Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Table of Contents
What’s Inside? 7
Errant Delivery Leads to Eros Cemal & Jacqueline Turk
16 211 Days of Longing Laura & Jim Louer
24 Finally, After 20 Years Sadie & Tony Sanchez
16 28 Six Decades of Marriage Rita & Jim Haraka
36 They Built Life & Love Anew Laura & Jim Nicosia
40 Their Greatest Blessing Debra & Anthony Gretina
44 Online Dating Coach 34
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56 Theater League of Clifton Celebrating the First 10 Years The Clifton landmark banquet center Mountainside Inn on Hazel St. marked a 50-year anniversary in June 2014. We recapped that milestone in January’s Year in Review. Pictured are current owners Lou Barbato Sr. and his son Lou. At right is the late founder, Alfred Barbato, who we misidentified in last month’s edition.
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Love Stories Cemal and Jacqueline Turk The man who greeted her at the door was adorable, thought Jacqueline Salviano, as she tried to hand him a box of pizza. Cemal Turk, who spoke only a few words of English, smiled at the pretty girl and tried to tell her that no one had ordered it. Using laughter and hand signals, Cemal let Jacqueline in to use the phone so she could call her boss and get the right address. While she was busy making the call, he made a mental note of the pizzeria’s name.
Right Guy. By Irene Jarosewich
Substitute teaching by day and delivering pizza by night, Jacqueline was a recent college graduate in 1999. Her dream was to become a teacher full-time. Her hope was to teach high school English. Yet there were no positions open in the Toms River area where she lived. She was reaching out to towns in North Jersey and waiting. In the meantime, delivering pizzas to the wrong addresses helped make ends meet. A few days after Jacqueline had shown up at his
home by mistake, Cemal, showed up at her pizzeria on purpose. Attracted by the cheerful and pretty Jacqueline, Cemal began to find a lot of reasons to eat a lot of pizza. Cemal, who had emigrated from Turkey in 1997, worked at a nearby gas station owned by his cousin’s family. After delivering pizza, whenever she needed a fill up, Jacqueline’s car always found its way to the one gas station in Toms River where Cemal worked.
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Love Stories Cemal and Jacqueline Turk Their romance blossomed throughout the spring of 2000. “Our first date,” recalls Jacqueline, or Jacqui as she is known to most, “was a winter drive to Seaside and a walk on the boardwalk. Our first dinner date was at Rivoli’s in Toms River. His friend accompanied us to translate. Many nights Cemal would keep me company while I delivered pizza. We went out dancing. We would walk at Cattus Island Park, eat frozen yogurt at Mrs. Walkers.”
Clifton in their future When Jacqui was offered a teaching position at CHS, she and Cemal moved here in August 2000. They found an apartment in Maple Gardens, near the school. The couple began to sink their roots into Clifton and build a life together. “Christopher de Vinck hired me,” said Jacqui, “he was my mentor. When I first met him 15 years ago, he was one of the nicest people I had ever met. Now, 15 years later, he is
still one of the nicest people I know.” Cemal was excited and proud for Jacqui. After leaving his family’s business in Toms River, he immediately found work at the Exxon at the intersection of Allwood Rd. and Passaic Ave. Soon after that, he joined Clifton’s DPW. He now works for the Clifton PD as a police mechanic. Early on, Cemal and Jacqui understood they were meant for each other. "Jacqui was special. She made me feel safe and happy,” said Cemal, “she didn’t think about what she could get from me, or from anyone else, but what she could give. She is generous, always smiling. Jacqui is smart, as well as kind, patient, and beautiful. She loved and cared for me despite our language problem. She took the time to teach me English and introduced me to the real America." “Cemal’s smile melted my heart,” added Jacqui, “As he learned English, his sense of humor unfurled. He made me laugh. We also shared a hard work ethic. We both worked 14-hour days back then and needed to relax at the end of the night with a good meal and some laughter and conversation. We brought each other kindness, calm, comfort, support.” Melding cultures Uniting all the threads of their different backgrounds and their new present, Cemalettin (Cemal) Turk and Jacqueline Salviano had three wedding ceremonies. Their first ceremony, about a year after they met, took place at the Ulu Cami Mosque in Paterson on October 7, 2000. “The ceremony was in
8 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Cemal and Jacqueline Turk
It was so right that Cemal and Jacqueline wed three times: in Christian, Muslim and civil ceremonies.
Turkish and Arabic. All I know is that I said ‘yes’ three times and that my husband still owes me some gold and goats,” Jacqui said with a cheerful giggle. Cemal shakes his head and sighs. “I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen a live goat in my life.” Several months later, on February 3, 2001, Mayor James Anzaldi married Jacqui and Cemal in a civil ceremony at Clifton’s City Hall. A year after they moved to Clifton, they gathered friends and family on August 4, 2001, for the third ceremony, a traditional American wedding back down the shore. They had planned for the ceremony to be held at the gazebo in Beachwood, the town where Jacqui grew up, but the rain forced the ceremony to be held inside along with the reception at the Lamp Post Inn in Pine Beach. “For me, it was exciting to experience many of his firsts with Cemal. I threw him his first birthday party. We celebrated Christmas - it was like baby’s first Christmas - Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. We traveled to Washington D.C., North and South Carolina,” said Jacqui, “and both our families were very supportive of us. My family wrapped their arms around Cemal and have never let go. He is my mother’s favorite child. And while there was a lot that was new, there was some traditional. I’m half Italian, half Lebanese, for example, so I’m familiar with the type of food that Cemal grew up with – kabobs, stuffed grape leaves, shepherd’s salad.” One of the couple’s favorite restaurants for eat-in and take-out is King of Shish Kabob on McBride Ave. in Woodland Park. Besides Middle Eastern, another favorite is Mexican food, which Cemal and Jacqui love 10 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
to order, as well as prepare at home with the help of their daughter, Alyse, 10. Alyse is quite clear about what her parents should do to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. “They should have dinner at Chili’s, which is MY favorite restaurant, and for desert, they should have the Molten Chocolate Cake topped with vanilla ice cream under a hard chocolate shell!” Her face lit up with a smile as she remembered the delicious flavors. “That’s one of the things we appreciate about this area,” said Jacqui, “is the diversity. The diversity of nationalities, therefore of possibilities. It’s one the things we most appreciate about Clifton.” “We’re grateful to Clifton,” continued Cemal, “it allowed us to live stable lives, buy a house, have a daughter, build our family, build lives in a wonderful community. Really, Clifton gave us our life.” “The people who took a risk on us, Dr. de Vinck on me, Joe Devasconcellos at the DPW who hired Cemal, who had faith in him,” added Jacqui, “because of Clifton, our dreams came true.” Giving back However, it has not all been a one-way street. The Turks give back to this city in return. Besides their jobs, as a family, they engage in numerous community service activities, such as Clifton park clean-ups, serving at the free meal program offered by the United Reformed Church in the heart of downtown, helping with the Sunshine Collection and Giggles Theater for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, as well as organizing collections to support the animal shelter.
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Cemal and Jacqueline Turk Some of these projects evolve from the Key Club, one of the most popular extra-curricular activities at CHS. Jacqueline Turk, who has been teaching 10th grade English for 15 years at CHS, is also the faculty advisor for the Key Club. With 266 members and a strong program that develops on the philosophy of student philanthropy, the CHS Key Club is active and thriving. Every year, Key Club International chooses a theme and goal that all students work on, and the decisions about which other philanthropic efforts to undertake are left up to the local clubs. The CHS Key Club has had some strong student leaders and wonderful members through the years, many of whom were highlighted on the pages of this magazine. However, all recognize that the guidance, the stability and consistency that has allowed the Key Club to flourish year after year has been provided by Jacqui. “I’m extremely proud of what our students do,” said Jacqui, “they show a true commitment to the betterment of their community. Some projects we do annually, such as the Giggles Theater for the children at St. Joe’s, other project we do occasionally, or maybe once.”
12 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
One of the more recent projects the students undertook was making 600 handmade Christmas cards that were distributed to wounded soldiers recuperating at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC, as well as delivered to the families spending their holidays in homeless shelters in Paterson, and in New York City. Home is never far away Although their lives are full and busy, whenever they can fit it in, they love to travel – whether alone, or as a couple, or a family. Cemal and Jacqui have traveled to Las Vegas and the Dominican Republic, and in recent years, Alyse has traveled with her parents to Niagara Falls, to Florida and this past summer, a trip on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Cemal travels to visit his family in Turkey. Twice Alyse and Jacqui have joined him there during summer break, staying longer as he returned to work. Traveling to Turkey also gives Alyse a chance to practice her Turkish. Besides the basics of greetings and counting, she knows how to say the most important words in the world - “I love you very much” – in her father’s native Turkish - “seni cok seviyorum.”
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Cemal and Jacqueline Turk Good to know for Valentine’s Day! From their recent trip to the Bahamas, the family has some fun stories. “We swam with the dolphins while there,” said Jacqui, “and if you can believe it, our dolphin’s name was ... wait for it ... CLIFTON!! Now what are the chances of that?! We had a good time petting, kissing, and dancing with Clifton in the water!” It’s a great memory. Huddy, huddy or Honey, honey? Sometimes being apart through travel allows a relationship to flourish. “We are a practical couple,” smiles Jacqui, “We don’t have a typical romantic relationship with flowers and jewelry. Our idea of romance is, for example, when Cemal was in Turkey, I surprised him by buying all new furniture and two big screen televisions. To celebrate, when he came home, he installed a new floor to match the new furniture!” There is one little romantic quirk that Cemal’s family in Turkey has not quite figured out - the couples favorite name for each other.
Jacqueline, Alyse and Cemal.
“When we first met and started going out 15 years ago, Cemal would call upstairs to me and say, ‘Huddy! Huddy!’ I didn’t say anything, I didn’t ask. I thought he was just trying to call me ‘Honey.’ So, I started calling him ‘Huddy’ right back. Sure enough, it turns out that in Turkish ‘Huddy! Huddy!’ means ‘Hurry up! Hurry up!” Jacqui laughs. “We have been calling each other Huddy as a term of endearment ever since.”
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Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Laura and Jim Louer
By Michael C. Gabriele Laura and Jim Louer today. Below, the young Laura Smith with date Jim, ready for the CHS Prom in 1984.
July 1991 and Laura Smith is setting off from Clifton on a road trip to Morehead City, NC. Laura was anxious, excited. Many thoughts skipped through her mind as she drove south toward the port city in the Tar Heel State. She was looking forward to the arrival of her boyfriend Jim Louer who was serving in the US Merchant Marines. Jim, who had been away for 211 days transporting military cargo during the Desert Storm conflict in the Middle East, was coming home. Laura did have a few, quiet, lingering concerns regarding Jim. Maybe he had been injured or was ill. Because of the great distance, as well as the limitations of communication, their long-distance phone conversations were few and brief. Maybe he had changed. Letters typically arrived many weeks after they were written, adding frustration. She tracked the vessel, the Cape Domingo, through the shipping company’s postings and learned that it was due to return to the United States. “Once I knew it was Moorhead City, I started doing research and realized there was no easy way to get there,” Laura said. So she studied road maps, estimated 16 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
the travel time and distance, and then told her mother: “I’m going and I’m driving.” Knowing it would be an adventure, she set off on a two-day, 600-mile trip to the North Carolina port. In the grand tradition of folk music, there are numerous songs about young women who await the return of ships bringing home their men. Oftentimes, these are sad tales of love lost due to tragic events at sea. The ballad My Boy Willie tells the story of a maiden who longs for her dear lover, Willie, who had gone off to sea to serve the king. One fateful day she confronts the captain of a ship and inquires: “Does my love Willie sail on board with you?” She is asked to describe the young man. “He wears a coat of royal blue, and you’ll surely know him, for his heart is true.” After hearing her tender words, the captain’s heart sinks and he gently says to her: “If that’s your Willie, then he is not here.” Her beloved Willie had drowned days earlier, the captain told the young maiden. Fortunately, 24 years ago, Laura’s song was one of joy, describing a happy reunion with Jim. Laura’s love returned to her, sturdy and safe.
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Laura and Jim Louer The ship arrived in port as scheduled. Laura stood waiting in the parking lot. Jim came out on the deck, spotted Laura, and flew down the gangplank. The two embraced and Jim took Laura on board to proudly introduce her to his ship mates. This moment of reunion is one of the highlights in their relationship reflects the Clifton couple. They realized there was no room for lingering doubt: their love was clear. The Most Important Question Three months after their grand reconnection, Jim decided it was time to propose. He wanted the proposal to be a romantic surprise. First, as an honorable gentleman, he asked Laura’s parents for their permission and blessing to marry her. Then he bought an engagement ring. Laura was driving a new Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais. Jim borrowed the car one day, had it cleaned and polished, and placed the ring inside the glove compart-
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ment. Working on Wall Street, Laura commuted by train into the city. One October afternoon, Jim met Laura at the Clifton Station, in her new car, all bright and shiny. He had gone to the car wash, he told her, and gushed that even the glove compartment had been cleaned! Puzzled by why Jim was being so enthusiastic about a clean glove compartment, she skeptically popped it open and immediately spotted the ring. Jim proposed on the spot to a stunned and happy Laura. They were married on Nov. 7, 1992 at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Great Neck, NY, on Long Island’s Kings Point followed by a honeymoon on St. John in the Virgin Islands. The Majorette and the Trumpet Player They met at CHS, as members of the Mustang Marching Band. Their first encounter came during summer band camp in 1982. Laura was a junior and
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Love Stories Laura and Jim Louer Jim was a sophomore.“I spotted him from a distance,” Laura said and admits, “It was love at first sight.” “She stalked me,” Jim said with a laugh and then revealed that he had his eye on her, as well. Positioned close to each other during band marching formations and parades. Jim was an A Rank trumpet player; Laura was a majorette, always marching in the row right in front of Jim. Their first date was in October of that year at the Mustang Band’s formal student dinner/dance held at Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church in Athenia. After that, they were an item throughout their high school years. A favorite weekend date was a late-night breakfast at the old Primrose Diner on eastbound Route 46, which was located adjacent to the Clove Rd. exit. Laura, who graduated from CHS in 1984, went on to Seton Hall University in South Orange. Jim, who graduated the following year, attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. He traveled extensively for long stretches of time, which was difficult for the young couple. Jim said that, except for Antarctica and Australia, he’s been everywhere around the world. The assignments involved transporting containerized military equipment, food, medical supplies, vehicles and other gear. The days at sea were tedious and lonely. “It was work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep,” he recalled. When Laura became pregnant with their first child, Jimmy in 1998, Jim left the Merchant Marines. They still live in the home they bought a home on Pershing Rd. After Jimmy came Jack, Christie and Kate. After more than 12 years on Wall Street, Laura decided to stay home and raise the kids. “I’m still at it,” she said, with a grin about her ful-time job. Meanwhile, Jim transferred the skills he acquired while with the Merchant Marines and pursued a career in the engineering field. A Full-Circle Moment While digging through boxes of family pictures to illustrate this article, Laura and Jim became nostalgic, 20 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
Laura and Jim with Jimmy, Jack, Christie, Kate.
uncovering photos they had not seen in years. The search allowed them to step back, count blessings and savor the memories of school and community activities with their children. “The years have gone by in a heartbeat,” Laura confessed. “The kids started coming and we went on a roll from there. The journey continues. Life can be hectic. Fortunately, we have a good support network of friends,” citing their participation in mutual community activities such as sports and school bands. “We’re also lucky that all our kids have good friends.” This year, a full-circle moment came when son Jimmy, age 16, achieved A Rank as a trumpet player in the Mustang Marching Band, just like Dad. “We prepared him well for the band,” Jim declared. Jim and Laura also relive their Mustang Band memories when Jimmy takes part in social activities, such as dances and fund-raisers like beefsteak dinners and the annual May car wash campaign at CHS. Twelve-year-old son Jack, a seventh grader at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, another trumpet player, is the next family prospect slated to join the Mustang Marching Band. Unlike their musician sons, Jim and Laura’s two daughters have pursued athletics. Christine, 15, is a member of the CHS volleyball team. Kate, 10, a student at School 2, enjoys soccer. With four kids participating in sports, music and related activities, the Louer
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Love Stories Laura and Jim Louer family racks up significant miles driving around town. Aside from supporting the interests of their kids, Jim and Laura remain active in Clifton. Every two years, during halftime at Thanksgiving Day home football games, they participate in the Mustang Marching Band’s alumni performance. Jim keeps his trumpet chops in shape, jamming with his sons during home music sessions and occasionally sitting in with the Clifton Community Band, while reconnecting with his high school chums. Laura is involved with various parent/teacher projects at School 2, and the entire family is active at First Lutheran Church, on Van Houten Ave. Uncharted Waters and Laughter Based on their 32 years of romance and friendship, from their days as high school sweethearts to Valentine’s Day 2015, Jim and Laura acknowledged the “uncharted waters” of life are never easy to navigate. Much like being on a Merchant Marine ship, currents can shift and storms may appear on the horizon. In addition to work, sleep, work, sleep, there are a countless football games, volleyball tournaments, soccer matches, school concerts and birthday parties to attend. However, they note, they would not have it any other way. The rewards of family life make the journey worthwhile and the willingness to face unforeseen challenges with courage and a sense of humor.
22 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
“You have to laugh a lot. You have to laugh at yourself,” Jim said when asked to provide feedback on how to maintain a healthy and happy marriage against the backdrop of busy family schedules. Laura said she appreciates the support and interaction she gets from family, friends and neighbors to help smooth over the bumpy patches along the road. “It also helps to learn how to have patience with teenagers,” she added while rolling her eyes. Today, as the Louer family sails on and enjoys life in the community, that romantic Morehead City rendezvous 24 years ago—when the fair maiden from Clifton traveled far and anxiously awaited the return of her brave, seafaring man—remains close to their hearts. And it also remains close to their family vacation plans. These days, the beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina is the preferred get-away destination for the Louers. “The kids love it,” Laura said. No doubt, over the years, the kids will come to fully appreciate their parent’s Morehead City reunion as a significant moment in Louer family history. It’s a folk song Jimmy, Jack, Christie and Kate can sing to their children and grandchildren, along with an improvised trumpet solo to create variations on a theme. Surely, that’s a romantic ballad worth handing down, generation to generation, to mark Valentine’s Day here in Clifton. Who knows, this story may even make its way to the Merchant Marine Academy.
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Love Stories Sadie and Tony Sanchez
By Irene Jarosewich
20 Years Later, Love at Each Sight They are so cute together. They look at each other and laugh. They have all these inside jokes. They finish each other’s sentences. When they met 20 years ago, it must have been love at first sight. Pause. Silence. “It absolutely was not,” said Sadie Sanchez with a determined look. “Uh, uh, no way,” adds husband Tony, “was not, most definitely not.” “I thought he was, well, cocky, kind of a bit full of himself,” she continues. “Back then, the printing business was pretty much only men,” he continues, “she was one of two women at the place. She had all the guys waiting on her hand and foot. Oh dear, I need a coffee. Could you be a sweetheart bring me one? She was, how shall I say it, hmmm, a princess, let’s leave it at that.” Tony Sanchez had come in as the new boss at a printing business in Jersey City. The decade was the 1990s. The industry was changing—new technology, new procedures. Some people still did graphic design by hand, layout the old way, with hot wax and negatives; some people were doing it the new way—digital with comput24 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
ers. The printing industry was in an upheaval and managers had to know the old ways and the new. “The business, an established family business, had a huge turnover in managers in the years before I came. Ten-twelve had come and gone. Some lasted barely a month,” Tony recalled. “So, I started a pool,” said Sadie, “everybody had to bet on how long the new guy would last. I gave him six months, tops.” She smirks. He laughs. First and last time she lost, he added. Rethinking the first impression She began to change her mind. Maybe he was not so cocky, after all. She began to admire his people skills, his confidence and optimism, his can-do attitude. He saw the pouty princess was kind of an act, began to respect her deep work ethic, the fact that her co-workers turned to her for advice and guidance, realized that she was both fiercely independent and responsible. Plus he was really good-looking. And she was really, really cute. A friend who knew them both from work said they should go out together, that they were made for
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Love Stories Sadie and Tony Sanchez each other. Nah, they both told her. Not going to happen. Sadie, a single mom, had just ended a relationship and Tony was still in the process of finalizing his divorce. Cupid, however, does not accept “no” for an answer. After a few months of going out after work with the gang for a drink and to shoot some pool—“she knew how to shoot pool,” said Tony, “that was a real bonus”— Sadie and Tony agreed to go on a date. “I told him I wasn’t interested in anything serious, something light, only fun. I was getting out of a relationship. I wanted to take it kind of slow.” “I agreed, totally. My divorce wasn’t finished. And Sadie and I were still working at the same place.” Except that it did not go slow, it went really fast. Within a year, they were living together and soon after, their daughter Sabrina was born. When Sadie told Tony that she was pregnant, he was ecstatic. He did not have children, and at age 37, he was going to be a first-time dad. “I was driving an old beater,” grinned Sadie, “but had a picture of the car I wanted clipped out of a magazine and taped near my work space. I didn’t think he noticed,
26 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
but he did. The Christmas after I told him I was pregnant, he told me that we needed to go to my mother’s house. When we got there, parked in the driveway was a brand new car, my car. With a big red bow on top.” And the best gift Sadie has ever given him? “My daughters,” said Tony, without a second thought. “They changed my life.” Gone in a flash Although 20 years sounds like a long time, Tony, 55 and Sadie, 50, feel that the decades have zipped by for them and their daughters Alyssa, 22, and Sabrina, 18. Both saw the writing on the wall regarding the decline of the printing business. Sadie went back to school to get her degree in accounting. Tony decided to make a career change to real estate, got his license, and joined Weichert, first in Wayne, now as manager of the Clifton branch, home to 80 sales agents, located at the intersection of Allwood Rd. and Passaic Ave. Sadie works nearby on Brighton Rd., at Preferred Display, Inc. (PDI), which provides signage, displays, and marketing assistance to cosmetics companies.
While Tony’s family is still in Queens, where he grew up, the couple and their daughters live in Hawthorne, where Sadie grew up, and where her mother and sisters still live. However, since both Tony and Sadie work in Clifton, they go out often here for lunch and dinner. Taste of Tuscany in Styretowne and DeFeos on Market St. are among their go-to spots. With the girls in school, and with both parents continuing their education and then starting two new careers, Sadie and Tony never found the time to get married. “And she never wanted to get married,” added Tony. Sadie shook her head in agreement and then shrugged. “I just never saw the need. And we were very focused on the girls. Then last spring we were sitting at another wedding, and somebody asked us when we were going to be married. Now, with the girls grown up and in college, we have the time, we said, OK, why not?” Their niece, a wedding planner was thrilled to hear the news. For Sadie and Tony, she planned one grand party. And this past September 20, after 20 years, the couple tied the knot at the Portobello in Oakland to begin their happy ever after.
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Love Stories Rita and Jim Haraka
Still Waiting on Great Grandkids By Ron Haraka
They saw each other around Clifton High School. Each knew who the other was. But the real start of Jim Haraka and Rita Pascrell’s romance began with a produce truck.
The year was 1947. “I worked on my brother George’s truck,” Jim said, the youngest of seven kids born to Syrian immigrants. “He was the former owner of Market Basket Produce,” having farmed the land of what is now Crane Chevrolet on Rt. 46 East. Rita Pascrell grew up on Maplewood Ave. in Albion, where she and Jim, who was raised on Madeline Ave. in Lakeview, got to know each other through his grocery deliveries. Soon the pages of their romance began to turn quickly. “We went to the movies a lot. We would go to the Saturday night dances at the Paterson YMCA,” said Jim, the backup quarterback who played for legendary coach Joe Greco’s Fighting Mustangs from 1946-1949. “And I would go to all the games at Hinchliffe Stadium,” added Rita. During a time when Clifton did not yet have a stadium, Mustang home games were played at the now historic Hinchliffe near the Great Falls in Paterson, further illustrating how far go back their love goes. 28 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
“Then we had five children,” one of them jokingly mentioned. Whoa. Not so fast. While Jim and Rita’s courtship has all the makings of a classic CHS sweetheart tale, their relationship did reach a lull after both graduated in 1950. “I went to college, we separated a little bit,” Jim uttered casually, as if he had as much confidence then as he does now that they would end up together. Asked if she dated any other guys during that time, Rita responded. “I had a boyfriend,” to which Jim laughingly added, “a lot, she had a lot of boyfriends.” The two giggled, engaging in typical teenage lovebird drama—only now they’re in their early eighties. A Minor Speed Bump Not long after their time apart, Jim and Rita picked right up where they left off, then tying the knot on July 24,1954. That year Jim graduated from the New Jersey State Teacher’s College at Paterson, now William
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Love Stories Rita and Jim Haraka
his growing family, he began what Paterson University in Wayne. is now his 51 year tenure as repreAlong with marriage, they began sentative for MetLife Insurance. their careers. Realizing that a larger family “I taught at School 9 on Brighton needed a larger house, the couple Rd. from 1954 to 1956,” said Jim, moved into their current home in as Rita finished his sentence, “and I 1964. The charming split-level sits worked as a secretary at Wright up the hill from Clifton Stadium Aeronautical in Wood-Ridge.” near Hazel St., and the happy pair Rita, however, soon focused her has remained there ever since. attention to raising her children. “We’ve been in Clifton all our After moving to their first home on lives...” they say with satisfaction. Nelson St. near Garrett Mountain, first son Jimmy was born in 1956. Staying At It More Haraka children followed, In July, Rita and Jim celebrated and like their parents, all were CHS their 60th wedding anniversary. alumni: Jimmy (‘74), Ron (‘76), Rita and Jim 1954 After a liturgy at their longtime Linda (‘79), John (‘83), and Robbie parish, St. Ann Melkite Catholic Church in Woodland (‘87), pictured above, now with children of their own. Jim left the security of his teaching job to begin a Park, a party was held at the Paris Inn in Wayne. In potentially more lucrative career. So as to provide for attendance were 80 of their family and friends.
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Love Stories Rita and Jim Haraka The cycle of life continues as their children have given the couple grandchildren. Besides family, their is another constant in the Harakas’ marriage: their friends. Second only to their everlasting love for each other is the conversation and connection they have with pals at breakfast every morning at the New Corral on Hazel St. where they can be found in the same booth acrosss from the register, around 8:30 to 9:00, chatting with
32 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
their fellow mainstays and greeting other customers. “Most of our activities are in Clifton,” Jim stated. Then right on cue, finishing her husband’s thought, Rita adds, “Because we’re too old to go anywhere else!” Her delivery was perfect, reflecting the banter so typical between the two. Taste of Tuscany in Styertowne and the Allwood Diner are two favorites for staying in touch with Mustang friends.
Giving back to the community that has sustained the family for over half a century, Jim and Rita contribute to the annual Super Bowl party and other Boys & Girls Club events. They also get together with old and new friends on trips with the Leisure Club of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Although Clifton is home base, the couple often ventures south on the Garden State Parkway, trying their luck at the Atlantic City casinos and keeping a family vacation tradition alive. “We took vacations every summer in Wildwood Crest with the kids,” said Rita proudly of the four decades of the same getaway. “And we’re still carrying on the tradition...which reminds me, when we go down this year, ask Patrick (the owner of the Biscayne Motel) how many years we’ve been coming,” she ordered her husband. They’ve been doing things together for so long that it can be hard to keep track of the numbers. One of the numbers is the amount of people who can be found under the family name at the Biscayne every August. About 17 Harakas arrive annually and settle into a half dozen rooms of a motel that looks the same today as it did 20 years ago. As for what the future holds, Rita and Jim hope to continue doing what they love most: spending time with their six grandchildren. Although they have never asked for much, they do have one larger than average request. “Now we’re waiting on great grandchildren,” said Rita. “Think anyone can help us out with that?”
Clifton Merchant • February 2015
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Love Stories Laura and Jim Nicosia
Laura and Jim Nicosia were close friends for years before they became romantically involved. Today that strong friendship is an enduring bond that serves them well as the foundation of their marriage. However, it was a near-tragic house fire that profoundly changed the dynamics of their relationship.
ROSE FROM THE ASHES
By Michael C. Gabriele
The two met in the early 1990s while attending evening graduate school classes at Montclair State University. They were both living in Clifton and looking to earn master’s degrees in the field of English. They both aspired to be college professors. Drawn together by their mutual interest in education, as well as their compatible personalities, they quickly “clicked.” By the mid-1990s, their friendship and mutual interest in education continued as they enrolled in classes at NYU with the goal of completing doctorate degrees. They often rode the train together into the Big Apple. Conversations during these frequent commutes revealed that they indeed were kindred spirits. Jim not only proposed to Laura but also to her daughter Jessica. Laura told Joe of how, as a young girl, They are seen here on Aug. 4, 1996, their wedding day. she fell in love with the printed word— welcomed into a neighbor’s home Not knowing what poetry, novels, essays and short stories. Her dream was else to do, Laura reached out to her friend Jim. to become a teacher and a scholar. “I called Jim and said, ‘I need help!’” Laura recalled, The turning point in their relationship came in 1994. the pitch of her voice rising as she described the heartLaura, who lived on Martin Ave., was working late one wrenching scene. night in her home in early January when she smelled Jim quickly came to the rescue and offered his comburning wood. Initially, she though the odor was compassionate support, including helping them resettle. ing from a neighbor’s fireplace. Laura and daughter Jessica soon took up temporary resThen she heard a smoke alarm. In a moment of teridence in their neighborhood while their house was ror, Laura realized that her home was on fire. She being repaired. crawled from her room and with daughter Jessica, had Soon after the fire, Jim decided to visit Laura’s a harrowing escape from the blaze. charred home. He wanted to lift Laura’s spirits in the As firemen arrived on the scene, Laura and Jessica, aftermath of the overwhelming incident. shaken and terrified by the fire and ensuing chaos, were 36 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
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Love Stories Laura and Jim Nicosia Knowing how much she enjoyed her house plants, Jim went into the damaged structure and gathered as many as he could find. Surprisingly, despite the fire and subsequent cold, most of the plants came away from the fire relatively unscathed. Among the ashes and wreckage, Jim found something else that would make both Laura and Jessica smile: Jessica’s teddy bear, Francis Xavier. Jim cleaned the plants and the little bear. In a most welcome surprise, he presented them to Laura and Jessica. Mother and daughter were speechless. “That was the moment,” Laura said, her eyes filling with tears as she remembered when Jim gave them the plants and the teddy bear. “I thought to myself: ‘this man knows me and loves me.’” From that point on, Laura and Jim were inseparable. A year after the house fire, Jim proposed to Laura. He presented her with a ring. Jim also had a ring for Jessica, a symbol of his intention that all three would be together. On Aug. 4, 1996, Laura and Jim were married and the three became a family. In 2004, both received their doctoral degrees. They returned to the rebuilt home on Martin Ave., where they
38 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
Laura, Jim and son Jake in their Martin Ave. home.
became a family of four with the birth of son Jake, now a CHS junior. They continue to live in the house that brought them finally together. Both Laura and Jim have also returned to Montclair State University, however, this time as teachers, not students. Laura is an associate English professor and the director of English education, overseeing teacher certification, while Jim works as an adjunct English professor and is responsible for observing and assisting student teachers.
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Debra and Anthony Gretina
A Blessing IN THE 34th Year By Michael C. Gabriele Debra and Anthony Gretina will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary this year. The couple was married on June 21, 1980, at Hendrick’s Chapel on the campus of their beloved alma mater, Syracuse University, in upstate New York. Among the special blessings to mark this marriage milestone, the birth of their first grandchild tops the list. Catalina, born on Dec. 3, 2014, is the daughter of the Gretinas’ eldest daughter, Ashley. Debra and Anthony first met when both worked at Syracuse University’s Office of Student Activities in 1977. Anthony, who grew up in Clifton and graduated CHS in 1974, was smitten with Debra, who lived and grew up near Syracuse. Their first date was a “Greek Dance” sponsored by one of the university’s fraternities. Their romance unfolded throughout 1978. Debra still has the Valentine’s Day card Anthony gave her that year. Anthony graduated in 1978, one year after Debra, who had stayed on at the university to work. Anthony returned to Clifton and Debra remained in her hometown. The two, however, Deborah and Anthony Gretina on their wedding day in 1980 (inset) and remained in touch, which often meant eldest daughter Ashley and son-in-law Cristian with grandaughter phone calls after 11pm, when long-disCatalina Maurine Reyes on Dec. 3, when Catalina was 12 hours old. tance rates were lower. tions “are much more formal,” she said with a grin. They alternated visits between their respective fami“Tony’s family was wonderful. I loved all those hugs and lies. Debra remembers being charmed by the abundant kisses.” Debra was a guest with Anthony’s family on love she received from Anthony’s Italian-American famChristmas Eve, 1979, when he proposed to her. ily. Her own family’s British ancestry, culture, and tradi40 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
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Love Stories Debra and Anthony Gretina The Gretinas are proud parents of Ashley, Sara, Emma and Anthony. All four children are CHS graduates, and all four were members of the Mustang Marching Band. “We worked hard to provide for our kids and raise them right,” Debra said. “We think that hard work paid off. Our kids are the only legacy that matters to us.” Last summer the Gretina clan enjoyed a two-week Italian holiday. Debra said it was an extra-special gathering, as everyone enjoyed the vacation, indulging in the family’s heritage, most notably the beauty of Italy, the delicious Italian food and abundant history and culture. After a long career with UPS, Anthony retired two years ago. His new, special stay-athome assignment will be caring several days a week for Catalina. Debra, who works as the district curriculum supervisor for mathematics at West Milford High School, plans to sneak in plenty of time with her new granddaughter, as well.
Anthony and Debra Gretina and their four children welcome the third generation in their family.
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Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Ashley Parsons
By Ron Haraka In a world that is solidly digital, more than 40 million Americans use services of a business that even ten years ago was still somewhat suspect: online dating sites. Of these 40 million, more than a few could benefit from the expertise of 2008 CHS graduate Ashley Parsons. Parsons never set out to be a dating profile ghostwriter, but that’s the role into which she has molded herself. “I started with the company in August 2013, as an intern, moderating and writing for the blog,” she said. “I figured it would be a nice way to get a few bylines, and I loved the idea of what the company did.” The company is eFlirt, an online dating consulting service. What started as a foot in the door has lead the William Paterson University graduate to apply her degree in English and Public Relations to building online profiles that match each individual client’s personality. She seeks out matches for her clients and interacts with them via messages. “Basically, I do everything short of going on the date.” The sense of fulfillment she gets from her work goes beyond the satisfaction of cashing a paycheck. “Being a dating coach is like being a life coach,” she explained. “We truly do care about these people and their 44 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
relationships... if we were completely apathetic we wouldn’t be effective.” eFlirt isn’t designed to hold its customers’ hands through the dating process. Instead, the goal is to teach them how to feel confident as they make the foray into online dating. With no target number for how many people get married due to her services, or how many dates a client goes on, Ashley noted that her favorite part of the job is “when the light bulb goes on” for the client. Bona fide success is when clients no longer need her and have learned how to date better for themselves.
“Basically, I do everything short of going on the date.”
The Quirks of the Job Sort of like Ann Landers for the Millennials, Parsons offers a few tidbits of instruction for the digital dating scene. The majority of Parsons’ clients are in their late 30s to mid 40s, yet some are as young as 26 and as old as 60. Often they are very wealthy, and generally lacking a grasp of how to interact with others on the streets of Internetville. That’s where Parsons comes in. After all, someone needs to advise the middle-aged businessman that the word “sexy” is not appealing in an opening line. On most occasions, first commenting on a person’s looks will be a turn-off. Like the true student of written communication that she is, Parsons dictated that there is no need to state the obvious. In fact, she put it quite simply, “of course you want to be with someone you’re attracted to…no need for the ‘s’ word.” Her advice: when initiating a conversation was, “ask questions, it immediately opens the door.” A question shows interest in a person, whereas making statements about oneself comes off as nothing but arrogant. And of course, every so often, she has to deal with the extremes. One example was the borderline
stalker who suggested to a woman doctor that she use a nickname on her dating profile, rather than her full name. An alias would have been less easy to track via search engine. An exchange such as this may seem weird to the uninitiated, but like most oddities she sees, Parsons simply takes this in stride.
To Real Reality As the perforation between the digital and physical world inevitably becomes fused, Parsons has seen her past romances as having a positive impact on how she handles situations with her clients. Love is love, whether it’s expressed via flowers, or through a yel-
Clifton Merchant • February 2015
Love Stories Ashley Parsons low smiley face blowing a kiss. And in dealing with sensitive matters of the heart, what better asset than experience? Parsons has found that as more people she knows get wind of her new career, the more she is asked for relationship guidance away from her laptop. But she doesn’t mind. In fact, she appreciates the appeals for advice and sees them as a form of respect and flattery. Working a second job at a restaurant in Hoboken, she explained that one-by-one, her female co-workers have approached her with their problems. Even her boss has recognized how popular Parsons has become, and not just with the girls she works with, but customers too. Enter the Hoboken single mom with grey hair who is extremely fit for her age. She sits at the bar and
46 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
begins to engage Parsons as her weekly dating instructor. Once again, our eFlirt expert doesn’t get rattled, but instead gets into it. “I’ll even get sassy with her, I’ll be like, ‘and so why did you text him back?’ she said emphatically. Where does that leave Parsons and her love life? She elects to steer clear of commenting on her own dating. One would imagine with all the skills she has acquired through her job that she’d be a cyber-love savant by now, but whether or not she’s applying her knowledge to find true love is unknown. However, true to her advice-giving profession, Parsons does list her ideal first date in her eFlirt bio. Her fave spot is a karaoke bar. To her, it doesn’t matter if either person can sing, really. “I think that if someone’s willing to risk looking at least
This is not the first Clifton mag cover Ashley Parson made. Back in Jan., 2008, from left that is: Lindsay Berberich, Chris Papademetriou, Ritchie Movilla, Connor Steinfeldt, Ashley, Robert Harsaghy and Casey Hawrylko.
a little bit foolish, they know how to hang. (And if they do know how to sing, instantly twice as appealing.)”
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories Ashley Parsons
Dating Gone Digital
The Internet is the new place where people of all ages can connect and perhaps find love. By Ron Haraka The vast world of online dating can be very intimidating for its 40 million inhabitants. Like hundreds of suits lined up for a single job opening, every candidate must figure out a way to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd. No longer do categories such as “Man Seeking Woman” or “Woman Seeking Friend” and obnoxious nicknames like “Italian Stallion” or “Cute N Classy” provide for enough of a pitch to sell a love interest. The way one advertises him or herself has become much more detailed and fine-tuned. Dating sites get down to the specifics, helping its users find anything to stand out. For example, OkCupid asks questions such as “Which superpower would you like to have?” or “Are you annoyed by people who are super logical?” Questions like these keep things playful, while providing users with the opportunity to present themselves in a unique light. That’s where it starts, but the realm of possibility is much bigger. Basic dating sites like OkCupid, eHarmony, and Match dominate the market. Based on the number of users on these sites, there is a high chance of meeting someone. On the other hand, there are plenty of forums available to those of more particular tastes. If faith is at the forefront, one could find fruitful the services of a JDate, Christian Mingle, Big Church, or Muslim Friends. Perhaps a certain physical attribute makes or breaks a deal. If so, Tall Friends or Redhead-World might be the medium of choice. 48 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
As one delves deeper into the different niches, he or she will find sites based on specific lifestyles, passions, or interests. There is the self-explanatory Farmers Only. Busier singles can enjoy the nonpressures of a Just Lunch, or Salad match, the onestop-shop for salad enthusiasts on the go. The list goes on, and soon the millions of users get reduced to thousands as they flock to the more peculiar online platforms. Sci-fi lovers go to Trek Passions. Ivy Leaguers can be found on Right Stuff Dating. And those with a desire to light a flame with the incarcerated put their hearts in the hands of Meet-An-Inmate. While the likes of a Geek 2 Geek or Veggie Date seem to guarantee the right match, the niche sites come with a greater risk. When asked how successful the smaller, more distinct sites are, internet love guru Ashley Parsons stated that the pool from which to choose gets trimmed. “I don’t doubt people have found someone using those sites,” she explained. “But the chances are slim when the search is that narrow. The gamble is much less in their favor.” In any case, there is no harm in trying. The key is to put oneself out there. Perhaps the best strategy is to diversify and try a mix of broad and specialized sites. On the contrary, choosing one of the more peculiar sites and reaching out to as many people as possible might prove effective. With all the options on your computer, the right person could be a few clicks away.
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Love Stories A Masquerade
Valentine’s Eve Masquerade Mystery, art, history and sculpture combine on Friday, February 13th at Lambert Castle. The Passaic County Historical Society (PCHS) hosts a Valentine’s Eve Masquerade Ball and Fundraiser from 7 to 10 pm at its Victorian castle on 3 Valley Rd., Paterson. Now home to PCHS’s museum and library and decorated with stained glass, lifesized sculptures and a diverse collection of art, the castle was built in 1892 by Catholina Lambert, the owner of a Paterson silk mill. Constructed in the Medieval Revival architectural style, Lambert’s dream was to build a home reminiscent of the castles in Great Britain he recalled from his youth. He did just that and hosted parties there to showcase his success. Among his guests in 1898 were President William McKinley and Vice President Garret Hobart, as well as hundreds of friends from New York’s elite. By 1913, the Paterson silk strikes began and Lambert’s fortunes changed. In 1916, he auctioned off 368 paintings, 32 sculptures and sold one of his silk factories before
declaring bankruptcy and liquidating his company. Catholina Lambert died in his castle on Feb. 15, 1923 at the age of 89. He is buried next to his wife, Isabella in Paterson’s Cedar Lawn Cemetery. The Castle was sold to the City of Paterson in 1925, transferred to Passaic County in 1928, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and is operated by the non-profit PCHS. But as far as this year’s romanticly inspired fundraiser, the attire is semi-formal and a mask is a must for those who wish to explore three floors of art and historical artifacts in the Castle on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Come dance with your date, explore the nooks and winding stairwells of this expansive and historic home. A Venetian table of sweets will entice and a well-stocked cash bar may help to summon the spirits. Tickets are $25. Can you think of anything more romantic for Valentine’s Eve than donning a mask and dancing the night away? If not, call 973-247-0085 ext 201.
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Clifton Merchant • February 2015
Business & Commerce
Shop Right on Paulison Ave.
Rafael Cuellar could have been a retired US Navy Commander today. He could have been above 10 years into that retirement by now, collecting a tidy pension with full health benefits. He could have been selfish and fulfilled his dreams. But his family needed him. Cuellar was a lieutenant on active duty in the US Navy when his father Evelio died unexpectedly in May 1996. Evelio Cuellar was a Cuban immigrant who fled to Madrid, Spain with his wife Daisy and son Evelio, Jr. in the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;60s. It was there that Rafael was born. 52 February 2015 â&#x20AC;˘ Clifton Merchant
The family then came to the United States and Evelio opened a bodega in Paterson in 1974. He ran the 494 Supermarket for a decade before selling his stake to his partner. Evelio then formed ECO & Sons, Inc. as the holding company for President Supermarket on the corners of Washington, Jefferson and Hoover in Passaic. The store was extremely successful because Cuellar catered to the various demographics in the area. Three years after his father bought President, Rafael graduated Paul VI High School, which was then on Valley Rd. in Clifton in 1987. He was just 17, but Cuellar immediately enlisted in the Navy.
“I wanted to pay for college on my own “This is my neighborhood, these are my and be my own man,” he said. Cuellar went neighbors,” said Rafael Cuellar. “They’re my to Fordham University on an NROTC scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Arts in customers, but they’re also my friends.” Economics. He then became an officer aboard the USS he was five made him a natural to follow in his father’s Detroit and worked his way up to the rank of entrepreneurial footsteps. Lieutenant. Rafael was responsible for 250 sailors and Cuellar boosted revenue by 25 percent during his first a $14 million quarterly budget. He was getting set to year as CEO of ECO & Sons. He eliminated the practice attend medical school to become a Navy surgeon when of micromanaging at President and allowed many his father passed away one Saturday. Rafael was then employees to be their own managers. faced with a difficult choice. One of those employees who worked his way up the “It took me about three seconds,” Cuellar said of his employment ladder is store manager Guillermo Garcia, decision to sacrifice his lifelong goal in order to return 45. He immigrated to the United States from Peru in home and help his family. Rafael received a hardship 1988 and soon got a job as a cashier at President. discharge, and just like that, his nearly decade-long Garcia was eventually promoted to frozen foods mantenure in the military was over. ager and then dairy manager. Cuellar returned home to grieve with his mother and He got married in 2002 and moved with his wife to brother. He also had the responsibility of taking over Georgia to work for Kroeger Supermarkets. Garcia his father’s business. was there for a couple years before he received a phone Rafael’s structured military background and strong call from Cuellar. work ethic formed from laboring at his dad’s store since
Clifton Merchant • February 2015
Business & Commerce
Rafael Cuellar, (at right) with his brother Evelio, Jr. and their father Evelio in the mid ‘90s at President Supermarket. Evelio, Sr. passed away in May 1996 and Rafael left a 10 year career as a US Navy officer to run the family business.
“Raffy called me and told me he needed me back to run the place,” said Garcia, who has now been with Cuellar for 18 years. “You can train anyone to do anything, but you can’t train loyalty,” Cuellar said. He eventually sold President in 2005 in order to pursue a much larger business venture. Cuellar bought the massive ShopRite on Paulison Ave. at the Clifton/Passaic border. He and his form went from owning a 13,500 sq. ft. store to a 65,000 sq. ft. franchise. “It’s difficult to run a store like this as an independent,” said Cuellar, who’s the only Hispanic and the youngest ShopRite owner among the 205 in the nation. “You’ve got to be part of the community.” He did this by stocking the shelves with a whole line of Spanish, Arabic and Kosher products to satisfy the demand of his diverse clientele. The Rosemawr resident sees this diversity right in front of him when he peers through the windows of his second floor office. “I come up here on a Sunday and I look down at my customers,” he said. “I can see an Orthodox Jewish lady shopping right next to a Muslim woman dressed in a burqa.” A wide selection of ethnic food isn’t the only unique part of Cuellar’s ShopRite. 54 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
He employs a chef who teaches cooking classes to about ten customers on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the “Presidential Cafe” (a tribute to his old store). The chef also serves lunch from 11 am to 3 pm with a different speciality everyday. Cuellar walks the aisles of his ShopRite at least once a day. He often runs into people he’s known since he was a little boy and converses in English or Spanish. “This is my neighborhood, these are my neighbors,” Cuellar said on a recent tour of the store. “They’re my customers, but they’re also my friends.” Back upstairs in Cuellar’s office, several pictures hang on the wall. There’s one of him with former President George H.W. Bush at a National Republican Gala. There’s another with him and former Secretary of State Colin Powell at William Paterson University. A third photo features Cuellar smiling alongside former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman at her farm. A fourth shows him with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at a US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event. But all the way on the left side of the wall, closer to Cuellar’s desk than any of the patriotic photographs, is a picture of Rafael with his smiling brother and father at a President Supermarket Mother’s Day event in the mid ‘90s. It’s easy to see why he came back.
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
It all began with...
Waiting FOR Christmas
Waiting for Christmas cast in 2005 included Priscila Bellia, Jeannie Kempa, Ashley Leeshock, Becca Pickett, Michael Press, Chris Robertson, Sarah Robertson, Sandra Rudnitzky, Cara Ruggiero, Kate Sugarman, Maren Sugarman, Marnie Sugarman, Paul Sugarman, Cassandra Trujillo, Karen Yeamans and Karla Joelle Yeamans.
By Kim Renta
Some 10 years ago, a handful of friends decided that our city’s cultural landscape needed another artistic outlet. By then, the Clifton Arts Center and Sculpture Park on the municipal campus were in full bloom. The Clifton Association of Artists were already decades into their exhibitions of fine arts.
But Theater League of Clifton (TLC) founder and current President Mark Peterson and a group of other Clifton thespians realized that their love of live performance art always required them to venture beyond Clifton for a stage. In a city of more than 80,000 residents, there was no community theater, no outlet for actors and actresses beyond our schools. That changed in July 2005 when Peterson, along with the member of the TLC’s first board of directors, John Traier, Kathleen Kellaigh and Barbara Novak, became founders of The Theater League of Clifton. 56 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
They soon realized that ensuring the success of TLC would be a major undertaking. But as Peterson recalled, they were united in their belief that such an undertaking was well worth the effort. With an intimate kick-off fundraiser in Peterson’s Rosemawr backyard in Sept. 2005, the seed was planted to introduce Clifton’s new community theater company. TLC’s inaugural show was an original production written by Montclair resident Kirk Woodward entitled Waiting for Christmas. More shows followed in leased space at the architecturally beautiful but somewhat cramped auditorium at School #3 on Washington Ave.
TLC scholarship, but that encouraged his training in Sticking True to the Mission NYC conservatory programs. In 2007, Mary and Frank The mission of TLC is to cultivate the arts and enterMazzarisi commemorated the 10th anniversary of the tainment by connecting residents through theater, by passing of their daughter JoAnna Martin, by donating entertaining, enlightening and uplifting those who $500 to TLCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scholarship fund in her name. attend TLC productions. The second mandate is Cast of the Christmas to nurture emerging talent cabaret in 2009 staged and TLC does that by at the Clifton Arts Center. awarding annual scholarships to CHS seniors pursuing an education in the field of the arts. Just like the theater productions, the scholarship program has received wide support from the Clifton community. Over the decade, 21 CHS grads have received scholarships. Among the first was Chris Robertson, CHS 2007 who noted that not only was it an honor to be the first to receive the
Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Martin, a 1978 graduate of CHS, went on to pursue her dream of acting and dancing with a promising career in Hollywood, which included a recurring role in the The Young and the Restless and roles in films such as Nixon. With the help of additional donors, the Mazzarisis have continued to honor JoAnna by presenting gifts in her name at the annual Scholarship Awards Presentation at CHS. “She would love this,” said Mary Mazzarisi, reflecting on her daughter’s wishes. In the spring of 2012, TLC moved to its current home at the Theresa Aprea Theater in The Learning Center on Scoles Ave. The larger venue allows more elaborate productions, larger sets, ensemble casts and fabulous costumes, such as last year’s hugely popular production of Fiddler on the Roof (pictured above). TLC also offers murder mystery dinner theaters at Mario’s Restaurant. The next is Once Upon A Mystery, written and directed by Kirk Woodward. Help solve whodunit? on Feb 27, 28 and March 1, 6, 7, 8. Tickets
58 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
are $40, including dinner and show. That will be followed by the Broadway classic, South Pacific. This epic musical romance by James A. Michener centers on a group of American sailors and Navy nurses stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. Dates are May 8, 9, 10 and 15, 16 and 17 and it is staged at the Theresa Aprea Theater at The Learning Center, 199 Scoles Ave., Clifton. Reflecting on the proudest moments of the past decade with TLC, Peterson emphasizes the camaraderie that is a part of theater life. “Finding friends who love the same things, who love the arts and who work together like a team to get things done brings great satisfaction,” said Peterson. “TLC is like family. Our people store props in their basements, help us paint sets, anything that needs to be done, they are always available.” “The support that we have received from our community, audiences, actors and all the talented people behind the scenes helped established TLC as a highly regarded and recognized community theater,” he added. “As I reflect back to when we started, I thought then about the movie A Field of Dreams. The message of that movie was ‘build it and they will come.’ Our audiences have been coming back year after year and making our July 2005 dream a reality.” To volunteer, perform, help out or to learn more, leave a message at 973-928-7668 or go to theaterleagueofclifton.com.
within this magazine or at our office.
Top left, a Clifton Mustang Marching Band Majorette at the 2014 Veterans Parade in Downtown Clifton. Next to her is the landmark Roche Pharmaceuticals building on Route 3. That building and others on the campus will be redeveloped by Hackensack University Medical Center and Seton Hall University into a private medical school. Top right, Dr. Thomas A. Graziano M.D., D.P.M.; Atlas Chiropractic’s Christa D’Amato D.C., BCAO; Mt. Prospect Ave. resident Gary Perino; Dr. Josephine V. Jasper M.D.; David Osorio who attends Berkeley College; Marika Pap of the Hungarian Meat Market and Billy and Lisa Meltzer of the
sporting goods store which bears their family name and is now in its 100th year. From the center left, that’s the Grande Saloon on Van Houten Ave., the Country Club Towers on Hepburn Rd. and an illustration of historic Botany Village. Bottom left is a senior CHS Mustang Soccer player with his mother at Varsity Night; Adriana Blauvelt of Downtown Clifton’s Ex-Terminator Pest Control; Tom Hawrylko Jr. of Tomahawk Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning; recently retired Deputy Fire Chief Norm Tahan; Rovshan Kerimov who owns and operates Kerimoff Shoe & Handbag Repairs on Clifton Ave., with his tailor, Aneta Strekowska. Clifton Merchant • February 2015
By Ron Haraka Challenge Accepted Anuja Brahmbhatt pushes herself to see exactly where her limits are. To this point, she seems to have very few. “I am a firm believer in challenging yourself...to see what you’re capable of.” The CHS senior attended WWMS after completing her primary education in Lodi. When she considers her journey thus far, she credits her parents and teachers for Tiffany Richards Tiana Roland instilling in her a drive to succeed and a strong work ethic. Building For The Future “Many teachers at CHS care deeply for Tiffany Richards is not only a their students and I hope one day I fulfill part of the Marine Corps JROTC the expectations they have set for me.” program at CHS, but she is also the A person she mentions in particular is unit’s Commanding Officer. Biology teacher Steven Meck, who taught In addition to JROTC, Richards Brahmbhatt her favorite subject at the is the Vice President of the History freshman and AP level. Club, and plays varsity lacrosse “It is fascinating to learn how some livand varsity basketball for the ing organisms adapt in order to survive Mustangs. Her favorite subject is and to learn about the genetic makeup of math, “because I’m really good human beings. Having a teacher as paswith numbers.” sionate about Biology as Mr. Meck can Her numbers, dedication and lead to everyone liking the subject.” Anuja Brahmbhatt hard work have really paid off— Brahmbhatt now aspires to parlay that she just received up to $180,000 passion for living things into a major in for college thanks to the NROTC-Marine Option Biology, followed by a career in medicine. Scholarship program. She can attend the college of her “I would like to be an Oncologist. I want to be able choice as a part of a military delayed-entry program. to remind cancer patients that there is hope.” The only stipulation is that after she completes her On top of her biological brilliance, Brahmbhatt is degree at an approved NROTC program she’ll follow also somewhat of an explorer. She has learned so much that by serving a hitch with the Marines—as an officer. about different students through different cultures, and This diverse lifetime Cliftonite went to School 8, hopes to continue that trend. then attended the intimately sized Classical Academy “I like to travel and go on adventures...to explore Charter School on Valley Rd. before making the transinew things while you’re young and free from extreme tion to the 3,000+ student CHS campus. responsibilities such as having a family, job, house...” Now with money in the bank, so to speak, and the She is a member of the Key Club, Knights of burden off herself or her parents, she revels in the vast Pythagoras, Asian Club, Relay for Life, and manager of opportunities afforded to her by a bigger school. the cross country and indoor track team. 60 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
Richards’ advice to the newcomers to CHS: “Push and try different things like team sports or one of our many clubs.” Richards plans to combine her military background with her mathematical skills to make for a promising career as a civil engineer.
“I enjoy telling and reading stories and expressing emotions on paper. English, in my opinion, is my imaginative side. History, through philosophy, teaches me practical lessons that are not fiction but fact, therefore, expressing my logical side.” Outside the classroom, she is a part Jazzing Things Up A Bit of the Student Council, Forensic Samantha Mei C. Dong has a flair Science Club, Phoenix Art Magazine, for the artistic and the creative. and musical. Samantha Mei C. Dong “I am an enthusiastic pianist playDong is grateful for the people with ing for eight years and have qualified whom she has come into contact over in the Music Educator’s Association of New Jersey her time at CHS. She recalls a special moment. audition when I was eleven,” she says proudly, as she “I returned back to school after a long absence and continues down the lines of her impressive performing was greeted with much support and aid from my peers arts resume. and teachers.” “I was pianist for the WWMS jazz band,” where Three years away from graduation, Dong has an Dong explains she had her first improvised solo. “And evolving goal in mind. “I dream to help and inspire performed for talent show, SingSations, and musical.” people in the future such as teachers, spokespeople and Although her creative side stands out, Dong mainwriters. As of now, teachers have always been monutains a left-brain right-brain balance in the classroom, mental figures in my life and I find importance in the stating that English and History are her favorite subfact that these people are working to teach, care, and jects. influence young minds.”
Clifton Merchant • February 2015
Outstanding Mustangs Numbers Game Tiana Roland began her academic career at School 17, having fond memories of now CHS principal Mr. Anthony Orlando at the Annual Field Days. She then attended Classical Academy Charter School, before becoming a freshman at the CHS Annex. Roland is a numbers person and loves how math “makes her think and look at life differently.” Beyond Algebra, Roland enjoys her gym class with Mr. West, particularly Kayla the competitive nature of basketball. Hoping to try out for the Lady Mustangs next year, she noted how she can translate her math problem solving skills onto the basketball court when positioning herself for the best shot. Roland represents the Brighton Rd. Annex well, and loves her school because it is small and everyone is nice. “Even though there are many different backgrounds, my classmates are friendly and willing to help each other.” Lending A Hand Senior Kayla Ware likes to stay active and shares that passion by helping others. “I have enjoyed playing sports such as soccer and lacrosse. This year I did not play, but volunteered as a Clifton Rec coach.” she says.
62 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
“I also enjoy coaching my little brother and sister during the indoor soccer season at the Clifton Boys & Girls Club.” When she’s not coaching, she’s volunteering in other ways. “I enjoy face painting with my mom's friend Rachel Brown who face paints with different children’s charitable organizations.” Ware attended School 14 and 9. There she fostered the friendships she would maintain while attending Ware CCMS and high school. At CHS, her favorite and best subject is English because she enjoys reading. Additionally, she greatly appreciates “meeting and developing the friendships I have made throughout high school.” Ware has a message for incoming students, “There are so many different clubs, sports, and activities in the school that there is no reason not to get involved. There is something for everyone. Make the best of it. High school goes by fast.” She is considering a stint in the Army after graduation, from which she hopes to enter the medical field. “I am currently interning at Prostaff Physical Therapy on Broad St. to help me decide if I would want to go to college for nursing or physical therapy.”
Here are some of the Mustang models set to walk the runway for the March 29 CHS Prom Fashion show to benefit 2015 Project Graduation: Jessenia Roldan, Shakira Kisijara, Breanna Calderon, Mansa Ale, Yasmine Oviedo, Steven Leal, Lenny Contreras 3. Above right are Alexandra Wohr, Nicole Rzekice, Gilan Saidian, Matthew Zybura, Nick Garruto.
The CHS Prom Fashion Show is March 29 at 2 pm. It is presented with the support of CASA (Clifton Against Substance Abuse) and again staged at the JFK Auditorium. The event is a major fundraiser for the Class of 2015 and the cost of admission ($10) helps fund tickets for Project Graduation. For the show, the models—seniors from the Class of 2015—will be styling tuxedos donated by Deluxe Formal Wear of Clifton. Gowns will be donated by BouBou, Sisters Bridal Boutique, Unique Designs by Viki and VESA. Money raised goes to underwrite the cost of Project Graduation on June 26 right after Commencement, which this year, will likely be on the new turf at Clifton School’s Stadium. Project Graduation is an all night party with a lock-in at an undisclosed resort, a place where graduating seniors are safe from alcohol and
drugs. Class of 2015 seniors will meet at CHS and are then taken by bus to the resort at 10 pm. They remain there with plenty of food and time to frolic. Doors are locked until 5 am and then they are bussed back to CHS. Want to help out as a sponsor, contribute the styling services of your salon or somehow get involved? Call chair Nancy Delaney at 973-951-5024. A CASA Project Graduation Pasta Buffet Tricky Tray is on Feb. 27 at 6:30 pm at the Boys & Girls Club. The $30 ticket includes dinner and entertainment. Performing will be hypnotist Dan Rose, suitable for those over age 18—sorry, no students. All proceeds fro mthe event will go to Project Graduation so purchase tickets in advance. To donate gifts and prizes for the Tricky Tray, call Tom Whittles at 973-800-2938 or Nancy Delaney at 973-951-5024.
Clifton Merchant • February 2015
Birthdays & Celebrations - February 2015
Ashley Rose Montague turns 9 on Feb. 6. Happy Birthday to Donna Hawrylko on Feb. 25. Alejandra P. Gonzales is also 9 on Feb. 28. Natalie Pych turns 14 on Feb. 8. Goofy Bob De Liberto celebrates 51 on Feb. 11. Birthday Greetings Lux siblings—Eric turns 19 on Feb. 3 & Renee turns 13 on Feb. 14.
Happy Birthday to... Send dates & names... firstname.lastname@example.org Alison Degen.......................2/1 Robyn Feldman................... 2/1 Jack Houston ...................... 2/1 Kristin Reilly........................ 2/1 Mary Jane Varga................ 2/1 Emil Soltis, Jr ...................... 2/2 Joseph Fierro ...................... 2/3 Bob Naletko....................... 2/3 Catherine Grace Burns ........ 2/4 John Nittolo........................ 2/5
64 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
Courtney Carlson................ 2/6 Joseph DeSomma ............... 2/6 Robert D’Alessio ................. 2/7 Nicole Tahan...................... 2/7 Tara Fueshko ...................... 2/8 Jamie Carr ......................... 2/9 Craig Grieco...................... 2/9 Steven Becker ................... 2/10 Bryan Kelly....................... 2/10 Matthew Seitz .................. 2/10
Valentine Le Ster ............... Sarah Mikolajczyk ............ Nick Zecchino .................. Joseph Hilla...................... Anthony Musleh................ Dolores Rando.................. John Hodorovych .............. Amin Zamlout................... Mark Gallo ...................... Jeanette Ann Saia ............. Orest Luzniak ................... Christine Canavan ............ Chickie Curtis ................... Frank Klippel .................... M. Louis Poles .................. Ashley Brandecker ............ Leann Perez...................... Lorraine Rothe .................. Michael Del Re ................. Richie Bandurski ............... Stephanie Peterson............ Michael Papa................... Robert Mosciszko.............. Taylor Jesch ...................... Diana Murphy .................. John T. Saccoman ............. Robert Adamo .................. Eileen Feldman ................. Kimberly Mistretta .............
2/11 2/11 2/11 2/12 2/12 2/12 2/13 2/13 2/14 2/14 2/14 2/15 2/15 2/15 2/15 2/17 2/17 2/17 2/18 2/19 2/19 2/20 2/21 2/22 2/22 2/22 2/24 2/24 2/24
Luciano Vincent DeMayo will celebrate his first birthday on Feb. 8. He is pictured with his dad Richie from Villa Roma Pizzeria & Restaurant on Clifton Ave. across from city hall. Kimberly Gasior .............. Brittany Helwig................ Joyce Penaranda ............. Brittany Pinter .................. Lauren Ricca.................... Charlie Galluzzo ............. Mark Zecchino ................
2/26 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/28 2/28
Mary and Bob Henn celebrate their wedding anniversary on Feb. 3.
Don Knapp celebrates a birthday on Feb. 6. Clifton Merchant â&#x20AC;˘ February 2015
Events & Briefs
Above left, Nina and Frank Corradino, organizers of the 85th annual St. Joseph’s dinner. At right, Eileen Hladky, Mark Bigica, Nancy Bach, Mac McCormick (along with Luisa Fuentes, not pictured) perform in the Main Event of Love.
The Feast Day of St. Joseph—the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary—is on March 19. In Sicily, where St. Joseph is a Patron, and here in many Italian-American communities, thanks are given on that day to St. Joseph—San Giuseppe—for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. Keeping that tradition alive, the
66 February 2015 • Clifton Merchant
85th Geraci Citizens League St. Joseph’s Dinner Dance is on March 7 at The Brownstone at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $90. Coordinated by Nina and Frank Corradino, those who attend will enjoy traditional pasta dishes, finocchi and zeppoli, dancing and music. For tickets, call the Corradino at 973-278-0356 or 973-470-8982.
The Main Event of Love is a Valentine’s Cabaret of music produced by Joseph Schreck, Jr. of Blue State Productions, which calls St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Clifton Ave. its home. The cabaret features the vocalists pictured above performing songs from ballads to Broadway tunes touching on many aspects of eros and romance. A Feb. 8 performance is at St. Philip’s Marian Hall, 797 Valley Rd. A pasta buffet begins a 2 pm with the show at 3 and the cost is $25. On Feb. 13 and 14, the 8 pm shows are at St. Peter’s Episcopal, 380 Clifton Ave. Tickets are $20. These benefit performances will help raise funds for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women and Troop 21 Eagle Scout Project benefiting the renovation of St. Philip choir loft. Reserve seats and more details are at bluestateproductions.com, email email@example.com or call 973-607-1924. There is limited cabaret style seating—order now.
Tomahawk Promotions 1288 main avenue Clifton, NJ 07011
PRSRT STD U.S. Postage PA I D Phila Pa 191 PeRmiT No. 7510