Clifton Merchant Magazine - March 2022

Page 1

Healing LOSS


From the Editor, Tom Hawrylko

‘Shche ne vmerla Ukrainas’, the national anthem of Ukraine, was adopted three decades ago with Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union on Aug. 24, 1991. Translated into English as ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished’ the song at right provides insight into Ukraine’s opposition to Russian aggression. Sharing that message on the steps of Paterson City Hall on Feb. 28 above are a mix of civic, social and ethnic groups from northern New Jersey who ask our community to ‘Stand for Peace. Stand For Ukraine.’ Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi, Passaic County Sheriff Rich Berdnik and leaders from the Peruvian, Palestinian and Polish communities, joined with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America to raise the Ukrainian Flag at half mast in honor of those who died while defending a free Ukraine.

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Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko, Sr. Art Director Ken Peterson Associate Editor & Social Media Mgr. Ariana Puzzo Business Mgr. Irene Kulyk • March 2022


Healing LOSS


“If I Ever Go, Keep Everyone’s Feet On The Ground.” - Matt Lalumia

All stories in this section by Ariana Puzzo Matt Lalumia may have run through life, but he never missed a moment of it. The wife of the late Clifton runner remembers her husband in many ways, including by his greatest passions. “Running was his second love,” said Vivian (Granito) Lalumia, 81. “It was family first and then running.” Matt shared that love with his fellow Clifton residents. Many people around the city knew Matt given his role as a co-founder of the Clifton Road Runners Club and an active member of the community. This July will mark one year since Matt’s passing and Vivian said that people remembering Matt means a great deal to her. “It means a lot to me that people I don’t even know – sometimes when they hear my name, they say, ‘Are you Matt’s wife?’” said Vivian. “[Matt] was a good man,” she continued. “A real mensch.”


March 2022 •

A Real Mensch Marinus Lalumia, Sr. was born in Lodi and lived in Clifton for 58 years. He served in the United States Marine Corp from 1958 to 1962. He was later the coowner of KLI, a restaurant supply store in Paterson for 35 years. A cancer survivor, Matt was also a man who loved participating in his community. He served as the former President of the Men’s Council of the Girl’s Club of Clifton, the Northern Division Little League, and the Clifton chapter of the New Jersey Jaycees. Surrounded in her living room by family photos, Vivian spoke fondly of her husband’s passions. Still, it was evident during the conversation’s pauses that the grief of his passing is still present. Matt, aged 81, had gone for a run on July 11, 2021 when a speeding motor vehicle struck him. The con-

On the facing page, Matt and his son Jr. running in 2001. Nect to that, the family circa 1970, with Lisa, Jr. with horns and infant Karen. On this page, at Matt’s 81st lasagna birthday party with Vivian on Dec. 13, 2020.

tinued grief is something one might expect, and certainly understand, following such a tragic loss. It is also a topic that Vivian is familiar with professionally, having worked to mediate crises alongside police officers in Passaic County as a licensed clinical social worker. Caring for others is something that the couple, who were married for nearly 58 years, shared with one another. “My husband was an incredibly wonderful man,” said Vivian. “Some people hold grudges, but he wasn’t like that.” “If you aggravated him, he would smile. He liked most people and most people liked him.” Lasting Impressions But it wasn’t always like that for the couple. When asked how they met, Vivian recalled with a laugh that they both disliked each other in the beginning. At the time, Vivian’s friend said she should meet Matt, who was the cousin of Vivian’s friend’s boyfriend. The trio were at a store on the highway when Vivian said her friend and friend’s boyfriend told her that they would meet her outside the store to get coffee when she finished shopping. “So, I’m standing there and wondering where they went … and there was a car parked almost where I’m standing and this person gets out of the car and says, ‘Well, what are you waiting for?’” recalled Vivian. “I said, ‘Who are you?’ and he said, ‘Look, they left and wanted me to take you home so we could meet each other. We met each other, now get in the car.’” Vivian said she listened since she saw the other’s watching in the car from a little ways away, and she said her and Matt maybe spoke three words to each other during the ride home. • March 2022


Loss and Healing

Some of the members of Matt’s extended family, the Clifton Roadrunners.

“When I got home, I said to my mother, ‘That was the most awful man that I’ve ever met. He had no manners,’” she laughed. Fast forward a few months to the summer, the two met again during a baseball game with friends. As chance would have it, Vivian was running to second in her coordinated outfit when she tripped and heard a rip in the seat of her pants. After some teasing, Matt took off his shirt and tied the arms around her waist before bringing Vivian to his aunt’s house for her to fix the pants. “After leaving his aunt’s house, we were laughing,” she said. From there, the relationship blossomed. They met a few times for lunch with other people at the start. The couple later wed on Sept. 21, 1963 and have three children, Lisa Kranis, Marinus Jr., and Karen Testa. They also have six grandchildren. One conversation that Vivian recalled was how Matt didn’t consider 58 years a big milestone anniversary year. They were discussing their hopes to bring the children to Italy for their 60th wedding anniversary. But Vivian still had a different perspective. “I said, ‘Every [anniversary] is an important one,” she said. “People should not waste time. If you decide to do something and your heart wants it, you should do it.”


March 2022 • • March 2022


Loss and Healing “Doing Grief” Matt was the perfect example of someone who didn’t waste time. Although he came to running later at age 38, Vivian said that he ran in 30 marathons and more than a dozen half-marathons. He participated in marathons in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and all the way up in Canada. One of his proudest running achievements was coming in first in the 70-74 age category during the 35th Marine Corps Marathon in 2010. Vivian said Matt also ran two marathons with Marinus Jr. “Junior was so happy that he could keep up with Matt,” recalled Vivian with a smile. The memories are accompanied by a sense of nostalgia, with Vivian admitting that she misses “those days.” Then came another admittance: “I’m not doing grief very well.” Vivian added that she now sees a counselor who is helping her, but that grief changes on a daily basis. “What do you think grief is?” she asked, shifting the conversation’s dynamic. After a moment’s thought, no longer the one asking the questions, the response was clear. Grief is a sound or a smell – or any sense that evokes a memory of a loved one. She agreed. “[For me, it’s when] I hear ‘Taps.’ Matt always cried at ‘Taps,’” said Vivian. “It’s so sacred with the Marines.” Vivian has found what helps her in these moments. Sometimes, it’s participating with her local committees, like Clifton Cares. Other times, it’s embracing the support of her family. “There are 12 of us with the whole group together, and it’s a big help,” she said. “If anyone senses someone else is having a bad day, you get a phone call.” “I don’t think there’s any secrets there,” she added, laughing. “Any time it looks like I’m going to blow my nose, I get three calls later in the day.” Over the past seven months, Vivian has also seen progress when it comes to her healing. “I’ve stopped saying, ‘Why? He’s such a good man. He never hurt anyone,’ she said. “He didn’t go to church every week because he was working, but he lived his faith.” Helping the Haven Help Clifton “Matt was involved in the first [5K] that [St. Peter’s Haven] did,” said Vivian. “He was the one who picked the route and got the Clifton Road Runners involved as well.”


March 2022 •

Circa 1980: Vivian and Matt with Karen, Lisa and Jr.

St. Peter’s Haven will host on April 24 its 2nd Annual Bloomin’ 5K & 1 Mile Walk for Clifton’s Hungry and Homeless. The event, hosted in Main Memorial Park, is open for registration at Register by March 20 to save. The Haven first hosted the 5K event with the Clifton Road Runners in 2019. Despite making plans for the 5K in 2020, the city canceled it due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Haven’s Acting Executive Director Pamela Fueshko said that the organization did not make plans for hosting the 5K in 2021 due to the continuation of the pandemic. However, they received the city’s permission this year to bring back the event. What makes this year’s event more special is its remembrance of Matt, and it certainly aligns with his values. Fueshko said it’s the type of event that works well for fundraising efforts. The Haven-sponsored event aims to raise awareness for the Haven and the pantry’s services. Fueshko added that the Clifton Road Runners are on board again to help with the event. As far as getting involved with the Haven or specifically the 5K, Fueshko said that it can be done in a few ways. “In terms of the 5K,” said Fueshko, “we’re looking for various levels of sponsorships, but mostly corporate sponsorships. Some signage will be going up around





JAGONEPT.COM • March 2022


Loss and Healing

A look back at the start of the 2019 Bloomin’ 5K.

the city in March, about 30 days ahead of the run that will showcase its sponsors.” Community members can also assist the Haven in other ways. Fueshko said they are always in need of volunteers and donations to help carry on the ministry’s efforts. They have seen support come from corporations, as well as education institutions like Clifton Public Schools doing food drives or Montclair State University offering the help of their fraternities and sororities. “We’re always looking for multiple groups and people to become involved,” said Fueshko. “Although we’re a


March 2022 •

ministry of the church … we don’t approach our clients with faith-based options.” “We encourage multiple faith-based organizations and ethnicities to become involved because [those are] the type of clients we’re seeing,” she continued. “We’re here for anyone in need.” As a member of the Road Runners and on a personal level, Vivian admires the Haven’s work and support for the community. But, she added, she always left the running to Matt. “I don’t run,” she said, with a big smile. “I walk.” • March 2022


Survivor’s Guide On the following pages you will find articles dealing with the all too inevitable process of loss and healing. Friends of ours that have lost loved ones have also graciously agreed to share their stories on these pages and celebrate the lives of those lost. We hope it will help you on the path of healing should you be faced with the loss of a friend or loved one. Death Certificate You can purchase certified copies of the death certificate through your funeral director or directly from the local vital records office in the municipality where the death occurred. Learn more at health/vital/order-vital/. Inheritance The New Jersey Division of Taxation office at 609-292-5033 is a good place to start on questions of property and funds. The branch administers all phases of New Jersey Inheritance and Estate Taxes. Office hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except State holidays. Honorable Military Discharge Submit a military records request through the milConnect website to get your DD214 or other military service records. Another option includes writing to the National Personnel Record Center (NPRC), 1 Archives Dr., St. Louis, MO 63138. You can also visit the NPRC in-person or contact your state or county veterans agency.


March 2022 •

Marriage Certificate A copy is required if the surviving spouse is applying for benefits. Get one at the office of the County Clerk where the marriage license was issued. Birth Certificate For Dependent Children Available at the vital records office in the county where the child was born. A Copy Of The Will The lawyer of the deceased may have the will, or it may be with the personal belongings of the deceased. Social Security The deceased is considered to be covered if the individual has worked and paid Social Security taxes. Call 1-800-772-1213 to determine eligibility. Burial Expenses Social Security does provide a death benefit. Often the funeral director will complete the application and apply the payment to the funeral bill. Survivor’s Benefits For A Spouse Or Children If the spouse is 60 or older, they are eligible for benefits. Widows with a disability age 50 or older are eligible for benefits. The spouse of the deceased who is under 60 but who cares for dependent children under 16 or cares for disabled children may be eligible. The children of the deceased who are under the age of 18 or have a disability may also be eligible. • March 2022


Wills Who needs a will? Everybody. It is also recommendable that you have a durable power of attorney and a health care directive, commonly known as a living will. Everything from your investments to your property is considered your estate. Without a will, you cannot control how your assets get divided. If you die without a will the New Jersey Intestate Statute goes into effect. That statute divides your estate among your spouse, children or other family members. It allocates specific percentages of the estate to each individual. A will is especially important if the deceased was previously married or if there are children from the previous marriage.

Organ Donation One of the medical miracles of the past several decades is the progress made in organ transplants. But more donors are needed every day. Heart transplants are considered medically straightforward and are routinely performed at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and at New Brunswick’s Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Liver and kidney transplants are said to be more complicated but are also performed on a regular basis. The Organ Transplantation Division at Hackensack University Medical Center is one of the leading transplant centers in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.


March 2022 •

As of 2021, the average cost nationwide for an attorney or firm to create a will is $940 to $1,500 for an individual person. However, a basic last will and testament can be drawn up for about $150 or so. The fee will depend on the size and complexity of the individual’s estate. The durable power of attorney names another person to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. A health care directive, or living will, instructs medical personnel not to take any extraordinary measures to keep you alive. It usually applies to someone in a vegetative state. A will also can affect the amount of tax paid on the estate. Generally speaking, the larger the estate the more complicated the tax process. Establishing a trust requires legal help and a typical living trust can cost $2,000 or more. Other hospitals in the state that perform organ transplants include University Hospital in Newark, which transplants livers, and St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, which are regional kidney transplant centers. Once accepted as a transplant candidate, whether for a heart, kidney or liver, a patient is tested, their medical history studied and their condition evaluated. Generally speaking, those who are experiencing organ failure are taken first and those who have waited the longest are next. You can provide lifesaving organs to as many as eight people. To become an organ donor, or to find out more about the program, visit the Health Resources & Services Administration at • March 2022


From The Surrogate


Passaic County’s Surrogate is Zoila Cassanova, Esq, who welcomes the opportunity to visit the community and provide information about probate, guardianships, and adoptions. As Surrogate, part of that specifically includes keeping the people of Passaic County aware of the necessity for estate planning. It is important for you to know that if you leave no Will, the laws of New Jersey will determine who shall receive your property. The law makes no distinction as to youth or age, illness or health, wealth or poverty, or any of the many other special circumstances that often vitally affect the well-being of your own family, or the special causes that are most important to you. Only through a legal Will can you provide for those you love. The Passaic County Surrogate’s Office staff and Surrogate will advise and assist you in any matter pertaining to these entitled services. The office is located in Room 101, Passaic County Courthouse, 71 Hamilton Street, Paterson, New Jersey and is open weekdays from 8:30 am to 4 pm. If you have a question, call 973-881-4760 or email

vary. Anything jointly held is not subject to probate. Only those assets that are in the deceased’s name alone. The necessary certificates upon probate of a Will cannot be issued by the Surrogate until at least 11 days after the date of death. However, the executor or executrix may come to the Surrogate’s Court to handle the paperwork required at any time, after death.

Probate of a Will Under New Jersey law, the Surrogate admits Wills to probate, which means that the will is proved to have been executed in the manner required by law. If you are named as an executor in a Will, you should visit the Surrogate’s Office in the County in which the decedent resided. Bring with you: 1. A death certificate with a raised seal. 2. The original Will. 3. Names and addresses of next-of-kin. 4. Government Issued Photo I.D. In order to prove the decedent’s signature, one witness who signed the will must appear at the Surrogate’s Office. In the case of the Will having a “self-proving” affidavit, no witness is required to appear. There will be a minimum probate fee of $100 for a Will of two pages with one Surrogate’s Certificate. No two estates are identical, so the procedure and costs

Affidavit in Lieu of Administration 1. If there is no Will, and the decedent is survived by a spouse, and the estate is under $50,000 and held in the decedent’s name alone and not held jointly with a living person, a “Surviving Spouse” affidavit can be issued by the Surrogate. 2. If there is no Will, and the decedent is survived by heirs, and the estate is under $20,000 and held in the decedent’s name alone and not held jointly with a living person, a “next of kin” affidavit can be issued by the Surrogate to one of the surviving next-of-kin upon release from all other surviving heirs.

March 2022 •

Administration of an Estate When a person dies intestate, or without having a legal Will, the Surrogate must decide who will administer the estate. If you are the closest living relative of the deceased, you should visit the Surrogate’s Office to make an application to do so. Bring with you: 1. A death certificate with a raised seal. 2. Names & addresses of next-of-kin. 3. An estimate of the value of the decedent’s estate. 4. Government Issued Photo I.D. There will be a minimum $125 administration fee, which includes one Certificate of Appointment of Administrator. Also, be prepared to make arrangements with a Surety Company for a bond, if necessary.

Ready to Help The Surrogate has a schedule of night court sessions. Probate clerks are present in Clifton on every second Tuesday from 5-7 pm at City Hall, 900 Clifton Ave., Clifton. Night court locations are by appointment only and can be scheduled on passaiccountynj. org/government/passaic-county-surrogate.

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Hospice Unfortunately, no one can change the outcome of a diagnosis. However, hospice enables people to maximize the quality of life. Most hospice patients choose to remain in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, surrounded by the family and friends who matter most. Who Provides Care? Under the direction of the patient’s physician and a hospice medical director, a team of professionals and volunteers follow a personalized plan of physical, emotional and spiritual care, adapted to meet the patient’s changing needs. The team includes a: • Nurse to visit as often as needed to ease pain and relieve symptoms. The nurse also teaches caregivers to care for the patient at home. • Home Health Aide to provide personal care – bathing, changing linens, helping with household chores. • Social Worker to help with stress of a serious illness, assist with financial concerns and insurance, and connect with community resources. • Qualified Volunteer who helps with activities of daily living, provide respite care and other concerns. • Pastoral Counselor to help the patient and family cope with spiritual issues. When Is The Right Time? The sooner, the more effectively hospice can help

After Care Losing a loved one can stir up many emotions, particularly depending on the circumstances. Marrocco Memorial Chapel, on Colfax Avenue, has long-helped Clifton residents with After Care. Two decades ago, a new library and resource center was opened and dedicated in memory of Henry F. Marrocco Jr. The library contained over 100 books and pamphlets and served family members, clergy, and teachers. Topics ranged from coping with suicide, sudden death, dealing with the loss of a child, and explaining death to children. Today, Marrocco’s support continues to evolve. The chapel offers online grief support regardless of the time


March 2022 •

enhance the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Staff is available to work with the family and physician to determine when a patient can benefit most from hospice. Hospice Service & Nursing Home Care Compassionate Care Hospice provides supplemental care for residents of long-term care homes who face a terminal illness. These services usually include pain and symptom management, medical equipment, which is not routinely supplied by the nursing home, and emotional and spiritual support for patients, family and friends. Who Pays? Most people receiving hospice care will use the Medicare Hospice Benefit, which covers up to 100% of the cost of care. Medicaid and many insurers and HMOs cover the cost. There is little or no out-ofpocket cost. Foundation support is also available for hospice families in need. As Time Goes On… Bereavement evolves and can disrupt your life for many months, so hospice team members keep contact during the time of bereavement with family and friends. Compassionate Care Hospice is fullylicensed and certified by Medicare and Medicaid. It is located at 1373 Broad St., Suite 306. Call 973916-1400 for more information.

of day or day of the week. Individuals can access online counseling services, group grief support, or view interactive videos. Executive Counseling Director Dr. Virginia Simpson created the grief counseling resources. “Whether your loss has been sudden or expected,” said Simpson’s testimonial, “I’ll help you learn to cope with the depth of emotions and experiences that are part of healthy grieving.” Passaic County also offers local support to city residents who may be battling with mental health concerns following the loss of a loved one. For the last three decades, the Mental Health Association in Passaic County has helped families and individuals conquer the challenges associated with mental illness. For more info, visit

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Funerals A funeral service fulfills two basic needs. First, it gives relatives and friends a chance to show the love and respect they feel toward someone who was important to them. Second, the visitation and the funeral helps survivors face the reality of death. A funeral brings together those who can give consolation and support at a time when it is most needed. Just seeing how much others care can help a family adjust to their loss. Funerals, like almost everything else, have evolved over the years. Shook Funeral Home, on Van Houten Avenue, has through three generations since 1955 provided options for grieving families. While a generation ago funerals were typically more solemn, today they visitation is often a celebration of the life of the deceased. For instance, videos and still photos of the deceased and their families are often posted at the wake, depicting major moments in their life. Over the past few years, we have seen video livestreams of services so that mourners can pay their final respects all over the country and world. Bizub-Quinlan Funeral Home, with locations on Van Houten and Lexington Avenues, also allows people who cannot attend services to express their condolences on the “Tribute Wall” of the online obituary on the funeral home website.

Pre-Planning More and more people are pre-planning their funeral, which includes payment in advance. Pre-planning a funeral has several advantages. It allows you time to discuss the funeral with family members, meet with the funeral director, and specify all aspects and costs of the service. You will receive an itemized statement and a trust fund agreement in the amount of those charges. There are several ways to prefund a funeral. Putting money in a trust through your funeral director is the most common. It allows you to plan a service at today’s prices, thus reducing the impact of inflation.


March 2022 •

“Funerals give the opportunity to family and friends … to publicly grieve their loved one,” said Tim Bizub, the manager of Bizub-Quinlan on Van Houten Avenue. “Sharing memories, stories, crying with each other, and offering comfort and support to each other help with the grieving process and a move toward healing.” Bizub added that funeral traditions are typically unique to each family, faith and culture, A tradition may involve visiting hours at the funeral home or a religious service and then either burial, entombment or cremation. In other cases, he said some people prefer “simpler services such as a committal service at the cemetery.” “Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic and governmental restrictions had changed a lot of the ways people handled funerals,” said Bizub. “With the hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, we are seeing most families going back to their funeral traditions that have been customary to them.” Memorials & Grave Markers It can take time to make the right decision for a loved one’s memorial, which will last for generations to come. One source to help in planning a permanent tribute is Diamond Memorials. Owner Maria Narducci said she works with people to recognize that a memorial should be unique to each specific individual. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. Evenings and Sundays are by appointment. Call 973-471-5008. Thousands of accounts statewide are pooled together and placed in an interest bearing trust fund, which is FDIC insured. The trustees receive a 1% management fee annually. The funds are totally refundable to the purchaser at any time, with interest and without penalty. Each year the fund sends a summary of the principal and interest along with any information needed for tax reporting purposes. Federal and state laws provide that properly trusted assets intended for the payment of funeral expenses will not be considered as a resource when SSI, Medicaid and General Assistance eligibility is determined. Consult your funeral director to set up a prepaid funeral trust fund. You may also want to consult an Elder Law attorney or your clergyman for advice.

Cremation In December of 2021, the National Funeral Directors Association projected the cremation rate to be 57.5%, whereas the burial rate was projected to be 36.6%. A cremation takes place in a specially designed chamber where, through heat and evaporation, the body is reduced to its basic elements. The remains, usually three to nine pounds of bone fragments, are placed in an urn. Often, a memorial service is held after the cremation. Shook Funeral Home Director Thomas J. Garretson has found that cremation, like all things surrounding the funeral process, is an “extremely personal choice” for everyone involved. “To truly put one’s mind at ease, it helps to have had that personal conversation about a person’s final wishes with them before passing,” said Garretson. “While formal pre-planning isn’t always feasible, just a quick discussion about what a person might want can help guide their family and let them know they are doing the right thing by their loved one.” Families have a number of options available when it comes to determining a final resting place for cremated remains. The urn can be placed in a mausoleum.

Many cemeteries have designated areas which are called urn gardens. Scattering the remains is allowed, but there are specific state regulations governing the act. Cost is one driving factor for the growing popularity of cremations. Cremation is usually less than one third of the cost of a traditional funeral burial. Some people also prefer not being buried in the ground or choose to be cremated for cleaner or environmental reasons. Garretson dispelled a common misconception. “The biggest myth we run into is the question of whether or not people are cremated at the same time in the same retort – the actual cremation machine,” said Garretson. “This is a moderately common practice when dealing with animals, such as pets or livestock, but is never done with human remains.” He continued, saying that the most common reason that individuals and families select cremation is that the deceased merely decided they did not wish to be buried or entombed. And then in other cases, it is a financial decision as the surviving family members could not afford a wake, funeral and burial plot. There are other common reasons as well. “Sometimes people wish to be scattered in their favorite spots or buried on private land and cremation is most suitable to those wishes,” said Garretson. • March 2022


Healing LOSS


Their Healing Journey will be Lifelong as The Platkins Move Out of the Darkness By Ariana Puzzo

In October 2019, the “Nathaniel Forever” team at Saddle River County Park. Below, Nathaniel Platkin at his 21st birthday.

For Donald and Ilene Platkin, “Nathaniel Forever” is more than a slogan on a T-shirt or a personalized Coca Cola bottle. It is more than a mason jar full of chocolate, a jar of jelly beans, or a specially baked cookie, all bearing those words and an image of a beloved superhero character, given to family and friends every Hanukkah. For the parents of Nathaniel Platkin (CHS 2009), it is a promise fueled by love. “Nathaniel Forever” means that part of their grieving and healing process involves keeping his memory alive by raising awareness to help reduce the country’s suicide rates. Created in 2013, team “Nathaniel Forever: Forever In Our Hearts” has walked annually for suicide awareness and prevention. Another aspect of the healing process includes sharing Nathaniel’s story and the role the month of September plays in it. Nathaniel was born on Sept. 4, 1991. Donald and Ilene first held the newborn less than a week later on Sept. 10. “September is [also] Suicide Awareness Month,” said Ilene, 60. “And Sept. 10, the day that we got him, is Suicide Awareness Day.”


March 2022 •


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: • March 2022


Loss and Healing New year and a new baby Growing up in the era of Barney and loving Thomas the Tank Engine shaped Nathaniel’s early interests. His love of superhero characters came in later years. “Barney was his thing,” said Donald, 59. “I did a lot of traveling for work … and I finally found [a toy Barney] in Connecticut … and brought it home. He slept with it, walked with it.” “I still have it up in the attic,” added Ilene. That dedication is the cornerstone of the Platkins’ role as parents, but the couple were already committed much earlier. It can be traced back to the early 90’s when they were going through the adoption process. After more than a year that involved exploring different avenues, they found a birth mother who was giving her child up for adoption. “We were at the King George Diner in Wayne, now the Park Wayne Diner, when we got the call,” said Donald (CHS 1981). “She was already in her seventh month.” “On Rosh Hashanah,” he continued, “we got the call that we had to get to D.C. in the morning.” The couple described bringing Nathaniel home as a surreal and overwhelming experience. But it was also a source of pride and joy. Ilene said from the start that she would speak to the baby and tell him that he was adopted. “I was so proud of it,” said Ilene. “I didn’t want to hide it.” Not looking backwards Described by his parents as an outgoing child, Donald and llene first saw Nathaniel withdraw at around 5-yearsold. Just before his fifth birthday, Donald’s mother, Dolly, passed away, and they said that Nathaniel’s bond with her was incredibly strong. “He experienced his first death, and it was really hard on him,” said Ilene. “Looking back now at the entire picture of his 21 years, I think that was big.” As he matured, Nathaniel also began to experience strong emotions tied to his adoption. Ilene said that it didn’t bother him for a while, but that he later didn’t feel connected to his family and “always felt different.” “His big thing was … ‘Why did my birth mother throw me away?’ That was his whole take on adoption,” she said. “Not that he was in a family that loved him.” By age 18, the feeling of abandonment by his birth mother manifested itself into anger. Despite his parents’ many efforts throughout his life to get him counseling and later


March 2022 •

In June 2009, Donald, Nathaniel, and Ilene before Nathaniel’s senior prom.

ensure that he took medication for his bipolar diagnosis, Nathaniel took his own life on Oct. 23, 2012. He was 21. Part of Ilene’s continuous healing process is recognizing that despite any regrets she may hold onto, she cannot change past decisions. Some of these include wondering if she told Nathaniel at too early of an age that he was adopted. “I don’t know what other people did,” she said. “I just know that I can’t go [or look] backwards.” Eradicating the stigma Ilene has worked for 23 years in Clifton Public Schools and is currently a special education preschool teacher at School 14. In that time, she has come to realize the importance behind breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and suicide. “I’ve heard 4- and 5-year-olds say, ‘I want to kill myself’ because they’re sad,” she said. “So, I think we need to get educated down to the preschool level.” Donald agreed with her, and the couple acknowledged how much has changed over the last few decades. When Nathaniel was in the midst of his struggles, the couple kept it private from family – a decision they said many people make due to the perceptions surrounding mental illnesses. Donald went on to say that all levels of government need to put forth a greater effort when it comes to highlighting mental health and providing funding. • March 2022


Loss and Healing “They can be funding educational grants to [the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention] to help them … spread awareness and spread the word,” said Donald. He added that suicide has become an epidemic. In 2019, the AFSP found that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Donald continued that although it is now discussed more often when it happens, it is not enough. “It should be more in the forefront before it happens. Not after-the-fact,” he said. The Platkins help bring it to the forefront by gathering their team each year at Saddle River County Park. The team participates in the “Out of the Darkness” Bergen County Walk, and together they raised over $3,000 in 2021. Along with seeing the outcome of their efforts, spearheaded by Ilene each year, seeing their friends, family, and extended family come out and support them means everything. “Those are the people that really care and think about us on a daily basis, a yearly basis,” said Donald. “Those are the ones that mean the most to us.” Searching for joy Although their healing journey will be lifelong, the Platkins find pockets of joy in each other and the important things in their lives. “Our puppies, Molly and Rosie, bring us joy,” said Donald. Donald also likes supporting Ilene’s efforts in organizing their team’s annual walk. He added that one of the

things that helps him on particularly difficult days is looking back at old photos. “It helps to look back at the good times and memories,” he said. “Our house is full of pictures. I also look at photos on the phone from the last vacation.” But the process is different for the two of them. For Ilene, joy is a tough feeling to reckon with since it stirs up guilt. She said that in the past whether it was a vacation or a night out, there were times when she would start crying as soon as they got into the car to head home. What helps her on a day-by-day basis is looking to friends for support and having conversations with them. Another thing that has helped is the two of them forming a support group for people that they know who have lost a child. “We reached out to other families and had them over for coffee once so far,” said Ilene, “but it will be ongoing. Everybody talked about their [loss] and were holding the dogs as support.” Since 2019, running has also become an outlet for Ilene. She runs in 5Ks and her best time is 32:43. “Running gives me some joy because [Nathaniel’s] with me,” she said. “As soon as I start running, I say, ‘Nathaniel, let’s go’, and he’s with me every time.” If you or someone you know needs support, the free, 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat online by visiting

Dr. Marc Haspel

Dr. Nader Ghobrial


March 2022 • • March 2022


Healing LOSS


Celebrating a Life Well-Lived Canadian singer Bryan Adams may croon how “nothin’ can change what you mean to me”, but when Gary Kropilak speaks about his wife, Linda (Mack), it is with incomparable warmth. “I always say when I meet someone who’s special that they’re a good soul. That’s what Linda was,” said Gary (CHS 1976). “A good soul who loved life, loved her family, worked very hard, and lived to simply enjoy her life.” “We truly did have a wonderful life together.” Linda’s passing is still raw for the Kropilaks. It was early in December 2021 when Linda (CHS 1978) learned she had “something” on her lung. Gary said that the doctors did a biopsy before Christmas, but her health continued to decline in the following days. When we spoke in late February, it was just two weeks since she had passed on Feb. 6 and Gary said he wanted to share the story of Linda’s well-lived life. One of the things that Gary is grateful for is how he was able to keep his promise of staying with Linda and keeping her in their home on those final days. Although she became unresponsive by mid-January, she was still in their bed at one point and he recalls playing music for her, including Adams’ song “Heaven” – their wedding song. Gary said that he was crying and telling her that he loved her, and he could tell that she was trying to do something. “She finally opened her eyes and said, ‘I love you, too,’ he said. “Those were her last words.” In the early stages of grief, what helps Gary the most is the support that he receives from loved ones and those who knew Linda. He added what helps in the


March 2022 •

At daughter Jennifer’s wedding: Andrew, Jennifer, Gary, and Linda. Inset, Linda’s grandchildren, Lillian and Brayden.

healing process is remembering and celebrating the life of a loved one, which the family is doing now. Gary’s immediate family also brings him a sense of comfort. Married for 35 years, the couple are parents to Andrew Kropilak and Jennifer Mooney. They also have two grandchildren, Brayden Mooney, 2.5, and Lillian Kropilak, 1.5. “The joy that grandchildren bring is a very special gift,” said Gary. “I am so happy that she got a chance to see her grandchildren, but I’m saddened that she could not continue to be with them because there’s a special bond and it’s uplifting.” “Our grandson … still asks for Meemaw,” he continued. “I’ll constantly talk to them both about Meemaw and that she loved her grandchildren, and I will continue to share that with them.” • March 2022





March 2022 •








973-779-7000 973-779-7000• • • March 2022


Healing LOSS


In Their Own Words... Here, two readers share some of their memories and experiences

Michael and Kerri Fiore in August 2021.

Strength in Numbers – Kerri Fiore, 53 I recently lost my husband, Michael, of 28 years in October 2021. He had heart issues for over 10 years, but last summer was when it took a turn for the worse. Part of me still doesn’t think it happened. I think it’s just a matter of being able to let your feelings go and when the waves hit, the waves hit. It’s also important to surround yourself with lots of friends and family. The support system for myself and my son, Anthony, 21, has been amazing. We are in this together and we have to be able to talk to each other. I think Anthony and I (Michael, Anthony, and Kerri are also on our cover) have grown and definitely relied on each other. We’re not afraid to talk about the loss to each other and have definitely taken our time to let the situation evolve and get used to being “Fiore, party of two” instead of three. I’m one of those people who, I want to do it myself, but I think the best advice is to not be afraid to ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to show your emotions. It’s OK to grieve and it’s okay not to have good days. It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together and we’re here to help each other out.

Faith and Family – Eunises Merino, 34 In 2020, my grandfather and mother passed away a month apart from COVID-19. I found a lot of comfort in my kids, Jaiden Rosario, 10, and Jael Cuevas, 5, who pretty much grew up with my mom. Jaiden was always with her every day because she would pick him up from school and stay with him until I was done with work. They were a big support for me, as I was for them. Processing it is still hard since I used to be with her all the time, but my kids, niece, and fiancé, Elvin Cuevas, help me cope. Faith is definitely one of the things that has helped me. My mom was a very Christian woman. She was one of those women who went to Church every Sunday, helped out as much as she could and guided us, even her grandkids, with the word of God. For those grieving – it’s definitely hard. I’m here two years later, and I still feel sad about it. When it first happened, I felt very lost, like I was never gonna get over this feeling. You don’t forget about the feeling – it comes and goes – but you still feel way better as time passes.


March 2022 •

Eunises Merino with Leonor Maria Merino. • March 2022


Healing LOSS


Preserving Memories for Brighter Futures Preserving memories is important to Lani Pollastro and so is helping others. For Pollastro, the two have coexisted as she has striven for the past five years to embrace the values of her late son, Daniel Listmeier. “He was very down-to-earth and very compassionate,” said Pollastro, 66. “He was always looking to help others and thought nothing of it.” Danny graduated from CHS in 2002 and entered the Laborer’s and Carpenter’s Unions before becoming the head custodian at the Annex on Brighton Road. Before its relocation to CHS, the district had its ASPIRE program in the Annex. Pollastro recalled how Danny connected with the at-risk students. “Danny just loved being at the Annex and it turned out to be his legacy, so-to-speak,” she said. “He loved those kids so much. The teachers and principal said he was like a mentor to them.” “He was young enough to relate to them, and he actually formed a really strong bond with them.” Danny passed away in July of 2017 at the age of 33 following a car accident that May. Pollastro and her husband, Jerry, later created the Daniel Listmeier Scholarship Fund. The fund began in June 2018 and is awarded annually to two qualifying ASPIRE program students. “Some of them go to trade schools or colleges, but it doesn’t matter which they choose,” said Pollastro. “I think trade schools are just as important as college.” “Danny liked working with his hands [and the scholarship] keeps his memory alive and does something for the ASPIRE students,” she continued. Danny isn’t the only person in the family whose memory is preserved by Pollastro and her loved ones. In 2015, two years before Danny’s passing, Pollastro’s nephew, Zachary Latteri, passed away after a 5-year battle with cancer. In March of 2010, Zachary was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 10. One of the things that Pollastro said has brought the family together is her brother Anthony Latteri starting an annual toy drive fundraiser around December of 2015.


March 2022 •

Top, Danny Listmeier and Jerry Pollastro. In second photo, Zachary Latteri with Danny.

The toy drive is in support of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. “It started in memory of Zach and once Danny passed, my brother decided to do it in memory of both of them,” said Pollastro. “Danny was very involved in Zach’s recovery and while he was sick.” Learn more about Zach’s story at Like Pollastro, Anthony was motivated by the values of his son and what Zach wished for the future. Zach’s wish was for people to continue their efforts to find a cure so other children with cancer diagnoses might be saved. The family also participates in Relay for Life in Zach’s memory, and all of these acts provide them with a sense of purpose. “For Zach, it’s been six years, and Danny, over four years already,” said Pollastro. “It helps my brother, and it helps Jerry and I, to keep doing this. The thing about losing a child is, you don’t want their memory to fade over time.”

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: • March 2022


Healing LOSS


The Power of Grandparents March 6: Black Balloon Day for Overdose Awareness

On April 10, 2020, Dorothy Adlon and her family were waiting to share a birthday celebration over Zoom when instead she received a call that grandson Kyle, 24, had died of an overdose. Ask Dorothy Adlon to use a single word to describe her step-grandson, Kyle Garnto, and it is kindness. “He had this really kind smile. He was gentle,” said Adlon, 75. “He loved animals and the outdoors, and he would help anybody.” Adlon, like so many others, loves being a grandparent. Along with Kyle, she is a grandmother to Riley Mazur, 16, and Max Mazur, 11. Since the younger two were infants, Adlon said she had seen them five days a week for before- and after-care. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. Along with countless other grandparents, she could no longer see her loved ones in person. But she decided to look into Zoom video calls and the plan was to celebrate her husband Kurt’s 75th birthday online with everyone. That was on April 10, 2020. That day, she recalled, they were waiting for the family to get on the Zoom call with them. After waiting for a while, she got a phone call that still sticks with her. Adlon’s younger daughter had called to tell her that her older sister discovered that Kyle, 24, had died of an overdose. “Time stopped,” said Adlon. “I can still visualize it.” What followed aligned with Adlon’s character – she began working to make a tragic situation into something that could help others. By the end of April, she had cofounded the Facebook Group, “The Power of Grandparents” with her long-time friend Dolores McGuire.


March 2022 •

The group has nearly 100 members, welcoming people of all ages, and strives to promote the role grandparents can play in preventing their grandchildren from abusing alcohol and drugs. “I never want another grandparent to get that phone call,” said Adlon. “That’s my passion.” Teachers, Mentors, Memory Makers Kyle came into Adlon’s life when he was 15, but she recalled how he immediately connected with her younger grandchildren, Max and Riley. “He took them in right away,” she said. “They were little pests, but he didn’t mind it at all. He played with them and talked to them.” When thinking about her group’s mission, one of Adlon’s biggest hopes is that children will learn how to handle all of life’s “highs, lows, and nothings.” Making others happy is what gives Adlon a healthy high that she never takes for granted. Along with helping others through the group, she has also seen the ways it has served as her own personal outlet. In some of her posts, she shares positive quotes that grandparents can share with their grandchildren. She also shares information later on in the day about drugs to help raise more awareness. Adlon’s efforts are not limited to Facebook. Adlon and her husband are long-time residents of Clifton • March 2022


Loss and Healing and parents to Erika Garnto, Kristen Mazur, and Ian Adlon, who all went to CHS. Over the decades, Adlon’s involvement has included volunteering with Clifton Cares. She is linked also to Clifton Against Substance Abuse, who she said has adopted her grandparents group. This month, she is also managing Clifton’s first larger scale recognition of Black Balloon Day. On March 6, Clifton and cities around the world will celebrate the lives of those lost to addiction. The event is also intended to bring awareness to overdose deaths. “We decided to [make it a virtual event] because of the weather and, at the time … COVID,” said Adlon. “We went to the City Council and asked if they could proclaim the day Black Balloon Day … and now it’s the first year that we’re going to be doing it bigger than the norm.” To access the Zoom link or get more information, email Adlon at People will also be able to view the event later on CASA’s newly established YouTube channel under their organization’s name. “Before this whole thing, I wouldn’t have known an aspirin from an opioid,” said Adlon. “People have to know.” She also emphasized the importance of realizing how much support grandparents can offer. But, she added, you


March 2022 •

Dorothy Adlon with grandsons Max and Riley.

have to first establish a relationship and then build that bond. “We can wear many hats and be that bridge if something breaks down,” said Adlon. “We can be teachers, mentors, memory makers – we can be so many things. We can be that support.” • March 2022


Healing LOSS


Photo courtesy Lauren Murphy

End of Watch

Clifton PD Sgt. Robert Miller Full of Life Those who knew and worked with Sgt. Robert “Miller Bob” Miller regarded him as the “nicest guy [and] happiest person” around. The Clifton police sergeant passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 50. A Garfield native, Miller moved to Clifton in 1999. The year before his move, Miller started his career as a CPD Dispatcher. In April 2004, he was sworn in as an officer and worked in the patrol division. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2016. Miller was married to Kimberly Garrity and father to Ryan Kessler and Shannon Kessler. The avid animal lover


March 2022 •

had a dog, Dale, and three cats, Samantha, Foster and Abby. The loss of Miller is also profound for those outside of his immediate family, including the Clifton PBA 36 and the Superior Officers Association. His humor and respect are key characteristics that set him apart. What also makes the loss all the more profound was Miller’s love of life. “Sgt. Miller was happiest when he was quizzing his colleagues on obscure laws and conquering America’s tallest roller coasters,” wrote the Clifton PBA 36 on Instagram. “Miller Bob, we’ll love and miss you forever,” continued the tribute post. “We’ll take it from here.” • March 2022


At Dennis and Diana Mikula’s wedding: brother Ryan, and their parents Cindy and Dennis. Cindy and Dennis at CHS.

Healing LOSS


Mikula Strong: Healing as a Family

When life deals us hardships and challenges, some of us may recall the comforting words of everyone’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers (better known as Mister Rogers): “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Dennis Mikula, Jr. is among those we spoke to last month who shared his story of loss in the hopes that it might help others facing similar losses. When we spoke with Dennis Jr. over the phone, it was the two-month mark since his father Dennis Sr.’s passing. On Feb. 14, the date also marked a month and one day since his mother Cynthia’s (née Wieczerzak) passing. Despite the rawness from the recent losses, Dennis Jr. grieves by following the advice of the man who taught him life’s biggest lessons – his father. “One of the top things that I learned from my dad is to listen to the people that have been there before,” said Dennis Jr., 44. “Loss affects everyone differently, but we are not the first family to lose our parents … or lose them in a short period of time.” In December of 2021, Dennis Sr. (CHS 1973) and Cynthia went into the hospital and both later passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Dennis Jr. recalled how


March 2022 •

it felt like he could not start grieving “properly” for his father because their family’s attention shifted immediately to his mother’s well-being. “Every ounce of hope [and] prayer was that she would make it out of the hospital,” said Dennis Jr. (CHS 1995). “Our family’s energy was focused on my mother getting well and getting out.” Healing Together For Dennis Jr., the losses continue to be “a lot to try and comprehend”, especially since his parents were both only 66. Another layer is the family’s closeness, both on a personal and professional level. For 76 years and across three generations, their family business, Mikula Contracting, has maintained strong ties to Clifton. Started in 1946 by Dennis Sr.’s father, Nick, the business today includes Dennis Jr., brother Ryan (CHS 1999), their uncle Leonard Wieczerzak, and Dennis Sr.’s brother Drew. Having family around them at work is both a blessing, but also a reminder of who’s now missing. “My brother and I have had numerous discussions about how it feels like Dad will walk back into the office or Mom will give us a call,” said Dennis Jr. • March 2022


Loss and Healing But he also feels a sense of pride. In the brief period of adjustment, he said that the family have all “stepped up” and will check in with one another. He added that the support was not only felt from their immediate family, but other family members as well. And everyone gets hit at different times. It hits Dennis Jr. hard when he walks through Dennis Sr.’s office. Before his passing, Dennis Sr. was the company’s president. There are numerous times when Dennis Jr. finds himself wanting to call down and ask his father a question, or at the end of

the day wanting to call Cynthia to tell her the latest news about his daughter Lucy, 8. “It’s hard to walk through his office every day,” said Dennis Jr., his voice thick with emotion. “It’s hard to see my uncles there and my brother and know that it’s on all of our minds.” “But it’s a good thing because we’re all there going through it together,” he continued. “I worked so close with him – we all did. He loved coming in every day and working with his family.” Still Listening After losing a loved one, it’s easy to experience regrets. But Dennis Jr. is comforted with the knowledge that he told his parents just how much they meant to him. The last time everyone spent time with Dennis Sr. and Cynthia was over the Thanksgiving holiday. “No one would have thought this was a remote possibility,” said Dennis Jr. “But tomorrow is not promised. If I had waited until Christmas to tell my parents how much I loved them, it would have been too late.” What also brings Dennis Jr. peace of mind is taking time after work to walk and refresh the day in his mind. Previously, Dennis Sr. would call him around that time of day, or he would call his father, and they would discuss ideas with each other. Dennis Jr. said that he still has those talks with his father in his mind. He also still talks to his parents about Lucy and what she did that day in school or her latest milestone. “If you say it out loud … in a spiritual way … it helps,” said Dennis Jr. “I want to continue to share that information with them, especially if they’re looking down and listening.”


March 2022 • • March 2022


Healing LOSS


Living IN THE CEMETERY Maintenance, innovation and hard work at the 117-year-old cemetery.

Down in Delawanna, behind a gate of wrought iron and granite, sits a majestic gothic Tudor overlooking the intersection of Main and Delawanna Avenues. Beyond this Tudor rest the mortal remains of individuals that had lives, loves and dreams before many of us were even born. Twenty years ago, passerbys would have seen a young girl shooting hoops in a driveway. A little ways back, an above ground pool and swing set were visible. The little girls who grew up with a “backyard” that stretched for 100 plus acres considered East Ridgelawn Cemetery as part of their home. Today, it still remains a core part of the Sciarrino family’s life.


March 2022 •

The Sciarrino family, Sydney, Arlene, Gary and Paige.

Since 1989, the striking Tudor has been home to Gary and Arlene Sciarrino and where the couple raised their daughters, Sydney, 32, and Paige, 29. In Paige’s case, it was the house that she lived in until she moved to New York in the beginning of 2020. In our 2001 article, Arlene said how her then young girls viewed the house like a castle, especially on its expansive grounds. Paige remarked that it can still feel that way today.


Originsof a

Modernist Blue Landscape with Hill circa 1958 - 1961 oil on canvas 38 x 50 inches Collection of

1924 • 2019

The Butler Institute of American Art

March 3 rd thru April 2 nd , 2022

Re g u l a r v i s i t i n g h o u r s o p e n t o p u b l i c :

Thursdays and Saturdays

10 am – 4 pm

Virtual Programs presented by

Clifton Arts Center To attend our Free

Zoom Webinars

please visit our website at For any questions regarding registration e-mail: or call.

29 th • 3 pm – 4 pm : “ Fabrics Fact & Fiction ” Tuesday, March

Did you purchase something for home or wardrobe during the pandemic, only to be disappointed in the fabric’s quality or performance? The American Sewing Guild North Jersey Chapter, will help you learn how to be a smarter buyer and a smarter user. And we’ll take a peek at some unexpected plants that are used to create fabric. • March 2022


Loss and Healing “It’s a big stone house in the middle of a cemetery,” said Paige (CHS 2011). “Going on the quad and riding around after dinner with my dad and sister, I got to know the whole cemetery, but in a way that has never felt scary or dark. My sister and I would ride our bikes … and explore the actual grounds.” The Business of the Land Although the peaceful environment certainly became a bonus, the Sciarrinos moved into the Tudor because Gary had become the Superintendent and General Manager of East Ridgelawn. In the first decade, he and Arlene worked to make the caretaker’s house and cemetery offices (circa 1905) a home. The Sciarrino family in 2001, from left, Arlene, Sydney, Gary and Paige. The restoration and renovation to the home and its grounds show the time, care and love After the coronavirus pandemic hit and Paige relocated involved. And it was certainly a lot of work. Starting in Febfrom the city to Cedar Grove, the actor and filmmaker ruary 1989, Gary led a big renovation of the now 117-yearreturned to work at the cemetery. Gary added that Sydney, old cemetery. In the years that followed, East Ridgelawn who is a teacher in Paterson, also stood by the family’s added another state-of-the art mausoleum, 175 solar panels side during those rough early months. in the back field, and updated the storm drain system. For Paige, she said that she gained a deeper apprecia“When I started ... there were a lot of issues with runoff tion for the job since her return. “I like [working with my from Patricia Place,” said Gary. “It’s a lot better now.” dad] a lot,” said Paige, before getting choked up. “I don’t More recently, the cemetery added a crematory with five know why I’m getting emotional. I don’t know if I’d have retorts and a chapel that can accommodate families. had the same experience if not for my whole family work“Before a cremation, [families] can have a memorial or ing here,” she continued. “It feels like the best part.” committal service,” said Gary, 66. Set to join its existing glass niches for its columbarium, East Ridgelawn is adding a second and a third unit to the Ongoing Commitment columbarium. Looking forward, Gary is focused on starting other They also have more employees. As he goes about his construction projects. Along with changes to the mausoleduties, Gary says that he feels the support of Arlene, who um and columbarium, he would like to add more Belgian does the cemetery’s computerized mapping, as well as the Blocks to make the roads wider. He is also considering at Social Security and Medicare paperwork. He also sees the some point stepping back a little and seeing if Paige wants great work done in the office by the bookkeeper, Aida Scarto step more to the forefront. pa, and secretary, Dorothy Torley, as well as the efforts of “I see that the cemetery has evolved greatly,” said foreman, Ricky Gallichio. Gary. “But I would like to stay here for as long as I can But one of the biggest changes since we last spoke with because the work here is not done.” the Sciarrinos is that Gary and Paige now work side-byActing and filmmaking still is part of Paige’s life. side. Paige’s duties embody that of an assistant superintenHowever, her work with the cemetery and her family’s dent. She said that she started working at East Ridgelawn history on the grounds are things that she does not take while still attending CHS, focusing on computerizing the for granted. “Working here gives me the freedom to do all cemetery’s records through data entry. Today, the cemthat I want to do, so I’m grateful for it,” said Paige. “It’s etery’s online records date back to 1959. hard to imagine us not being involved in any way.”


March 2022 • • March 2022


A Promise to

SAINT JOSEPH A Daughter’s Vow Unites a Family for a Century By Jack DeVries

At the 1957 St. Joseph’s Day are (standing, l to r) Ann Sperlazzi, Vincenza DeLiberto, Donna (DeLiberto) Vogt, Sarah Lombardo, Suzy Russo and Adeline Sperlazzi. Below Adeline seated at the table is Elaine (Lombardo) Potkalesky. This year the families celebrate the 100th anniversary of their promise to St. Joseph with a feast in his honor.

Adeline Sperlazzi was dying. Crowded around her bed were five of her seven sisters, all praying. Double pneumonia was a death sentence in the summer of 1922. Adeline’s physician, Dr. Ring, had come three times daily during the week, even driving her son Salvatore to buy medicine. Now Dr. Ring could only shake his head; there was nothing more he could do. The burial clothes were laid out and the priest was coming to give last rites. Adeline Sperlazzi – who had come so far from Castelano, Sicily, to Passaic – was about to make her final journey.


March 2022 •

Also at her bedside was my grandmother, Vincenza, then 16. She was Adeline’s oldest child and terrified of losing her mother. As she wept, she felt the hand of her Aunt Giovannina on her shoulder. “Vincenza,” her aunt whispered, “to save your mother, pray to Saint Joseph. You are a virgin – only you can make this special vow. Promise that each year on his name day you will prepare a table in his honor. Maybe St. Joseph will spare her.” Vincenza crept into the next room. On the walls were pictures of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. On the dresser, religious statues stood behind small-lighted can- • March 2022


A Promise to

SAINT JOSEPH At the 1957 St. Joseph's Day celebration is (left to right) Father Vitale Sabatini from St. Anthony's Church in Passaic, Adeline Sperlazzi, Carol Sperlazzi, Sarah Lombardo and Ann Sperlazzi.

dles. Vincenza knelt and prayed, pleading with St. Joseph to help her mother. She did as her aunt instructed, vowing a feast in his name for as long as she lived. “Please St. Joseph, don’t let her die,” she begged. There was no miraculous light that followed. No angels sang and no thunderbolts fell – but Adeline lived through the night. She hung on the next day and through the week. Her fever cooled and her strength returned. Dr. Ring predicted she would recover – but he could not understand how. Her family did. That March 19 on his name day, Vincenza began paying her debt to St. Joseph, filling the family table with a wonderful a festa. Adeline Sperlazzi helped her daughter cook the food, honoring the saint who saved her. One hundred years later, the family of Vincenza Sperlazzi DeLiberto remains faithful to her vow. By saving her mother, Vincenza marked the calendar with a date that would define her family. Origins of the Feast The celebration of St. Joseph Day originated in small towns in Sicily. Coordinated through the church, the event was usually sponsored by the town’s richest man, the barone. A great meal was prepared, featuring fish, vegetables, pasta, but no meat. The poor were seated in honor, with all paying homage to the patron saint of la familia, St. Joseph. My family’s story was like many other Sicilians. My great-grandparents, Adeline and her husband Emanuele, traveled by steamship to Ellis Island. They met, married, and settled in Passaic. They moved their four children into an old farmhouse at 264 Chestnut St., complete with four rooms, a toilet on the porch, and a wood stove. Emanuele held many jobs. He started as a barber, then switched to construction, rising to foreman.


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A Promise to


Left, is Joseph DeLiberto and his sister Sarah Lombardo dancing at a recent St. Joseph’s Day. Right, Vincenza DeLiberto’s children keeping her St. Joseph’s Day vow today: Joe DeLiberto, Adeline DeVries (middle) and Sarah Lombardo.

His career would be a short one. While helping a neighbor build a garage, he nearly lost a leg when some iron scaffolding collapsed. He would never work again. My great-grandparents now had to switch roles – Emanuele handling the cooking and Adeline becoming the breadwinner, working as a weaver in the Doherty Silk Mill in Clifton. At night, she labored in her kitchen sewing buttons on the racks of coats brought in from other factories. The Feast Continues In 1925, my grandmother’s life was to change. Sicilians love to match-make and the beautiful Vincenza was a prized catch. Marriage offers were readily presented to Emanuele, who often accepted on his daughter’s behalf. “Such boys,” my grandmother recalled, “one had the face of a horse.” Frightened to tell her father of her true feelings, Vincenza would go to one of her aunts to keep her from the altar. More help came from her mother’s dream of seeing each arranged suitor tumbling down a long flight of stairs. At the dream’s end, a chubby blond man walked slowly down the staircase. “This will be the one for my Vincenza,” Adeline announced to the family. Thankfully, my grandfather Joseph DeLiberto fit that description. Along with his wedding vows, he agreed to share his bride’s promise to St. Joseph. The simple feast grew into an event. Three days before, Adeline and Vincenza would buy cases of vegetables from the wholesale houses on First


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Street and begin to cook. Emanuele and his sons would remove the furniture from the house and set up long tables and benches. The baker would prepare bread to honor St. Joseph in the shapes of the staff, beard, halo, and cross. Up and down Chestnut Street would smell of frying bacala and peppers and simmering artichokes and lentil soup. When the feast began, a steady stream of people would flow into the house. First came the children from the school where the three DeLiberto children attended – Sarah (Lombardo), Joe, and my mother Adeline (DeVries). Next, the women who worked in the sweatshops on Oak Street sat at the table. At six, family, neighbors, and friends would arrive. “We told everyone to come, St. Joseph would never let us run out of food,” Vincenza said, “and he never did.” Once, just after the Depression, there was not enough money to buy St. Joseph’s Day food. My grandparents called on the help of divine intervention. “They took whatever money they had and bet it with a bookie on a horse,” my Uncle Joe remembered. “Then my mother prayed to St. Joseph. The horse won.” The holiday continued. With their children grown, my grandparents brought in the orphans from the Passaic Orphanage to replace the school children. The family grew larger, and the feast moved to my grandparent’s house on Barkley Ave. in Clifton. It endured through the great snowstorm of 1954 and Vincenza’s mild heart attack the following year – the only time the feast was not celebrated with family. • March 2022


A Promise to


St. Joseph’s feast in 2019 with second, third and fourth generation members from the Sperlazzi, DeLiberto, Lombardo and DeVries families.

To satisfy her vow, my grandparents cooked a small dinner for the elderly at a home owned by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Paterson. In the early sixties, the feast moved to my Uncle Joe’s home on Inwood St. in Clifton, and by the late 1980s, that house would strain to hold the gathering. Today, the feast is held in a restaurant. New Generation Takes on the Vow My grandfather’s last St. Joseph’s Day would be in 1982, but my grandmother would keep her vow for many years, attending her last feast day at age 90. Though Vincenza missed the 75-year celebration of her vow, it was attended by over 300 friends and family members, and she was there in spirit.


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My Uncle Joe DeLiberto now keeps her promise to St. Joseph. Old St. Joseph Day photos show poor Italian immigrants seated at tables overflowing with food. A few of their children remain today, now old and gray. But alongside them sit their children – Italian-Americans who became teachers, doctors, nurses, artists, city officials and entrepreneurs. Their small children run between the tables as they once did, too young to know the proud legacy they share. The world has changed, but the meaning of the St. Joseph’s Day feast – with its roots in customs, beliefs, and the love of family – remains constant. Even after 100 years, Vincenza DeLiberto keeps her vow to the patron of her family. • March 2022


Over 8,000 fans showed up in Giants Stadium on Dec. 2, 2006 to cheer on the Mustangs as they romped the Eastside Ghosts to a 26-0 shutout in the North 1 Group 4 State Championship game.

Career of Consequence Coach Ron Anello retires, having impacted so many By Tom Szieber

“This business is about making young football players into better people. That was the message I wanted to convey.” 58

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It was a fall afternoon in 2004 and Bryan Barker was exasperated. A standout senior guard and defensive lineman for the Fighting Mustangs, Barker grumbled to several teammates about their first-year head coach, Ron Anello, who had admonished Barker—again—for wearing his hat backwards. At 17-years-old, Barker couldn’t grasp why Anello felt the need to break his chops about something so trivial. Fast forward to 2022 and now, the 35-year-old Doctor of Physical Therapy gets it. “At that point in our lives, we didn’t have the life experience to understand what Coach Anello was teaching and what his methods were,” said a reflective Barker. “But as a grown man, I know that he was preparing us to be successful husbands and fathers and figures in our community. He was teaching us life skills through the game of football.” Anello’s old school style became his calling card, and also produced great success throughout his career. With his Dec. 31 retirement from Ramapo High School came the end of a four-decade run as a football coach and athletic director, during which he won a ton of games and oversaw championships, but more importantly imparted life lessons on several generations of young athletes.

Molded as a Mountie A Montclair native, Anello was a center, nose tackle and linebacker for the Mounties under legendary head coach Butch Fortunato. As a player, his teams had moderate success, going 15-10-4 between 1973 and 1975. But the most formative experience for him during that period was getting to observe an icon at work. Fortunato, who over 19 seasons led Montclair to three sectional titles and won 115 games, left an impression on Anello, not just for his aptitude for winning, but his ability to be fatherlike to his protégés. “I knew I wanted to be a phys ed teacher and a coach because I had such strong role models in high school,” Anello said, alluding to Fortunato and assistant coaches Ed Lebida and Mike Arace. “I looked up to them. I admired their passion, the way they taught and the way they cared in football and in the classroom.” Fortunato apparently held Anello in similar regard. After Anello’s 1981 graduation from Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey), where he lettered in four consecutive years as a center and guard, the former expressed a desire to bring him on board as a coach and teacher at his high school alma mater. So, after a year as a grad assistant and assistant offensive line coach for Trenton State, Anello declined to pursue a coaching position at Fairleigh Dickinson University in favor of returning to Montclair.

He spent two years coaching under Fortunato, but a reduction of force in the district (carried out under a “last in, first out” rule) resulted in his termination. He bounced back quickly, moving on to Snyder in 1985. There, he coached football on Ollie Jackson’s staff and started the school’s softball program. But when Jersey City schools were taken over by the State of New Jersey, all tenured employees were dismissed. Seizing an Opportunity In 1986, Anello was living in Bloomfield and playing softball in a Montclair men’s league when he received a call from then-West Essex athletic director Tom Pengitore, a Trenton State alum who had heard of Anello from Lions head coach Eric Hamilton. Their discussions led to Anello taking a position at the North Caldwell school in 1986, first serving as an assistant under Jim Benedict. At the time, the Knights program was moribund, and the rebuild seemed to be a more burdensome project than Benedict wanted to undertake (he went on to attain a 49-22 record at Summit between 1987 and 1993). The result was Anello signing on to be the team’s head coach in 1987. “I don’t think anybody applied for the job,” Anello recalled. “I wanted to keep my teaching job. I never thought about being a head coach until then. I was 27-years-old and I saw it as an opportunity.” • March 2022




The Knights went 1-8 and 3-6 in his first two seasons, but turned a corner in 1989, when they went 6-3. The program continued to thrive, and reached the North II, Group III final in 1994. “The kids just bought into the offseason and what we were doing,” Anello said. “We had good assistant coaches. The program was like a newborn baby. We just nurtured it and it grew.” Desiring a move into administration, Anello left West Essex after the 1996 season to become the athletic director at Wallkill Valley in Hamburg. He left behind a program that had become a perennial playoff contender—a status it has retained to present day. “Coach Anello built this program in such a way that we have the same structure in place from 30 years ago,” said Knights head coach Chris Benacquista, who was a starting offensive and defensive tackle for Anello before graduating in 1993. “We still have some of the same traditions and routines. He did such a great job of setting a foundation. He showed me that the impact you have outside of the game is so important for a head football coach, to care for your players and establish that family atmosphere.” He also impacted a generation of Knights players who benefitted from his old school approach. “Coach Anello was the first coach I had who instilled discipline, accountability and what it meant to be a part of a team,” said Hymie Elhai, President of the New York Jets and a varsity defensive back and running back for the Knights from 1991 to 1993. “He taught us the importance of our obligations as a teammate and about sacrifice for the


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Anello in an undated photo, circa 2007.

greater good. That became a big part of who I am and how I strive to manage both my expectations of people and our organization. He brought that to me and to us. That was a big part of my development as a player and a person.” Arriving in Clifton After six years at Wallkill (where he served as both athletic director and an assistant football coach), Anello was informed of, and encouraged to apply for, Clifton’s head coaching vacancy from former Caldwell head coach and friend Andy Durborow. The Mustangs were coming off a 6-4 playoff season, but had struggled for the bulk

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Ron Anello, pictured center on Thanksgiving 2004, after the Mustangs defeated Passaic, 48-0, at Boverini Stadium

of the previous fifteen years. Anello was hired in May 2004 and was elated to assume a role that seemed to be a perfect fit. “I missed running a program and I think I was attracted to the challenge of coming here and trying to put the program on track,” he said. “I am from the area. I knew the tradition here. It felt like a homecoming.” Anello immediately felt a sense of belonging, falling in love with the hard-working, blue collar community. But his mild-mannered style was a bit disorienting for his first team, which was used to the larger-than-life presence of former coach Chet Parlavecchio. Anello wore a tie on the sidelines, made his players do pushups for uttering curse words and, of course, insisted on hats being worn bill-forward. “This business is about making young football players into better people,” Anello said. “I don’t want guys going into interviews when they get older and not caring. That was the message I wanted to convey.” With only four months for Anello and his 2004 group to acclimate to each other, the first-year playbook was small. Anello didn’t want to overwhelm the players, who were transitioning from an I-Formation scheme to a pure


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Wing-T. The talented squad, riddled with key injuries and late-season slate that included back-to-back beatings from powerhouses Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep, went 5-5 and just missed out on the playoffs. Still, it was a solid showing in year one. A far less talented 2005 contingent went 4-6, and year three seemed to be going off the rails when the 2006 Mustangs dropped to 3-3 courtesy of a 29-6 shellacking at the hands of Anello’s hometown Mounties. The Montclair loss was the catalyst for perhaps Anello’s most impactful decision as Clifton’s coach. Big Decisions, Big Results Anello immediately decided that the vanilla 4-4 defense being implemented by defensive coordinator Frank Davide was simply not working. Despite the presence of talents like linebackers Matt Davella, a junior, and Franklin Duran, a sophomore, he assessed that the scheme was forcing Clifton’s defenders to think too much and react too little. After the embarrassment at Woodman Field, Anello handed over the defensive reins to assistants Steve Covello and Brian Silipena. It was like a magic wand. • March 2022




The Mustangs beat Ridgewood the following week and then upset St. Joseph to close out the pre-Thanksgiving regular season. They snuck into the North I, Group IV playoffs as the #8 seed and embarked on one of the program’s most legendary runs ever. They beat top-seeded North Bergen, 15-8, and then downed Randolph, 14-6, to reach Giants Stadium against an Eastside team to whom they’d lost, 33-22, in the regular season. In the final, they crushed the Ghosts, 26-0, to end Clifton’s 33-year sectional championship drought. “I think the kids responded well to the changes,” said current Clifton coach Ralph Cinque, an assistant on the 2006 staff. “As a coach, it is part of your job to sometimes make decisions that aren’t going to make everyone happy. Every decision you make, you have to have the program in mind.” After a disappointing 3-7 season in 2007, Anello made another noteworthy call in 2008, naming freshman Patrick Ferrara the team’s starting quarterback. He reasoned that Ferrara was as good, if not better, than the upperclass options at the position, and had played the position since fourth grade. He was also extremely coachable. “One day at practice, late in the year, I turn around and Patrick is hitting guys in the helmet with little pebbles,” Anello remembered. “I made him run, and told him not to stop until I said so. I completely forgot about it, and we got done with practice. Sal Anzaldi comes into my office a good while later and says, ‘Coach, Ferrara’s still running.’” The Mustangs went 7-3, but were defeated by eventual sectional champion Livingston in the playoffs. A Sad Farewell Following the 2009-10 scholastic year, Anello’s supervisory position was abruptly eliminated. So were the stipends he was paid for managing Clifton’s offseason program. The total damage: $38,000 worth of yearly income. The recession and “budget cuts” were the ostensible reasons for the moves, but there was suspicion that there was more to the decisions. The Clifton Board of Education subsequently implemented a policy barring coaches from serving in administrative roles (initially a moot issue for Anello since, again, his supervisor’s role had been slashed). Still reluctant to step down as head football coach, he returned to the class-


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room while continuing to prioritize his players. The 2010 Mustangs went 7-3. Clifton’s then-athletic director Rick LaDuke retired that year, and Anello applied for the job, hoping the Board of Education might reconsider the prohibition on administrators coaching. If not, he could at least remain in Clifton as athletic director despite the pain of retiring as coach. Inexplicably, Clifton hired former Brick Township A.D. Rick Handchen instead. Handchen was no doubt a good man who was qualified for the job. But he was no more qualified than Anello, lacked any ties to Clifton and rented an apartment in town while returning to the Jersey Shore on most weekends. The situation wasn’t passing the smell test, and it seemed someone(s) wanted Anello out of town. It wasn’t the ending the beloved coach wanted, but he stepped down in May 2011 to become athletic director at Ramapo. “I was bitter,” Anello said of his feelings when he departed. “I had to give up something I loved doing. I was hurt by it. I think we had weak administration. I felt like I belonged here, like I was getting kicked out of my own neighborhood.” Coming to Terms and Calling It a Career Anello, now 63, spent the next decade running the athletic operation at Ramapo, and while he was impacting kids on a macro level, he always missed doing so more directly. For the enshrinee of both the New Jersey Football Coaches

Association Hall of Fame (2015) and New Jersey State Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2021), that is what the bond between sports and education has always been about. His legacy as a coach is perhaps most evident by the fact that in both of his head coaching stops, every subsequent head coach has been a branch of his coaching tree (Dave Drozjock and Benacquista at West Essex, Covello and Cinque at Clifton). The Mustangs’ success under Cinque has been particularly satisfying, given his affection for both his former assistant coach and the place he always felt was home. “It’s all about the kids at the end of the day,” he said. “I am very proud of Ralph. He’s always had the tools to be a great head coach, and it’s good for the school.” Now, with a chance to finally relax and reflect on what has been a remarkable career, perhaps the wounds of his departure might fully and finally heal. “[Seeing Clifton football succeed] is fulfilling for me,” he said. “Ramapo was great to me. But if I had it my way, I would still be [at Clifton High School]. I never thought I was going to leave. But I still have my Super Football Conference pass. I’ve got a lot more time on my hands now. Who knows, maybe soon you may see me walk into Clifton Stadium to catch a game.” Maybe even wearing a Clifton football hat, bill-forward. • March 2022


Mardi Gras at the Grande March 1, 2022

On Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, Al DiBenedetto of Plaza Bagels teamed up with Nick Cimmino of the Grande Saloon and the DeVito family of Bond Parade Floats to bring a little bit of Bourbon St. to Van Houten Ave. The result is a grand Mardi Gras party— a new Clifton tradition— with a parade float and lots of NOLA food and drinks.


March 2022 •







Offer valid on all membership with annual contract only. Annual fee and applicable taxes apply. Pricing and amenities may vary by membership and location. Additional fees and restrictions may apply. Offers ends 3/31. See club for details. © 2022 Crunch IP Holdings, LLC • March 2022


PLANNING AHEAD The Clifton community is once again invited to attend the Community Resource Expo on April 24-25. The Expo, at 181 Colfax Ave., is from 1-4 pm on Sunday and 11 am to 1 pm on Monday. Hosted by the Power of One and Boys & Girls Club of Clifton, the Expo was first held Nov. 21, 2021. It offers free giveaways and helpful information related to different topics. Residents have the opportunity to connect with local and state resources and get free health screenings. The resources provide information on education and immigration, as well as food pantry and housing needs. Admission is free and there will be activities for the whole family. For more info, call Kim Castellano at 201-328-2326 or email

Clifton’s Stop & Shop, at 1189 Broad St., selected St. Peter’s Haven as the March beneficiary of its Community Bag Program. The Haven, at 380 Clifton Ave., will receive a $1 donation for every $2.50 reusable bag purchased at the Stop & Shop in March. For info about the Stop & Shop Community Bag, visit St. Peter’s Haven was founded in 1986 and operates as a non-profit, providing food and shelter to families and individuals in need. “It’s more important than ever to help reduce single-use plastic in the environment,” stated Pamela Fueshko, Acting Executive Director of St. Peter’s Haven. “Non-profits like us, are in need of community support. This program offers the perfect solution to multiple issues of the world today.” Details at Feeling stressed? Alone? Isolated or bored due to the coronavirus pandemic? Power of One’s Kim Castellano is leading Stress Relief Workshops, beginning at 7 pm on Thursday, March 24. Castellano’s “Turn off the Stress” series will take place in the WWMS Auditorium, at 1400 Van Houten Ave. Other workshops on April 7 and 21, May 5 and 19, and June 2 and 16. To register, call 862-2395905 or email The 18th Annual Passaic County Film Festival returns on April 30. The drive-in festival will be held at 7 pm at the Passaic County Preakness Valley Golf Course, at 209 Totowa Rd., Wayne. Among the filmmakers are four Clifton applicants, three of which are PCTI students. Clifton Merchant’s April edition will feature a story on the Clifton participants. Botany Village’s George’s Coffee Shop, at 227 Parker Ave., stands with Ukraine. Shop owner Margaret Kardasz posted on the @georgescoffeeshop Instagram page last month that the shop will donate 20% of its sales from March 1-10 to support Ukraine. “As most of you know, I am Polish and I am watching closely what is going on in Europe,” she wrote. “Prices will remain the same, you will pay the same amount for your coffee, breakfast or lunch. You won’t feel the difference in your pocket. Ukrainian people will.” For those who want and can donate more, the shop has a special piggy bank and will add any contributions to the final donated amount.


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Farrell and a lovable mutt named Sandy. Amanda Bracken, above center is Annie. Other leads: Oliver Warbucks (Jordan Orey), Miss Hannigan (Hailey DeSaro), Grace (Trinity West), Lily St. Regis (Ella Carlo), and Rooster (Benjamin Samuels) with the entire cast pictured above in a mid-February photo. WWMS will present Annie JR. on March 30 and 31.

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Leaping Lizards! Clifton will “stick up its chin and grin and sing ‘Tomorrow! Tomorrow!’” when Woodrow Wilson Middle School performs Annie JR. It’s the story of a spunky Depression-era orphan determined to find her parents. Annie foils Miss Hannigan’s evil machinations, befriends President Franklin Roosevelt and finds a new family in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace




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1400 Van Houten Ave, Clifton, NJ WWMS Auditorium

Registration Required - Free giveaways, gift cards, helpful handouts and more!

email or call -862-239-5905 • March 2022


Oskar Klecha, Gianna Delgado, Jelyna Reyes, Lukas Kulesa.

Here are the Mustangs of the Month for March 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. Oskar Klecha, Freshman As Oskar Klecha transitioned with his peers during their first year of high school, he recognized the people who have inspired him along the way. Klecha names his senior marine instructor, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alex Navarro – USMC (Ret), as one influential teacher. “He has taught me many things such as bearing, leadership, and responsibility, which I will use for the rest of my life,” said Klecha (CHS 2025). Klecha also finds inspiration in those around him, particularly his close friends and family. He said they “give me motivation and a reason to do good in life.” He uses that same motivation to realize that if he does well in school, he will go far in life. He added that his drive is also led by the hope that people will remember him “even long after my time.” Part of that academic future includes taking advantage of the ROTC program to gain a greater knowledge about the Marine Corps for if he enlists in the military. But the freshman is not only focused on the future. He said his favorite subject is history. Like past Mustangs of the Month, he sees the value in understanding the world’s bigger picture. “I have always been very interested in our past and big events that took place long ago that have somehow affected our lives,” said Klecha.


March 2022 •

Gianna Delgado, Sophomore Gianna Delgado credits organization for her successful transition from middle to high school. During her freshman year, she learned virtually and now that she’s learning in-person again, she feels even stronger academically. Like many of her classmates, learning remotely posed an unforeseen obstacle. But she had a role model in her life from whom she could learn. “The person who inspires me the most is my grandpa,” said Delgado (CHS 2024). “He has overcome many obstacles in his life and continues to push himself each day.” “He has taught me so much and I love to learn new things from him each and every day,” she continued. “He is and always will be my hero, and I love him so much.” Delgado’s favorite subject at CHS is chemistry because she enjoys the labs and hands-on assignments. She is just as ambitious on the field. In her freshman year, she played varsity soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. Last soccer season, she was named captain. “I started playing soccer when I was 10-years-old and now I hope to play D1 soccer in college,” she said. “I am also part of the Athletic Training club and I like to work with different student athletes and learn about the anatomy of the body.” Delgado also plays club soccer for a club team called PDA. Her team travels to different states to play in college showcases and tournaments throughout the year.

Jelyna Reyes, Junior Junior Jelyna Reyes is more than halfway through her high school experience. Although the first part of her time at CHS was unusual and unpredictable, she has not taken anything for granted. Perhaps because of that, the Mustang finds ways to make the most of her time while she does the things that she loves most. “My favorite subject is Ceramics because I like expressing myself through art and taking my time to work on things,” said Reyes (CHS 2023). Outside of her favorite subject, Reyes considers Mr. Michael Rogers as her most influential teacher based on his relatability and light-hearted spirit. She also finds more influential figures when she is at home. “My mother inspires me the most because of the hardships that she faced while growing up in a country that she knew little to nothing about,” said Reyes. During her tenure at CHS, Reyes said that staying motivated was one major hurdle. It’s understable, especially when having to learn in a completely new format. Even so, she has gotten involved in multiple extracurricular activities. The activities include Girls Who Code, Psychology Club, National English Honors Society, and Girls Varsity Bowling. Looking ahead, she added that she intends to pursue higher education after graduating from CHS.

Lukas Kulesa, Senior Lukas Kulesa’s passion is music, so it’s only natural that his future aspiration is to pursue a career as a percussionist. His immediate plans include pursuing higher education after CHS. “I do plan to attend college to further assist my improvement as a musician,” said Kulesa (CHS 2022), “and so far I have been accepted to William Paterson for a Bachelor’s in Music.” Kulesa has proven time and time again his commitment to music. He is a snare drummer in the Mustang Marching Band and a member of other performance ensembles, such as the school’s Pit, Jazz, Brass, and Community bands. He also participated in the North Jersey Region Wind Ensemble and Orchestra, as well as the All State Orchestra last year. “The teacher that has been the most influential to me is Mr. Bryan Stepneski, who has motivated me to pursue my education in music and has improved my abilities as both a musician and a person,” said Kulesa. Kulesa’s dad inspires him to not only play music and get good grades, but also helps him with “whatever I need, whenever I need it.” But learning how to balance it all took some practice for Kulesa. “I realized that taking some time out of one can make room for others,” he said. “After doing this for a while, my life at CHS became just a bit easier.” • March 2022


Birthdays & Celebrations - March 2022

Happy Birthday to.... Send dates & names ....

Ruth Basta, daughter of Medhat and Melba Basta will celebrate her 21st Birthday on March 27 with family and friends. Alex Fadil hits 22 on March 12. Zayden Oskar Buonafina is 4 on March 13. Dana Aref is 17 on March 10. Grandson Billy Thomson celebrates his 10th birthday on March 8.

Elaine Sassine will be 74 on March 15, the Ides of March. Colleen Murray turns 82 on March 20. Stephany Naomi Bernales is 28 on March 19. Rosemary Trinkle Baran turns 61 on March 30. Liam Kelly is 11 on March 15.

Lynn Grosser’s 20th birthday is March 21 and is pictured with Mercedes, her mom. Congratulations to Corey & Michelle Genardi, celebrating their anniversary on March 28. Their daughter Bianca Eda Genardi turns 16 on March 2.


March 2022 •

Julie Generalli Dominick........ 3/1 Kathleen Pocoek.................. 3/1 Meaghan Franko................. 3/1 Kenzie Lord......................... 3/3 Amelia Lara......................... 3/3 Amanda Perez..................... 3/3 Amelia Ipenza..................... 3/3 Valerie Godowsky................ 3/5 Alice Paxton........................ 3/5 Patricia Vigh........................ 3/5 Carol Crudele...................... 3/6 Ted Grzybowski................... 3/6 Pat Smith............................. 3/8 Victoria Crudele................... 3/9 Pamela Culque.................. 3/10 Tiffany Sabo...................... 3/10

Casey Bivaletz turned 32 on March 3 and Lyla Marie celebrates her first on March 21. John Gorny....................... 3/11 Eddie Gasior, Jr................. 3/12 Mike Pesaro...................... 3/12 Victor Berdecia.................. 3/13 Joann Szepietowski............ 3/13 Diego Hernandez.............. 3/15 Tyler Hughes..................... 3/15 Laura Lee.......................... 3/15 Samira Abdelhady............. 3/16 Joanne Szepietowski..........3/13 Suzanne Ciok.................... 3/19 Janette Hughes.................. 3/19 Caitlin Lotorto.................... 3/19 Holly Sorenson.................. 3/20 Nenad Vuckovic................ 3/20 Monica Ahmed.................. 3/21 George Andrikanich........... 3/22 Elisabel Reyes.................... 3/24 Carmen Rivera................... 3/24 Kyle Hooyman................... 3/24 Suzanne Wachtler.............. 3/26 Michele Andrikanich.......... 3/27 Jennifer Mondelli................ 3/27 Nic­­holas Surgent............... 3/27 Aidan Tedesco................... 3/27 Muriel Curtin..................... 3/28 Francis Salonga................. 3/31 Paul McVeigh.................... 3/31 Chris Kolodziej.................. 3/31 • March 2022


PANCAKE DAY On March 1, Clifton’s iHop, on Route 3 and Allwood Rd. welcomed all for National Pancake Day. From 7 am to 4 pm, iHop staff provided each guest with one free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Donations made throughout the day at more than 1,500 iHop locations benefited the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Clifton owner Kevin O’Neil said he was proud of the chain’s ongoing commitment to Children’s Miracle Network. “It’s a team effort,” said O’Neil, “from our cooks and servers to our customers and at corporate, we all pitched in to help raise funds for this great cause.”

Compass congratulates Mahmoud Ijbara for achieving the 2021 NJ REALTORS® Circle of Excellence Award.

Mahmoud Ijbara Realtor® M: 646.764.9599 I O: 973.310.7360

Mahmoud Ijbara is a real estate salesperson affiliated with Compass. Compass is a licensed real estate broker and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws.


March 2022 •

Tomahawk Promotions 1288 Main Avenue Clifton, NJ 07011

Fred Spoelstra Broker Associate

Nancy Rodriguez Sales Associate

PRSRT STD U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 280 Lanc. Pa 17604

Linton Gaines Broker Associate

Patricia Elmahdy Sales Associate

Roselys Ramirez Sales Associate

David Kelley Sales Associate

Cesar Guzman Sales Associate

Alexandra Constandinou Broker Associate

Sophia Constandinou Sales Associate

NICHOLAS TSELEPIS Broker/ Owner Top 1% Realtor in New Jersey

“The Established Leader” Angela Cardenas Sales Associate

(973) 859-2270

1624 Main Ave. Clifton, NJ 07011

BUYING OR SELLING Call Today & Start Packing!

Alberto Mesones Jr. Sales Associate

Walter Porto Sales Associate

Gladys Mesones Sales Associate


Suzan Demircan Broker Associate







Wendell Maki Broker Associate

Nina Robayo Sales Associate

Patrick Bailey Sales Associate

Juana Torres Broker Associate

Julio Baez Sales Associate

Francisco Sanchez Sales Associate

Sheyla Esdaile Sales Associate





Joanna Arias Sales Associate

Massiell Garcia Sales Associate

Luis Cruz Sales Associate


Bobby Persaud Sales Associate

Raquel Familia Sales Associate


Text or Call Nick at (973) 725-3778

Angelica Saenz Sales Associate

Aminul Islam Sales Associate

Maribel Feliz Sales Associate

Owen Eccles Sales Associate

Denny Cruz Sales Associate

Micah Francis Sales Associate

Tiesha Williams Sales Associate

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