really no way to prepare. You just have to be all in.” “But it’s very rewarding,” continued Stephen. “Sometimes we can’t wait for him to go to sleep. But when he does, we’re looking at pictures of him. It’s hard, but it’s absolutely worth it.” • February 2022


A Growing


One of Sue Feliciano’s clearest memories of meeting her husband, Steve, is that they met at Valley Chapel in Clifton during youth group. In those days, Steve’s mother dropped him off at the Boys Club for indoor soccer practice. He would later walk to Sue’s mother’s house on Chaytor Street,

Steve and Sue Feliciano enjoy their kids as much as they do these two puppies.

or Sue would see him riding his 10-speed bike from the Delawana section to her house. Despite meeting at the young age of 13, Sue knew early that she didn’t want to let him go. “We’re so good together. We’re best friends,” said Sue (CHS 1982). “By the time we were sixteen or seventeen, I kind of knew that was it.” The couple wed on Oct. 4, 1987. The couple wed on Oct. 4, 1987. Today, Sue’s connection to Clifton also stays strong through her profession. She works as a Secretary for Curriculum and ESL at the Board of Education. As they approach 35 years of marriage, she said the biggest highlight is their three boys: Steven, 30; Christopher, 28; and Austin, 26. Sue is also proud of her and Steve’s relationship. The two of them hike together, and they recently bought a camper in the Poconos. “We do everything together,” she said. “Our family is the most important thing to us.” And that family will expand this year. “We’re waiting to become grandparents in a couple of weeks,” said Sue, during her interview in mid-January. “It will be our first grandchild. We’re all waiting to be surprised if it’s a boy or a girl.”


February 2022 • • February 2022


A Few Takes on

Laura & Michael Zagorski:

A First Kiss

Laura: Our first kiss happened outside of a restaurant where we used to hang out. It was very exciting, but nerve wracking as well because it was the moment that our friendship forever changed. When Hurricane Floyd hit New Jersey in 1999, we got water in my parents basement. My father wasn’t home and my mom needed help getting the water out of the basement. Mike came with me to my house and helped us. That is one of my favorite qualities of my husband. He is always so willing to do anything and everything he can to take care of his family. My first impression was that he was strong and hard working, and I was right. Michael (CHS 1993): My heart beat out of my chest when I first saw her. She is beautiful and extremely smart. On our first date, we went to the Hudson Riverfront and talked for what seemed like forever while we looked at the New York skyline. The highlight of our marriage, in my eyes, is waking up next to Laura every morning. We also have three wonderful children that we are extremely proud of: Josephine, 13; Matthew, 11, and Nicholas, 9.


February 2022 •

Jennifer, Kenneth & The Lee Family Ken and I met in Lana Lounge, a Hoboken bar. He was a bouncer where my friends and I would hang out. One night, I needed a ride home and a friend asked Ken if he could drop me off at my house. We kind of knew each other a little bit from always seeing each other. We exchanged phone numbers and had our first kiss. I had butterflies in my stomach at that moment and still get them when I remember that night. I knew it very early in the relationship that he was the one that I wanted to spend my life with. We always had a great time and great chemistry with each other. Ken has a heart of gold and is always there by my side.

Kenneth and Jennifer with Kenneth Jr, 9; Brendan, 6; and Alexander, 7.

Scott & Tina Robinson Neither one of us can remember our first kiss. But we both do very clearly remember the first time we said I love you. We were in New Orleans watching Chris Owen’s show and she said, “Tell the person next to you that you love them”, so I did, and he responded with “I love you too.” I almost fell off my chair. I thought I was hearing things or he was drunk. But he said it again the next day. I’ll never forget that moment, I felt like I could walk right on up to Heaven. We got married on April 2, 2005 and the highlight of our marriage is definitely the birth of our son, Aidan, who is a junior at CHS. I was told that I could and should never have children for medical reasons and when he was born, it made us more than a couple. It made us a family. That did and continues to make our marriage strong and meaningful. • February 2022


Esther Loves

Our Hometown’s Bovine History By Ariana Puzzo Each December, it’s not uncommon to hear the classic and joyful quote (especially if you are a fan of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, the classic Jimmy Stewart film): “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” This past December, Esther (Kingsbury) Cogan felt the seasonal joy in her Clifton backyard when she encountered a different kind of bell — Bell the cow. The surprise visit took place on Dec. 18 and was arranged by her daughter and son-in-law, Lynn and Bruce Bintliff. Cogan said that Bell arrived in a big trailer and they had her in the backyard for an hour or so. For the lifelong animal lover, the experience was in some ways reflective of Cogan’s youth. “Growing up, I spent time on a farm in New York State,” recalled Cogan, who graduated CHS in 1954, adding: “Everyone knows that I love cows.” A proud, lifelong Cliftonite, Cogan can recall the days when the city was more farmland than city space. She can recall the farms and open spaces where cows and other animals were out in the field. But her true love of the bovine life came from time spent in upstate New York, visiting her grandmother’s farm in West Clarksville. “The warmth,” said Cogan about why she loves the animal. “I was young and learning how to milk the cows — that stayed with me.” That feeling was relived this past December day, when Esther and her husband, Bill,


February 2022 •

Bill and Esther Cogan with Bell and their daughter and son-in-law, Lynn and Bruce Bintliff. Bill and Esther recently and on their first date some 66 years ago.

walked her out to the backyard and met Bell. “It was a rainy, cold day, but we had fun,” said Cogan. “Have you ever had a cow lick your hand while feeding it?” she added with a laugh. The Richfield couple will be happily married for 64 years on May 3. In addition to Lynn, their other children are Kathy Kinnier and Billy Cogan.

Clifton Public Schools Employment Opportunities

The Clifton Public School District is currently accepting applications for the following positions:

School Nurses (NJ Certification)


Registered Nurses

Substitute Teachers

ESL Teachers (NJ Certification)

Substitute Paraprofessionals

Teacher of Mathematics (NJ Certification)

Special Education Teachers (NJ Certification)

Highly Qualified Paraprofessionals for Preschool

Board Certified Behavior Analyst for Preschool

Preschool Special Education Teachers (NJ Certification)

Apply today at Clifton Public Schools 745 Clifton Avenue Clifton, NJ 07013 Phone: 973-594-4195 E-mail: • February 2022


Have you ever wondered what Clifton History would look like as Simpsons characters? Probably not. Neither would we. But it has happened.

When Clifton’s Battery B Met...

Homer Simpson By Ariana Puzzo


February 2022 •

Have you ever wondered what Clifton History would look like immortalized as Simpsons characters? Probably not. Neither would we. Except that our old friend Robert Doremus figured a way to do it. And here is the story... In August of 1999, we featured Doremus and his crew on that month’s cover. At the time, the magazine’s effort to collect and publish Clifton History helped to capture the community’s attention. But it was Doremus and others participating in Civil War reenactments that caught our editor Tom Hawrylko’s camera, as seen above left. “Back in the 1990s, my two sons, Rich and Scott, and I did some Civil War reenacting,” said Doremus, 71. “We represented Battery B, 1st N.J. Light Artillery.” Doremus was also the owner of Dorow, a NAPA auto Parts and Auto Paints retailer on Lexington Ave. Hawrylko saw photos of Doremus, his kids and others dressed in Civil War era clothing and shot that cover. • February 2022


Doremus’ interest in that era goes back at least three generations. He said that his grandfather sparked his interest in the Civil War. “He’d tell me stories about his grandfather who was a soldier in the Civil War and was wounded at Gettysburg,” said Doremus, CHS 1968. That was Garret C. Bush, who served with the 7th N.J. infantry, Company C. Doremus noted that despite only being 16, Bush enlisted with his older brother by saying that he was 19. Bush’s resting place is in Denville Cemetery. After looking more into his greatgreat-grandfather, Doremus said his interest “snowballed from there.” He then connected to the late Dennis Kendra, who passed away in 2017. His sons and Kendra’s sons were both in the Boy Scouts, and Kendra invited Doremus to one of his reenactment meetings. Not long after, Doremus signed up and recalled that Kendra owned a cannon, an original Civil War piece. Within a year, his eldest son Rich (CHS 2000) joined the group. As soon as Scott (CHS 2002) was old enough, he joined as well.


February 2022 •

Along with reenacting, Doremus and his two boys participated in live fire competitions. The competitions required their team to shoot at targets at a range of 200 yards. But you’re likely still wondering how the Simpsons relates in any way to the Civil War. Not long after these men appeared on our August 1999 cover, Doremus came across a name on the internet. It was Gary Yap, who was previously an animator for The Simpsons. “I contacted him and asked if he could make me a custom drawing,” said Doremus. “He said that he could, so I forwarded him the magazine cover and asked if he could remove one member and replace him with Homer and ‘Simpsonize’ the rest of the group.” After he got the illustration, Doremus got coffee mugs made with the names of his fellow Battery members and the photo put onto the other side. “The guys in the Battery got a big kick out of it,” said Doremus. “We all thought that was pretty neat.” So did we Bob. And we thought our readers would enjoy the look back as well. • February 2022


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February 2022 •

Clifton High School Academies 333 Colfax Avenue, Clifton, New Jersey 07013

Why Clifton

Academic Excellence Broad range of courses Commitment to Student Success


The Clifton High School Academies offer a multitude of college and career paths for students Each Academy student has an advisor to monitor academic progress throughout the program Academy students are given priority scheduling for indemand courses Academy students may participate in all sports, extracurricular activities, and clubs Academy students receive a special designation on transcript upon gradation Apply today at • February 2022


By Bob Conrad

FIFTY YEARS LATER, BIG WIN REMEMBERED If the lyrics below read like they have been lifted and adapted from the classic Don McLean song “American Pie” that was covering the airwaves through the winter of 1971-72, well, that would be true. They also serve as a back story for what was certainly one of the more memorable nights of high school basketball in Clifton’s history on Feb. 10, 1972 — one that I am proud to have been part of. Pope Paul VI Regional High School opened its doors on Valley Road in 1967, a response to the


February 2022 •

“And not a word was spoken, their win streak now was broken...”

growing number of “baby boomers” then entering high school. While the school ultimately closed in 1990 due to dwindling enrollment, Paul VI, as it was then known, enjoyed many successful seasons on the basketball court, most notably during that winter of ’71-72. The Patriots carried a 14-game winning streak into its eagerly anticipated matchup with Clifton and, having defeated the Mustangs in each of the previous two Sophomore Tournament Championships. They had every reason to feel confident.

The 1972 Paul VI Patriots: Joe McManemey, Steve Patterson, Matt Swan, Jack Kosnick, Rich McDermott and Bob Washington. Row 2: Coach Jack Moran, Bart Natoli, Joe Gianpapa, Bill Garrigan, Steve Genthon, Joe Bigos, Ron Stamato, Mike O’Donnell and Assistant Coach James Wood. The 1972 CHS Mustangs: Standing: Coach Emil Bednarcik, Dale Oosdyk, Marty Selzer, Mike Osiadicz, Bob Merena, Mike Will, Greg Dubnansky. Kneeling: Pete Cannizzo, Tim Walsh, Bob Conrad, Frank Mastroberte, Frank Sircusano, Rich Lyons.

The school went so far as to move its home game from Friday to Thursday, thereby making it the only high school game on the schedule – and ensuring full coverage from the Passaic and Paterson newspapers. Our own Clifton High team, on the other hand, had been expected to endure what we now know as a “rebuild,” returning no lettermen, and having lost an all-county center and all-state forward to graduation the previous spring.

Despite having won at Montclair and at Paterson Kennedy, Clifton entered the game, according to some rumors circulating out of Henry’s Deli and at Frills Sub Shop on Van Houten Ave., as three-point underdogs. On the very short bus ride up Van Houten, a few of us began to mumble our new version of McLean’s song, but we were, no doubt, a bit on edge. While Clifton was, then as now, a fairly large city of 80,000 plus, the fact • February 2022


is the athletic universe of that period was quite small; for us a travel tournament meant a car ride from Mt. Prospect to Nash Park, or in some cases a walk through a few fields down to Oak Ridge. Four of the ten starters, two from each team, had played CYO ball together at St. Andrews and several fans and players worked summer jobs for the city, lining little league fields. This was all very familiar and, increasingly, serious; winning sophomore tournaments was one thing, but to that point Paul VI had never defeated Clifton High School in a varsity level game. And, everyone in town knew it. We arrived at the Paul VI gym at about 5:30 pm, shaggy coats and shaggier hair, and as we walked across the court to our lockers, the growing crowd became very quiet. The The two big men: Bob Washington of the Patriots and Mustang Mike Will.

undercard, and that label may be especially appropriate in this case, was between two junior varsity teams that had lost one game between them to that point in the season. When those teams emerged from their respective locker rooms 30 minutes later for their game — the gym was packed — for a JV game which Clifton won. The main event more than lived up to its billing as the only game in town, or the county, or, for that matter, the universe on that given night. Paul VI, led by its brilliant shooter and playmaker, Bob Washington, matched our every move, though as our Coach Emil Bednarcik, in his final season at Clifton, had noted in practice earlier that week, “No one man can beat our team.” Washington would finish with 31 of his team’s 55 points, and one shudders to think about how many he might have scored, or what the final outcome might have been, had the 3-point line existed back then. Clifton, as it had all season, featured a balanced attack, led by seniors Greg Dubnansky, Pete Cannizzo and Mike Will, finishing with four players in double figures. The breakout performer was junior center Mike Osiadacz, who lit up the Patriots for 16 points, 14 rebounds and, if memory serves, probably saved his last


February 2022 • • February 2022


Mike Will and Bob Conrad at our offices in January. At School 3 in 1968, the 7th grade basketball champs, standing: Coach Dan Smith, Bob Conrad, Billy Garrigan, Bob Hamill, Mikey Ostapeck, Jim Seban, Coach Bob Liddell. Kneeling: John Griglach, Rich Lyons, Ken Rittoch, Pat Donahue, Steve Patterson. Note these kids are on both the 1972 Patriots and Mustangs squads.

light for a celebratory Marlboro cigarette on his drive home – it was a different time. A pivotal sequence took place early in the 4th quarter when Will, typically very reliable from the outside, lifted an airball from the top of the key that fell short of the rim, hitting the referee’s foot. Osiadacz alertly scooped up the ball and dropped it in. It was that kind of night. Cannizzo, however, was the hero at crunch time, draining three foul shots in the final 23 seconds to secure the win. As he noted in his postgame interview with the Herald News, the game was especially gratifying, given his long history with several players on the Paul VI team. Bednarcik called it “… a beautiful win.” The final score, 56-55, Clifton, while a big part of the story, does not fully capture what that evening, and the week leading up to it, meant to the students and the city at large. There were no cell phones (imagine that?) and no


February 2022 •

social media – only the 1,000-plus parents and friends who jammed into that gym to cheer and, yes, heckle a little bit. The decision to move the game to Thursday was genius, and the Herald News devoted a great deal of its Friday sports section to a recap of our game. In fairness to Paul VI, a great bunch of guys, they did come back the next year to beat us in the opening round of the Passaic County Tournament, a win they surely deserved. That said, I would not trade that Thursday night, 50 years ago this month, for any of the games played before or afterward. It was a special night, at a special time in the city’s history – and it was great to have participated in it. So, with a final nod to Don McLean: “And the three men I admire most, Wash, Moran and Joe Bigos, They caught the last train for the coast... The day... the Patriots died…” • February 2022


Unlike Clifton High School, Paul VI’s sports history is a completed chapter. With the former Valley Rd. Catholic high school now closed, there will be no more athletic glory for the Patriots. The school’s alumni must be content with only the past, as this Lost Legends story explains. By Jack DeVries

Top from left: Asst. Coach Bob Zurichin, Tom Prezioso, John Torchia, Jim Grady, Tony Cucci and Head Coach Jack DiSalvo. Second row, from left: Steve Figurelli, Pat Haveron, Frank Mocek, Tom Ardiff and Mike Cesalletti. Bottom row, from left: Rick Mariani, Tim Purcell and Jude Roppatte.

But what will never die—especially for the players that were part of the 1979 Paul VI baseball team—are the memories of a season when the Patriots became State Parochial B Champions and made Clifton proud. Here’s another “Lost Legends” that we originally published in August 1999. In 1979, much was expected of the Patriots. The year before, as a team made up by mostly juniors, they had gone to the Parochial B State Championship finals, losing to Bishop Eustace, 5-0.


February 2022 •

“When we knocked off Our Lady of the Valley of Orange in the 1978 state tournament,” remembers John Torchia, the Patriots shortstop, “that opened a lot of eyes and proved we could play with anyone. They were ranked number two in the state when we beat them. After that game, everyone knew what we were capable of accomplishing.” “Making it to the state finals gave us a quiet confidence during the next season,” says pitcher Steve Figurelli. • February 2022


“Coach DiSalvo,” says Torchia, “had a good working knowledge of the game. He was good with fundamentals and really knew the basics. The guys respected his knowledge. He was also a good motivator.” “Sure—there was pressure with every“I liked the guy a ton,” Figurelli one’s high expectations, but it didn’t says. “He was a good leader and had bother anyone. We liked having big our respect. He was a coach that was things expected of us.” liked rather than feared—he didn’t Paul VI’s climb back to the state rule with an iron fist, but didn’t have finals was not an easy one. Despite a to. We trusted his baseball judgeveteran team, the Patriots started out ment.” just 3-3, hampered by injuries to TorWhat also was significant during chia and catcher Tony Cucci. Pitcher the 1979 season was the team’s coheMike Cesalletti, part of Paul VI’s trio siveness. With only 11 on the squad, of outstanding senior pitchers, which contributions and support were needincluded Figurelli and Pat Haveron, ed from every member. “We were a was also out with the measles. close knit bunch,” Torchia remem“I still had confidence in our kids,” bers. “I still see and talk with many of coach Jack DiSalvo told the Heraldthe guys that were on that team.” News about his team’s start. “We were While the Patriots embraced the Steve Figurelli. still hanging in ballgames—the ones team concept, they did have their share we lost were close. As soon as our of outstanding individual players. missing players came back, we started our streak.” “Johnny Torchia,” says Figurelli, “was an awesome, all Over their next 10 games, the Patriots blitzed their oparound baseball player. He had a gun of an arm, was fast, position, outscoring them 75-18 with Figurelli, Cesalletti, and could hit to all fields. He was also an intense competand Haveron combining for four shutouts to vault to a 13-3 itor—a team catalyst. Tom Ardiff, a junior, led the team record. in batting and was a good contact hitter. Jimmy Grady led “We wanted respect from the bigger public schools,” our team in hitting the year before and overcame an early Figurelli remembers of the team’s mood. “We knew we slump to help us at the end.” were as good as teams like Clifton and Bloomfield and “Grady was also an excellent glove at first base,” adds wanted to show everybody. What was unusual about the Torchia, “and one of the few power threats in our lineup. streak was our offense—it was unbelievable during that Tony Cucci, our catcher, was a solid player who could ten-game stretch.” throw out base stealers. He was also the kind of catcher The run output delighted DiSalvo, a coach revered by that players didn’t want to run through trying to score.” his players. Entering the state and county tournaments,


February 2022 • • February 2022


Paul VI’s offense began to fade. However, the Patriots knew they didn’t need many runs to win because of its other strength—pitching. Their three senior starters all featured ERAs near or under the 1.00 mark. Staff leader Figurelli totaled a microscopic 0.34 ERA combined with an 8-0 record. Pitching would play a huge part in the team’s championship run.

Tony Cucci.

City of Clifton 2022 Dog License Renewals Due March 1, 2022

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February 2022 •

“Because the county and state tournaments overlap,” recalls Figurelli, “we had a decision to make. At first, we wanted to concentrate on the county tournament. With rain canceling our opening county games and us moving deeper into the Parochial B tournament, we decided to make the counties a lower priority. “Since the games were sometimes two days apart, we didn’t have the pitching to compete in both tournaments. After we beat Wayne Hills in our first county tournament game, ironically, we lost to Don Bosco Tech, another parochial school, in our next county game. Because the seniors were scheduled to pitch in the Parochial B tournament, we had to go with freshman pitcher, Mark Sartori in the loss. Mark pitched well enough to win, but our bats were quiet.” But in the Parochial B State Tournament, Paul VI would not be defeated. Against St. Michael’s of Jersey City, Figurelli tossed a 2-0 one-hitter with eight strikeouts. Paul VI followed with another 1-0 Figurelli shutout against Montclair Immaculate, then a 2-1 win against Immaculata of Somerville behind Haveron, setting up the state final against St. John Vianney of Holmdel. In the championship game, the Patriots grabbed an early lead in the second inning. With two outs, Paul VI scored three runs on an RBI single by Frank Mocek, a bases-loaded walk by Tim Purcell, and an infield hit by Torchia. That was all the support Figurelli needed as he battled to a 3-0 win—helped by two Grady defensive gems to end rallies by St. John’s. The 20-5 Paul VI Patriots became the 1979 Parochial B State Champions. “It was a special year,” says Torchia. “Our football team had also won the Parochial B State Championship, so our winning both titles in the same year was a great accomplishment.” “When I think about that 1979 team,” says Figurelli, “I think of a team of ‘contributors.’ No player dominated, no player hit over .400. We were a team of good, solid players.” And one that’s remembered. • February 2022


The CCMS Perseverance Series Students hear how everyday achievers came through CCMS then knock down obstacles on their way to life goals.

By Tom Szieber

Student, Musician and Division 1 Football Player

Maurice “Mo” Greene is out to prove that nice guys don’t actually always finish last. In fact, Greene is hoping to show that you don’t have to be cutthroat to rise to the top. A 2016 Clifton High School graduate who played for the Mustangs during a dark period in the program’s history, Greene navigated his way through the college ranks and is hopeful that a mid-March Pro Day will launch him toward his lifelong dream—playing in the NFL. “Football has been something that once I started working at it, I realized was my happy place,” Greene said. “Getting out there and working on my craft, I enjoy the work that goes into being a football player.” A three-year varsity player for Clifton from 2013 to 2015 as a tight end and defensive end, Greene put up solid defensive numbers, amassing 89 total tackles, 4.0 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception. His teams, though, went just 9-20-1. Still, he found his way to Division II Stonehill College (Mass.), where he registered 68 tackles and 9.0 sacks between 2016 and 2019. With a year of eligibility remainRepresenting CCMS’s musicians and athletes from left Jonuel Baez, Yousef Hamdan, ing, Greene transferred to Murray Muneer Hamdeh, and Jakhi Manuel with Mo Greene CHS 2016 keeping the beat. State University, a Division I FCS school in Kentucky, where he finished his college career in 2021. late-round draft pick. If not, Greene will look for opporWhile his path is not one that screams “National Foottunities as an undrafted free agent, and is already signed to ball League”, Greene believes he has the strength and Fan Controlled Football (FCF), an indoor league that began speed to impress at his Pro Day and, perhaps, become a play in 2021.


February 2022 •

The impending returns of the USFL and XFL may provide avenues for Greene to stay in the game, as well. “He is a very humble young man and he knows what it’s like to have something taken away from him,” said Clifton head football coach Ralph Cinque. “His mom taught him how easily something can get taken from you and everything he’s gotten, he’s worked for it. If there is a reason why he can do it, that would be it.” For a big, bruising presence, Greene is also a gentle soul and proud Cliftonite who has relished opportunities to make an impact in his hometown—even as a youngster. “I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Maurice make profound contributions both in and out of the classroom,” said Jill Hayes, a science teacher at Christopher Columbus Middle School. “Maurice took part enthusiastically in the Christopher Columbus Motivation Club in which Mrs. [Mary] Keenan and I were advisors.” “This co-curricular club created activities and programs to motivate students throughout the school to work to their full potential. Maurice facilitated the construction of activities with great initiative and with a positive attitude. I am proud of Maurice and I look forward to seeing him make a huge difference in the world around him.” Whenever his playing days end, Greene may well put his marketing degree to use, but he isn’t likely to simply walk away from the game altogether. To stay in the • February 2022


The CCMS Perseverance Series

“Maurice was an amazing student and a special kid. He was brave enough to switch from percussion to the bassoon in 7th grade. It was a natural fit for him and allowed him to shine. Maurice possessed an incredible work ethic and it was a privilege to help him develop his musical talent. He said that he wanted to be a football player and a musician. If anyone can do it, he can.” Lauren Chen, Maurice’s CCMS Band teacher sport while also making a difference, he has a natural attraction to coaching, thanks in no small part to Cinque. “He really instilled in me that life isn’t going to be easy, you will face adversity,” said Greene. “You will let it beat you down or you’ll get up and do something about it. I didn’t have the best season last year as a backup, but I didn’t let it stop me. In my eyes, a loss is never a loss, it’s a learning experience. If it affects you that much, you will reflect on it and turn it into a blessing.” Recently, Greene returned to CCMS to speak to the sixth-grade math class of his former teacher, Kim Mouzon (née Dreher). The theme of his comments was that anything is possible if a person is willing to work for it. A few students expressed aspirations of playing college sports; Greene advised them to work hard and become the best at their sport of choice. It is advice he continues to follow in his quest to continue his gridiron dream. “Mo was one of the most respectful, dedicated students to attend CCMS,” Mouzon said. “With academics always in the forefront, Mo was able to excel in athletics as well. Mo always strives to be his best and do his best. He is truly a role model and inspiration for Clifton students.”


February 2022 • • February 2022




It hasn’t been an easy season for Clifton ice hockey, but senior goalie Jurij Dubas has repeatedly proven that he is an elite player for the Mustangs. Clifton has struggled en route to a 1-15-1 record, but Dubas has 647 saves and a .913 save percentage in 15 games played. “I am not sure if there was a game this year where I didn’t have a coach on the other side rave about how good he is,” said Mustangs head coach Mike Santosuosso. “Unfortunately, he faces a lot of shots, high percentage shots. For the most part, he is solid as they come.” Despite their struggles on the ice, there has to be a bright side. And that is that the 2023 Mustangs will bring back a reliable core including forwards James Troller and Faith Poplawski and defender David Doremus (all currently juniors) in 2022-23, and should improve significantly. In the meantime, Dubas has his work cut out for him and he continues to perform and earn accolades. Clifton wrestling has emerged as a potential dark horse in North I, Group V, having won seven in a row after a 3-8 start. Junior Joe Abill has led the way, going 24-2 and capturing the Passaic County title at 285 pounds last month.


February 2022 •

By Tom Szieber

Abill seems primed to make another run in the state individual tournament, where he took fourth place a year ago. Even with his success, his head coach believes he still has more to give. “Joe looks good in the room and looks good on the mat,” said Mustangs coach Dan Geleta. “But I am hoping this isn’t the final product.” Senior 175-pounder Jacob Maldonado, freshman 157-pounder Nick Doktor and senior 215-pounder Nick Burgess joined Abill on the podium at the Passaic County Tournament, with Maldonado taking silver and the letter duo finishing in third in their respective brackets. Head coach Mike Cadmus and the Clifton boys basketball team has bounced back from a brutal 0-7 start, winning their five of their next eight. The highlight of their resurgence was three-game win streak against Bergen Tech, West Milford and Fair Lawn between Jan. 18 and Jan. 25. That tear was ended by 11-1 Saddle River Day on Jan. 27, but Clifton is clearly a different team than it was early on. “I think our younger players are getting way more acclimated [to the pace of varsity play],” Cadmus said. “As coaches, we’ve tried to simplify things. We knew we were starting with a tough schedule.”

Senior guards Kyle Vellis (18.3 points per game) and Luis Rivera (29 total steals, 2.6 assists per game) have continued to impress, but the difference has been the remainder of Clifton’s starting five—sophomore center Saif Al-Deen Saleh, sophomore forward Jayden Neumann and freshman guard Jayden Rivera. The 6’7” Saleh, in particular, has been a game-changer with his 128 total rebounds (10.7 per game) and 36 total blocks. With its youth movement, Clifton managed to earn the #9 seed in the Passaic County Tournament and sits in 10th place in the North I, Group IV power point standings. Clifton’s indoor track teams had another year full of achievements, with the boys winning division and county titles. Senior Donovan Swasey earned first team all-Passaic County honors in the 200m, while senior Jacob Heredia did the same in the 1600m. Heredia also participated in the prestigious Milrose Games, placing a respectable eighth and setting a new county record for the indoor mile. Junior Ben Nelken was an all-arounder on the first team. Head coach Jacque Murphy was named boys county Coach of the Year. The girls finished in second place in both, behind Passaic County Tech. Senior Taniya Giles (shot put), junior Janae Roberts (55m), junior Remy Dubac (800m) were all All-County first teamers. Dubac also competed in the Milrose Trials and earned a new school record for the mile.

BIG THANKS TO The Map of Clifton Advertisers • Mahmoud Ijbara Compass Real Estate • Paramus Catholic High School • JK Management/ Styertowne Shopping Center • NOVA UA FCU • Smith-Sondy Paving Contractor • Shook Funeral Home • Neglia Engineering Associates • Corradino & Papa, LLC • Pina Nazario, Coldwell Banker • Assemblyman Tom Giblin • State Farm Agent Tom Tobin • State Farm Agent Bill Eljouzi

• Affordable Home Services • Theater League of Clifton • Councilwoman Lauren Murphy • Councilman Ray Grabowski • Councilwoman Rosemary Pino • Fette Ford Infiniti KIA • C. Genardi Contracting • Mr. Cupcake • Precision Electric • Aspen Tree Service • Law Office of Franklin Montero • Yamilky Crisostomo, YNC Tax, LLC • Boys & Girls Club of Clifton • February 2022


Weyam Yousef, Lylah Flores, Abigail Motyl and Rohan Desai.

Here are the Mustangs of the Month for February 2022.

These four students, one from each grade, were selected by the vice principals at CHS, to be spotlighted for their personal achievements and school-wide contributions. Weyam Yousef, Freshman Freshman Weyam Yousef has adjusted well to her new school. Although she is focused on her academics during her first year, she’s interested in pursuing extracurriculars in future years. “I am interested in joining CAST and being a part of the morning announcements,” said Yousef (CHS 2025). “I think it would be a great experience and opportunity.” Yousef is also enthusiastic about other scholastic opportunities CHS offers. Among them is the advanced program with Montclair State University. Even so, she still has time to think about all of that. While she does, she continues to strike a balance between academics and spending time with her peers. Part of ensuring that balance meant figuring out a schedule and then adhering to it. “I learned to manage my time even better and prioritized school and studying a lot,” she said. “I also continue to have fun while I do so. I see my friends and hang out with them, so I think just finding a routine that accommodates your life just makes it that much easier.” That work ethic is inspired by those who have known her the longest: her parents. “My parents inspire me the most in life,” said Yousef. “They always inspire me to chase my dreams and live my life to the fullest.”


February 2022 •

Lylah Flores, Sophomore Now acclimated to the opportunity-filled CHS experience, Lylah Flores has found ways to enjoy and get involved in many aspects of student life. Flores plays on the Mustang varsity soccer team and runs varsity indoor and outdoor track. She’s a member of Key Club and is a part of the STEM Academy for Health Services. Looking ahead, she has expressed an interest in participating in one of the college programs. “I give my all whenever I do something and school is no exception,” said Flores (CHS 2024). “I believe whatever you put into something – that’s what you’ll get out of it. I work hard and enjoy learning.” Her favorite class at CHS is Language Arts. Flores added that she loves reading and enjoys creative writing. For her most influential teacher, she named her second and fifth grade teacher Mrs. Cristantello. “She is very kind and I learned a lot from her, not just academically but important life lessons as well,” said Flores. As we often see each month, many students acknowledge those who raised them as their source of inspiration. Flores is no exception. “My mom is a really big inspiration to me,” she said. “She is such an intelligent, hard-working woman. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without her.”

Abigail Motyl, Junior Abigail Motyl knows the importance of believing in your work. It’s a lesson that she said she learned from one of her most influential teachers. “Although there have been several influential teachers in my life, my eighth grade science teacher [Mr. Vincent Farrell] has been the most influential to me,” said Motyl (CHS 2023). “He taught me how to be more confident in my work and not put as much pressure on myself as I used to,” she said. The CHS junior is a member of the Clifton Key Club, the Future Teachers Club, and serves as the secretary of the Fashion Club. A major hurdle that she overcame during high school was Distance Learning. “In the beginning of quarantine, there was not much instruction at all,” she said. “This was very difficult for me because I am a visual learner.” She noted that the situation improved with the new school year thanks to Google Meets. Now back in the classroom, she feels fully acclimated again. Motyl went on to name history as her favorite subject in part because of her own personal history. “Ever since I was little, my dad and I would watch the History Channel together,” she said. “I took a liking to the subject [then].”

Rohan Desai, Senior Senior Rohan Desai is in the thick of his college admissions process. As he waits for letters, his ultimate goal is to pursue a career in investment banking. “Wherever I go, I plan on bringing an unparalleled work ethic and will make the most of my opportunity,” said Desai (CHS 2022). “The countless lessons that CHS has taught me will help me with this.” One of those lessons includes improving how he balances his social life and academics. Now in his final year at CHS, he said that he has “broken out of my shell” and developed lifetime bonds in his clubs and activities. “These friendships and the positive habits that I have developed are some of my prouder accomplishments from high school,” he said. Desai considers Mr. Raymond Burns as his most influential teacher. He credited the teacher for bringing positivity and enthusiasm to the classroom during the uncertainty of Desai’s junior year. Separately, Desai’s greatest inspirations are his family and friends. “When I start to lose focus of my goals and become complacent, they always remind me of my potential and push me to reach it,” said Desai. “My family has made so many sacrifices to get me in the position I am today, and I want to repay them in the future with my success.” • February 2022



The Bhatt Foundation visits the Club. From left, Navrang Bharahambhat, Bharat Rana, Kim Bhatt, Bob Foster, Hitesh Bhatt.

“Great Futures” start at the Boys & Girls Club, and organizations and volunteers like the Bhatt Foundation Inc. support the efforts to make sure that continues in 2022. On Dec. 6, the Bhatt Foundation visited the Club’s facilities. The foundation has also taken measures to support the Club and its members. “They have provided $4,000-worth of PPE supplies and have sent out our Annual Campaign packet to their contact list,” said Executive Director Bob Foster. Among those from the foundation who visited the Club were founder Hitesh Bhatt and current foundation president, Kim Bhatt. Headquartered in North Haledon, the foundation offers a variety of services, including security, storage solutions, and network engineering. After visiting the Club, Hitesh acknowledged the Club on the foundation’s public Instagram page @bhatt_foundation. “On behalf of board members at the Bhatt Foundation,” wrote Hitesh, “we will be happy with [sic] your MOU request for our upcoming mega donation in technology and PPE equipment to improve this for all participants at this campus. Our heartfelt kudos to the entire board and president for your outstanding achievements,” Hitesh continued. Bharat Rana, a Clifton resident since 2007, is one of the Club’s trustees. He is also heavily involved through his volunteer work in the community. His volunteering in-


February 2022 •

cludes him serving as the President of the Indo-American Seniors Association of Clifton. Rana’s day job has been working as an educator in the Passaic School District for 15 years. He works with high school special education students, which in certain regards ties into his commitment to the Club kids. “I like to work with children and the Boys & Girl’s Club keeps me connected with children. That’s number one,” said Rana, 67. “It’s also connected with the family, so I’m … helping children and their families at the same time.” What inspires Rana about serving as a Board member for the Club is how it contributes to the richness of “blessings” he feels from connecting with his fellow community members. He, like the Bhatt Foundation, sees the intrinsic value of the Club and all those who help provide safe learning environments for children. “When parents are working … after-school activities are provided by the Boys & Girls Club,” said Rana. “Kids are safe at the Club after school and they are engaged in learning.” He further emphasized the importance of funding for organizations like the Club. To contribute to the Club’s 2022 Annual Campaign, “Mission Unstoppable”, visit “That funding allows it so clubs like this – not only in Clifton, but also in the State of New Jersey – can survive,” he said.


Clifton Public Schools Substitute Teaching Opportunities Competitive Pay! January 1, 2022 - May 1, 2022

$240/Day: County Substitute Certification $250/Day: NJDOE Teaching Certification Pursuant to P.L.2021, c. 87, individuals that are enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education , have completed 30 semester-hour credits, and are at least 20 years of age are now eligible for a substitute teacher credential. Apply today at The district will contact eligible applicants and assist with certification process if needed. Clifton Public Schools 745 Clifton Avenue Clifton, NJ 07013 Phone: 973-594-4195 E-mail: • February 2022



The Red Hat Angels, a Relay for Life team, from left: Evelyn Kovacs, Doris McFarlane, Adele Gimon, Kim Oeffler, Anna Laky, Sara Liszner , Chris Liszner, Frank Kasper and Kim Castellano. On Feb. 9, dine in or take out at UNO’s Chicago Grill at 426 Rt. 3 West in Clifton. UNO’s will donate 25% of pre-tax bill to the Red Hat Angels’ team. Visit and print out the coupon. The Relay for Life is on May 14 at Clifton Stadium. For more info about cancer, visit

Destination: New Jersey – People and Places is a new virtual exhibit at the Clifton Arts Center. The show lets viewers take a tour of New Jersey, making close up stops at the Great Falls and Washington’s Crossing as it saves you walking the steps of Lucy the Elephant, a six-story elephantshaped example of novelty architecture in Margate. See it all and more at The CAC expects to reschedule “Fred Staloff: Origins of a Modernist” which it cosponsored with the Butler Institute of American Art for a January/February presentation prior to coronavirus Omicron variant surge. Details will be made available in the coming weeks. To support the CAC and purchase themed products, visit the Clifton Arts Center’s website and selecting the “Support” dropdown tab at the top of the homepage. TLC, the Theater League of Clifton, unfortunately had to cancel Meshuggah-Nuns!, a live dinner theater which was to be staged at Mario’s this month. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts with the restaurant and the stage and acting crews, the show will not be performed again until 2023. TLC will be scheduling other live performances in 2022. Watch this magazine for updates and check in on their website:


February 2022 •

Looking for your young one to swim at the Club? The Boys & Girls Club’s online registration is open for Youth Swim Lessons. Winter sessions are on Mondays and Wednesdays. Classes are determined based on your child’s level. For more info, visit parentportal. New swimmers must complete a swimming eval. Call 973-773-2697 ext. 135. Battle of the Books 2022 is a tournament encouraging children to read books while having fun competing with friends and peers. The reading incentive program is geared toward the Boys & Girls Club’s second and third graders, in collaboration with Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. Anyone can help donate the selected books or sponsor books by purchasing gift cards by Feb. 28. To view the book list, visit the Club’s Facebook page. For assistance, call Elly Simon at 973-773-0966 ext. 113 or email

Clifton Pride at Pink Ice Cream

Love is in the air this month, and Lydia Niebrzydowski is bringing it to Pink Ice Cream on Sunday, Feb. 13. The owner of the shop, located at 243 Parker Ave., has brought her own special touch to the city for the past five years. “Every year, I try to come up with something new to keep the store going and to keep it magical,” said Niebrzydowski. “And to bring customers from all over the place.” From noon to 6 pm, Niebrzydowski will host an early Valentine’s Day event. Patrons will find multiple types of treats, including cocoa bombs, chocolate dipped Oreos, chocolate covered Apple slices, chocolate covered pineapples, as well as balloon gift sets. “[It will be a] one-stop-shop for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day,” said Niebrzydowski. One visitor that Niebrzydowski plans to have as a special guest is Clifton’s Hailey Mia. Hailey, 14, finished in fourth place in December on the 21st season of NBC’s “The Voice.” Hailey also visited Uno Pizzeria & Grill on Jan. 6 for an informal gathering. Niebrzydowski recalled when she first heard about Hailey performing on the television and then learned that she was from Clifton. Hailey went to School 14 and WWMS, now attending PCTI. “I put the TV on and I started getting

By Ariana Puzzo

goosebumps,” said Niebrzydowski. “I was her biggest fan from day one.” “Not only am I so honored and blessed to have her in my shop, but I’m beyond grateful,” added Niebrzydowski. “My favorite song that she [sang on] ‘The Voice’ was [Lewis Capaldi’s ‘Someone You Loved.’]” Hailey and her mother, Gina Cardona Osorio, have also expressed gratitude for the journey that Hailey has gone on over the past year. One of the best parts for Cardona Osorio was seeing the ways her daughter challenged herself each week on the show. “As a parent, words can’t really describe what it’s like watching your kid accomplish her dreams,” said Cardona Osorio, in a January email. “I can say that I felt an overwhelming sense of pride.” “I’m excited to continue to watch her journey and for everyone to continue to see what I already know,” she continued. The performances also had a deep effect on Hailey. She described feeling “speechless” when she stood on the stage to perform and felt the crowd’s energy as they chanted her name. She added that she has loved returning to Clifton. “It felt so nice to come home and spend time with my dad and brother,” said Hailey. “I’m still getting used to my routine at home since it was so different in California.” And as for the future? “I’m going to continue to put music out, so stay tuned,” she said. • February 2022


Birthdays & Celebrations - February 2022

Happy Birthday to....

Send dates & names ....

Dwayne Williams who turns 45 on Feb. 3 with daughter Ixiana Westfield who will be 13 on Feb 12.

Sister Donna Hawrylko celebrates Feb. 25. Ernie Rodrigues turned 46 on Jan. 14. Ashley Rose Montague is 16 on Feb. 6. Maxine Presto turns 34 on Feb. 29—but leaps forward to celebrate on Feb. 28! The Lux siblings—Eric turns 26 on Feb. 3 and Renee will be 20—on Feb. 14. Orest Luzniak will be 67 on Feb.14.

Jayke Williams will be 14 on Feb. 26. Happy 22nd Birthday, Alison Moran on Feb. 10. Bodhi Latham turns 3 on Feb. 20. Jo Ann Bellini celebrates her 61st on Feb 22.

Brinda Chauhan celebrates a birthday on Feb. 20. Alison Degen....................... 2/1 Robyn Feldman................... 2/1 Jack Houston...................... 2/1 Kristin Reilly........................ 2/1 Mary Jane Varga................ 2/1 Emil Soltis, Jr...................... 2/2 Joseph Fierro...................... 2/3 Bob Naletko....................... 2/3 Catherine Grace Burns........ 2/4 Diane Di Pietro................... 2/4 John Nittolo........................ 2/5 Richie Szepietowski............. 2/5


February 2022 •

Courtney Carlson................ 2/6 Don Knapp........................ 2/6 Joseph DeSomma................ 2/6 Ashley Rose Montague........ 2/6 Robert D’Alessio................. 2/7 Nicole Tahan...................... 2/7 Tara Fueshko...................... 2/8 Natalie Pych...................... 2/8 Jamie Carr......................... 2/9 Craig Grieco...................... 2/9 Steven Becker................... 2/10 Bryan Kelly...................... 2/10 Matthew Seitz.................. 2/10 Valentine Le Ster............... 2/11 Sarah Mikolajczyk............ 2/11 Nick Zecchino.................. 2/11 Joseph Hilla...................... 2/12 Anthony Musleh................ 2/12 Dolores Rando.................. 2/12 John Hodorovych.............. 2/13

Amin Zamlout................... Mark Gallo...................... Jeanette Ann Saia............. Orest Luzniak................... Christine Canavan............ Chickie Curtis................... Ashley Brandecker............ David Fazio..................... Leann Perez...................... Lorraine Rothe.................. Sam Citero....................... Michael Del Re................. Richie Bandurski............... Stephanie (Peterson)Yoda... Michael Papa................... Robert Mosciszko.............. Taylor Jesch...................... Diana Murphy.................. John T. Saccoman............. Robert Adamo..................

2/13 2/14 2/14 2/14 2/15 2/15 2/17 2/17 2/17 2/17 2/18 2/18 2/19 2/19 2/20 2/21 2/22 2/22 2/22 2/24

Gianna Louise was born Feb. 1 to Julie-Anne (Cupoli) and Michael Sanchez. Eileen Feldman................. Kimberly Mistretta............. Robert Krupinski................ Kimberly Gasior................ Jayke Williams................. Joseph J. Schmidt.............. Brittany Helwig................. Joyce Penaranda.............. Brittany Pinter................... Lauren Ricca..................... Charlie Galluzzo.............. Mark Zecchino.................

2/24 2/24 2/25 2/26 2/26 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/28 2/28

Ari Federle jumps to 11 on Feb. 15. • February 2022


Crunch Clifton helps our community look and feel good, and the community took part in celebrating that last month. Located at 895 Paulison Ave., Crunch Clifton marked its third anniversary on Jan. 25. The day brought about an open house for all of the Crunch Family’s members, visitors, staff, and owners. Among those connected to the Clifton location is Club Director Aaron Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a certified instructor, is a CHS 2011 grad. The fitness hub marked the special occasion with a “jam party”, including a photo booth, and by offering sample classes, meet and greets, and special promotion pricing lasting through February.


February 2022 •

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