Page 1 • December 2018 


from the Editor

- Tom Hawrylko, Editor & Publisher

Over the decades, many of us have become pretty rough characters. Across the globe and here in our hometown, we have grown to be less tolerant, more confrontational and less compassionate to the needs of those we share this earth with. The reasons are endless and at times our meanness and lack of civility may even seem rational and right: Our neighbors don’t speak the same language we do. They practice a different religion. They play loud music. They belong to a different political party. There is no room for compromise. Our cover this month tries to convey the message that it is time for us to make the world—starting here within our hometown— a little more gentle, loving and tolerant. Designed as a heart filled with photos of our community leaders, it is a call to love thy neighbor... The full quote is biblical and attributed to Jesus: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The message fits within the often-cited Golden Rule which has been incorporated by almost every religion, making it an expression of human nature and it is not in itself a strictly religious concept.

On the following 60 pages, we have prepared stories about individuals and groups who are, to paraphrase the late President George H. W. Bush, trying to make Clifton a kinder and gentler community. There is Seifullah Ali Shabazz, a Clifton factory worker who for the last 24 years honors the spirit and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by presenting a Jazz Festival and Dinner. It was King who, during the 1963 March on Washington, declared that all people should be judged not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” You shall meet Tova Felder who created and manages the Clifton News and Community Facebook page. This Jersey Girl is full of positive energy, with ever changing hair color and the ability to connect with people, regardless of race, creed, religion or color. As it seems we do most every month, we tell another story about the good people at the Boys & Girls Club. This month the focus is on gastroenterologist Dr. Howard Baum of the Summit Medical Group who is chairing a campaign to raise $100,000 to help fund programs for thousands of Clifton kids in 2019. 16,000 Magazines

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December 2018 •

Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko Art Director Ken Peterson

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Contributing Writers

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Jack DeVries, Joe Hawrylko, Irene Jarosewich, Tom Szieber, Jay Levin, Michael C. Gabriele, Ariana Puzzo, Patricia Alex, Tyler Gamba

Social Media Mgr. Ariana Puzzo

the ‘Golden Rule’, otherwise known as the ethic of reciprocity, which means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves... – with tolerance, consideration and compassion. There’s Gabriella and Bobby Marriello of Clifton PRAISE, an acronym that stands for Parents Requiring Action and Information for Special Education, a volunteer-run, special needs parent support group. Their tone is “non-adversarial” advocacy with fun stuff like baseball, bowling and nights out for moms. They are just a few of the many good things going on in Clifton created by volunteers. Turn the pages. There are many more. So as we enter this season of peace, direct your attention to those we elected in November. Please lead with positivity, tolerance, respect and decency. I urge you all to be willing to compromise and together you’ll help build a bridge to Clifton’s future. Merry Christmas from the Hawrylko kids, Joe, Tom, Casey holding Daisy, and Nick. • December 2018 


Selling your car, whether through a newspaper or online through a website like Craig’s List is a process loaded with pitfalls. Once your phone and address is “out there,” who is going to show up at your home? Selling your car privately is a hassle and it takes a lot of time and energy to complete the sale.


December 2018 •

Plus you’ll need to be ready to answer numerous phone calls at any time, even late at night. Many of these potential buyers just waste your time and never show up. For those that do show, you’ll have to deal with test drives, tire kickers, low-ballers, negotiations and weirdos. Instead sell your car to Fette, a name you trust.

Trust the Fette Auto Group when selling a car. Since its founding in 1952 by the late Henry Fette and now run by his grandson, John, Fette makes the process secure and easy. Either go to or visit the showroom and tell us the details about your car like year, make, model, mileage and condition.

Sales Manager Chris Ciresi or one of his team will make an appointment to inspect the car and make an instant offer. Be sure to bring all the necessary documentation. You’ll instantly receive a check for your car. The team at Fette makes the car-selling process safe, easy and hassle free.

Many sellers are legitimately concerned about strangers coming to test drive the vehicle at their home. • December 2018 


Photo at left, Sophia Spadavecchia (third from left) joined Tova Felder (center), her husband Andrew Pfaff (not pictured) and their son Jesse for a Shabbat meal, Nov. 30. Shabbat begins with sunset each Friday and marks the end of the Jewish week with a day of rest. Photo at right, Andrew and Tova celebrate son Jesse Felder-Pfaff becoming a Bar Mitzvah, on Jan. 20 at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield.

Though not a “typical” anything, I am a Jersey girl. I grew up in south Jersey, moved to Boston for graduate school, and resettled in north Jersey in the late nineties. Soon after, I met the man I would marry. My husband Andrew Plaff and I moved to Clifton as newlyweds, knowing no one here but desperately wanting to be homeowners and needing to stay within an easy commute of our two teaching jobs—his in Teterboro, mine in Westfield. At that time, we were not planning on having children and just wanted a cute house in a nice looking, safe neighborhood. We were here just about one year when we realized that we did want a baby. Our son Jesse Felder-Plaff was born on December 24—all but guaranteeing a lifetime of jokes about the nice Jewish boy born on Christmas Eve. We’ve been here for 16 years and have been involved in many school-related things but not much else. Our neighbors keep mostly to themselves, though the ones directly across the street always smile and wave. We really only know one beyond casual pleasantries. Luckily for us, Trish is a really nice one. We do neighborly things like water each other’s plants in the summer and bring in the mail when one of us is away. Still, I’ve often felt pretty isolated here with no real personal connections or ties to the city. Three years ago I decided to try to change that... to purposefully create a place for finding my people.


December 2018 •

SAY I AM HERE By Tova Felder It was November 2015 and I was at a bit of a loss for how to meet other honest-to-goodness grown-ups, so I started a Facebook group—Clifton News and Community—with the hope others would join me in creating an online community made up of those who live and work here. Distressed by the bickering and name-calling I’d already seen in some other local groups, I set up guidelines that explicitly required people to be respectful and decent. There is zero tolerance for personal attacks, bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. I wanted everyone who lives here to feel welcome; to know that they too belong. What started as a tiny group of one has grown into a membership of 2,600. Clifton News and Community includes teachers, the police chief, City Council members, most of our current Board of Education commissioners, business owners, senior citizens, and neighbors of every race, religion, and ethnic background that you can find in this wonderfully diverse city!

On any given day, you can find weather forecasts from our own Allan Kazimir, school fundraisers posted by various home school associations, sports teams updates, and random questions ranging from “Do I need a permit to do x” to “Where do I go for the best pizza in town?” From the logistically useful to the psychologically satisfying, our group hosts thousands of posts, comments and reactions every month.

But that’s just the beginning. The thing I truly treasure about this group is the wealth of connections made. Just today, Shaun Dabal found a small dog running loose. He posted her photo in the group and took her to the Clifton Animal Shelter to hold until she could be reunited with her family. Hours later, a woman posted in the group, asking if anyone had seen her missing dog. The dog Shaun had found was hers! Once or twice, a non-driving senior needed help with transportation and posted to the group. Members stepped up and offered rides, free of charge. For someone who is otherwise housebound, that bit of connection is so important and precious. Following each of several natural disasters elsewhere in the country, members of the group banded together to collect and send supplies to the water-ravaged areas. A local mother, whose infant child needs medical attention that her insurance won’t cover, has found support among our members. A mom found a left-behind stroller and took it home for safe keeping until the next school day. When another mom posted that she had lost hers, along with a photo, the first mom responded that she had it and they made plans to meet up at school. • December 2018 


lo ve THY neighbor

When someone asks, “Who is a good, honest mechanic?” or “Where can I take my sensory-sensitive child for a dental check-up?” there are always dozens of responses. When Sophia Spadavecchia posted about her desire to start a local chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a group that brings Muslim and Jewish women together, I was quick to raise my hand. Several other women did, too.

A week later she messaged to ask if I was going to the Veteran’s Parade (she knew that my son is in the marching band), and we met up at the corner of Van Houten and Mt. Prospect to watch it together. Since then, we have chatted back and forth online and have plans to share dinner together. Because of this group, I have a new friend. Not everyone likes or even trusts social media and, goodness knows,

Shaun Dabal and his recent find.


it has become a virtual battlefield for far too many clashing views. Clifton News and Community hosts its share, as well. We aren’t an idyllic fantasy land where fluffy bunnies hop along candy-coated sidewalks. We are messy and impatient and worried and sometimes angry... but we are a community. When one of us needs help, from the trivial to the life-saving, there are others who let us know that we are not alone. Sometimes, that is everything. No matter our differences—economics, race, gender, politics, language, religion—we all need to belong. We all need answers. We all need help. Offering a smile, a friendly word, a recommendation, or a portable crib that you don’t need anymore are all ways to demonstrate that we are in this together. At the end of the day, I truly believe that this will save the world... this willingness to stand up and say, “I am here.” Please join us. December 2018 • • December 2018 


A Noble “Ask” The Clifton Boys & Girls Club wants to raise $100,000. Leading that effort is the right person for the job. By Jack DeVries

On behalf of Clifton Boys & Girls Club, Dr. Howard Baum is asking for your help. “The Club helps this community in so many ways,” Baum said. “It helps kids do better in school, learn new things and gain positive role models. And these kids become success stories.” Baum, 66, is again serving as chairman of the Club’s “Annual Campaign for Our Youth,” looking to raise at least $100,000. The Annual Campaign is just one component of the Club’s fundraising efforts (bingo and events like the Car Show, Casino Night and Taste of Clifton are others). It asks contributors to simply write a check to support the B&GC. Like the Club, Baum has been serving his community for decades and realizes the organization’s importance. “If you don’t give each child the opportunity to reach their potential by providing high quality services and activities,” he said, “you hurt your community. Unfortunately, there’s a lot out there that can negatively impact kids. I honestly feel if we didn’t have a place like the Club, Clifton wouldn’t be the same.” Baum’s awareness is appreciated by B&GC Executive Director Bob Foster. “Dr. Baum ‘gets it,’” Foster said. “He understands why the Club is important, is willing to serve and always


December 2018 •

has a good story to tell about why the Club matters. We’re fortunate to have him join us—with his experience of being part of boards, he’s been a big addition. He’s just who we need to help us during these times.” Community Matters Baum’s roots are deep—in his birthplace and hometown of Passaic; where he resides in Wayne; and where he practices medicine as a gastroenterologist, part of the Summit Medical Group on Clifton’s Brighton Rd. From the fifties until the nineties, his father Samuel was a Passaic pediatrician, running his office out of the family home on Passaic Ave. Baum’s three younger siblings, Connie, Richard and Mark, also became doctors. “As a kid,” he said, “I thought about teaching—I loved American history. But my father’s influence was strong and I felt medical field would be good for me. I’ve been a physician for over 40 years.” Growing up, Baum was not a member of the Boys Club but heavily involved in school organizations and academics. He also worked summers and holidays in his grandfather Arthur Stuhlvach’s jewelry shop on Market St. in Passaic where he “got to know the neighborhood and learned a lot.” However, Baum’s wife to Carolyn (Frey) learned how to swim at the Clifton Boys Club. • December 2018 


A Noble “Ask” “She grew up in the Botany section,” Baum said, “and graduated from Clifton High in 1973. She’s happy I’m involved with the Club now.” After excelling at Passaic High, Baum went on to Dartmouth College (where he graduated summa cum laude) and Cornell University Medical College. In 1977, in partnership with Cornell and the Rockefeller Foundation, he was able to spend five months living in Brazil. “I traveled with a group of Cornell students and our dean,” Baum said. “We helped establish a regional diagnostic lab in Salvador, serving the province of Bahia.” While there, Baum established a technique for rapid

detection of bacterial meningitis and became fluent in Portuguese (he also speaks Spanish). The experience ignited a passion for travel, one that would take him to visit more than 75 counties. After his residency, Baum became a partner in Passaic Medical Associates in 1982 and began his long service to the community. His international efforts also continued. Along with his wife and sons Eric and Evan, Baum was part of a cultural exchange program linking Wayne with Tobago. “We were able to bring thousands of books to the island,” he said, “as well as computers and playgrounds that our Wayne students helped assemble. I spent many summers on the island chaperoning students.” Reflecting on his distinguished career, Baum knows how fortunate he was to have structure and support while growing up. “My parents stressed academic exBuy 2 Packages of cellence,” he said. “My father was also Hearing Aid Batteries around a lot with his office being part and GET ONE FREE. of our home. Today, when parents are Must present this ad. Limit 1 per working two jobs that changes things.” person. Offers expires 12/31/18. Which is why Baum believes the Club’s role is critical. “Some young kids don’t have access to role models who can move them into the right professional direction. Many parents are well-meaning, but they Offer good only on Hearing Aid Gift Cards. Expires 12/31/18. don’t have the insight or experience to navigate the job market’s complexities. “That’s where the Boys & Girls Se habla Español Club can help.” Medicaid & Private Insurance • New Patients Welcomed

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Telling the Club’s Story A few years ago, Baum was asked by friend and former Clifton B&GC board member Bob Jaffee to join the Club’s board. Though involved in many organizations (for example, Baum’s been part of the Daughters of Miriam’s board since 2000), he knew the opportunity had to be the right fit. “I looked around,” Baum said of his first board meeting, “and saw • December 2018 


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A Noble “Ask” people I respect and admire—like building campaign or establishing Bob Foster and Mayor Jimmy Anzalsomething like an east-side center. di, whom I’ve known for 30 years. It There are people out there who can was an organization with good leadermake it a reality.” ship that I could enjoy working with.” Baum said a few large gifts can be While Baum emphasizes that every transforming. gift is important no matter the amount “Take for example the Marshall (more than 40 percent of the Club’s Family’s gift (of $89,678, profiled in operating budget comes from donalast month’s Clifton Merchant Magtions, fundraising and grants), a major azine). That was such a noble gespart of his role will be asking individture—they left a legacy. That made uals with resources to give more. such an impression on me.” “I never enjoy asking people for An impression he hopes to see remoney,” he said, “but understand the peated. “I know this community and need. It’s important to ask people with have treated generations of families. I the means to give.” see the good and the bad—when famBaum and the board are learning ilies have illness, when families have Howard and Carolyn Baum from the Club’s national organization break-ups. For children, the Club is so how to attract significant donors. very important. “Find the right project for the right person,” Baum “And helped by fundraising, we can do better and consaid, “and you can get a major gift—like a supporting tinue to grow.”

Help Dr. Baum and the Boys & Girls Club by contributing to Annual Campaign. The Club strives to have all its members graduate high school with a plan for the future, demonstrate good character and citizenship, and live a healthy lifestyle. For information about the Annual Campaign, call or email Clifton B&GC Development Director John DeGraaf at 973-773-0966 or


December 2018 •

Stats of Note: • 17 percent of Clifton students fail to graduate from high school on-time, but 95 percent of B&G Club of Clifton members will. • 80 percent of Club members volunteer in their community and 28 percent do so at least monthly. • 60 percent of Club members (age 9 and up) get at least one hour of physical activity five or more days a week. • December 2018 


One of the most active, dynamic and giving organizations in the city, the CHS Key Club prepares its members to make the world a better place. By Irene Jarosewich

Spend only a few hours with CHS Key Club members and you’ll ask, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if these kids were in charge?” When asked what motivated them to volunteer with Key Club, a community service organization, each said they were motivated by values taught at home—a great reflection on their parents and grandparents. Senior Natalia Ramos-Roses, who joined Key Club as a freshman, said her grandparents grew up in poverty in Bolivia. “They remember that somehow someone always helped them,” she said. “My grandfather always emphasizes the Golden Rule—how important it is to help others.” Sisters Heather and Ashley Hernandez (senior and sophomore) often hear from their parents, “When you have the opportunity to give, take it and give back.” Heather noted after spending time on a project helping people, she often feels, “fulfilled, filled with joy.” All noted being with like-minded people as a reason for belonging to the Key Club. Mariam Mufleh loves the Club’s sense of family and how joining has inspired her to be more involved in Clifton.


December 2018 •

Manav Mistry admitted since he is more oriented towards academics, at times, he felt as though “he did not quite fit in” with the CHS’s strong sports culture. After he joined Key Club that changed. Senior Niyati Shah, who plans to be a dentist, recalled being overwhelmed at CHS, saying, “I came from a small charter school where there were 38 people in my class. At first, I just went to school and then came home. That’s all I did.” A friend convinced her to try Key Club. “Immediately,” she said, “I found the environment accepting.” With more than 200 members, the CHS Key Club chapter is one of the largest student organizations on campus and belongs to a network of Key Club high school chapters nationwide. Established in 1925, Key Club is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. CHS Key Club faculty supervisors Jacqueline Turk and John O’Reilly provide members with a calendar of volunteer options, from environmental clean up to helping with meal programs to food drives, sometimes as many as six per weekend.

Key Club Cares

Manav Mistry believes that regardless of the ugliness of the political confrontations of 2017 and 2018, better days are ahead.

“I really believe,” he said, “we are moving toward being a more accepting society in America.” • December 2018 


Clifton High School Key Club members volunteer their time and efforts at community events throughout the city.

O’Reilly agrees. “I grew up in Nutley,” he said, “and always sensed that Clifton was special, was different. Clifton has an energy like none other.” Being Involved Now in her fourth year with Key Club, Ramos-Rosas (who attended the same small private school as Shah) said she enjoys helping out during Parents’ Night at CHS, a chance to meet parents of incoming freshman. “Some of them are so nervous, afraid that their child will be lost,” she said. “I assure them their kids will be just fine, that while we are big, we are a welcoming school. They’ll find their way.” Mistry, Mufleh and the Hernandez sisters all volunteer at the monthly Community Meals program run by the United Reform Church. Manav notes at least 40-50 people come for the meal offered every third Saturday. Ashley Hernandez thinks she gets as much as she gives serving meals, many of whom need not only food, but companionship. “They are so appreciative,” she said. Shah recalls participating in the Homeless Bus project last May. With a $900 grant, Key Clubbers prepared 300 meals and boarded a bus to Manhattan where they spent the evening distributing food to the homeless living on the streets of New York. “I was surprised to see how nice they were, so happy to see us,” Shah recalled. “We are told to avoid homeless people, and I expected them to avoid us. That’s not what happened. I’m glad I went. I learned a lot.” Another annual event is the Dundee Island environmental clean-up at the park located on the Passaic riverfront between Clifton and Passaic.


December 2018 •

For the first time, volunteers encountered the homeless men who live at the park’s edge. Turk noted the men were polite. “They acted respectfully toward us and we toward them,” she said, “an important lesson for the volunteers.” Clifton Generosity Mufleh said working with Key Club has made her more aware of the kindness of others. “My family eats out at the McDonald’s on Crooks Ave. and we’ve become friends with the manager, Elizabeth” Mufleh said. “There was a man who came in daily for a cup of coffee. Suddenly, he stopped coming. Elizabeth found out he had gone to the hospital. So, Elizabeth went to visit him in the hospital, to bring him his cup of coffee. “Now that’s what I think of when I think of Clifton.” On a recent Saturday, the Key Club together with the revitalized Clifton Kiwanis chapter held a pre-Thanksgiving food drive outside Stop&Shop on Broad St. It was a freezing cold day, yet volunteers stood outside for eight hours and collected $300 and 15 shopping carts filled with food—enough to fill a second van bound for St. Peter’s Haven food pantry. Afterwards, Turk stopped to get beverages, only to find she was 30 cents short to buy two cans of soda. “A gentleman standing behind my daughter, out of the blue, offered her an extra dollar,” Turk said. “I was caught off guard and told him thanks but it was not necessary.” The man insisted and Turk completed her purchase. Between the food drive response and this gesture of kindness, Turk said, “That’s what I call a full day of Clifton generosity.” • December 2018 


Optimistic about their future Despite an undercurrent of anger and frustration in the world, these Key Clubbers look ahead calmly. Mistry believes that regardless of the ugliness of the political confrontations of 2017 and 2018, better days are ahead. “I really believe,” he said, “we are moving toward being a more accepting society in America.” Ashley is “very optimistic about my generation,” noting along with her sister Heather that they see their generation as more tolerant toward other’s beliefs, ethnicities and sexual orientation. That’s also the opinion of Mufleh, who considers her generation to be “much more open-minded.” Ramos-Rosas was a bit more cautious. “Overall, there has been progress and I’m optimistic about positive steps, but still there’s a lot that we can work on. Things can get better.” An instructor of American history, O’Reilly considers it troubling that in recent years America and much of the rest the world has become very self-focused, with emphasis on wealth and away from some of the basics of humane societies. Changing that, he believes, “starts with moral upbringing.” To strengthen the ability to focus outward instead of in-


December 2018 •

The CHS Key Club work with the newly-formed Kiwanis Club of Clifton at the Nov. 17 food drive for St. Peter’s Haven outside the Stop&Shop on Broad St.

ward, the Key Club, he believes, offers vital opportunities for young people to mature. “Those who join Key Club are not those who seek glorification,” O”Reilly said. “These are young people who seek to build community.” Adults interested in serving their community much like the Key Clubbers can join the new Kiwanis Club of Clifton. Call Debra Guerierro at 973-879-4069 for more information. • December 2018 


h c u o T e of the Master's Hand h T By Tom Hawrylko

The power of poetry and prayer were offered on a recent Saturday morning at Hair Expressions on Broad St., thanks to Sister Mary Jane Timmermans. While I was there to take a photo, Sister Mary Jane, who is 84 and a chaplain at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, was there to relax and have her hair done. But watching the hectic goings-on of the ‘photo shoot,’ Sister commented on how owner Jane Stepien and her staff chatted, offered coffee and cake and continued smiling, all the while keeping their appointments on schedule. After the photo, Sister Mary Jane invited us to hold hands to offer a blessing. “We bless hands of nurses but as I get my hair done I think of all the joy these girls bring to so many with their gifts,” she explained. A Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth of Convent Station since March, 1953, she is in her 15th year at St. Joe’s. Prior to that, she taught 8th graders at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Bloomfield for 18 years. One of her favorite memories was when students would learn The Touch of the Master’s Hand, a poem by Myra Brooks Welch which Sister recited. The poem tells of a battered violin about to be sold as the last item at an auction for a pittance, until a violinist steps out of the audience and plays the instrument, demonstrating its beauty and true value. With a twinkle in her eye and in a quiet voice, Sister explained how the work of a nurse, a hair stylist and even a photographer can come alive with The Touch of the Master’s Hand.


December 2018 • • December 2018 




During the holiday season, the Clifmany years. She was also an excellent ton Public Library has become the cook and baker (known for her butter conduit for three special gifts benefitcookies) and enjoyed sewing, making ing others. clothes for herself, children and grandThe first part of the giving trilogy children. is the organization, the Friends of the A parishioner of Holy Trinity R.C. Clifton Library. Since 1985, the group Church., Huth was a school volunteer has actively focused attention on the and member of the Women’s Society. library, looking to stimulate use of the She was employed by First National library’s resources and services. Bank as a teller and oversaw safety deUnder the leadership of its chairposit boxes. woman Vivian Semeraro, the Friends At the bank, Huth used the vault’s of the Clifton Library looks to fundtotal darkness to prepare her poinsetraise and encourage gifts and betias and Christmas cacti. She also took quests. In turn, these efforts help the great pride in her rose bushes, iris, and Florence Huth’s legacy is displayed thanks to three generlibrary develop services and facilities African violets. ations of her family, some of for the community. In Florence’s memory, three generwhom are pictured above. Supporting the Friends of the Clifations of her family (pictured above) ton Library is the family of Florence donated a beautiful wood and glass Huth, the second part of the giving trilogy. display case to be used at the Clifton Library. Born on July 25, 1920, Huth, who passed away last How to fill Huth’s display case became the responsiDecember, was an avid reader, especially of Christmas bility of the third part of the giving trilogy, the Columbstories, and volunteered at the library’s Book Nook for iette Blanket Ministry of St. Philip the Apostle Church.


December 2018 •

Now in its second year at the library, the Columbiette Blanket Ministry is presenting its annual display of handmade items for sale through December 31, showing them off in the recently-donated display case. The ministry is a service organization that makes and donates knitted, crocheted and quilted blankets to patients in local hospitals and nursing homes. Blankets are also sent to the Linus Project, which distributes them to children’s hospitals throughout the country. The display at the library includes such items for sale as scarves, cosmetic bags, jewelry pouches totes and handbags created by Columbiette Blanket Ministry display organizer Gail Wojtowicz. “Each item is one of a kind and can be had for a very reasonable designated donation,” said Cathie Murtha, Columbiette Blanket Ministry officer. “The donations are used to further our efforts in providing our blankets to community organizations.”

The craft work of Gail Wojtowicz is on sale at the main Clifton Library within the display case donated by the Huth family. Call 973-772-5500.

The Columbiette Blanket Ministry hopes to continue its service to the community with local holiday shoppers help. “Come see what we have to offer,” Wojtowicz added. “You may find a small treasure for yourself and help your community at the same time.” • December 2018 


Sometimes, the best stories are right in front of you. Gabriella “Gabbie” Marriello works as the business manager for Tomahawk Promotions and helps publish the Clifton Merchant Magazine each month. When the December theme “giving” was decided upon, she went from behind the magazine to being part of a story. Marriello is the leader of Clifton PRAISE, an acronym that stands for “Parents Requiring Action and Information for Special Education.”

Gabbie and husband Bobby are parents to Daniel, 16, and Thomas, 12, a special needs child diagnosed with autism at age 3. “Bobby and I had absolutely no idea where our new journey would take us,” Marriello said, “but we both read and researched as much as we could about autism, therapies and how families cope.” This journey led them to PRAISE, a volunteer-run, special needs parent support group based in Clifton. Though PRAISE shares information—including issues pertaining to the rights

For one Clifton couple, bringing special needs children and their families together starts with social media and journeys through baseball. 28 

December 2018 •

By Jack DeVries • December 2018 


PRAISE of special needs children— Marriello emphasizes it is a “non-adversarial” group. “It was formed 12 years ago by Judy Bassford, Julie Skolnick and Elisa Varano,” she said. “When Judy ran for and was elected to the Clifton Board of Education, she asked me to take over the group’s leadership.” During the school year, Gabbie and Bobby Marriello in a photo takPRAISE meets and hosts parent en by Thomas Marriello, pictured at right educational workshops on the with his big brother and coach, Daniel. fourth Monday of the month at the Allwood Library. When the group started, about 10 parents attended born and raised in Queens, N.Y.—home of his beloved the meetings and PRAISE had an email distribution list New York Mets. of 50. After Marriello started a members-only Facebook During the Mets’ 1986 World Series-winning seapage for PRAISE, depending on the topic, up to 40 have son, Bobby estimates he went to 30 games and still has attended meetings and the group’s distribution list has his score books from that year. His favorite player was now grown from 50 to more than 300. catcher Gary Carter “but I loved them all—Strawber“Since I am not one to talk before crowds,” Marriello ry, Doc, Keith, Dykstra, the Teufel Shuffle… the entire said, “I started bringing in presenters. My world is auteam.” tism, but other topics may apply to children with other An admitted sports fanatic, Bobby described, “If it’s disabilities. For example, Thomas has reading issues, 3 am and two cockroaches are racing on ESPN, I’m and what I’ve learned from a dyslexia group has helped watching it. I played everything—baseball, basketball, me to help him.” you name it. Was I good at any of them? No!” PRAISE has grown into an information-sharing netGabbie lived in Clifton first, moving in with a roomwork where parents communicate about special needs mate to be closer to her job in Lyndhurst. After meeting topics, with Facebook providing an outlet to share helpBobby through a mutual friend, the couple married in ful articles. 1998 and got an apartment in the city. A year later, they “On Facebook,” said Bobby Marriello, a senior credmoved into a home in the Richfield section. it manager for Samsung, “people can ask, ‘I need help “Clifton was convenient,” Gabbie said. “Bobby finding a new developmental pediatrician. Any recomworked in Manhattan then so it was good for his commendations?’ Well, we have 250 people using developmute, as well as being a good halfway point between mental pediatricians. All of a sudden, you have a list.” our two families. We liked living here so we put our But PRAISE also serves another purpose: providing roots down.” a supportive community for special needs families. In 2002, Gabbie and Bobby welcomed their first son “When Thomas was first diagnosed,” Gabbie said, “I Daniel to their family; four years later, their son Thomthought, ‘What are we going to do?’ It’s still a struggle, as, a bundle of energy, was born. but you don’t feel alone when you’re part of a group of Bobby was determined to impart his love of sports to people going through a similar thing.” his sons. Daniel tried tee-ball for two seasons with his father acting as his team’s enthusiastic coach. However, Love of the Game he was not a sports aficionado like his dad. The Marriellos are not Clifton natives. Gabbie is Instead, he gravitated to karate, earning a black belt, originally from Bound Brook, N.J., while Bobby was and music, where Daniel is now a junior at Pas-


December 2018 •





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PRAISE saic County Tech and a member of the school’s marching band. But Thomas loved baseball. Because of his limited focus, he was not able to play on a regular team, but loved hitting in the backyard, sometimes knocking the ball into a neighbor’s yard two doors down. In 2015, the Marriellos found a special needs team for then 8 year-old Thomas in Garfield, but Bobby wanted his son to play in his hometown. He knew there was a special needs team in Clifton called the Clifton Challengers, run for years by the dedicated Mike Soccol. “But Mike’s team,” Bobby said, “had older players—though they did offer Thomas a spot. I envisioned a younger team, sort of like a farm team for the Challengers.” Remembering his time in the Clifton Midget League (CML), Bobby approached then league president Tyler Reed about forming a special needs squad, asking for a patch of grass where he could teach his players, ages 5-13, the game of baseball. “Tyler said, “I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me to do this,’” Bobby remembered. “He knew that you needed a parent of a special needs kid who understood what the team is about. He said, ‘If you’re coming with us, then you’re doing it right. You’re getting the best field we have.’” Clifton Support Since that time, the CML has provided outstanding support. “And that’s continued with Dan Beck, the league’s new president,” said Bobby. “The coaches and CML board have also been fantastic. Anything I mention to them, it’s ‘Bobby, go!’ I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a ‘no’ from them.”


December 2018 •

A PRAISE Mom’s Night Out on May 4 at ShopRite Wines & Spirits. To support the group’s baseball team, come to their Clifton Chipotle fundraiser January 12 from 4-8 pm and mention PRAISE Special Needs Baseball.

Along with Bobby, the Clifton PRAISE team features seven Rutgers S.A.F.E.T.Y. Clinic-certified coaches (son Daniel; Sherry, Mike and Daniella Avella; Maritza Fontanez; Rich Amati and Mel Chance). Every player has an on-field “shadow” to assist and all innings are the same—every player hits and the last gets a home run. The games run 2-3 innings. To keep the PRAISE players engaged, positions are rotated after each batter, with a first basemen moving to second, the second basemen moving to shortstop and so on. “The whole idea was volleyball,” said Bobby. “I woke up at 3 am and said, ‘Volleyball!’ And Gabbie said, ‘No, you’re playing baseball.’ No, volleyball— we’ll rotate the kids around so they’re not bored.” “The games,” Gabbie added, “are not competitive, no scores are kept. It’s about being part of a team, socializing and providing physical activity. The games also allow parents to socialize. They become friends and compare notes. In the stands, we exchange info and share resources.” • December 2018 


PRAISE Along with the CML, many Cliftonites have also assisted the team, whose members include autistic and hearing-impaired players, as well as those afflicted with cerebral palsy. Former Councilman Joe Cupoli donated new gloves and bats, and the St. Philip’s Knights of Columbus Council #11671 has been supportive, as have the Elks Club’s Keith Oakley and returning Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula. Other Clifton City Council members are also fans of the team with Mayor Jim Anzaldi and Councilwoman Lauren Murphy attending games. “I think,” added Gabbie, “we captured a bit of PRAISE Special Olympics Bowling Team with athletes, volunteer (Councilman) Billy Gibson’s heart. He’s come Roberto Martinez and coaches Mel Chance and Bobby Marriello. to a bunch of games and really watches. In fact, For more information, email or if you his wife said our schedule is on their refrigerator. are a parent or family member of a special needs child or adult in Clifton or surrounding areas that needs support, join Clifton Before the election, he asked us not to have any P.R.A.I.S.E. on Facebook. photos of him at the game on our site—he just goes to watch and enjoy, not for politics.” Beyond Baseball Another avid rooter is 35-year Clifton special eduWhile the seasonal baseball team has brought cation teacher Kim Puzzo. “Since day one, she’s been a PRAISE additional members, the group is a year-round fixture in the stands,” said, Gabbie, “and we consider her organization with multiple activities including a Dec. our number one fan.” 16 Family Winter Holiday Party. Other planned activ“She asked me,” Bobby related, “‘How do you teach ities include parents-only nights out, and kid-friendly these kids to hit a ball?’ I said, ‘You taught them science! activities such as bowling, Legos, yoga, cooking and Teaching baseball is easy.’” N.J. Jackals game outings. The players’ game shadows also become part of “We recently added our very own Special Olympics PRAISE. The Passaic County Technical Institute basebowling team,” said Gabbie. “It’s this sense of commuball team has come to act as shadows, as have other high nity that keeps our group together.” school students who receive school community service Which makes a group like PRAISE all that more imhours for their efforts. portant. “It’s isolating when your kid doesn’t totally fit One was Clifton’s Jason Agnoli, a student at DePaul in,” she said. “If you do go to a house with a typical High School. After earning his school community serchild, our kids don’t always play the same way and they vice hours, Agnoli asked if he could continue helping at may not act the same. But when you make a connection the games. “He has a gift for it,” said Gabbie. “Jason’s with a special needs family, your child’s behavior is not even coming to our holiday party.” a big deal.” But the PRAISE baseball team provides the biggest Moving forward, PRAISE will continue to operate benefit for its players and their families, especially the with a zero budget, relying on contributions and gifts. Marriellos. While non-profit status may be in its future, for now, the “Thomas loves being part of the team,” said Gabbie. Marriellos and the other PRAISE families will settle for “It gives him a purpose. He’s involved in something with awareness. kids he knows.” “It’s great for the city council and the entire commu“I got to be a coach again,” said Bobby. “It’s also good nity to see there’s a need for these types of activities,” for Daniel—he’s a coach and able to connect with the Gabbie said. “A lot of our kids don’t go to city events other players’ older siblings. He sees now that we’re not because it’s overwhelming for them. But they’re still the only family going through this—we’re normal— part of our community.” whatever that means.”


December 2018 • • December 2018 






What better way to mark the season of giving than by honoring a person who was the embodiment of love for his fellow man? This year marks the 24th anniversary of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jazz Festival and Dinner, which will be held Saturday, Jan. 12. The event runs from 6 pm to midnight at Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church, located at the corner of Huron and Orange Aves. in Athenia. The Jazz Festival and Dinner is described as “a celebration, not an observance” of the life of King and the artistic heart and soul of jazz. The event is held each year near Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 19), a federal holiday and national “day of service,” since 1994 designated to commemorate King’s and the civil rights movement. Appearing this year will be Dan Kostelnik & Trio, Ray Schinnery, the Leo Johnson Quartet, Madame Pat Tandy & Trio, Audrey & Jazz 4 Soul and Legacy. The driving force behind the festival is Clifton’s Seifullah Ali Shabazz. The one-night festival typically attracts 250 patrons, a “mostly over-50 crowd with some young people,” according to Shabazz. Many attendees are long-time fans of the event. Underwriting the show from his own pocket, Shabazz said he rarely, if ever, breaks even on expenses. “It all comes from the heart,” Shabazz described in a Clifton Merchant Magazine four years ago. “Speaking as a Muslim, the life of Dr. King is a good cause to celebrate.”


December 2018 •

Shabazz came to his Muslim faith in 1963 as a member of the Nation of Islam, having accepted the teaching of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. His faith also helped to cultivate his interest in jazz. “The glamor of the entertainment world encourages corruption, but jazz is different,” he said. “I had an appreciation for the music—it’s character and style. Many jazz musicians at the time were Muslims. I thought of jazz musicians as artists, not entertainers. Jazz was music that made you think.” Ticking off his list of favorite jazz artists, Shabazz revealed his affinity for saxophone players: Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, King Curtis, Eddie Harris, and Stanley Turrentine. His musical tastes later branched out to rhythm and blues and soul, but jazz always remained number one in his heart. Tickets for the Jan. 12 Jazz Festival are $40 in advance and $45 at the door. They can be purchased at the Oasis Restaurant at 683 Main Ave. in Passaic or at JC Printing at 168 8th Ave. in Paterson. For more information on the festival, contact Seifullah Ali Shabazz at 973-478-4124.

Seifullah Ali Shabazz produces the annual MLK Jazz Festival.

Born on Jan. 15, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rose to prominence as a major leader of the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. King first gained attention in 1955 as the spokesman for bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., a campaign to integrate the city’s bus lines. He was later elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization at the forefront of the civil rights movement, and a featured speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. In 1964 he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. That same year, at the urging of President Lyndon John-

son, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, ending legalized racial segregation. The following year Congress passed the Voting Rights Act designed to eliminate remaining barriers to voting for African-Americans. King Jr. continued to champion civil rights and spoke out against the escalating war in Vietnam. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, having gone to the city to support the city’s sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions. • December 2018 


The Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—is not just a onetime thing. Helping someone and then being nasty at other times does not count. Fortunately, many among us consistently practice the Golden Rule every day.



CHS Annual Avenue of Flags, sponsored by the Mustang Academy, a display of flags to salute staff, family and friends who served in our armed forces. Clifton VFW Post 7165 and Woodbridge DAV Chapter 56 donated the flags.

ination from within, together, facing down detractors with solidarity and compassion. Anchored in Faith Without violence. Violence John Muller and wife Jackhas never been the answer to ie have been members of St. any problems throughout our Peter’s Episcopal Church for nation’s history.” more than 20 years. Jackie, He offered these observaonce part of the management tions not long after the tragic team at Glaxo-SmithKline, Oct. 27 shooting at the synaBy Irene Jarosewich grew up in Clifton. The couple gogue in Pittsburgh. met, dated and married, and “At St. Peter’s, we are fornow live on Washington Ave. tunate to have close ties with other faiths in our comA warden (church advisor) at St. Peter’s, John noted munity. The Golden Rule applies itself as strength in that in the 20 years since he moved here from Elizabeth, numbers. “Clifton has changed a great deal, in many positive di“That, and a strong sense of faith, can triumph over rections, but also there have been missteps that, unforracial hatred.” tunately, affect everyone.” As a sign of how far the ugliness of hate and disIn large part, he is referring to the undercurrent of respect has spread, he asked rhetorically, “How can anger and fear that has been seen in Clifton, and is more a country justify having police cars, sheriffs, SWAT visible nationwide. teams in front of mosques and synagogues when ser“We cannot be frightened by the hatred of others,” vices are taking place? John said. “We can only face racial bias and discrim“Quite clearly, this is no way to live.


December 2018 • • December 2018 


DO UNTO OTHERS... “St. Peter’s has always reached across all faiths and welcomed everyone into our community. We take part in ceremonies and services in local mosques and synagogues without any hesitation. “On Saturdays, we rent space to the Seventh Day Adventists community to hold weekly services. We placed a memorial on our front lawn to the murdered community leaders from the synagogue in Pittsburgh. Our front signage asks that “All Faiths - Come Together Right Now.” Sadly, he added, “There is a deep fear that has permeated religious communities across the Clifton area and throughout our nation. “Reaching out in solidarity, we can all come together and raise ourselves back up to the standards that were the cornerstones of our nation, our democracy, more than 250 years ago.”

have lived here many years but still need to improve language skills.” This latter group includes university students and professionals who want to advance in their jobs. She added the center also prepares many green cardholders to become American citizens. Fidurska loves her job and is deeply gratified when ESL students come back to thank her for helping them get a solid start in America. Ada Svirdovski, a current student at the center, is a careful, conscientious, sensitive young woman in her twenties. She enrolled at a local college this past fall and is preparing for her citizenship exam. Svirdovski arrived in Clifton two years ago from Poland to join her family. While hostility to new immigrants seems to be on the rise in America, Ada said she has enHelping, an American Value countered very little in the city. Becoming an American citizen “I find Clifton to be quiet,” she remains a dream for millions of said. “People are kind. Here, I feel immigrants in the United States. safe. True, I spend most of my Donating one of 25 units of blood at City Organizations such as the PRO time in the Polish community, but Hall Nov. 28: Jeanette Fraga, Michelle Learning Center in Botany Vilin Clifton, people pretty much try Jasper and donor tech Karen Vanderhorst; lage work to help make these to be nice.” below the Muller family of St. Peters. dreams come true. Svirdovski recalled how surMargo Fidurska began running prised she was when she first the center eight years ago. She believes that within our arrived at the openness and friendliness of people in immigrant communities the American values of lending America. a helping hand, hard work and ambition are strongly “I truly was shocked that people were always smilrooted. ing, seemed happy” she seemed. “They ask you how you The determination to learn English as a second lanare. Even if this is a little bit fake, this is still pleasant. guage (ESL) is part of that drive. You never see that in Poland. People in public do not “We teach people,” Fidurska said, “from many difwalk around smiling, are not that cheerful with strangers. ferent countries and those on all different levels—from Here, people usually have a positive attitude—they want newcomers knowing only a few words to those who to help you. That’s very important for society.”


December 2018 • • December 2018 



Keeping the Good Going With a diverse population of more than 3,100 students and over 200 teachers, managing Clifton High School is a lot like managing a small town within a bigger city. Since high school is the place where older children become young adults, the atmosphere strongly influences a student’s current and future well-being. The person in charge of making sure the atmosphere at CHS stays positive is Principal Michael Doktor. “Clifton High School students go above and beyond for others all the time,” said Doktor. “That selflessness is evident each and everyday, and it is something that we can take great pride in as the Clifton community,” It is a community, he noted, that includes active participation of parents, businesses and local government in support of the city’s students. “I see it daily—students often go out of their way for their fellow students,” he said. “Whether it is the student who finds a phone or wallet in the hallway and wants to make sure it is returned to the rightful owner, or those who volunteer for any number of activities that require assistance.” CHS is known for the camaraderie developed among the Marching Mustangs, among the school’s excellent sports teams, for the creativity of the fall and spring theatrical productions, and for extensive community involvement of the service organization, the Key Club. In turn, Doktor points to another, maybe less-well known, but valuable activity: Project Unify. “These are the volunteers,” he said, “who spend time working with our Special Education students through the national program Project Unify to participate in Special Olympics events.”


December 2018 •

Top left, pirogi Mike Duch on our February 2007 cover with other Downtown Clifton business owners. Above, PRO Learning Center staff and students.

The Stomach Must Be Full The universal sign of good will is serving good food. Mike Duch, founder of Homemade Pirogi on Main Ave., takes good will through good food seriously. The Slavic staple, a soft, wheat-dough dumpling known variously as pirogi, pierogies, pyrohy, varenyky, pelmeni, is Duch’s specialty. He follows the Slavic gospel: “In order for the soul to be happy, the stomach must be full.” For years, Homemade Pirogi served the traditional combination of savory dumpling fillings of potato, cabbage, and cheese to satisfy the Slavic souls of Clifton and Passaic. However, Duch wanted all souls to be happy, not just Slavic ones. He awoke one morning with an inspiration and, with some experimentation, devised the pizza pirogi (Pizzarogies) that remain a favorite. A chance conversation with a lover of green vegetables led to creation of the broccoli-spinach-cheese Pirogi Royale. Sweet-tooth fiends find the Apple Turnover Pirogi to be “simply delish.” “Our original potato-cheese pirogi is still our top seller,” said Duch, “but my walk-in customers are no longer primarily those of Slavic descent.” Clifton has diversified and now he finds that immigrants from Latin America and Turkey have also become pirogi-lovers. Food, he points out, is adaptive. On one hand, it binds cultures; on the other, it travels across continents to be shared. As long as he can, Dutch plans to carry on that tradition of adapting and sharing in Clifton. • December 2018 


Becoming a Good Neighbor:

More Than Just a Cup of Tea By Michael C. Gabriele

Ercan Tozan, the executive director of Peace Islands Institute, enjoyed a cup of tea at the ANT bookstore and café on Clifton Ave. and discussed his concept of being a good neighbor. Tozan was born and raised in the ancient city of Izmir, Turkey, where being neighborly and drinking tea are intertwined as part of the culture and the Islamic faith. Tozan said tea is the drink of choice in Turkey— not as some elaborate ceremony, but rather as a daily, warm-hearted gesture to welcome friends, family members and new acquaintances. “In Izmir, when people come to your home, the first thing you do is serve tea,” Tozan said. On the surface, offering tea to guests may seem like a simple, cordial gesture, but it’s part of a deeper faith tradition. “Drinking tea brings people together,” he said. “We have a tradition that says: ‘when your neighbor is hungry, you cannot sleep. You must do something to help.’” Neighborliness is not a passive concept, according to Tozan. It involves endeavoring to interact with others.


December 2018 •

“In order for us to be good neighbors, we must take time to sit and talk. We share our thoughts and then we can adjust our relationship as neighbors.” Being a good neighbor also involves self-reflection. “Before I can be a good neighbor, I first must be a good person,” he said. “Being a good neighbor involves having good intentions. “In my life, my motivation comes from my faith as a Muslim and my Turkish traditions.” He noted that the scriptures of all the Abrahamic faith traditions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) talk about the obligation to welcome “the stranger” in the community, “because we believe that God has sent this person to visit us.” Outreach and neighborliness are at the heart of Peace Islands’ mission of promoting education, friendship and harmony. A nonprofit organization founded in 2003, previously known as the Interfaith Dialogue Center, Peace Islands Institute hosts educational forums, conferences, luncheons and dinners throughout the year—all designed to promote neighborly interfaith dialogue. • December 2018 


Cup of Tea Last month, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Peace Islands and the Turkish Cultural Center (located on Kuller Rd. in Clifton) sponsored a friendship dinner, which was attended by Mayor Jim Anzaldi. Three years ago the organization honored Anzaldi with its “Diversity Award.” The mayor, during his acceptance speech, described Clifton as a city that “proudly embraces diversity and speaks over 80 languages.” While his organization looks to create “islands of peace” in a diverse world, Tozan admitted the mission is difficult in today’s polarized and sometimes violent society. Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter and Mayor Anzaldi (center) receivHe cited the trauma from the Oct. 27 ating the Peace Islands Diversity Award in 2015 from Ercan Tozan. tack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, which killed throughout New Jersey to help promote the organiza11 people, and the June 2015 shooting at a church in tion’s mission of promoting dialogue. Charleston, S.C., that left nine people dead. “We must embrace humanity and be a good example “Hate crimes make people more fearful to reach out for others,” he noted. “Many of our young people stay to one another,” he said. “Peace Islands Institute works in their own world with their electronic devices.” hard to fight against that kind of hate damage.” Several years ago students were asked to address the From a community perspective, neighborliness cultiquestion “Who is Your Neighbor?” and express their vates trust, respect and security. thoughts with words or illustrations. It also breaks down barriers of suspicion, promotes Tozan recalled the work of a student who painted a interdependence, and creates a more comfortable living picture of a family sharing food with others. The artenvironment. work reminded him of his days as a lad growing up in “Life can be hard,” Tozan said. “We all need neighIzmir. Young Ercan Tozan would deliver food and cake bors we can trust. This makes us a safer community.” made by his mother to families in their neighborhood. Before joining the organization in 2012, Tozan This was part of his family’s outreach to the commuworked as a high school chemistry teacher. He said ednity—a lesson that stayed with him. ucation plays an important role in developing and susTozan was proud the student artist grasped the containing neighborliness. cept of recognizing neighbors and being a good neighEach year Peace Islands sponsors art and essay bor by sharing with and caring for others. contests for middle school and high school students


December 2018 • • December 2018 



Liz, Kathy, PJ, JP, Peter, Mary and Kate Bakarich

For the past 36 years, Pete and Kathy Bakarich and their four kids have employed innovative techniques to decorate this 60-foot blue spruce at the corner of Washington and Fifth Aves. “We stand on one another’s shoulders,” claimed Pete, who had three generations of his clan hanging lights over the chilly Thanksgiving weekend. “We also have trained squirrels.” The truth, however, is that Pete has gerry-rigged extension poles and builds on the strings of lights which are connected with plastic-encased extension chords. It is all connected to a timer which runs from a dedicated circuit to avoid any Griswold family-like calamity. The Bakarich’s have a tradition of not turning the switch until December 6, St. Nicholas Day. Visitors can see the twinkling display now through January 6, which is the Feast of the Ephiphany. “We do the traditional Christmas season and keep our display lit through the two holy days,” said Pete. As we went to press, the family was adding another 1,000 lights to the 5,000 already on the branches. Weichert Realtors is once again collecting toys for Passaic County foster children up until Dec. 24. Donors should drop off new unwrapped toys at the office from 8:30 am to 9 pm, Mon.-Fri, and 9 am to 6 pm on Saturdays. Weichert’s office is located at 791 Passaic Ave. in Clifton. For info, call 973-779-1900. Heading up the toy drive are Weichert Realtor’s Kevin Carpenter (left), Maureen Setteducato and Tony Sanchez


December 2018 •


Tri-M National Music Honor Society, provides a means of recognizing efforts and achievements of music students who volunteer their time and share their musical talent with others. This year, CHS Chapter 3703 is conducting a food drive for St. Peter’s Haven and a Toys for Tots Drive, ending Dec. 14. To contribute, call the front desk at Clifton High School for info or write to Natalie Babiak at Tri-M Music Honor Society also invites everyone to join them for their Choir concert on Dec. 13 and Orchestra concert on Dec. 20. Finally, the Band concert takes place on Jan 24. All concerts start at 7 pm and are held at the Clifton High JFK Auditorium.

Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake’s 2018 Holiday Toy and Book Drive is underway. Last year, the drive distributed 300 toys and books. This is the ninth annual drive organized by Giblin and the first year that Timberlake is participating. Donations of new toys and new books will be accepted until Dec. 11. All donations must be unwrapped and appropriate for children, ages 3 to 15. Toys and books collected will be distributed to East Orange/Orange Community Development Corp., Montclair Child Development Corp/ Head Start Program, the Boys and Girls Club of Clifton, Moving Orange Forward, St. Peters Haven, and United Way of Northern New Jersey. Donations may be dropped off at Assemblywoman Timberlake’s District Office at 15-33 Halsted Street, Suite 202, East Orange, from 10 am to 4 pm Mon.-Fri. For info, contact Medinah E. Muhammad, M.A. or Geri Woods-Coles at 973-395-1166. They can also be dropped off at Assemblyman Giblin’s District Office, 855 Valley Road, Suite 104, Clifton, from 10 am to 4 pm, Mon.-Fri. For info, contact Lolita Cruz at 973-779-3125. • December 2018 



Clifton Martial Arts Academy on Bloomfield Ave. for the eight past Novembers has organized a Kick-A-Thon at Chelsea Park to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. This year’s event was on Nov. 2. “We collected just short of $5,000,” said Sensei Jim Meghdir. “It was a great day and hopefully these kids will understand and remember what it is we did and why were doing it when they grow up.” Pictured in front are high kickers Marina Calleo and Rebecca Coles.

St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Christmas homemade Ukrainian food fundraiser is Dec. 21 and 22. For sale are stuffed cabbage made with ground beef and rice for $12 per half dozen. Orders must be placed on the church answering machine at 973-546-2473 by Dec. 17, must be pick-up Dec. 21 from 5-7 pm or Dec. 22, 10-12:30. Potato and cheese pirogies and assorted baked goods will also be sold on a first come first serve basis. All proceeds to benefit restoration of church building, which is at 81 Washington Ave.

The Jim Anzaldi & Friends Get Together has become something of a legend every December. Held at the Valley Regency on Valley Rd., the party is from 5 to 8 pm and the place fills up quickly. Drinks and appetizers are included in the price of $30. While mostly everyone involved in political and civic life in Clifton attends, it is noted that this is a non-political event. Send checks made payable to Jim Anzaldi & Friends to 8 Hilton St., Clifton, NJ 07011. For additional information or tickets, call Bobby D’Arco at 973-340-8356.

A week before Thanksgiving, businesses teamed up with the Boys & Girls Club to help fill the pantries of those in need. Among the firms providing turkeys were Fette Motors and the law firm of Corradino & Papa. From left are Dan Pego of Fette KIA motors, Jay Lastra, Raffaella Selvaggio, Jack Corradino, RC Papa, Gina Corradino and John DeGraaf.


December 2018 •


Diane Walker, Eugenia Gore, Tom Dzubina and Jan Berman have their arts exhibited in the Celebrating Clifton Association of Artists (CAA’s) 55th Anniversary show and sale “In Retrospect.” At the Clifton Main Memorial Library, Piaget Ave. through Dec. 29, there are over 50 paintings including photographs and one sculpture on display, For info on CAA, write to

Auditions for Golden Girls III, the next dinner theater production of the Theater League of Clifton, is on Dec. 18 and 19, 7 to 9 pm at Mario’s Restaurant, 710 Van Houten Ave. TLC seeks six cast members to play parody versions of characters from the sitcom The Golden Girls along with parodies of quirky TV detective Adrian Monk and Jessica from Murder She Wrote. The casting call is open to all genders, ethnicities, abilities and ages. Performance dates for the dinner theater, which will also be staged at Mario’s, are Feb. 22, 23, 24 and March 2, 3, 9 and 10. Erin Woodward is the director of the production while Mark Peterson serves as the producer. For more info, call 973-928-7668 or go to

Swing into the holidays when The Manhatten Brothers—CHS alum Paul Liberti, (‘78), Jim Haraka, Norman Barta, Dante Liberti, (all ‘75) and Bob Fugel, (‘74) —present a Holly Jolly Holiday jazz concert at Grace Church, 45 Hazel St., on Dec. 14 at 7:30 pm to benefit the Theater League of Clifton. Tickets are $20 at the door or call 973-928-7668, go online (, or mail checks to PO Box 4072, Clifton, NJ 07012. • December 2018 


Clifton Cares As they have done since 2010, the Clifton Cares volunteers— numbering a robust 75 on Nov. 29—worked to make our troops overseas happy. They packed 105 boxes with supplies, food and gifts to send to men and women serving in the military. Helping pack boxes were volunteers from Montclair State and Seton Hall Universities, New Vision Pioneers and the Boy Scouts. Since its founding, Clifton Cares has mailed more than 9,000 boxes to our troops. To support their next shipment in February, send checks to Clifton Cares, 900 Clifton Ave., Clifton NJ 07013.


December 2018 • • December 2018 



December 2018 • • December 2018 


Vanessa Valle, Sandie Conklin, Dr. E. Unay & his wife Edna and Stefany Serrano.

Once again, Clifton Dog & Cat Hospital, the oldest hospital in Clifton, received a full accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association, the highest accreditation bestowed by this international organization of animal hospitals. Clifton Dog & Cat Hospital has consistently passed and obtained the highest accreditation on AAHA evaluations since 1989. Awarded to a select few veterinary hospitals, this full accreditation was made after a comprehensive evaluation of the facility. The evaluation, which was conducted by independent consultants, includes a quality assessment review of the Main Ave. facility, medical equipment, practice methods and pet health care management. The AAHA designation instills confidence in the public by letting them know that the staff at Clifton Dog & Cat Hospital adheres to the strictest guidelines when treating patients.


December 2018 •



Hospital Dr. Unay, the owner of the facility since 1982, credits his wife, Edna, who coordinates and supervises adherence to practice protocol, Sandie Conklin, a long time employee since 1991, as well as Vanessa Valle and Stefany Serrano. The American Animal Hospital Association is a­­n international association of more than 16,000 veterinarians who treat companion animals, such as dogs and cats. Established in 1933, the association is well known in the veterinary field for its high standards for hospitals and pet health care. Only 17 percent of veterinary practices throughout the United States and Canada received full accreditation and had made the commitment to voluntarily participate to a complete hospital and practice evaluation to ensure compliance to these standards. Clifton Dog & Cat Hospital, at 1315 Main Ave., Clifton, at 973-772-6686, is a full service veterinary hospital serving Clifton and the immediate vicinity. • December 2018 


On Nov. 14 and Nov. 18, Clifton dogs (and their appreciative owners) took advantage of the Health Department’s free rabies vaccine event at Fire Station 5 on Brighton Rd. All dogs had to be licensed and on leashes to get their free ‘shot.’ Free vaccines for licensed dogs are offered in the spring and fall. Rabies vaccines for cats are available in the spring for $5. Call the Health Department at 973-470-5670 for more info.


December 2018 • • December 2018 


There is something very familiar to Dan Geleta about this season’s edition of the Clifton wrestling team. The Mustangs remind him a lot of another group that graced CHS’ mats not long ago—one that was very successful. And if these Mustangs live up to the potential Geleta sees, there is no reason why they can’t be as successful as that past corps of Clifton grapplers. “This group reminds me a lot of the 2015 team,” said Geleta. “That group had one senior and we made it all the way to the state sectional final against North Bergen. And then the following year, we won the section by beating Hackensack in the final. This team has the same blue collar, hard-working kids. Every match we win is going to have to be a team effort. But this should be a fun year.” The Mustangs have just three seniors: 160/170-pounder Ahmed Aboudayya, 138/145-pounder Cole Ceneri and 132/138-pounder Ricky Moultrie. Aboudayya is still recov-


December 2018 •


Wrestling Dec 19 Lenape Valley


Dec 22 @Morris Hills


Dec 21 @Bogota


Dec 29 @Parsippany


Jan 5


Jan 4


Jan 9



Jan 11 @Bergen Cath Jan 12

@Pascack Val

Jan 16 PCTI

Jan 18 @Leonia

Jan 19 @Pequannock Jan 23 JFK

Jan 24 Wayne Hills

Jan 26 @West Milford Jan 30 @Passaic Val. Feb 1


Feb 9

@Mult. Schools

Feb 5

@Hasbrouck Hts

5pm 5pm 7pm

10pm 6pm 6pm

10am 6pm 6pm

10am 7pm 6pm 6pm


ering from a broken ankle suffered during football season, but will contribute upon his return. Ceneri is a methodical wrestler who is particularly adept at riding, while Moultrie is energetic, feisty and aggressive. Other than those three, the Mustangs will rely on juniors, sophomores and freshmen to build on a 13-9 season that saw them advance to the North 1, Group 5 quarterfinals. The lighter weights will be dominated by juniors, including Abdul Alsaidi (106 pounds), Giovanni Caro (113/120) and Omar Ali (120/126). Freshmen Miguel Garcia and Carlos Sierra will both see them at the 113 spot when Caro wrestles at 120. Sophomore Julian Crespo (126/132) will be out until mid-January with injury but will be an integral piece of the lineup, as will junior Mohmammed Ghaigh (138/145), sophomore Chris Stathopoulos (145/152), freshman Luke Ceneri (152/160) and sophomore Nick Stathopoulos (152/160).

MUSTANG Jacob Maldonado is a talented freshman set to wrestle at 160/170, while sophomore Enrique Montero will compete at 170/182. Juniors Ahmad Muheisen (170/182), Malik Allan (182/195), Joe Rivera (182/195), Marcellus Belmar (195/220) and Jesus Valdez (195/220) provide a bit of an upperclass presence in the higher weight classes, while freshmen Ahmad Ramadan (220/285) and Ayoub Odeh (220/285) round out the lineup. Notable is the abundance of Clifton football players on the roster, including Aboudayya, Garcia, Sierra, Maldonado, Muheisen and Allan. Geleta has been especially pleased with the winning attitude brought to the mat by the Mustangs who suited up for Coach Ralph Cinque. “We do have a lot of football players, and I love it,” Geleta said. “I love what Coach Cinque is doing with that team, and I would like that winning tradition to carry over from football season to the winter season.” The youthful but talented roster also provides Geleta the flexibility to alter lineups and get experience for a greater number of wrestlers—a fact that will only help provide them with greater depth. It is a feature also possessed by that 2015 squad.

By Tom Szieber


“We will have a lot of competition and kids will be in and out of the lineup depending on who we wrestle,” Geleta said. “I think we are going to have a very good year. Our goals are the same—to win everything we enter.” It is a lofty goal, for sure. But if the Mustangs can maintain the work ethic Geleta brags about, it is one that will start to seem more realistic. • December 2018 




Top, left to right: Jack Louer, Justin Mendez, Jhamir Harrison, Wendell Abellard, Kyle Vellis, Armani Brinson and Adem Bertan; bottom, left to right: Jeremy Bermudez, Lazar Jovanovich, Travis Miles, Edward Perez and Ryan Lauritano.

In two seasons at the helm of the Clifton boys basketball program, Mike Cadmus has certainly made a mark. Not too long ago, the Mustangs were a struggling program that lacked confidence, toughness and the knowledge of how to win. But in just two years, they have become a formidable piece of the Passaic County basketball scene that believes it can take the next step in the third year of the Cadmus regime. “I think it’s very important that we take the next step,” Cadmus said. “Playing .500 ball is just not enough. Our goal is to get better each and every day. If we do that, we can take it to the next level.” To do so, they will need senior guard Armani Brinson to lead the way. An all-around talent that has exceptional handle and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, Brinson possesses the “it factor” that should make him among the best players in Passaic County. He will be joined in the backcourt by junior two-guard Ian Felix. Fast and explosive, Felix can get to the basket with ease. He is also a skilled passer who has the potential to be an elite player in the county, as well.


December 2018 •

The Mustangs won’t be all finesse, though. Junior 6-4 center Edward Perez’s length and athleticism provide the team with a true center who is dangerous in the post and can block shots with regularity. The same can be said for forward Lazar Jovanovich, a 6-5 senior. Probably the Mustangs’ most improved player, Jovanovich honed his game in the summer on the AAU circuit and figures to be an effective scorer. Junior forward Jack Louer and senior guard Wendell Abellard figure to round out the starting lineup, alternating based on Clifton’s matchups. Louer is the bigger of the two and has a good shot, while Abellard may be Clifton’s best overall defender. Another reason for Cadmus’ optimism that his team can take the leap from average to elite is a talented bench led by sophomore forward Travis Miles. At 6’4”, Miles will be a capable substitute for both Perez and Jovanovich who in time figures to be a star in the Mustang program. Senior Jhamir Harrison is a gritty guard that plays tenacious defense, while up-and-coming sophomore Ryan Lauritano has both height and range. Freshman guard Kyle Vellis is unflappable for ninth-grader and possesses a lights-out shot.

Together, the group appears to have the pieces necessary to take a team that has gone 23-29 over the past two years and transform it into a legitimate threat in the county. Time will tell if they can do it, but if Cadmus’ confidence is any indicator, tournament time will be a lot more interesting for the Mustangs this season than it has been in previous years.

Mustangs Boys

Basketball Dec 14


Dec 20


Dec 18 Dec 22 Dec 27 Dec 29 Jan 3 Jan 8

Jan 10 Jan 12 Jan 15 Jan 17 Jan 19 Jan 22 Jan 24 Jan 26 Jan 29 Jan 31 Feb 5 Feb 7

Feb 12 Feb 14 Feb 19 Feb 22 Feb 23


Bergen Tech




Tournament Tournament @Eastside

4pm 3pm




Morris Hills


@Passaic Val @JFK

Wayne Valley @West Essex @Paramus Eastside

@Union City

@Bergen Tech West Milford Passaic

@Nutley @PCTI

4pm 7pm 4pm 1pm


4:30pm 1pm 7pm

4:30pm 6pm 6pm 4pm





@Bergen Cath @Randolph

7pm 1pm • December 2018 




Mustangs Girls


Dec 14


Dec 20


Dec 18 Dec 26 Dec 27 Dec 29 Jan 3 Jan 8 After a 14-12 playoff season last winter, there is an air of optimism surrounding the Clifton girls basketball team heading into 2018-19. With six returning rotation regulars, the Mustangs seem poised for another successful year under head coach Angelo Intile. “We have a nice nucleus coming back,” said Intile, now in his eighth year with the program and third as head coach. “I have some young girls and if one or two of them can step up and allow us to go three guards, that would help us a lot. This is a fun group and I think they’ll all work together well.” Senior forward Shahd Badeer will be the Mustangs’ go-to of-


Jan 10 Jan 12 Jan 15 Jan 17 Jan 19 Jan 22 Jan 24 Jan 26 Jan 29 Jan 31 Feb 5 Feb 7

Feb 12 Feb 14 Feb 20 Feb 22

December 2018 •

@Bergen Tournament

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DePaul Cath PCTI





4:30pm 7pm

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fensive threat a year after averaging 11.6 points per game. The third-year varsity player also averaged 15.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks as a junior, allowing her to earn first team All-Big North Liberty and first team All-Passaic County honors. At 5’11”, she is a tough matchup for any defense. “We are going to have to kick the ball in to out,” said Intile. “She gets a lot of putbacks because she knows how to position herself and the offense is going to run through her.” Senior guard Giuliana Richards is also entering her third year as a varsity contributor and comes into the winter looking to build in a 7.0-point, 5.3-rebound year. She averaged over three rebounds and three assists a game last

year, as well. A high energy player, she will need to take on a greater scoring role if the Mustangs are to improve from last year. Senior guard/forward Amani Brinson (6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg in 2017-18) is a strong defensive player that will be valuable as a piece of Clifton’s starting backcourt. At 5’9”, senior forward Aimee Hirst will be a frontcourt presence, while junior guard Tori White will handle the ball more after being mostly a setup shooter last year. Junior forward Skylar Wheeler is skilled around the basket and should exceed the 4.6 rebounds per game she tallied last season. Sophomore guard Lea Hallak, freshman forward Katie Louer and senior guard Isis Watson should see floor time, as well. “We had a nice year last year going 7-3 in league play,” Intile said. “The schedule is a little tougher than last year, but the league is the same and we’ll compete. We will need to play good to upset Kennedy or Passaic County Tech, but our girls will play hard and they will be ready.” Varsity teammates Lea Hallak, Aimee Hirst, Amani Brinson, Shahd Badeer, Giuliana Richards, Isis Watson, Tori White and Skylar Wheeler. • December 2018 




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December 2018 •

Mustangs From left: Dylan Conte, Dev Purohit, Chris Poplawski, James Fusaro, Mike Porter and Peter Fila. Varsity players on the injured list and missing from the photo are Peter Wilk and Jason Finan.

ty honoree who scored 13 goals and assisted on 28 last year. Even with injury there is a ton of offensive firepower, beginning with juniors Sebastian Skubicsz and Yestin Gormley. Senior Dylan Conte will contribute as well, as will senior Peter Fila, sophomore Aaron Moses and sophomore Nick Plaskon. Freshman Vlad Ciberej will be an impactful newcomer to the ice for the Mustangs and should also see significant time. “He moves well,” Danko said. “He skates well and has played in youth leagues before. I think he can help us.”


Dec 7



Dec 14



Dec 8

Dec 21 Dec 22 Dec 26 Dec 27 Jan 4 Jan 5

Jan 11

Jan 12 Jan 25 Jan 27 Jan 30 Feb 1 Feb 2 Feb 6 Feb 8

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@Old Tappan @West Essex @Mahwah


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Defensively, Clifton will be led by junior Vin Petriella and senior Chris Poplawski. The former is especially proficient at rushing the puck and then moving with it, while, Poplawski provides a skilled scorer on the defensive side of the ice. Junior Dylan Spies and senior Mike Porter will also be valuable pieces of Clifton’s defensive effort. Junior Jaden Fortuna will be the Mustangs’ starter in the goal for the second straight year. Danko has lauded Fortuna’s improvement since last year, noting that he put in significant work during the summer. He should be tough to beat, then, considering he finished his sophomore year with 499 saves and a .940 save percentage. “His job is to keep the puck out and that’s what he does,” said Danko. “He gets in front of the puck real well. He cuts down the angle and there is nothing to shoot at.” • December 2018 




Last season, both Clifton’s indoor track teams won their division and county titles—the first time since 1998 the Mustangs displayed that dominance on both the boys and girls sides. This season, the girls look to repeat, while the boys seek to rebuild after graduation losses. The girls’ optimism begins with sophomore Mia Dubac, who won the Passaic County title in cross-country. Competing in the 1600m and 3200m, Dubac is one of the county’s most talented distance athletes. Junior Andrea Dubbels will be another of Clifton’s stars despite missing much of the fall cross-country season with injury. Last year, Dubbels was one of the top distance runners in North Jersey, having won the North 1, Group 4 championship in the 800m. She’ll look for similar success and also compete in the 1600m. Junior Brianna Rubio will sprint but likely rack up the most points in the 400m—the event in which she won a sectional title last spring. Senior Brianna Morrison will be the


December 2018 •



Dec 16

FDU Classic

Dec 22


Dec 21 Dec 28 Jan 2 Jan 4 Jan 5

Jan 11

Jan 14 Jan 18 Jan 21 Jan 28 Feb 1 Feb 4 Feb 5 Feb 6

Feb 15 Feb 19 Feb 23 Feb 24








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Big North


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team’s do-it-all athlete, sprinting, jumping and running distance. Morrison will also pole vault, as will senior Sarah Kusher. Senior Antoinette Muir will contribute in sprinting events. “Barring injury or anything unforeseen, we will be there right in it in the league and county,” said Clifton head coach Mike Rogers. The boys will look to deal with the loss of seven standouts to graduation, and count on junior Josh Szabo to provide consistent points in the 800m and 1600m. Freshman Jacob Heredia—brother of Mustang legend Kevin Heredia—will jump immediately into the distance events, while senior Jordan Witter will sprint. Sophomores Omar Alshujaieh and Mo Abedrabbo will compete in the shot put and should put up big points. “It’s development and rebuilding,” said Rogers. “But even when we rebuild I expect us to be competitive. We are still going to compete. We’ll just need to find additional kids to contribute.”

Girls Varsity seniors: Leandra Nieves, Antoinette Muir, Inez Grullon, Sarah Kusher and Brianna Morrison. Boys, top left: Henry Zheng, Jordan Witter, Victor Quijano, Kevin DePaz and Sunny Shastri; kneeling: Roberth Albarran, Amr Elmasry and Noah Williams • December 2018 






It’s another year, another season of high hopes for the Clifton bowling teams. The boys have experience while the girls possess more youth, but both are looking to make some noise in the lanes this winter. The boys, who won the Big North Liberty Division title last year, come in led by senior first team All-Passaic County honoree Johann Gamo. Already accomplished, Gamo has been impressive this preseason, bowling games of 266, 262 and 257 already. Senior Joe Paolillo, another member of the All-Passaic first team last year, is a consistent 200-plus bowler, as is junior Sean Cruz—also on the county first team in 2017-18. Senior Jacky Cheng and freshman Jeremy Ramirez round out the boys lineup.


December 2018 •

Dec 8


Dec 13


Dec 11

Dec 18 Dec 20 Jan 7 Jan 9

Jan 14 Jan 16 Jan 18 Jan 22 Jan 25 Jan 30 Feb 1 Feb 6 Feb 7

Feb 15

Bergen Tech Eastside JFK


Mult. Schools Lakeland

Wayne Hills Cnty Tourn

Bergen Tech Passaic

8:30am 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 3pm 4pm 4pm


4 pm




Don Bosco State Meet


4 pm


“We have a pretty good team this year,” said veteran head coach Brian Small. “They have really come a long way, and they’re so confident. Especially with Johann, the ball is in the pocket 99.5% of the time, and you just hope they all fall down.” The girls, meanwhile, will see sophomore Juli-Anne Gamo—Johann’s sister—play the role of the No. 1 in the lineup, consistently scoring in the 140s. Her classmate Kaylie Ateniese, senior Jasmin Fernandez and junior Daniela Arce will see action, as well. “In our league, we will be competitive,” said Small about her team. “The girls come into practice with a good attitude everyday. We will win some matches. ” • December 2018 






Dec 13

@Union City


3pm A swimmer for her alma mater Dec 18 @Wayne Hills “They really are close,” Yanetti Hackensack, Brittany Yanetti has Dec 20 Wayne Valley 3:30pm said of the group. “Both when they always had a deep passion for swim- Jan 3 Pascack Valley 3:30pm are at practice and out of practice. I ming. So when presented with the think that’s important for our swimJan 8 Ridgewood 3:30pm chance to take over Clifton’s swim mers, for them to get to know each Jan 10 @Kearny 4pm other in and out of the pool.” squads, she jumped at it. “I always loved it when I was in Jan 12 County Meet Senior Jacob Wojdag, a reTBD high school, and I was really excitturnee, will compete for in the Jan 15 @Hackensack 4:15pm ed when this opportunity came up,” 100-meter backstroke, while fellow 3:30pm twelfth-grader Julian Moreno, a rookYanetti said. “I was excited for the Jan 17 Passaic chance to be able to mold the team Jan 22 River Dell 3:30pm ie, will swim the 100-meter freestyle. and build it up.” Jan 24 @PCTI 3:30pm The Mustangs have several talented Suffering some heavy losses to freshmen they expect to contribute, Jan 29 Big North 3pm graduation, the Mustangs will have including Sais Ellithy (100-meter some rebuilding to do. But with a freestyle), Osyd Hasan (freestyle recoach that embraces the task at hand, they should be winlay) and Santiago Bermudez (100-meter breaststroke). ning in no time. The girls are significantly younger and figure to be The boys’ foundation is a quartet of sophomores that led by freshman Isabella Bermudez, who competes in the figure to compose the Mustangs’ individual medley relay 100-meter breaststroke. Junior Iwona Kowalczyk will team. That group starts with Lucas Urbanowycz, a dedilook to pick up points in the 100-meter freestyle, while cated swimmer who will also compete in the 100-meter senior Nikola Kubacka swims the 50-meter freestyle. freestyle. “I’m looking forward to molding the team, rebuildFast and possessing strong technique, Urbanowycz ing,” said Yanetti. “We have put in a lot of work­­—pracwill be joined by Adrian Baran, who will compete in the tices six days a week. We had about 35 kids come out. 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke. Matthew With them being younger and with how dedicated they Betaneer and Krystian Artwik will be part of the IM reare in going through their workouts every day, I think we lay team, as well. are going to have a great season.”


December 2018 •



Front: Julie Borthwick, Patricia Scouten and Savana Leitner; middle: Miranda Porter, Kiara Reid, Milton Zarzuela, Nahioly Almonte and Aliah Chammaro; back: Hannah Urbanowycz, Dezmariah Franceschi, Emma Sime, Kayla Thompson, Gianna Casillas, Mia Maldonado, Jessica Bonilla and Tahira Rafiq. Missing: Jada Christopher and Kayleigh Zhitnick.

Clifton competitive cheerleading is underway. The squad of 18 girls has been hard at work practicing and preparing for their upcoming competition season. Last year’s competitive season was one of Clifton’s most successful in years. The co-ed squad placed first at local competitions, including those held at Hackensack, Paramus Catholic and Secaucus. The Big North Conference spent the last few years making sure the sport of cheerleading is recognized. Big North cheer squads compete in mini-meets on weeknights during the season and are judged by a panel of professional judges. This gives teams a chance to compete head-to-head and allows for the school communities to understand

cheerleading is much more than something done on the sidelines of football and basketball games. Last year, Clifton won four mini-meets, which had not been done in previous years. The team took third place at the Big North competition and second place at the New Jersey Cheerleading and Dance Association State Competition in Trenton, by 0.1 of a point. This year, the team is led by seniors Hannah Urbanowycz, Miranda Porter, Jada Christopher, Gianna Casillas, Julie Borthwick and Milton Zarzuela. Coached by Ashley LaTrace, the team is excited, ready, and hopeful for another successful season. • December 2018 


Freshman Gregory Allen, sophomore Mia Dubac, junior Payton Engelhardt and senior Jazmin Fernandez

December has arrived for Mustangs of the Month.

The vice principals from each Clifton High wing have spotlighted four students who have gotten a head start on the latest activities on the campus, one from each grade. Jazmin Fernandez Senior Jazmin Fernandez is lucky to have two dynamic women in her life, at home and at school. She credits her mother as being her role model and Mrs. Frances Chiarelli of Woodrow Wilson Middle School for showing compassion and constant kindness in her social studies class. “My mother is my best friend and always will be,” said Fernandez. “She’s strong, both emotionally and physically, and independent. “Mrs. Chiarelli will forever hold a special place in my heart. She would always come to me and ask how things were going, reaching out when I needed it the most.” Fernandez has been busy for four years. She fundraises with the Key Club, participates in Drama Club plays and the scores strikes on the bowling team. “I’ve had to give up opportunities to focus on more important things,” she said. “A lot of young students struggle with time management.” Her closest friends are Natalia Elizabeth Ramos-Rosas, Maria Guerrero, Shadwn Moreland, and Gail Tajanlangit Fernandez refuses to let distractions inside and outside of the classroom stop her from pursuing her dreams. She plans on getting a nursing degree once her days as a Mustang are over.


December 2018 •

Payton Engelhardt Though adjusting to her new school during freshman year was a cause for stress and anxiety, junior Payton Engelhardt has since settled into a productive routine. She is now a student to watch for when it comes to social activism. Engelhardt is president of the Mustang Teen Institute, which works to promote a better work ethic and code of conduct in the student body. She’s a newcomer to the Heroes and Cool Kids Club, which provides peer mentorship from upperclassmen to freshmen and sophomores. And she participates in the E.R.A.S.E. Club, which stands for “End Racism and Sexism Everywhere,” which seeks to end all campus bullying. Engelhardt says her focus on helping others comes from her father, an emergency medical technician. “He travels around the world,” she said, “helping sick kids and adults, teaching about healthcare and medicine.” When not playing on the JV soccer team, Engelhardt hangs out with friends Khushi Patel, Adrian Matos and Jack Polanco. She wants to become involved in the medical field after graduation or perhaps become a lawyer. Her first college of choice is Rutgers, although there are a number of contenders. With her extracurricular activities and supportive attitude, it’s likely Payton will continue helping others in the future.

Mia Dubac Sophomore Mia Dubac is always curious about the next lesson to be learned, no matter the topic. Her favorite classes, however, are chemistry and history. “I find chemistry interesting because it dives into a world that is virtually unseen to the human eye,” Dubac said. “It explores the composition of all things. And history is fascinating—just learning more and about America’s past as well as other countries.” Dubac’s appreciation for school comes from her parents, who emphasize the value of education and encourage her to make the most of opportunities. She looks forward to taking advanced placement courses during the next two years in chemistry, biology and psychology, and perhaps attending a class or two at Bergen Community College or Montclair State University. Until then, Dubac will continue excelling on the CHS indoor and outdoor track and field teams, as well as the cross country squad where she led the Mustangs to a Passaic County Championship in October. “I enjoy running,” she said, “because it takes me away from everything and allows me to focus on the moment.”

Gregory Allen Freshman Gregory Allen finds school to be a breeze so far. “Usually I go in, do the work, and get out,” Allen said. “It’s really that simple.” It pays to have this confidence right at the beginning of his high school career. He still has plenty of time to find activities right for him from the long list available at CHS. According to Allen, his math teacher, Ms. Michelle Gordon, has an excellent teaching style and influences him the most. “Not only is she nice and fair,” he said, “she plays great music to help us focus.” Allen is an avid gamer in his downtime at home. Making plans for when to work and when to relax has been his key to avoiding stress so often complained about by other students. “Some work actually seems impossible until you actually try to do it,” Allen said. “Most students might not do the work or stress about doing it on the last day it’s due.” His solution is a simple one. “This can be addressed,” he said, “by paying attention and making plans about when to do the work and when to relax.” • December 2018 


John Samra’s Legacy

Eternal Memory It’s been 15 years since Clifton Patrolman Johnny Samara left us. But while the years roll on, the memories of him remain for the friends who knew him, the officers he served with, and the city he protected. It’s hard to imagine but Samra—the first Clifton Police officer to die in the line of duty—would be 56 years old today had he lived. Instead John Samra remains forever 41, the age when he left, so full of life. Like others taken far too soon, he lives in Clifton’s memory as the same impeccably dressed, joyful and vibrant person—a man who brought safety, protection and laughter to all.


December 2018 •

On Nov. 21, 2003, Samra was pulling over a van for a suspected violation on a quiet corner in a downtown Clifton neighborhood. “The day of the accident was just odd,” recalled former supervising Lieutenant Les Goldstein after Samra’s death. “Typically officers don’t ride their motorcycles in November, but it was warm and a couple of guys asked to take the bikes out. If I remember correctly, our ‘click it or ticket’ campaign was in November. “Johnny was always one of my best motorcycle cops. Before the

incident occurred, he stopped that van for a possible seat belt violation.” At 10 am that day, Samra was on routine motorcycle patrol when he pulled over the vehicle. The van’s driver, Luis Hernandez of Passaic, had been recently released from prison and was on parole. Instead of complying with the stop, he fled. Samra got back on his bike and pursued, but was tragically struck by the van at the corner of Maple Pl. and Washington Ave. After fleeing on foot, Hernandez was apprehended and detained by two citizens who witnessed the incident. He was taken into custody by the responding officers and remains in prison today. “The day he was killed,” recalled Clifton Patrolman Bill Bais, “I heard the location (Washington and Maple) and remember getting into my car and rushing to the scene.” Bais and Samra had gone to the Union County Police Academy together in 1988. They later became a team working the midnight shift for the department from about 11:45 pm to 7:45 am. Bais was among the first responders and performed first aid on his fellow officer. “We did all that we could,” he said. The dedication of The John Samra Park Without Boundaries, located in Chelsea Samra was taken to St. Joseph’s Park, behind the Allwood Library on June 18, 2005. John’s parents cut the ribbon. Hospital in Paterson where he died from his injuries. He left behind Future Cop four siblings, Michael, Mary Ellen, Michele and Elaine, While Samra’s life ended far too soon, his was a life and his parents Mary and Michael... along with countless well lived. The baby of the family, Samra grew up in the friends and fellow officers who will never forget him. Lakeview section in a home on East 3rd St. His family “That weekend,” said Goldstein, “Johnny and I were was liked and well known, and his dad was a beloved cub going to go to Connecticut together. We belonged to an master for the Pack 40 Cub Scouts. off-duty law enforcement motorcycle club called The Samra attended St. Brendan’s School and graduated Renegade Pigs. The Connecticut chapter did charity from CHS in 1980. “My husband, retired police officer events just before Thanksgiving every year. We were Vito Collucci Sr., knew John when he was a young kid,” supposed to escort a tractor trailer full of food to orphanremembered Mary Ellen Collucci after Samra ages in the Meriden area.” • December 2018 


Remembering Johnny passed. “My husband was on patrol in the Lakeview section of Clifton, and would see John and talk to him all the time. Little did he know John would grow up to be a police officer and my husband would train that same little kid on his first days on the job.” About a year after graduating from CHS, Samra joined the Air Force and served six years as a member of the 416th Strategic Air Command (SAC) Security Police Squadron. He was a security specialist, responsible for aircraft, weapons and communications, and stationed in Turkey and Germany. “I think my dad influenced Johnny to join the military police and then the police department,” said Lori J. (Snack) Walden, daughter of late Clifton Police Detective Ed Snack. “Johnny really looked up to my dad. Our family lived a few houses down on East Third St., and he and my brother became close friends. Johnny was just always a part of my family. “As a teenager, Johnny became part of our Christmas mornings at our house. He would come through the back door that my father would conveniently forget to lock. One of my favorite Christmas memories is Johnny Samra asleep on our couch with his sack filled with wacky gifts waiting for us to wake up and open presents!”


December 2018 •

At their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in Nov. 2000, from left, siblings Michael, Mary Ellen, Michele, and Elaine and Johnny, with mom Mary and dad Michael.

Measure of the Man In 1988, Samra joined the Clifton Police Department. “Johnny was well-disciplined, very polished, a great guy to work with,” Bais said. “I never had to worry about him.” Bais said Samra would often defuse tense situations with humor, but was ever-professional when the situa-

tion dictated. However, the two did Luciano added Samra got his first experience a slight mishap while apride on a Harley. “It was my bike,” he prehending a suspect. said, “a 1982 Sportster. He seemed to “We had to arrest this guy,” rebe having the time of his life when membered Bais, “and wound up rollwe were riding.” ing around on his living room floor Goldstein agreed with Luciano’s trying to cuff the guy when I felt description. the handcuff going around my own “While on-duty,” he said, “Johnny wrist. It was our first arrest together, was always meticulously dressed in and Johnny handcuffed me instead of uniform. His nickname was ‘Chipthe suspect. We laughed and joked pendale’ because off-duty at the Police chaplain Father S.T. Sutton about it for a long time.” motorcycle club, he would take off (left) and Les Goldstein in happier A decade after his death, retired his shirt, and put his leather vest on times; Father Sutton helped the SamClifton police officer Bob Luciano without a shirt. Typical John.” ra family after John’s death. recalled Samra. Friend and retired Clifton Office “John was a guy who loved to enRoss LaCorte noted Samra’s fastidtertain, a natural born entertainer. He loved to make sure ious nature and his consummate professionalism. that other people had a great time.” “He was like the Felix Unger of the gym,” said LaBut Luciano also said Samra “was a good cop, he took Corte. “He used to work out every day and then he’d his job very seriously. He took pride in his uniform—he clean up after everybody. He was always there to help served in the Air Force and had a military bearing about somebody, in the gym or on the job. He was always haphim. He kept his boots polished and his bike clean, a py, always smiling—never had a bad word to say about great example of a police officer.” anyone.” • December 2018 


Remembering Johnny

MaryEllen and Vito Collucci, Sr. considered Johnny family. Rosario LaCorte is a retired Clifton Police Officer who served with John and is a member of the Renegade Pigs. He also works with the homeowner where John was killed to maintain the stone pictured on page 76. Clifton Police Officers John Kavakich and Randy Colondres placing a flag at John’s name on the wall of honor in Washington, DC.

Much of Samra’s personality and style traces back to his father, Michael. His sister Michele Samra Em said: “Johnny was a big-hearted flirt, just like dad. They both loved to party and were excellent dancers, outgoing, fun-loving individuals who made friends wherever they went. Both John and dad dressed meticulously. Dad would go to ShopRite in a shirt and tie, and complete strangers would complement him. They both loved to clean and were excellent cooks.” Always the joker, on his 40th birthday, Samra sent his parents a bouquet of flowers. He included an “It’s a Boy!” card and signed it, “Thanks for having me!” Never Forgotten Ironically, about a month before his friend’s death, Bais got a call of an “officer down” at the corner of Clifton and Paulson Aves. “It was Johnny,” Bais said. “He had crashed and wrecked his bike. My heart was beating a mile a minute. When I got to the scene, there was Johnny standing by his bike and laughing it off.” His next call about Samra would change his life. While it’s been 15 years since Samra’s death, Bais still returns to the scene of his friend’s death from time to time to remember and reflect. “I was the second car on scene,” said LaCorte, who retired a month after Samra’s passing. “Losing Johnny was a big loss, everyone took it hard.” To remember his friend, Luciano got a tattoo on his right forearm bearing Samra’s initials, the date of his death and his call number ‘3-8.


December 2018 •

In addition, LaCorte dedicated the police gym to Samra, and a “John Samra Memorial Page” on Facebook was established in his honor, filled with photos and personal tributes. A flagpole and plague with Samra’s photo now graces the entrance of the police department, and his locker remains as he left it, complete with his helmet and uniform, protected by Plexiglas and never to be used again. This year as in years past, cyclists from Clifton rode in Samra’s honor during the Police Unity Tour, a 325mile ride from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., raising money for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum. And each Nov. 21 or the Saturday closest to the date, the Renegade Pigs gather to remember him on the corner where Samra gave his life for his city. The homeowner allowed the motorcycle club to place a large stone and a plague to remember him. But it’s on the anniversary date and time on his death when Samra is most remembered. Along with a remembrance by the officers at the station, a minute of radio silence takes place over the police radios during the time of his passing. As years pass, fewer Clifton Police officers remain who worked with or knew Johnny Samra. However, LaCorte believes that makes little difference to the officers. The sacrifice was too great to ever forget. “He was special—one of ours,” said LaCorte. “He was a ‘cop’s cop,’ and that’s the highest honor any officer can receive.” • December 2018 


December 7, 1941 “I fear all we have done is to

awaken a sleeping giant

and fill him with a terrible resolve.” — Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor

Photo Courtesy of Mark S. Auerbach


December 2018 •


By Jack DeVries Harry Murtha was inside a soda shop next to the Clifton Theatre when he learned the news of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Like many, he returned home to gather with family by the radio. “Outside of newspapers, we followed the war through radio. Announcers like Gabriel Heatter, Raymond Gram Swing, and Lowell Thomas—and of course Walter Winchell—became household names. The only time we saw the war was at the movies. Between features, they’d show Movie Tone News, and we’d see films of the soldiers.” The first wave of Japanese attackers swarmed over Hawaii just after 6 am that Sunday, making it a little past 1 pm on the East Coast. When the bombardment began, the Clifton Theatre was packed with moviegoers, fans were watching the Paterson Panthers play in Hinchliffe Stadium, and couples filled the dance floor of the Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove. Everything stopped as the terrible news was announced—news that would change lives and cities forever.

On December 8, Clifton and the surrounding towns mobilized for war. The Herald-News reported reservists being summoned in Nutley, a defense group meeting in Passaic, and armed guards “increasing 300 percent” at the Curtiss-Wright Propeller Division Plant in Clifton. On Garret Mountain, the “five-cents-a-look” binoculars were removed because it “enabled anyone to survey the entire vital Paterson defense area scene.” On orders from an unnamed government representative, the Clifton Police were dispatched to seize control of the Takamine Plant at 193 Arlington Ave., which produced vitamins and chemical products. Eben Takamine, son of a Japanese scientist Dr. Jokichi Takamine and an American mother, operated the plant. W.A. McIntyre, the plant’s vice president, told the Herald-News the company was “entirely American controlled” and confident he could convince the soon-to-arrive federal agents that “their position was incorrect.” Fear of an air attack gripped New Jersey. • December 2018 


Air raid sirens were made ready, and Clifton Fire Chief James Sweeney told his men to prepare their equipment and know where emergency water sources were. Sweeney said their jobs would become more difficult if bombs tore up the streets or they were handicapped by blackouts. In the months that followed December 7, Clifton and the rest of the nation transformed itself to support the war effort. Factories operated on a three-shift, 24-hour day schedule. Bowling alleys opened all night to accommodate late-shift workers and movies opened at noon and ran long past dark. In the years following Pearl Harbor, Murtha and other students got a living history lesson. “I was part of the first class to graduate from Clifton High after the bombing,” he said. “One of my classmates, Ray Zangrando, who also played football for the Clifton Arlingtons, was one of the first from my class to join the fight, enlisting in the Navy. “There was no way to describe the unity in this country,” Murtha added. “We needed to be united. In the first months of the war, we took a terrible beating.” Soldier’s Story Cipriano “Chip” Zaczagnini and his father were at their Botany home when news of the sneak attack came over the radio. “As soon as I heard the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor,” Zaczagnini recalled, “I said to myself that I was going to join the Navy.” In 1941, Zaczagnini was working in the Botany Mills. He remembered the mood in Clifton just after the attack. “There was a lot of anger because the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor out of a clear blue sky,” he said. “A lot of men lost their lives that day.” Including civilians, the Japanese killed 2,403 Americans at Pearl Harbor and wounded 1,178. Eighteen U.S. Navy ships were sunk or damaged. The Japanese lost 185 men in the attack, along with 29 planes, five midget submarines, and one large sub. Three weeks later, Zaczagnini went to Church Street in New York to enlist. “I had everything ready and took the papers home to my father for him to sign, since I was only 17,” he said. “But my father wouldn’t. He served in the Italian Army in World War I and didn’t want his son going off to war like he did. My mother had passed away a few years before, and it was only the two of us.


December 2018 •

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in 2006 and is a time capsule, telling the story of the nation and Clifton’s reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. Though nearly all of the Cliftonites quoted in this article have passed on, their stories remain compelling and are an excellent representation of the Greatest Generation’s patriotism and sacrifice during World War II.

“A few months later, I turned 18 and was drafted into the Army.” After going through basic training in Florida, Zaczagnini was sent to Army bases in Arkansas and Alabama before being shipped overseas. “We left New York and went over on a convoy to England,” Zaczagnini said. “I was part of the 66th Infantry Division. On Christmas Eve, 1944, we were boarding a troop transport, a Belgium ship called the Leopoldville, to go to France to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. “Just before we left, my Company commander, Captain Cain, told me to go with the LST (a ship used to transport ground equipment like tanks and trucks). I was a machine gunner, and there was a jeep on the LST with a machine gun on it.” As Zaczagnini sped toward France aboard the LST, the Leopoldville came under attack in the English Channel. The ship was torpedoed by a German sub, struck in the spot where Zaczagnini’s company was riding. Cain and 800 other men died as the Leopoldville sunk. “If I had been on that ship,” said Zaczagnini, “I wouldn’t be here today.” When the 66th reached France, a switch was made because of the heavy losses caused by the Leopoldville’s sinking. “Being our Division was so screwed up, they sent us to the ‘Forgotten Front’ and sent the 94th Infantry to the Bulge.” The Forgotten Front was a pocket area around the French towns of St. Nazaire and Lorient. Trapped in the area were over 30,000 German troops—with the sea at their backs and Allied troops in front of them. Zaczagnini spent the rest of WW II fighting the Nazis and was later awarded the Bronze Star for his actions. “Everybody’s scared in combat,” Zaczagnini said. “What you see in battle is no joke. You know what they say, ‘war is hell.’ And that’s the right word, it is hell. “I lost a good part of my friends there, either in battle or on patrol. The Germans had those big guns, the ‘88s.’ If you heard them, you were safe, when you didn’t hear them, that’s when you had to worry.”

Brother’s Sacrifice wouldn’t let him. At 18, he tried to enlist, On December 7, Frank Niader was 10 but was rejected because the welding had years old and living in a Hickory Hill, affected his eyes. A few months later, his Pa., a rural coal-mining town. His famieyesight improved and William became a ly, which included older brother William, Marine. 15, and sister Olean, 17, would be deeply Niader says that late in the war, his brothimpacted by the events following the ater was fighting with the 7th Regiment of the tack on Pearl Harbor. First Marine Division, trying to capture a “My parents were Ukrainian,” said hill on the island of Okinawa called Kunishi Niader, “and they understood what war Ridge. On June 12, 1945, while attempting was, what terror was. They were fearful. to rescue a wounded Marine, a mortar shell Joseph Sperling, the first My brother, sister, and I didn’t understruck William. He died without ever reClifton serviceman killed stand. We felt isolated—a world away gaining consciousness. in WWII. He died at Pearl from Pearl Harbor.” “Two days before the war officially endHarbor while serving aboard the USS Curtis. That would change. After Niader’s ed,” said Niader, “we got the news. I was 42-year-old father contracted “miner’s around the corner on Orono St., playing lung,” the Niaders moved to Clifton in October 1942 to with my friends. My Aunt Annie came for me and said, live closer to family. “You better go home. Your brother’s been killed. “Clifton was much different then,” said Niader, “big, “What happened next was like a dream. I remember open, and full of farms. I remember everyone getting ingoing home and seeing my parents crying, but I can’t volved in the war effort. We’d bring scrap metal to the recall much more than that—it’s like I blocked it out.” factory on Lisbon and Van Houten.” Since then, Niader has done everything he can to Niader’s brother William became a welder for the remember. He’s contacted 40 Marines who fought at Trowbridge Company near Mt. Prospect and Van Houten Kunishi Ridge, learning about the days leading up to Aves. He wanted to join the Marines but his parents William’s death and the memorial service the • December 2018 


Marines held for him on a hill overlooking the East China Sea. His research has also assisted writer Stephen Ambrose, author of Band of Brothers and many other military books “I am incredibly proud of my brother,” he said.

He arrived in this country at 18 from Italy. To become a U.S. citizen, he enlisted in the Army. He was aboard a troop transport heading for France when World War I ended. Giunta would soon learn about war. Upon graduation from ClifLife Interrupted ton High in January 1942, she Mario Giunta heard the took a job in Wright Aeronautinews of the Japanese attack on cal in Paterson, starting first in Pearl Harbor on the dance floor. the mail room, them moving to “I lived in Passaic then and secretarial work. William Niader with his parents in Clifton. was 18 years old,” the former “I worked six, sometimes Clifton Police detective said. seven days a week,” Giunta “A group of us would chip in a nickel for gas from the remembered. “They encouraged us to work as much as Merit station in Passaic and go to the Meadowbrook on we could. I worked with many mothers whose sons were Sundays—for $1.25, you got a lettuce, tomato, and cold serving in the military.” cut sandwich, and dancing from noon to four. Working in a room with rows of typewriters, it was “I don’t remember which band was playing, but they Giunta’s job to transcribe the notes of engineers testing stopped the music and announced the Japanese had just airplane engines. bombed Pearl Harbor. Then the music started again. “I wouldn’t type the swear words,” said Giunta. “I was What happened didn’t really sink in until we were riding afraid they would get in trouble. home and talking about it.” “Then one day, an engineer named Doc Graninger told About three days later, Giunta and his friends went me, ‘Type what I tell you. Put in all the swear words. We to New York to join the Marines as a group. Giunta was need them to tell what’s happening.’ And he was right. accepted, but his friends failed their physical for a variThey’d use a term like ‘goose’ the engine, which soundety of reasons. Next, they tried the Navy. Again, Giunta ed funny to me, but meant something to them.” passed, but his friends were rejected. Giunta, who worked at the defense plant until the war “Finally,” he said, “we got to the Coast Guard, and ended, remembers the spirit of the time. I said this was it for me. I passed, and they failed, so I “Flags were always flying,” she described. “No matter joined. They later got drafted in the Army and got jobs what you did, you asked yourself if it was helping the like radiomen where things like bad eyesight wouldn’t boys. People were always looking to help.” affect them.” Giunta’s contribution to America’s war effort did not end with her day job. Heart and Soul On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, she helped lift The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed the lives spirits by singing with the Duke Collins Band as vocalist of many on the home front—including the life of Clifton “Mary Miles,” performing at places like President’s Hall, High’s former head drum majorette and Mario’s future the Polish Home, and the Passaic Armory. wife, Marie (Vullo) Giunta. “On stage,” she remembered, “I’d look out and all I “I was home when I heard the announcement,” said could see was uniforms. Hundreds of soldiers would be Giunta. “My mother, aunt, and father all had tears in their there.” eyes. I said, ‘What’s all the crying about?’ My mother Giunta became a friendly voice back home to many said, ‘You don’t understand about war. A lot of young service men. boys will be killed.’” “They would write to Duke when they went over Her father understood the fear of war better than most. seas,” she said. “One day, he said, ‘My wife has


December 2018 •

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two small children to care for, and Changed Forever she doesn’t have time to answer all Like the September 11 attacks, these letters.’ I told him to give them the bombing of Pearl Harbor will to me. never be forgotten. That single day “At lunchtime at Wright’s, I’d and the war that followed not only eat my sandwich with one hand and saved the free world, it changed type letters with the other. They’d America and Clifton forever. send me back little gifts, like mili“Pearl Harbor and World War II tary emblem patches and other cute had a dramatic affect on Clifton,” things. I saved all their letters and said Murtha. “Back then, this was have them today. a blue-collar town and most kids “I also began corresponding never gave college a thought. That with a girl, Lilly Stevens, in Brischanged with the GI Bill—one of tol, England. My brother-in-law the greatest pieces of legislation we Paul stayed with her family since ever created. there were no barracks for many “When the soldiers returned, American soldiers. they got their high school diplomas Mario Giunta and his future wife, Marie. “We’ve continued to write to and went on to college because the each other all these years—all beGI Bill paid for them. The resulting cause of the war.” flood of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals would The war also impacted Giunta’s personal life. Though have never been possible without it. And these people she was in love with future husband Mario, whom she’d changed Clifton.” known since age 14, her family would not permit the Murtha also noted another impact of the GI Bill—the couple to marry or become engaged. She waited while incredible amount of homes built in Clifton. “This used Mario patrolled the North Atlantic with the Coast Guard to be a rural community,” he said. “I remember working until the fighting ended. on a farm during the summer to pay to go to my prom. “Some girls got married right away when they knew But after the war, that changed. Steve Dudiak built so their boyfriends were going into the service,” Giunta many of those ‘salt shaker’ homes because people could said. “My family wouldn’t allow that. They were afraid afford them with a mortgage through the GI Bill.” that I might become a widow, maybe with a young Seventy-seven years ago, the events of quiet Sunday child.” morning changed the world—much like the events of a Later, Giunta saw her life come full circle. “Now I’m bright, blue Tuesday morning did on September 11, 2001. the one with the tears when I think about things like the Through the stories of those who lived through Pearl World Trade Center or fighting in Afghanistan. And my Harbor, and the years of sacrifice which followed, the grandchildren don’t understand why.” present generation has a noble example to follow.


December 2018 •

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HERO By Jack De Vries

Rich DeLotto was insistent. With his research and dedication, DeLotto has helped many Clifton Merchant Magazine readers know the stories of the city’s military veterans. His request for this year’s December issue was simple: don’t forget Frank Uricchio. This month is the 70th anniversary of when Uricchio came home—a casualty of the battle of Iwo Jima, a young Marine whose remains were finally returned to his family 44 months after he died Delotto’s was a noble request—remember a U.S. Marine from Clifton. Mark his passing. Say his name. But there is more to the story of Frank Uricchio.


December 2018 •

Seventy years ago this month, a young soldier’s remains arrived back in his hometown. Sometimes the dead are like this. They reach back and ask to be remembered, to tell their story. Like the stories of the more than 200 young men from Clifton who died in WWII, as well as in other wars, Uricchio’s sacrifice deserves our attention. Uricchio was 19 when he died on March 1, 1945, the result of wounds after being hit by shrapnel inside his foxhole. He was taken to a hospital ship, likely the USS Samaritan or Solace, where he passed away. Above, Frank Uricchio (standing center with mitt) with his Clifton High School baseball team (circa 1942-43); inset, Marine PFC Frank Uricchio during WWII.

In Clifton, his parents James and In late December, PFC Frank UricFlora (Agnello) Uricchio of Starchio’s casket arrived at the Marrocco mond Ave. received the telegram funeral home in Botany Village. that no military family wants to read. A memorial service and Mass was Beginning with the words, “The Secheld at Sacred Heart Church on Jan. retary of the Navy regrets to inform 8, 1949, after which Frank was buryou…” they learned their son was ied at Calvary Cemetery in Paterson dead. with full military honors. Frank’s father, a tailor by trade At age 19, he was one of the who worked as a foreman in a nearby youngest men from Clifton to die in mill, knew the horror of war all too the war and one of six from the city, well after serving in the Italian Army as DeLotto noted, who lost their lives during WWI. His grieving mother on Iwo Jima. The other heroic Maworried her boy would never come rines were Sgt. Wayne Wells of ValFrank Uricchio home, fearing he would be buried at ley Rd.; S/Sgt. Andrew Kacmarik of sea since Frank died on the ship. 907 Main Ave.; PFC Ed Hornbeck of Uricchio was indeed buried—the family believes on 209 Harding Ave.; PFC Bill Hrominak of 387 Lexington Guam or Hawaii. But they wanted him home. Ave.; and PFC Don Freda of Mt. Prospect Ave. The Uricchios filled out United States Government Form 345, a request by family members to choose a final Soldier’s Story burial location for military personnel killed in the war. As At the memorial service, the Uricchios heard stories of DeLotto detailed, of 270,000 identifiable American dead, Frank from their neighbors, confirming the type of permore than 120,000 families submitted the form. son he was. As his niece Sharon Cartnick learned, many In October 1948, the Navy Department notified the said the same thing: Frank was never too busy to help. Uricchios their son’s grave had been disinterred and his If he was outside, even involved in a game of ball remains were on the way to Clifton. with friends, and he saw one of the neighborhood • December 2018 


RETURN OF THE HERO women carrying groceries or packFamily Impact ages, he would stop and carry the It’s been 70 years since Uricbags to their homes. chio came home. And while his The family knew he always body rests on American soil, the thought of others. Often, when he pain of his untimely death—like found his mom on her knees scrubso many others during every bing the floor, he would help her war—still weighs on his family. up and say, “Mama, I’ll do that.” Frank’s sister Florence is 96 Sports loomed large in Urictoday, two years older than her chio’s young life. His obituary in brother would have been. During the Herald-News said he played the war, she was the first chairfootball, baseball and basketball woman of the Clifton Service for CHS; another article said he Canteen. Today, she lives in an aswas “a star pitcher on the baseball sisted living facility. team.” “She tells me often,” said her Uricchio would graduate from daughter Sharon, “‘I miss my Clifton High in June 1943 and go brother.’” to the University of Alabama where For Cartnick, too, the loss rehe played football for the Crimson mains for an uncle she would Tide. While at Alabama, he manever know. She and her husband jored in aeronautical engineering. Lou raised four sons, all good athHe liked it so much, Uricchio apletes like Frank, but his absence plied and was accepted to attend remains. “He was a baby when he school at Massachusetts Institute died,” she said, “about the age of of Technology (MIT) the following one of my sons.” year. Cartnick lamented on what Instead, he enlisted in the U.S. might have been. Navy in 1944 and went overseas “I remember sitting with my that November. mom at my first son’s wedding,” “He said he enlisted,” recounted she said. “It was just the two of Cartnick, “because he believed if us. And I thought, ‘If my Uncle he went in, another person with a Frank had lived, I would have an family wouldn’t have to.” aunt who would be his wife, and I But naval service was not to be. would have cousins.’ But instead, His mother was petrified of submait was just me and my mom.” rines. Instead of the Navy, Frank During this season of giving, switched and became a Marine. we should also remember the couThe battle of Iwo Jima raged rageous men and women who are from Feb. 19, 1945, until the island absent but never forgotten. The Above, Lou Cartnick with wife Sharon, was secured on March 16. More ones like Frank Uricchio—kids Frank Uricchio’s niece; below, the Uricthan 70,000 Marines and 18,000 from Clifton who served and nevchio family in Clifton: parents Flora and dug-in Japanese soldiers took part er came home. James, sister Florence and Frank. in the battle. There were 27,000 Remember them all. American casualties with 7,000 Special thanks to Rich DeLotto paying the ultimate sacrifice. and the Clifton Public Library’s Kathy Grimshaw for their The former Clifton Mustang Frank Uricchio was one help researching this article. of them.


December 2018 • • December 2018 



Grand Marshal Jerry Ference, who served with the Marines from 1957 to 1961, and his bride Carol, are seen at right on Nov. 4 as they led the bands, veterans, scouts and patriots up Huron Ave., down Van Houten and into the Avenue of Flags for the Veteran’s Parade. The parade also commemorated the end of WWI on Nov. 11, 1918.



December 2018 • • December 2018 



December 2018 • • December 2018 



December 2018 • • December 2018 



December 2018 • • December 2018 



December 2018 • • December 2018 


Birthdays & Celebrations - December 2018

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

Nick Zang celebrates his 31st birthday on Dec. 10. Noelani Coronel turns 19 on Dec. 9. Happy belated birthday to Kaylianni Fortuna who turned 9 on Nov. 6. Sarah Lombardo, whom many will remember as the welcoming voice of Clifton City Hall, turns 91 on Dec. 9. Happy belated to Kavyan Purohit who celebrated on Nov. 16. That Athenia gem of a jeweler Greg Lacki is 61 on Dec. 5. Christina Kedl has a birthday on Dec. 13. Anthony ‘Tony’ O’Connor is 74 on Dec. 4 and his granddaughter Vivian Margaret Taras will celebrate her 6th birthday on Dec. 16. Marc Fazio....................... 12/1 Ann W. Kissel.................... 12/1 Corinne Miskowsky............ 12/1 Mannan Amin................... 12/2 Mike Gerardi.................... 12/2 Lauren Lawler.................... 12/2 Bryan Nolasco.................. 12/2 Allison Ahdieh................... 12/3 Patrick Lotorto.................... 12/3 Bridget Rice....................... 12/3 Sharon Tichacek................ 12/3 Phyllis Galambos............... 12/4 Timothy Gumann................ 12/4 Michael Kester................... 12/4 Dave Sternbach................. 12/4 Michael Vinciguerra........... 12/4 Rosemary Kuruc................. 12/5 Gregory Lacki.................... 12/5 Laura Mikolajczyk.............. 12/5 Michael Ressetar................ 12/5 Tommy Coleman................ 12/6 Pat Collucci....................... 12/6 Debbie Gorny................... 12/6


Marilyn Gossinger............. 12/6 Noel Coronel.................... 12/7 Margaret Kungl................. 12/7 Mark Mecca...................... 12/7 Chris Sadowski.................. 12/8 Jamie Osmak..................... 12/9 Daniel Fonesca Ramos........ 12/9 Mark Surgent.................... 12/9 Andrew Tichacek............... 12/9 Tyler Roger Vandenberghe.. 12/9 Michael McEnerney......... 12/10 Bob Snelson.................... 12/10 Joey Cofone.................... 12/11 Kathleen M. Marshall....... 12/11 Diane Meyer................... 12/11 Joseph Rutigliano............. 12/11 Richard Peterson.............. 12/12 Andy Kent....................... 12/13 Danny La Gala................ 12/13 Ray Capilli...................... 12/14 Mary Kate Kuruc.............. 12/14 Michael Murolo............... 12/14 Basil Worhach................. 12/14

December 2018 •

Steven Crawford.............. 12/15 Marie Visicaro................. 12/15 David Brock.................... 12/16 Michael Hrina................. 12/16 Hannah Grace Kulesa...... 12/17 Jacqueline Gencarrelli...... 12/18 Anne Gerardi.................. 12/18 Samantha Bassford.......... 12/19 Stephanie Guzowski......... 12/19 Nick Link........................ 12/19 Jayen Montague.............. 12/19 Jessie Ducos.................... 12/20 Amy Marino.................... 12/21 Michelle McEnerney......... 12/22 Suman Pinto.................... 12/22 Joey Cristantiello.............. 12/24 Soumya Gunapathy......... 12/24 Caroline Jane Hanlon....... 12/24 Luba Rembis.................... 12/24 Ryan John Hariton............ 12/25 Eric Soltis........................ 12/25 Thomas Montague........... 12/26 Venessa Collucci.............. 12/27

The Cake Boss of Lakeview Bakery Carlos and Dayana mark Dayana’s birthday on Dec. 7, their 10th anniversary on Dec. 8 and Carlos’s birthday on Dec. 21. Melissa Cordes................ 12/27 James Mazza.................. 12/29 Steven Bivaletz................ 12/30 Hunter Conklin................. 12/30 Courtney Pinter................ 12/31

Anthony J DeSomma (CHS ‘08) and Kara L Manfre, announced they will marry in April 2019. • December 2018 



A $568,916 Jersey Jackpot winning ticket was sold on Nov. 12 at Bobbink Liquors on Valley Rd. “This is the third time that we’ve had a big winner,” said owner Vinny Patel, pictured center with Jaydev Patel and HK Patel. “We’ve had a Win For Life winner which is a thousand dollars a week for life and lots of $150,000 winners,” added Vinny. When Arlene Nikischer (pictured with husband Joe) passed on Nov. 8 at the age of 82, she was likely met in heaven by an army of angels. Back here in Clifton, friends of this Botany Village advocate plan to celebrate her life and raise funds to help pay for medical and funeral expenses in an event called Angels for Arlene on Dec. 9. Five bands will perform at the Grande Saloon from 3 to 8 pm. There is a $15 donation at the door and food and drinks are available for purchase.


December 2018 •

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Clifton Merchant Magazine - December 2018  
Clifton Merchant Magazine - December 2018