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Letter From the


‘As Clifton Grows, So Do We,’ our slogan, underlines our mission to work with residents, merchants and government officials to help our hometown prosper. The unsung heroes of Clifton help us tell our story. Who are these nondescript folks, the ones that put the muscle into our magazine, month after month? It’s the advertisers you’ll find on these pages. People like the Fette family, who have been in our hometown for four generations. It is also the good neighbors at Garden State Honda and Schumacher Chevrolet. It’s the doctors, dentists, lawyers, bankers, roofers, Realtors, builders and so many other business owners who support this magazine by placing advertisements, which enable us to be creative and tell Clifton’s story. Thanks to their advertising support for the last 23 years, our writers and photographers prepare unique features about our hometown and the people who live here. This month we open with the story of baby Sloan DeVita and how her birth remains nothing short of a miracle, and a blessing. That story is followed by 28 pages of features, telling of how our friends and neighbors have met, married and multiplied!

Our February Love edition is always a favorite but Clifton history is really our forte. In this month’s edition, we recall the late jazz legend and longtime Rosemawr resident Marlene VerPlanck, a woman who added a distinctive voice to the great American Popular Songbook. After a celebration of Marlene’s life, Jack DeVries presents a historical account of how a Lakeview resident whose bravery along the banks of the Passaic River in 1776 was crucial to the success of Gen. George Washington and the birth of our nation. This is all original stuff, stories which require hours of research by professional writers, original designs by our artists, and a lot of heavy lifting here in our office. We put our pen to the paper, the eye to the camera, and the ink to the pages but it is our unsung heroes, our advertisers, who allow us to tell Clifton’s story. Month after month, and now in our 23rd year, I again say thanks to our advertisers for supporting us and helping to make Clifton Magazine a reality. 16,000 Magazines are distributed to hundreds of Clifton Merchants on the first Friday of every month.

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February 2018 •

Subscribe $35 / year / $60 for 2 Call 973-253-4400 Contributing Writers Jack De Vries, Joe Hawrylko, Irene Jarosewich, Tom Szieber, Jay Levin, Michael C. Gabriele, Anthony Buccino, Patricia Alex

Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko Art Director Ken Peterson Graphic Designer Natalia Dymora Business Mgr. Gabriella Marriello Social Media Mgr. Ariana Puzzo • February 2018


By Anthony Buccino Amanda DeVita knew the chances of her becoming a mother weren’t good when she faced cancer. Even before she started her chemotherapy treatments, the first two fertility attempts hadn’t work. While the third attempt at viable embryos had succeeded, in the end, it wasn’t needed. Baby Sloan Rose arrived without any test tube’s help, a triumph over cancer and a testament to her parents’ will and faith. The baby’s name was significant. When she arrived, it was only fitting that the little girl be named after the people who saved her mom’s life and prepared the way for healthy and precious Sloan to enter the world. Her mom Amanda had fought for her life against cancer, not once but twice. And her comeback after successful treatment in a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center drug trial is nothing short of a miracle. Beginnings Sloan’s dad, Michael DeVita, is a numbers guy and a graduate of Clifton High, Class of 1995. Her mom Amanda is a wordsmith. Though they met in grammar


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school, it was as adults. In Dec. 2009, Michael started as business administrator for Kearny Public Schools; three months earlier, Amanda began teaching language arts in Franklin Elementary School. As fate would have it, the school building housed the board offices where Michael worked. He first saw the pretty blond teacher when she came to visit her “Aunt” Betty Ann Battaglino in the board offices (Battaglino is Amanda’s mother’s childhood friend). Unfortunately, Michael learned Amanda already had a boyfriend. Three months later, that changed. Aunt Betty introduced the couple and loudly announced that Amanda was now single. Though each was embarrassed and red-faced, Michael began to plan. Later that day, he waited until classes were dismissed and set out to find Amanda in her classroom. His simple goal: Ask her out on a date. However, he had scarcely been out of the administration office and hadn’t counted on a labyrinth of levels in the school. In search of the pretty blond • February 2018


now boyfriend-less teacher, Michael got hopelessly lost. He ultimately called his own office to help him navigate to Amanda’s classroom. Fortunately, despite his long trek through the building’s distant hallways, Amanda was still in her room and agreed to date the soft-spoken young man. They made a date for Friday... then Michael realized it was Good Friday. He wondered, who has a first date on Good Friday? He didn’t know her faith. Would she eat steak on that religious day or stick to fish? To make sure their first date went smoothly, he picked a Weehawken riverside restaurant where she could have either. She was late. He was nervous. To pass the time, Michael waited at the bar where, after a cocktail or two, his jitters subsided. She arrived. And they hit it off. Soulmates After nearly a year of dating, Michael was ready to take the big step. His heart was set on Amanda, the love of his life. He wanted his proposal to reflect how his soul jumped when he was with his soulmate. Amanda DeVita at Sloan Kettering in October 2014 after undergoing her stem cell transplant.

A true romantic, Michael wanted to propose to Amanda amid the spring blossoms in the trees and the scents of flowers ready to bloom into a burst of colors. He chose a setting near his condo along the picturesque falls at The Mill in Little Falls. “I waited outside for her to come home,” he said. “I wanted her to go for a walk down by the falls. She said she was cold and tired and wanted to go inside... well, it was a cold night.” “I feigned a stomach ache and said I needed some fresh air. I had the ring in my pocket. I was ready. Amanda wasn’t buying it. So, we went inside where I proposed.” Michael’s heart was in the right place despite the weather. What really mattered was Amanda said, “yes.” “We went on our first date April 2, 2010,” said Amanda, “and got engaged March 25, 2011, just shy of a year later. He always gives me a rose on April 2.” The first year of marriage is sometimes the toughest as a couple becomes acquainted through constant


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companionship, getting to know, really know, each other. But nothing could prepare them for what came next.

The young couple tried a fertility procedure ahead of cancer treatments. Their efforts yielded no viable embryos and doctors told Michael and Amanda that treatments must start.

‘This Isn’t Pneumonia, It’s Something...’ “Before we actually got married, Amanda complained of pain in her upper back,” Michael recalled. er fertility attempt could happen, doctors said Amanda “The doctor said it might be arthritis and prescribed an must start her treatments. anti-inflammatory which only masked the pain for a When your doctor says there’s a ‘cocktail’ for your while.” ailment, it’s not the kind of cocktail you have waiting This was the couple’s first for your future spouse to arrive sign of trouble ahead. at your first date. After they were married on Amanda received the chemo June 29, 2012, Amanda cocktail called ‘ABVD,’ a mix stopped the meds to start a of (Doxorubicin, Bleomycin, family. But the back pain Vinblastine, Dacarbazine) returned and got worse and through an intravenous tube worse. When it became too every other Thursday from much to bear, Michael rushed March to August 2013. After the her to the ER in the middle of chemo treatments concluded, a the night. Doctors thought she clean scan showed the baseballhad pneumonia. sized mass in her chest was “This isn’t pneumonia,” gone, and she returned to work She thought. “It’s something.” in September. A follow-up diagnosis was more ominous. It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over The biopsy came back as BAhead of her six-month folcell lymphoma, a blood cancer low-up exam, Amanda felt in the lymph nodes affecting B something wasn’t right. The cells. February 2014 follow-up tests The couple got a second showed her cancer had returned. opinion at Memorial Sloan Sloan Rose DeVita, Amanda and Michael Facing another regimen of Kettering Cancer Center. Their DeVita’s miracle baby, named in honor of treatments and radiation, doctors sent Amanda’s test the team of doctors at Sloan Kettering. Amanda and Michael wanted to slides to the National Institute try fertility again. Because of her of Health. The diagnosis was health history, their original facility turned them away, the more treatable Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. as did a second. According to the Mayo Clinic, Hodgkin’s Finally, a program accepted the desperate couple, Lymphoma (formerly known as Hodgkin’s Disease) is warning the odds of success were against them. a cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the immune This time, on their third try, the couple produced two system. The disease may affect people of any age, but viable embryos which were frozen for later. is most common between people ages 20 and 40 years Amanda and Michael’s first year of marriage was a old, and those over 55. tumultuous one that included a brave battle against The young couple, in their thirties and anxious to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Sticking together through the start a family, decided to try a fertility procedure before grueling cancer treatment until remission is a landmark Amanda’s treatments on the doctors’ recommendation. achievement, especially for newlyweds. Efforts yielded no viable embryos. But before anoth-


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ts. yos da • February 2018


The DeVita clan at the Light the Night event: Mike’s brother Tom and wife Joy, Amanda and Mike, and Mike’s dad Tom and mom Donna. From left are Tom and Joy’s girls, Madison, Hannah and Hailey.

Now, the couple was about to endure a second and even more arduous test of strength, faith and family. Stem Cells and BRENT vs. Cancer Amanda was accepted in treatment trial through Sloan Kettering using BRENT (Brentuximab vedotin, an antibody-drug) from May to August 2014. They harvested her stem cells after a clean scan in August 2014. That was followed by radiation in September 2014 and then stem cell transplant. “BRENT is supposed to be less harsh on the body,” Amanda explained. “It’s supposed to attack only where needed. The antibody drug is attached to the chemo. I wasn’t going to lose my hair again.” All was going well. “Then one day in the shower,” Amanda said, “a whole handful of hair came off.” She then entered the transplant process, basically harvesting her blood cells. “You could sit there in front of the machine and see red cells separating (for hours),” Amanda recalled. She was lucky. Doctors harvested enough cells in one day. Some candidates need to repeat the process. This was followed by 20 radiation sessions, twice day, six hours apart. Her saving grace was the beautiful September weather. Between sessions, she and a family member visited New York City’s tourist sites. “They encouraged me to keep an active lifestyle (during the radiation regimen),” Amanda said. “I’d


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always been active, I worked out, never smoked, ate healthy, so, I don’t know why I got sick.” Later that month, her saved and frozen, clean stem cells were returned to her body. “I always had someone with me, whether it was my mother, my aunt or my husband. I was never alone.”

Paying it forward Amanda and Michael Da Vita participate in annual fundraising walks for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society in Verona and Mary’s Place by the Sea in Ocean Grove. During the past five years, their teams raised more than $50,000 for both causes. The Leukemia Lymphoma Society Walk goes around Verona Park at night with illuminated lanterns to raise awareness for blood cancers and with the hope of one day finding a cure. This year’s walk will be on Oct. 13. For more info, visit Light the Night at Mary’s Place by the Sea supports women with cancer through integrative services. Patients stay at their house in Ocean Grove, free of charge. The house is totally funded through donations. This year’s walk will be on May 19, 2018. For more information Mary’s Place by the Sea, visit


The BRENT – stem cell – radiation treatment was successful. Amanda is considered in remission for five years after her last treatment. As long as her scans are clean, she can be considered cancer free after five years, Sept. 30, 2019. Amanda is a cancer survivor. Now she and Michael, along with their friends, strive to pay it forward.

“One of my doctors,” said Amanda, “told me it’s harder for the person in the passenger’s seat. I know what I can handle. To have to watch someone you love go through all this, it’s difficult.” Michael added, “It made me a better husband, a better father.” “Someone told me,” said Amanda, “the first year of marriage is the hardest. If you can make it through the honeymoon, and we

didn’t have that honeymoon. (This cancer and miracle) makes your relationship stronger. “Have hope and faith. Don’t ever let them tell you no. There were many days that we thought that was it, but we just truck along. We don’t think of those days.” Amanda’s smile grows larger, “Now LOOK! SLOAN! This is our little miracle. “We are very blessed.”

Some REALLY Good News One side effect of the procedure left Amanda menopausal for nearly two years. Then, without warning, her cycle returned. The couple took that as a sign to try again. “We surprised people. We surprised the doctors,” Michael said. “It was a miracle. It really was. Everything!” Amanda says of the precious girl born March 22, 2017, at four-pound 14-ounces. Sloan Rose now nine and a half months, sits smiling in dad’s lap. Before she was born, the couple circled around names, perhaps Michael after dad and an oncologist at Sloan Kettering if the baby was a boy. They were delighted to name their miracle newborn girl “Sloan Rose” in honor of the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “We wanted to send the fertility people who turned us away a picture of Sloan,” said Amanda. Michael, holding Sloan said, “You appreciate everything more.” Amanda added defiantly, “There are always other options. Never lose hope. We’re Catholic.” “This tests your faith,” Michael said. “She went through it a little better than I did with her faith.” • February 2018


By Irene Jarosewich

The Temnycky family with Daria’s mom, Maria Bakalec: Christina, Paul, Daria and Orest.

Orest Temnycky had carefully planned his marriage proposal to Daria Bakalec. Three years had passed since the two started dating. He knew the time was now. So that the proposal would go as planned, he needed a warm summer evening, a mountaintop, a romantic moment under a starlit sky. And, of course, he would need Daria to be there. Daria had joined him for the weekend upstate in the pretty hamlet of Hunter. Nestled in the Catskills, Hunter was near and dear to the hearts of generations of Ukrainian immigrants, reminding them of the beautiful Carpathian Mountains they left behind. Orest, a bit nervous, realized the evening was getting late. OK, he thought, this is the moment. Daria, however, had dozed off. Gently, Orest awakened her. “Come on, it’s a beautiful night. Let’s go for a walk.”


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She looked up at him through sleepy eyes. She was pretty sure the last thing she wanted to do was go for a walk. She was ready to suggest he go alone. On the other hand, she was also pretty sure that she did not want to begin a discussion. Slowly she unwound herself from the chair and followed Orest out the door. “Honestly, I was grumpy. But Orest persevered. He suggested that we walk up this one hill in particular. I remember muttering under my breath most of the time.” At the crest of the hill lay a large, flat boulder that jetted out from underground. When sitting upon this slice of bedrock, you were above the tree line, with a view of the valley below and of the heavens above. Daria fell silent. Suddenly it occurred to her that Orest was planning to propose. • February 2018


“A rapid change in attitude immediately followed,” Orest recalled with a wry grin. Four months later the couple, who will have been married 29 years this fall, exchanged vows on that same hill, in St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, a stone’s throw from their favorite boulder. “The day of the wedding was beautiful,” remembers Daria wistfully, while Orest, still grinning, adds, “Yet near the end of the ceremony, a large rumble of thunder could be heard. I thought to myself, ‘hmmmm... this is an omen, this is God speaking’. I just wasn’t sure if it was a warning or a blessing.” Interwoven Interests Daria and Orest met Memorial Day weekend 1986. Both were counselors for the Ukrainian scouts organization Plast. Like most scouting organizations, Plast focuses on cultivating traits such as respect, leadership, and responsibility. Within Plast, these goals are united with another one – instilling pride into young members about their Ukrainian heritage. Deep love for this heritage is also bedrock for Orest and Daria – a value that brought them together and has remained a constant throughout their lives. Plast also organized inter-city sports competitions and within these competitions, volleyball reigned supreme. Both Orest and Daria were good athletes and loved sports. And both were excellent volleyball players. Orest, who grew up in the Ukrainian American community dispersed on the outskirts of Newark, played on a top-performing men’s Plast team for that community, and Daria, who grew up in the tight-knit community in Passaic, played for an equally well-performing women’s team. The teams from both communities would frequently play one another and volleyball remains a common


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thread that ties Daria and Orest together. Years later after they married, Orest crossed the unofficial dividing line between the Passaic and Newark communities – Route 3 – and moved north. The couple, their two children, Christina and Paul, lived in Clifton’s Richfield section and now make their home in Montclair Heights with dog Mia and cat Koko. Christina, soon to be 25, is a math teacher at Lacordaire Academy in nearby Montclair and Paul, 23, graduated Fordham University last year and currently works for a financial institution in Manhattan. Bitten by the Travel Bug Before meeting Orest, Daria was not a big traveler. Not fond of plane rides, the comfort of home was just fine. For Orest, however, every mountain to ski, trail to hike, city to see tempted him. Little bit by little bit, he pulled Daria into his adventures. When the children were young, nearby was the annual “Wildwood Week” down the shore, a gathering of Ukrainians from as far north as Montreal and far south as Virginia who still converge during the third week of August on the beaches of Wildwood Crest. When the children were older, there were trips to most of the countries of Europe; trips around North America; visits to Ukraine, both as a family and individually. Son Paul, who has been bitten hard by the travel bug, had a great adventure when he traveled on a school trip to India. When last in Paris, Daria insisted that they do one touristy thing – hang a lock inscribed with both their names on the Pont des Arts – the “love-lock” bridge. Couples would attach a lock to a railing, and then throw the key into the river Seine below. “My children grimaced,” said Daria, “and told me that I was being corny. But it was a fun moment and I’m glad we did it when we had the chance.” • February 2018


Recently, the city of Paris has stopped allowing this tradition. The combined weight of the million or so locks, officials noted, was estimated at 45 tons, straining the infrastructure of the bridge. Officials now suggest that instead of hanging a lock, a couple seal their love with a romantic dinner at a nice French restaurant.

As children of parents and grandparents who fled the repression and violence of Soviet communism, they fully appreciate the expansive freedom of America that offered them the opportunity to live by the strong civic values of the United States and sustain their Ukrainian heritage at the same time. “Ukrainians have a strong tradition of community,” mused Orest. “Maybe it’s because until now, we never had a state, or a government, to protect us. So for generation after generation, we relied on our faith and on each other

“...near the end of the ceremony, From Parents to Children Both Orest and Daria a large rumble of thunder could be seemed genuinely conheard...‘hmmmm...this is an omen, founded when asked this is God speaking’. I just wasn’t how they came to agreement on the fundamental sure if it was a warning or a blessing.” values that would guide their marriage. After all, many couto get things done.” ples spend the first few years of their married life craftDaria recalled an incident when a young Paul, who ing compromises – the best way to manage money, had completed summer courses at the Ukrainian method of raising children, degree of spiritual commitCatholic University in western Ukraine, unexpectedly ment. found himself stranded hundreds of miles away from They looked at each other in silence. Then Orest the international airport where he needed to be to make slowly replied, “I don’t remember that we actually ever his early morning return flight home. discussed anything like that. We never agreed to agree. Daria sent out an SOS to the Ukrainian scouting We just always agreed.” community asking if someone knew someone who “We just understood,” added Daria. “A natural could help. And indeed, within the hour, there was a extension of how we were raised.” friend of a friend who had a friend in Ukraine who then “Our mutual values were unquestioned,” continued picked up the keys to the apartment where Paul was to Orest. “God and country. Commitment. That it is not a stay in Kyiv, met Paul at the train station late at night burden, but an honor to help others. We believe comwhen he arrived, took him to the apartment, and made munities are built together with others – whether it’s sure he caught his flight the next day. Daria volunteering as a coach for Christina’s JV volley“A complete stranger, really. However, both Orest ball team, or working on a fundraiser for our church. and I knew intuitively that he could be trusted. He treatIt’s a way to do good. We never questioned that we ed Paul like a brother. Other parents may have thought would instill these values into our children, as they that maybe it wasn’t a good idea that we entrusted our were instilled in us by our parents.” young son to someone unknown several thousand miles Daria agreed. “You step up. It’s part of your responaway. But there’s almost this unwritten rule of generossibility. Don’t expect others to do it for you. Through ity among Ukrainians. We knew Paul was safe.” involvement, you build friendships, lifelong networks.” Now, Orest and Daria hope that with God’s grace Both are dedicated to the Ukrainian community and their example, their children have learned this rule, around which they have chosen to build their lives. and will carry it forward for another generation. 18

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Family Affair

By Jack DeVries The rain needed to stop – now. All day it had come down, steady and unyielding. Wedding day rain was supposed to be good luck for couples, but it was about to ruin the ceremony planned for The Manor’s outdoor garden in West Orange. The photographer tried to make bride Diana Neczepir and her fiancé Pat Lake feel better by saying an overcast day makes for better photos. That was fine, but there were 160-plus guests waiting to see the beginning of the marriage that had taken years in the making. Thirty minutes before the Oct. 8, 2016, ceremony, Diana noticed the rain slowing. “The whole side of my family said it was my grandma, Concetta Salerno, coming through and making sure everything was perfect,” she said. “That day was the anniversary of her death.” The rain stopped and the ceremony began on schedule. As soon as it ended, Diana, Pat and their guests went inside and the drops fell again. “It worked out perfectly,” said Pat. Romantic destiny is part of the Lake family’s lives together, which began as members of Clifton’s All-City Band in fifth grade. Diana came from School No. 16, while Pat attended School No. 11. “I don’t know if I even knew his name then – he was just a cute trumpet player,”


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Diana & Pat Lake’s Generations of Mustangs

From left, Greg Lake (CHS ‘75), Karen Lake (Paul VI ‘75), Patrick Lake (CHS ‘08), Diana Lake (CHS ‘08), Dan Neczepir (CHS ‘72), Anne Neczepir (CHS ‘75).

said Diana, who played clarinet. “We didn’t talk,” said Pat, “but knew of each other. At the end of fifth grade, our two schools shared the same bus on the safety patrol trip to Washington, D.C., and we sat a few rows apart.” The romance would have to wait until 2004 when both joined Clifton High’s Marching Mustang Band. Coincidentally, Diana’s mom Anne (Salerno) and Pat’s dad Greg had been friends and Mustang Band mates when they attended Clifton in the seventies. After dancing at a band bash a few weeks before, Pat made up his mind to ask Diana out. The right moment came during the St. Brendan’s carnival when the couple was riding the Ferris wheel called “Big Eli.” When their car stopped at the top, Pat popped the question and they have been a couple ever since. “We were together for 11 years before getting married,” said Pat, “and never broke up.” After she said “yes” at the carnival, Pat won a fish in a small bowl by tossing a ping pong ball and gave it to Diana. The fish, named “Pat,” was an omen of their relationship’s longevity. “The fish lived six years,” said Diana. “We always joked when the fish dies, will our relationship die?


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We made it past the dying fish so I After graduating in 2012, Pat think we’re good.” completed two years of residency During high school, the couple through Hackensack University attended every dance together and Medical Center and NewYorkwas voted “Class Couple” during Presbyterian, while Diana went to their 2008 senior year. Pat also gradwork as a special education teacher uated as salutatorian. in Paterson. With their careers on “We got to spend so much time track, all that remained was to ask together,” said Diana, “because the the big question. band was our life. Pat was a better “After dating for so long,” said player than me – he was really good Pat, “I think she was counting on it at it. I was in it for the friends and happening at any given moment.” the social aspect – I even became the The moment came in July 2015. band manager. Every Thanksgiving After dinner at The Cuban, one of Pat Lake and Diana Neczepir when there is a home game we try their favorite Hoboken restaurants, back in high school. to go back.” Pat said they were going to meet his After graduating from Clifton, Pat went to Ernest sister at a bar by the river. Diana thought he was acting Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University, graduawkwardly. They stopped on the Hoboken Pier where ating in 2014 as a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.). Diana Pat began stalling, pointing out random points on the attended William Paterson University and graduated New York City skyline. with a dual certification of teaching in regular education Diana was tired. “Can we just go?” she asked. and special education. Throughout college, the couple “Eventually,” said Pat, “I got the courage to get down saw each other, traveling back and forth between Rutgers one knee and propose. Because Diana loves photos, I and Clifton. had friends from high school hiding near some trees taking pictures to capture the moment.” Diana remembered, “He started saying, ‘The past 11 years have been great…’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is it!’” The high school sweethearts would now be a married couple – something in their blood. Both sets of Clifton parents also dated in high school. Pat’s parents, Greg and Karen (Purn), have been friends since first grade, while Diana’s parents, Dan and Anne, grew up across the street from one and other. The past year has been a whirlwind of life-changing events. Pat returned to Hackensack in his dream job as an infectious diseases clinical pharmacist, and Diana got a teaching job in Clifton as a 5th grade inclusion teacher at School No. 12. And when it came time to find a home, there was only one place that made sense. In March 2017, the couple bought their first house in the Albion section, providing a fitting chapter ending in this Clifton love story. “We looked elsewhere,” said Diana, “but who were we kidding? Clifton’s our home, it’s what we know. He’s a Hot Grill guy and I’m a Rutt’s Hut girl.”


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Mary and Matt Trella when Matt became a lawyer on Dec. 1, 1970; the couple today.

If I had to do it over again...

I’d Marry You By Irene Jarosewich Mary Traynor remembers exactly the moment she walked into her dorm room and told her roommate, “I just met the biggest jerk of my life.” The next moment she saw him, she said, would be a moment too soon. Matt Trella, however, was determined. Mary had already caught his eye. He remembers the first time he saw her. That would have been January 1968. “Petite, with long chestnut hair, she was wearing a yellow sweater, a grey plaid skirt, yellow tights, and penny loafers. Confident and cute. I knew I wanted to meet her.” Mary was a freshman at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh; Matt was a first-year law student. He had described the girl of his dreams to a fellow law student.


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After figuring out who Mary was, his friend had arranged for a way the two could meet. “I’m a huge sports fan. Jets, Mets, Nets. If a team’s name has more than four letters, I don’t like them,” Matt grins. “Then and now, baseball has been one of my life passions,” said Trella, pointing to a mounted collection of 1956 baseball cards hanging on the wall of his Clifton law office. “Harold ‘Pie’ Traynor was a baseball great, one of the first players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.” When introduced, Matt was startled to learn that the girl of his dreams was named Mary Traynor. Traynor, like his baseball icon, Pie.



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“I blurted out ‘Are you related to Pie Traynor, the baseball great?’ and she replied, ‘He’s my uncle.’ Then I blurted out, ‘Will you marry me?’ She didn’t think that was very funny,” Trella recalls with a good chuckle, “but I was serious. I thought it would be nice to have free baseball tickets for life.” Trella pressed on, apologizing to Mary, asking for a second chance to make a good first impression. Mary caved and the couple began to date. Mary also remembers exactly the moment she walked into her dorm room again, smiled sheepishly, and told her roommate, “You know that jerk I told you about a few months ago? I think I’m going to marry him.” In 1969, Matt proposed. The couple married September 12, 1970. In six months, they will celebrate 48 years together.


February 2018 •

Going Back Home Matt and Mary soon found out that liking one another was not the only thing they had in common. On the far western border of Pennsylvania, the two discovered that both were from North Jersey, from neighboring towns. Matt grew up in Clifton, attended School 12, and graduated CHS in 1963, the first graduating class of the “new” high school. Mary’s father John Traynor, originally from Delaware, moved to Wayne, N.J., in 1948. From early childhood, Mary grew up in Wayne and graduated Wayne Valley High. After they married, they settled in Clifton. Mary finished her degree at Montclair State College. For the couple, they had gone far away, separately, simply to return home together. “When I was a kid here in Clifton, what I really wanted to do when I grew up,” said Trella, “was be a radio sports broadcaster. But back in those days, the possibilities were pretty limited, You had to have ‘an in’ to get in.” Trella’s father, Matthew S. Trella began his successful law practice in Clifton in 1936. Sympathetic to Matt’s dream career, his father nonetheless encouraged him to consider law as a profession. “I agreed. I figured, what did I have to lose? After graduating law school in 1970, I joined his practice. We were a father and son team for 13 years before he retired and I went out on my own. I’ve had a wonderful career – a real estate attorney, estate litigation, tax appeals. It turned out to be a great choice for me.” A few years after moving to Wayne, Mary’s father teamed up with Bernie Dolan, a close friend and business partner, to establish Dolan and Traynor, a successful supplier of high-end building materials. The company is now in the second generation as a family-run business. In the Traynor family, Mary was one of six children; the Dolan family had seven kids. The partners had 13 children between them. To promote the quality and durability of their home building products, Mary recalls that a favorite marketing pitch for the business was “We have 13 compelling reasons why you should buy from us!”

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Kids of Their Own Matt and Mary also wanted a family, however at age 16, Mary was involved in a serious car accident. After a month in the hospital, she emerged alive and well. Yet she would not be able to bear children. Between Mary and Matt, there was never any question. They would adopt. In 1975, they received a call from one of Matt’s clients. A young woman in Denville wanted her child to be placed with good parents. Katie, born on Sept. 18, 1975, is the couple’s eldest child. A few years later, while in another attorney’s office, Matt saw an application lying on a table. The language was Polish. “Because of the name Trella, everyone thinks I’m Italian,” said Matt, “but I’m 100 percent

Polish. I asked what the document was and was told that it was an application for adopting a child from Poland.” He took the form home and immediately, he and Mary filled it out. “That’s how Matthew, Jr. came to us,” said Mary. “In 1978, we went to Warsaw, where we lived for a month before we brought him home.” Five years later, another opportunity arose to adopt a child, and Christian Trella joined the family. Now with the children all grown, Mary and Matt are happy that none lives far away. Katie, who works for the city’s Board of Education, lives with husband Michael Zinsmeister in Clifton. They are the parents of Elizabeth, 5, and Allison, 7. Matthew Jr. lives in Hardystown with wife Heather. And Christian lives in Montclair with husband Russell Pace. Raising children, having a successful marriage, the couple says requires deep commitment, patience. “Mary and I had the same core values,” said Matt. “We were in it for the long haul. We knew that the other was equally committed. We had promised to go through life together – the good, the bad, and the ugly. But it’s hard work. I am sad to see how many couples give up so easily. They hit their first bad spot and just walk.” For Mary even once is not good enough. In their kitchen, she has hung a plaque – “If I had to do it over again – I’d marry you.” Down The Shore Shhhh ... it’s still a secret but Cape May has some of the most beautiful and unique beaches in the country. Travel sites have called Cape May “a beach-lovers’ paradise.” So get back, Florida and California. Matt grew up spending summers at Ortley Beach, where the beach is pretty narrow. “Then when I saw Cape May for the first time in 1986, I knew I wanted to live there.” Soon after, he bought a condo in Cape May and as a surprise birthday present, gave the keys to Mary. While the condo was great, Matt envisioned more – a large, beautiful custom built-home. While bringing the vision to life took some time – finding the perfect location, design and


February 2018 •



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The Trella family, from left: son-in-law Michael Zinsmeister and daughter Katie with their children Allison and Elizabeth in front. Matt and Mary with son-in-law Russell Pace and son Christian Trella. Missing is son Matthew Jr. and his wife Heather. He is a Passaic County Sheriff’s Officer and was on duty when this photo was taken.

planning the home, a project that Mary managed – by 1999, the family was fully moved in. “We always had something in Clifton, my business was still here, but we pretty much moved to Cape May. Mary did a wonderful job with designing the house. It was large, 5,800 square feet. I called it ‘My Blue Heaven.’” Now, almost two decades later, the center of life for their children and grandchildren was back north here in Clifton. Down in Cape May, Matt and Mary were often alone for long stretches of time.


February 2018 •

Plus, they were not spring chickens. The drive back and forth was becoming tiresome. The house could have remained a weekend home, but after weighing the pros and cons, they decided to sell. Maybe saying good-bye to My Blue Heaven was going to be a bit painful, but then, maybe, not so much. The house sold for $2.8 million. Circling back to one of the big passions of his life, baseball, Matt noted, “You know, Lou Gehrig once said, ‘Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’ Well, Gehrig was wrong. I am.”

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By Pat Alex

MaryAnn’s Deli was a Clifton Avenue landmark and run by the husband and wife team of MaryAnn and Harry Haring.

The path to true love ran down Clifton Avenue for MaryAnn and Harry Haring, the longtime proprietors of MaryAnn’s Sandwich Shoppe, Deli and Caterers. It was nearly four decades ago when Harry, a Vietnam veteran, lost his lease and moved his television repair business to a storefront on Clifton Avenue. The move meant that Allwood TV was no longer in the Allwood section, but it turned out well nonetheless. The new location was on one of Clifton’s busiest thoroughfares and the shop was next door to nice deli that served good food. That’s when Harry met MaryAnn. MaryAnn Amatulli bought the deli in 1979 and was building a brisk business serving up breakfast sandwiches, homemade Italian specialties, soups and baked goods. The TV repairman next door became a regular customer and then some. “He started coming in for coffee and, over time, we started going out to lunch,” she remembers. “It developed into a friendship before we fell in love.” The relationship blossomed just as the television repair business began to wane. In 1983, Harry joined MaryAnn at the deli, and it suited him. He eagerly learned her recipes, some that had been handed down from MaryAnn’s mother. “He was a good student because he loved to cook,” MaryAnn said.


February 2018 • • February 2018


Kevin and Diana (Haring) Beagin; Harry, Kate (Haring) and John Zakrzewski; MaryAnn, Jessica (Haring) granddaughter Emma and Chris Conforti; from left, grandchildren Kevin and Ariana Beagin, and Jillian. Daughters Jessica (’89), Kate (’04) and Diana (’06) are Clifton High graduates.

In 1985 MaryAnn and Harry were married, and for decades the Harings ran the mom-and-pop take-out place in the little retail strip just northeast of Colfax Avenue. It was a homey place with a striped awning, screen door and American flag in front. Inside a pressed tin ceiling hinted at the building’s origins in the 1920s, even if the wood-paneled walls dated to a later era. But this isn’t Mayberry – the location is busy. Across from the offices of the Clifton Board of Education, it’s just a few blocks from the New Jersey Transit train station, where hundreds of commuters began their trip to New York each day. Parking was limited and their customers often were in a hurry. The Harings did their best to accommodate: “It was quick and good,” said Harry. “Everything was homemade – from soup to salad to the daily specials.” They opened weekdays at 6 a.m.; the coffee was hot and the bacon and taylor ham sizzled on the griddle for the morning rush. The lunch customers followed and always had a choice of daily specials and homemade soup, and then came the crowds of students picking up snacks and drinks after dismissal from nearby Clifton High School before the shop closed at 3 p.m. Harry was raised in Totowa and MaryAnn in Wayne. In 1987, they deepened their ties to Clifton and bought a home on West 4th Street, near Corrado’s. It was a nice commute to the deli – less than two miles - despite the traffic on Paulison Avenue.


February 2018 •

Harry’s daughter from a previous marriage, Jessica, was followed by the couple’s daughters Kate and Diana. The girls attended School 4, Christopher Columbus Middle School and Clifton High School, and the family and the business thrived in a Clifton that was becoming increasingly diverse. The deli provided sustenance for the Harings as well as their customers. “We bought our home and sent our kids to college,” said MaryAnn. And for decades, the customers kept coming back for the homemade roast beef and eggplant and the “best chicken salad in town.” Ed Michalski of Bloomfield started visiting the shop when he brought his dog to a nearby veterinarian. He enjoyed the homey atmosphere and the 60s-era tunes on the radio. “Good food and nice people, I’m sorry to see them go,” said Michalski. “I always loved the Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese on a hard roll – it was a classic.” Even the salad dressing was specially prepared. The crumb cake was a crowd pleaser as were the seasonal desserts: MaryAnn’s zucchini bread, blueberry buttermilk bundt cake and Morning Glory Loaf. And, of course, the gingerbread men at Christmas and heart-shaped shortbread cookies on Valentine’s Day. “I come from a cooking family; my mother was a tremendous cook and baker,” said MaryAnn. Her mom would help out in the shop and often watched the girls while MaryAnn and Harry worked. It was hard


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work, but as the years went by After all this time together – at the Harings added more vacation home and at work – Harry and time into the schedule. MaryAnn say they still enjoy one Now both into their 60s, the another’s company. “It’s give and Harings decided it was time to take,” Harry said, when asked the relax. At the end of December – secret of a long union. MaryAnn after more than 38 years in busisaid the couple tried not to bring ness - they sold the shop. The the stresses of the business home new owners are remodeling and with them. “Whenever we came expected to open soon. The venhome from the deli, the deli was erable MaryAnn’s is slated to behind us,” she said. become Antonio’s grill – another For now they’re savoring the family business. simple pleasures: MaryAnn said The Harings said they look she’s happy to be able to sleep in MaryAnn with her Mom Tina Valentinetti. forward to what’s next, although on cold winter mornings and is “Mom was the one who saw the ‘For they’re still not sure what that enjoying her home. But the Rent’ sign in the window of the store.” will entail. “We’re just taking it Harings say they miss their regueasy and enjoying life,” said MaryAnn. “We’ll make lar and longtime customers, some who’d come to the plans and visit our grandchildren in Florida.” All three shop for more than three decades. “We built a lot of daughters are grown and married. Jessica and husband friendships there, that’s what we miss,” said Harry. Chris Conforti have two daughters and live in New “The routine for me was about taking care of people. Milford, Kate and husband John Zakrzewski live in That was the best part of my day,” MaryAnn said. “It’s Clifton, and Diana and husband Kevin Beagin live in bittersweet,” she said of leaving the deli. “But we’re on Pensacola, Fla., with their daughter and son. to the next chapter.”


February 2018 •

Faith in EVERY StUDEnt • February 2018


By Michael C. Gabriele order dessert. Undeterred, Bob had a back-up plan: Thirty-five years ago everyone knew that Bob drive to Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, another Ventimiglia was going to propose to Cathy favorite spot. He parked his car, took out the Castiglione... everyone, that is, except Cathy. ring and popped the question. Bob selected May 5, 1983, as the proCathy was overjoyed, so the two drove to posal day because it marked the fifth CHS, because she knew her parents would anniversary of when he and Cathy started be in the audience that evening watching her going steady as Clifton High School sister Cindy perform in the annual Opus sweethearts. concert. She approached her parents, smil“I had kind of had an idea that something ing and wearing her ring, and informed was going on that day,” Cathy said smiling. them that Bob just proposed. “Yeah, we Ever a gentleman, Bob first did all the proper know,” they responded. formalities. He approached Cathy’s parents, Later that night, she called her Paul and Carol Castiglione, to get their blessfriends to tell them the news. “Yeah, ing. Bob and his future father-in-law Paul then we know,” they said. Cathy and Bob went to a jewelry store to pick out the engagewere married at Holy Trinity ment ring. Church in Passaic on May 5, The proposal venue was their favorite 1984. Italian restaurant, the now-defunct And this year, as their 34th Francesco’s, which was located just off wedding anniversary approachVan Houten Avenue near the Passaic bores, they were happy to share their der. light-hearted proposal story on the Bob made arrangements for the waiteve of Valentine’s Day. ress to put the engagement ring on top of Bob graduated from CHS in Cathy’s favorite cheesecake dessert. Cathy, Mustang majorette. 1979; Cathy one year later. Unfortunately, Cathy decided not to


February 2018 • • February 2018


Son Bob, daughter Amanda, Carol and Bob with Marching Band Director Bob Morgan at his last Thanksgiving Day game before his retirement. Carol’s parents, Paul and Carol Castiglione, who have been married 58 years.

They became an item when Cathy was a sophomore and Bob was a junior. They initially clicked because of their mutual involvement in the Mustang Marching Band. Bob was a trumpet player; Cathy played clarinet and became the band’s drum majorette during her senior year. Their two children, now in their thirties, also became involved with the Mustang Band: daughter Amanda played clarinet and son Bob played trumpet. “Do you see a pattern emerging here?” Bob said with a laugh. Bob works for a regional freight carrier and Cathy became a paralegal. Because they married at a relatively young age, they said that they basically “grew up together.” And during that process, they instinctively learned many lessons of what goes into a happy, successful marriage. “We made it work,” Bob declared, saying that respect and trust are critical elements. “We were always busy,” Cathy recalled. “There was a lot to do with our jobs, the house and the kids. We always supported each other. That’s something you have to do when you’re married.” They provided some of their insights after volunteering to take part in Holy Trinity Church’s Pre-Cana guidance program for Catholic couples planning to marry. Many counseling conversations involved advice on the practical aspects of married life, as well as communication and making the commitment to stay together. Cathy and Bob continue to make their marriage work, with lots of time for family, music, holiday parties, backyard barbecues, and staying connected with their Mustang Band friends. “Having family and friends at the dinner table on Sundays—that’s important for us,” Cathy


February 2018 •

said. This year, her parents, Paul and Carol Castiglione, are celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary. “My parents have always been an example of what a good marriage should be,” Cathy continued. “Take time for each other, support your spouse and your children. They always took time for each other with a yearly getaway to the Poconos when we were younger. “Mom was a stay-at-home mom and always had dinner ready when Dad came home from work. They supported each other. When we were doing activities, they always supported us and then my children, too! They never missed an event, whether it was baseball, soccer, dance recitals or Band. Bob and I try to model this behavior by supporting our children.” Cathy continued: “Family is at the top of my parent’s list. Whether it was Sunday dinners with the family, holiday get togethers or just in the backyard, it was always family. Summer vacations were spent at the Jersey Shore and everyone went! Even when we were dating, Bob would vacation down the shore with us. When we got married and had our children, we would head down the shore with them, and, as they got older, their friends and then boyfriends and girlfriends would come.” Daughter Amanda is a social studies teacher at Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology, while son Bob is a music teacher in the Dumont School System and performs with various bands and orchestras. As a family, their love of music continues as Bob, Cathy, Amanda and Bob are members of the Clifton Community Band. Bob and Bob sit side by side as trumpet players, while Cathy and Amanda hold down the band’s bass clarinet section. Bob’s correct—there’s definitely a pattern emerging here. • February 2018


November 11th, 1933 January 14th, 2018

On these pages, our story from August 2009. Below that’s Marlene with Ol’ Blue Eyes from Sinatra’s “Trilogy” album.

How do you define a legend? Two words – Marlene VerPlanck. This is so difficult to write as she was my best friend for the last twenty years. I can’t stop crying or thinking of her and I think I have figured out why this is so hard – harder than any of us expected. So here are my thoughts. Marlene made us believe she was timeless and ageless. Her energy was contagious to all she touched. She had more energy than some half her age. She just never stopped doing what she loved to do. She touched so many lives and her friends spanned an endless array of all ages. Age didn’t matter she just seemed to connect to everyone – age was just a number to her and an unimportant statistic – it was never going to stop her doing for what she loved.

- Mary Sadrakula Find Mary’s complete tribute and other memories of Marlene at:


February 2018 •

You’d think by now she would be satisfied. After 20 CDs, dozens of trips around the world and countless commercials, you would expect Marlene VerPlanck to be relaxing in the pool behind her century-old colonial home on Dwasline Rd. But swimming the summer away doesn’t earn you a gold record or singing credits on albums by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and KISS. “Nobody retires in the music business,” she said. Then in her mid-seventies, VerPlanck is already planning her next United Kingdom tour for March. The only difference is that this time, she’ll be making

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But before her brush the trip without her huswith the Chairman of the band of 53 years. Board, VerPlanck Billy VerPlanck died of appeared on the National lung cancer on June 2, Public Radio series 2009, at the age of 78. He American Popular Songs, was a producer, composer, and in the 1970s, she conductor and arranger, became a leading solo perbut Marlene met him when former in theaters, clubs he was just a young tromand concert halls. bone player in the Charlie The singer, always Spivak Band. Marlene, accompanied by her huswho was born in Newark band, also toured England, and graduated Bloomfield Switzerland, Belgium, High School in 1951, startFrance, the Netherlands, ed singing at the age of 19, China and Japan. and the Spivak ensemble “From the moment I was her first. started singing, I’ve never But Billy’s musical been out of work,” she career began at 15 when he said proudly. joined pianist Jess Stacy’s VerPlanck has played band. Carnegie Hall, Michael’s After Marlene worked Pub and the Rainbow with The Tex Beneke A long time resident of Clifton, Marlene VerPlanck has Room and appeared on Band, the couple reunited been swinging for decades and leaves a musical legacy. television programs such with the final Dorsey as The Today Show, Brothers Orchestra. Entertainment Tonight and CBS’s Sunday Morning. They later married at Sacred Heart Church in She also provided music for the Miss America pagBloomfield in 1956 and moved into a new building on eant and award shows like the Tony Awards. 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. In 1991, she worked with Mel Torme, Julius LaRosa Mrs. VerPlanck spent the beginning of her career as and The Glenn Miller Orchestra on In the Digital one of the city’s busiest studio singers, backing up Mood, the first big-band CD to go gold. “Working with almost every vocalist recording in New York. the greatest musicians, you didn’t want to embarrass She worked with a wide range of artists from Perry yourself,” she explained. “I studied hard and worked Como to Blood Sweat & Tears, but one of her favorite real hard.” jobs was with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. Six years later, VerPlanck recorded some of Richard “I got the call to contract 16 singers but I didn’t tell Adler’s most popular music on You Gotta Have Heart: them who we were working with,” VerPlanck rememThe Songs of Richard Adler on the Varese Sarabande bered with a smile. “So when everyone got to label. The project came at the request of the composer Columbia Studios, I brought them over to the stand and of The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. the music said Frank Sinatra on it, and everyone fell In all, Marlene put out 20 albums of standards and down on the floor.” new songs with her husband, but some may be more It was for the 1980 Trilogy album and the Cliftonite said it was fabulous working with one of her biggest familiar with her commercial work. influences. Among her hundreds of jingles were “Mm-mm “He was such a perfectionist; he would do everygood, mm-mm good, that’s what Campbell’s Soups thing on one take.” are” and “Weekends were made for Michelob.”


February 2018 • • February 2018




“I loved the challenge of going in and not knowing what the assignment would be,” she said. “Sadly, that part of the business is gone. Producers got smart and just started using popular music in ads, but I don’t even know what they’re selling anymore. At least we would say the name of the product.” While that part of her career might be over, VerPlanck is still going strong, performing live throughout the region. She’ll be in New York in August, Princeton in September and North Carolina and Rhode Island in October. For a schedule and info, visit But looking forward to traveling without Billy will make things a little different this year. “I’m sad,” said Marlene. “We were together constantly, never apart and we thrived on it.” Years ago, the Clifton resident established a scholarship fund in her husband’s memory at William Paterson University. For more info, visit VerPlanck’s web site. “I designated it for a trombone student,” she told us nine years ago.

Billy and Marlene as they appear on the back of his album Music Man, which Marlene put together after her husband passed away in 2009.

Marlene VerPlanck’s final performances were December 12 and 13 at the Greenwich Village jazz club, Mezzrow, capping her legacy as one of the bestknown interpreters of the American Popular Songbook. As she said in 2009: “Nobody retires in the music business.”

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Charlene Correa - DirectorMichael A. Waller - Director John Opuda Jr. - Director • February 2018




The tale of Lakeview resident

“Captain” John H. Post and the birth of a nation. Photo courtesy Edward A. Smyk

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” says a line from the movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Legends are always printed. There’s George Washington chopping down his cherry tree and owning up to it because he couldn’t tell a lie. How about Jimmy Hoffa buried in the end zone of the old Giants Stadium? And, locally, there’s the legend of “Captain” John H. Post of the New Jersey Militia – the man who tore down


February 2018 •

By Jack DeVries the old Acquackanonk Bridge after Washington’s Continental Army passed over it, thus saving the American Revolution. Never heard of Post? That’s understandable – he lived for years in Clifton’s Lakeview section and died in 1847. But in 1933, he was big news. That’s when a large monument was erected to honor him at the cost of $10,000 behind the Saints Peter and Paul National Catholic Church on River Road in Passaic. It reads:



“In Memory of the Minute Men of 1776 and the soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War and especially of Captain John H. Post who lies buried here and whose destruction of the Acquackanonk Bridge saved General Washington’s Army from capture in its retirement from Fort Lee to this spot on November 21, 1776.” The funny thing about legends is they are usually based on a bit of truth. George Washington was honest. Did he chop down a cherry tree? Who knows? Jimmy Hoffa hasn’t been seen since The current bridge over the Passaic River and historical marker, seen 1975. Though they didn’t find him when from the Wallington side. The Acquackanonk Bridge was near this spot. they knocked down the old stadium, stashWell, there’s a lot more to the story. ing him in the Meadowlands seemed plausible at the During February as we celebrate Washington’s time. Birthday, as well as Black History Month, the tale of And old John Post? Even though his legend was Post and the Acquackanonk Bridge is a story worth printed in granite, he never was a captain. And, as far as telling. And, unlike the legend, the truth makes a far saving Washington and slowing the British by ripping better story. down the bridge…

d • February 2018


Acquackanonk Bridge, 1853, courtesy Mark S. Auerbach.

That much is true. War for Independence This is where the story gets hazy. The article Here are the facts… described while discussing “this sad state of affairs” in After America bloodied the British in New England his tent, a guard approached him. It was John Post, who and declared its independence July 4, 1776, England told Washington his home was in Acquackanonk (which struck back, and Washington and his Continental Army encompassed Clifton, Little Falls, Passaic and parts of were on the run – especially after being routed at Fort Paterson) and volunteered to destroy the bridge. Washington on November 16. “My dear man,” said Washington, “the attempt would Through a telescope, Washington witnessed the battle cost your life. No spy could pass the British pickets.” across the Hudson River in Fort Lee, N.J. After his Post said he could, and Washington replied, “Go, my troops holding the fort surrendered, he watched as they brave youth and if you succeed, I were marched through a gauntlet of will make you a captain...” mercenary Hessian soldiers, who The George Washington A militia guard approaching kicked, punched and butchered some by marker outside of Saints Washington and a resulting captainsword. Peter and Paul National cy rings hollow to Passaic County “I was witness to Washington’s tears Catholic Church on Historian Edward A. Smyk. River Rd. in Passaic . at the death of his men...,” wrote Private “I’d say it was (written by) a Daniel Parkinson. reporter who poked about some old After the loss at Fort Washington and clip files,” Smyk said, “and conthe abandonment of Fort Lee, cocted this fantastic retelling, paraWashington’s remaining battered army graphs pulsating with patriotic, of 3,800 – many ill-clothed, shoeless overcooked sentences and outright and unfit for duty – retreated to invention.” Hackensack. The Passaic Record article says This is where the legend of “Captain” Post hurried to “the sleeping Dutch John H. Post begins: A 1898 Passaic town of Acquackanonk” and went Record article wrote Washington knew “door to door” awakening friends, of the old bridge at Acquackanonk” saying, “We must destroy the (between Passaic and Wallington bridge or the American army will today). The general was hoping to get be lost.” his army south and west to regroup.


February 2018 • • February 2018




The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777, by John Trumbull. Mercer led his troops across the Acquackanonk Bridge prior to Washington’s retreat through New Jersey.

Almost instantly, Post was “surrounded by sturdy settlers.” A half-hour later, the bridge fell into the river. When Washington learned the bridge was down, he told Post, “My dear friend, you have saved us. Henceforth you shall be a captain.” “The whole account is typical for the period,” said Smyk. “It fits in nicely with the kind of throbbing, historic narratives dished up to the city’s uncritical populace. Probably, the paper had some space to fill, hence this action packed little ‘thriller.’” The article ends by saying Captain Post was with Washington until the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781. Not true. Here is the real story of George Washington, the Acquackanonk Bridge, and the heroic journey of Private John H. Post… Patriot Days Johannes Helmegh “John” Post was the great-grandson of Adrian Post, one of the founders and settlers of “Acquackanonk Patent.” According to former Passaic historian Robert D. Bristor, he was born in an area called “Sloughter Dam” along the Passaic River in the home of his father Helmegh Post, a farmer and owner of a grist mill.


February 2018 •

Post said he was born in 1760 but church records say his birth was in 1748. Bristor said the former Post property lies where Garfield is today. An illiterate farmer, Post spoke Dutch and English “imperfectly,” he later said. The area’s Dutch families had established their own identity in the New World, never fully accepting Britain as their model for living. So, when the revolution began, Post joined the New Jersey Militia. According to his Revolutionary War Pension Records and Bounty Land Warrants application (completed decades later in 1832), Post served under Captain Carinus Van Houten and was stationed in New York City during the summer of 1776. Unlike Continental Army soldiers, militia men served for shorter terms. When the British landed in Staten Island, Post was marched back to Hackensack and his month-long term ended. In his handwritten pension narrative (certified by his “X” mark), Post said he volunteered again sometime in October and November, and served six weeks, stationed in Harsimus Cove near Paulus Hook – now a Jersey City neighborhood. Assigned to Captain Van Houten once again, he also spent time near Fort Lee, patrolling potential British landing spots and guarding inhabitants against plundering by British troops or “refugees” (parties of loy-

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alist marauders). Post said he was in the militia when the British attacked Fort Washington on Nov. 16. As part of the militia, Post would have known the overwhelming British strength and likely witnessed Washington’s hasty retreat from Fort Lee (the Red Coats found the American’s breakfast cooking on the fire). He would have known of or perhaps seen Washington’s army marching to Hackensack and then continuing west toward Acquackanonk, where they arrived Nov. 21. Had Post’s militia duty ended by then? In any case, it is almost certain he would have returned home in nearby Sloughter Dam, close enough to hear the retreating army. The Acquackanonk Bridge During the next two days, the American Revolution’s greatest salivation and weapon would be a rough wooden bridge over the Passaic River, wide enough to fit a single wagon or four men marching abreast. According to a 1935 Herald-News article written by Bristor, the wooden bridge was 16 feet wide and extended 277 feet. It stood near the present bridge on Gregory Avenue connecting Passaic to Wallington. Because of its strategic importance, the Acquackanonk Bridge had been fortified earlier that month by American Gen. Nathanael Greene, who now deemed it “fit for any army to pass over.” It needed to be. The bridge was the only direct route to Newark and points south, and it had already served the Americans. Gen. Hugh Mercer brought his troops over it earlier –


February 2018 •

American Gen. Nathanael Greene, who fortified the Acquackanonk Bridge; facing page British Gen. Charles Cornwallis.

probably the first time a great number of soldiers passed through Acquackanonk. At the foot of the bridge on the Passaic side was a tavern owned by James Leslie. The Protestant Reformed Dutch Church of Acquackanonk stood about 100 feet northwest of the tavern, where Saints Peter and Paul Church in Passaic is today. When he arrived at the bridge, Washington went inside Leslie’s tavern and wrote to New Jersey Governor William Livingston, telling him of the Continental Army’s sad state and asking him to call out New Jersey’s militia to slow the enemy’s pursuit. As writer Thomas Paine (who was with Washington at Acquackanonk) wrote in his inspiring pamphlet, the American Crisis: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” They were indeed. The British were coming. Washington’s army was in shambles, and the American Revolution was in danger of being no more. Fog of War We do know what happened next, but how it happened is uncertain. The Americans’ rear guard arrived at the bridge late that night. After the Americans left the next day, an obvious decision was made to make the Acquackanonk Bridge unpassable. Some accounts say it was burned, but this is unlikely since there had been so much rain. Dismantling it was a better option. And what of the local hero, John H. Post?

CLIFTON In three stories written at least 100 years after the event, one account said Post was recommended by Leslie, the tavern owner, to lead dismantling efforts. Another said Acquackanonk leader Henry Garritse gave Post the job. And a third account cites the heroic Captain William Colfax as selecting Post to take down the bridge. All of these stories are suspect. The tall lanky Post may or may not have been entrusted with leading the bridge dismantling. But it’s likely he was there, as the preponderance of accounts say. A militia man like Post fresh off his first tour, having witnessed the retreat of brave soldiers – some clad only in blankets and straw tied around their feet – most certainly would have wanted to help. But Post never mentioned tearing down the bridge in his war pension narrative. Is this because he was not part of any militia unit Nov. 22? Since he was not assigned to a commanding officer, did he view his actions at the bridge as his patriotic civic duty and not part of his militia service? Was he so enthusiastic that people remembered him from the day and their memories gave birth to the legend? The answer is lost to history. However, the facts are that the bridge planking floor did come down. Captain William Beatty of the Maryland Line wrote: “We now began our retreat through the Jersey 16 by the way of Aquckanack Bridge Which Was tore up after Our troops had pass’d it.” Forgotten Heroes But who “tore up” the bridge?


While Post likely had a hand, the bridge needed dismantling in a hurry. We know soldiers assisted, as a Nov. 22 tavern receipt confirms. It noted payment from Acquackanonk committee chairman Michael Vreeland for “two bottles of toddy for the soldiers at work on the bridge, six shillings.” Local farmers likely helped as well. But was that enough manpower to dismantle the bridge – especially with the world’s most powerful army bearing down on Washington’s ragged troops? In the search for Post’s role, some possible yet unknown heroes emerged: Acquackanonk’s African American slaves. By 1790, there were more than 4,000 slaves in Bergen and Essex counties (which encompassed present-day Passaic County). Perhaps the only clue of the slaves’ participation comes from Post’s family history. Telling of his ancestor’s role, Garret Post said: “Mr. Garritse, who not only favored the (bridge-dismantling) scheme, but, gathering many of his & neighbor’s slaves, hastened with Post to the Bridge, which so soon as our troops had crossed was destroyed by men led by Post, thus preventing enemy from capturing Washington...” The use of slaves makes sense. Garritse owned a family of slaves, and Vreeland is said to have owned many more. Using slaves to help dismantle the bridge was logical and efficient – and gave these nameless and forgotten people a crucial role in history, helping save Washington’s army and the American Revolution. • February 2018




Aftermath After traveling over the Passaic River, Washington escaped to Newark, later crossing the Delaware and surprising the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas night – a needed victory for American morale. However, things got worse in Acquackanonk. The British, led by General Lord Charles Cornwallis, arrived a few days later and plundered the village, taking livestock, clothing, food and valuables. After stealing as much as they could carry, the British pressed into service Adrian Post (John’s relative) to help them find a spot to ford the Passaic River. At the point of a bayonet, Adrian waded through the cold water,


February 2018 •

showing the British the shallowest route, which they crossed below the Dundee Dam. As for John H. Post, his pension narrative said he continued to serve in one-month militia commitments, totaling 23 months of war service. Supplying his own weapon, clothing and supplies, Post served in Millstone, Hackensack, English Neighborhood (now Leonia), Paramus, Elizabeth and Pompton. He acted as a corporal once, served under a host of officers and was involved in seven enemy “skirmishes.” Post performed guard duty, protected inhabitants from plunderers and stole cattle from the Tories to supply the Continental Army. He said his “duty was dangerous when detached in small parties,” and the enemy was “better disciplined and more formidable.” Humbly, he said there were “no memorable battles to relate.” During the war, Post married Elizabeth Ackerman, sister of wealthy Abraham Ackerman, known as “the prince of merchants.” A disagreeable, frugal and solitary man, Ackerman was rumored to have supplied the British during the war. Ironically, Post later lived and farmed on his brother-in-law’s land in Lakeview. His obituary notes John and his “Bessie” raised 12 children and had 62 grandchildren. He also lived on the Clifton side of Crooks Ave., renting a small house near the Erie Railroad tracks. Later, he helped grade roads like Clifton’s Main Ave. with his horse and cart. Bessie inherited her brother Abraham’s sizeable estate in 1828. Along with his annual war pension of $76.66, Post enjoyed his retirement, possibly called “Captain” by his admirers and “Potbelly Post” because of his figure. He died March 7, 1847; Bessie passed away in 1860. Like all Americans who fought for our freedom, Private John H. Post was indeed an American hero – in legend and truth.





The legend of “Captain” John H. Post was likely perpetuated by one man: Passaic Judge Henry L. Simmons. Born in 1815, Simmons learned of the Acquackanonk Bridge as a boy during festive “hog killing” time, hearing stories from Post and Simmon’s father, Pieter. Along with the tall tale of Post becoming a captain, Henry heard stories of John and Pieter guarding water at the Battle of Monmouth – something Post never mentioned in his pension narrative. There is also no record of Pieter Simmons serving in the militia. Henry Simmons never forgot these war stories. After making his fortune in New York City, Simmons returned to Passaic and became a large landowner. Later, he became a lay judge of common pleas, referred to as “Judge Simmons.” He befriended the elderly Post until his death. Simmons also appointed himself local historian and was frequently cited as an authority by local newspapers.

Of his “facts,” he was certain and defended them furiously. “The judge strikes me as another one of those town elder types who liked to think of themselves as a font of wisdom,” said Passaic County Historian Edward A. Smyk. “I get the distinct impression he was a plain, unvarnished yarn spinner.” By his death in 1896, Simmons’s stories had become historical fact. In 1933, a large monument was dedicated to Post on the Saints Peter and Paul Church grounds, the home of the former Dutch church, and Post and his wife’s final resting place. More than 500 attended the unveiling ceremony, including 42 of Post’s descendants. It stands today. With the monument, “Captain” Post was now immortal. Simmons had made sure of that. Special thanks to Passaic County Historian Edward A. Smyk, Passaic City Historian Mark S. Auerbach, John H. Post family member Betty Lou Walker and Jack DeVries Sr. for their help researching this article.


1355 Broad St. • Clifton • 973-778-5566 Dr. Michael Basista, Medical Director of Immedicenter Walk-in Medical Care Mon-Fri 8am to 9pm • Sat & Sun 8am to 5pm Weekday Appointments Available • February 2018


“As a member of the CAA, I’m Amanda Stetz is all about art. The given the opportunity to hang my CHS senior’s favorite class is stuwork in galleries and art centers dio art. Her top extra-curricular with the association, which is someactivity – art. Her best school relatthing I wouldn’t have experienced ed experiences? The Art Honor otherwise. Helping teach art classes Society field trips to the Chelsea is also a unique experience because Galleries. you teach through demonstration Freshman year saw a shy, introrather than by discussion or readverted Amanda join her friends ing, and it’s given me an immense when they “signed up for the amount of patience.” lacrosse team, even though none of Always looking for that perfect us had ever played lacrosse image or line or dot, she said, “Most before,” she said. of my weekends are spent practic“Seeing us get better and grow ing art because it’s truly the thing I as a team is the highlight of my Amanda Stetz won national honors enjoy most. I’m always trying to spring each year. We went from for her painting Shattered, at right, and Bound, on the following page. become better at it, regardless of the winning only two games my freshmedium, because art’s subjectivity man year to making it into the state allows for the exploration of an almost infinite amount tournament (for the first time in almost a decade) my of techniques and subjects. I can spend hours painting junior year. It’s our progression that makes me proud. something and not even realize that time passes.” It’s made me value the journey equally to the results.” Amanda’s project last spring won the Girl Scouts of “Since freshman year I’ve come a long way in terms Northern New Jersey Council Gold Award. It consisted of becoming more extroverted. Meeting a lot of new of teaching art classes at the public library, creating a people and taking part in so many activities has defimural and donating it to Clifton City Hall, and creating nitely made me a more vocal and open person. I’ve defa national art center listing on a website and distributinitely become more willing to try new things and exert ing and donating informative bookmarks to libraries myself in what I already like to do,” she said. throughout the country. Amanda lives at home with her mom and dad. Her Amanda says she chose that project because “it was older brother and sister, Chris and Jen, are out on their on a topic I cared about: art. Most of the time the visuown. As her household dropped from five to four to al arts are underfunded and underappreciated. With my three, she’s found a lot of time to spend with friends project, I sought to make the arts not only more visible and more time for, yes, drawing, well, art. And writing. but more accessible as well in my town and beyond. The talented artist is a member of the National Art “When I graduate, one of the things I’m going to Honor Society, Gallery Club. “I’m the youngest memmiss most about CHS is Mr. Rogers’ history classes. ber of the Clifton Association of Artists,” she said. “I He’s greatly influenced how I interpret the world also help teach art classes over the summer. around me, and his classes have taught me how to think “Art honor society and gallery club tie into my pascritically, which is one of the most important things you sion for art; every year we organize a gallery show to can learn.” display the work of the CHS students who take an art Rogers appreciates her passion for learning. class. The best part of the club, however, is the end of “Amanda is undoubtedly one of the finest students I’ve the year trip, because every year we spend a day in a ever had the honor to teach,” he said. “She consistently different art gallery in New York City.


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STUDENT of the MONTH had one of the highest averages in my classes during the three years that I was her teacher. Amanda is an incredible critical thinker, a skilled writer, a hard worker and an amazing human being.” She has been in Rogers’ 9th Grade Honors World History, 10th Grade AP US History, and 12th Grade AP European History classes. “Amanda is a true renaissance woman,” Rogers said. “She’s an athlete, an artist, a scholar, and an integral part to our student body. She is socially conscious and greatly concerned with the world around her. It is rare to find a single individual with the talents and abilities that Amanda displays. With that being said, she still remains a humble and down to earth individual.” “Amanda is always thinking and always focused. Her consistency is second to none. Amanda is a trustworthy and kind individual, but never shirks from a challenging task. She aspires to make herself better in all aspects of her life. I will greatly miss her. She is truly an exceptional person.” Amanda said her art teacher, Lauren Fox, “has always encouraged me to pursue my passion and is always willing to help me out. She’s a great

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STUDENT of the MONTH teacher and an equally great person. I’m glad to have had her as a teacher for the past three years at CHS.” Fox is delighted to work with Amanda. “In my 17 years as an art educator,” Fox said,” I have had many talented students, but Amanda is exceptional. She is an unbelievably talented, driven, smart and well-rounded young woman. She puts her all into every assignment she is given. She is a joy to have in class.” Amanda has been in Fox’s 9th Studio II, 10th Grade Studio III Honors, and 12th Grade Studio Art IV AP classes. “Amanda is very well rounded,” Fox added. “She is not only extremely talented, she is an athlete,


February 2018 •

she is very dedicated to her studies and she is a thoughtful and kind young woman. “With Amanda, I know that I am going to get an exceptional piece of artwork. Her consistency and drive to always do her very best sets her apart from any student I have ever had. I can honestly say that when I see Amanda, I see a young woman who is going to make a difference in this world.” Amanda believes that the best thing about Clifton High is the mixture of people encountered during four of study. “Clifton’s diversity,” she said, “is truly its strength. Experiencing diversity of thought has changed the way I view the world. Other than that, CHS becomes what you make of it. There are opportunities here, in academics, athletics, and the arts, but only if you are willing to seek them out. At CHS, you can really pursue whatever you want, if you set your mind to it.” As far as the usual challenges and problems of high school and chasing dreams? “My best advice,” she said, “is to face whatever is bothering you rather than avoid it. Most problems don’t solve themselves so it’s up to you to rectify the situation. Procrastinating will often only make it worse.” The young woman has developed an interest in science that she attributes to teacher Raymond Burns. Amanda said he “is the first teacher I’ve ever had that has made the subject of science enjoyable. Taking his physics classes junior and senior year have been a big catalyst to me wanting to study engineering in college.” Amanda is active in the CHS Physics and Engineering club. “This club is one of my favorite parts of the week,” she said, “because I get to spend time with my friends while we construct projects and compete. Currently, we’re practicing for the North Jersey Physics Olympics.” This year, Amanda joined the Academic Decathlon team. “It’s been a great experience so far, and my only regret is not joining earlier in during my time at CHS,” she said. “I do plan to attend college; I want to study either architecture or engineering, and double major in studio art. Ultimately though, my goal is to earn a Ph.D and one day become a college professor.”



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Newcomers to Clifton will appreciate the guide to our unique neighborhoods. For those of us that have been around a few years, the dozens of photos, guide to landmarks and listing of all roadways is like a hometown refresher course. For the last 12 years we have published a large map of our hometown and distributed 16,000 of them in the February magazine. An additional 5,000 are printed and dispatched to real estate agents, city hall, libraries and even to school kids. The 2018 Map of Clifton, with photos and descriptions, takes readers on a look back at the Clifton Centennial Parade. And the cover and inside pages displays the names and faces of many of the folks we have written about over the past year.

East Clifton / Lakeview

Botany Village

Clifton Center Albion Dutch Hill

Athenia Allwood/ Richfield Montclair Heights / Greglawn



The 2018 Map of Clifton is published thanks to these Advertisers... Affordable Home Services Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin Boys & Girls Club of Clifton Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Clifton Office Coldwell Banker Pina Nazario Corradino & Papa Councilman Ray Grabowski Fette Ford, Infiniti & KIA Garden State Honda Genardi Contracting Inc. Immedicenter Lakeview Bakery Mikula Contracting Inc. Mr. Cupcakes Neglia Engineering Associates NOVA UA Federal Credit Union Paramus Catholic High School Precision Motors Preferred Environmental Services Shook Funeral Home Smith Sondy State Farm Agents Bill G. Eljouzi Thomas Tobin Styertowne Shopping Center The Barrow House The Diamond Agency Frank Cortes Weichert Realtors Lesia Wirstiuk • February 2018


Clifton Merchant Magazine writer Michael Gabriele is also a pastel painter. An exhibit of his work is displayed in Montclair now through March 1

Clifton artist Michael Gabriele’s pastels will be on display at The Gallery at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, 695 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair, through March 1. A free gala reception will be held Feb. 8, from 7 to 9 pm, and artwork will be available for sale. Gabriele is a member of the Clifton Arts Center advisory board and a former artist-in-residence for students at Clifton High School’s Art Academy program. Call 973-744-5544, ext. 310, for more info.

Have Clifton Merchant Mailed. $35/YEAR SUBSCRIPTION Mailed via first class to your home.

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February 2018 •


At left, The Blanket sculpture by Judith Peck at the Clifton Sculpture Park. Here: Time Out at the Beach by Peggy Dressel.

Full Range of Motion, an exhibit featuring the artists of the Blackwell Street Center for the Arts is displayed at the Clifton Arts Center & Sculpture Park. Also displayed are sketches of sculptures by Dr. Judith Peck, professor of art emeritus at  Ramapo College. Founded in 1983, BSCA artists work in a variety of media and styles,

including ceramic, collage, oil, pastel, photography and watercolor. Displaying their works in Clifton are Linda Aldrich, Peggy Dressel, Dave Gruol, Mary GuidetteMcColl, John Powers and Nora Winn. The Clifton Arts Center and Sculpture Park is open Wed. to Sat., 1 to 4 pm. For info, call 973-472-5499 or visit • February 2018



On Jan. 22, the CHS Key Club participated in The Great Kindness Challenge. Key Clubbers distributed 2,700 pencils reading “Kindness Matters” from Kindness Matters tote bags for students to use on the quarterly exam. From left are some of the officers of the group: Wendy Olmos, Melissa Campos, Rosa Dominguez, Yakeline Munoz, Madison Potash, Jasmine Alvarado and Karen Tejada.

A Beefsteak/Tricky Tray Auction hosted by the Home and School Association of School 2 will be held at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton on May 18. Funds raised will support activities, field trips, classroom supplies and recreation equipment. Needed are auction items,

gift certificates, gift baskets or monetary donations. Contributors will be recognized in the event program. For info, call or write Diane Moyse at 201-220-4056 ( or Millie Sardellaat 201- 832-2114 (

which means Tomahawk Jr. is trained and nationally certified in restorative water drying methods by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, also known as IICRC.


February 2018 •

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HISTORY The Passaic County Historical Society school trip grant program is accepting 2018 applications. Schools, clubs, camps and scout groups interested in subsidized tours of the Lambert Castle museum, which is on Valley Rd. on the Clifton/Paterson border, should apply for reimbursement of transportation and admission costs. Funds will be dispersed on a first-come basis. Last year, 541 children participated, and the museum hopes to welcome more students in 2018 to learn about Passaic County’s rich local history. For info, visit

Patrick Byrnes, Library Research Specialist at the PCHS, with visting researchers at Lambert Castle.

The Elizabeth A. Beam History and Genealogy Library at Lambert Castle is now open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 1 to 4 pm as well as on the second and fourth Saturday of every month, from 1 to 4 pm. Regular museum admission applies. Located in Lambert Castle, resources include books, photographs, primary documents and newspaper collections. For a list of some of some of the holdings, visit

It is best to make an appointment to conduct your research. Contact Patrick Byrnes at or call 973-247-0085 x 204. Lambert Castle and the PCHS showcases examples of the County’s cultural and artistic diversity, as well as examples of the County’s natural, civil, military, and ecclesiastical history. The Society also maintains a library and archive, which houses manuscripts, books and photographs of historical and genealogical interest. • February 2018


The next generation of CHS Wrestling begins with these kids, parents and coaches. Teaching the sport from the ground up, novice wrestlers learn the basics and participate in matches and tournaments. Advanced and travel team wrestlers compete at a higher level but everyone learns that wrestling promotes focus, stamina, dedication, desire, drive, discipline and determination...principles that will carry wrestlers throughout their wrestling career and life in general. The Clifton Jr. Mustang wrestling season runs from November to February. For info on registration for the next season, which begins in November, write to Jean DuBois at or PhilConsiglio at

Woodrow Wilson HSA hosts a Gift Card Bingo on Feb. 25 at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton. Doors open at 1 pm. The $25 includes 10 boards. The cost is $30 at the door. Guests are welcome to bring food and beverages. Additional boards will be available for sale. For tickets, write to

Celebrate Mardi Gras with a benefit party at St. Brendan School, 154 East 1st St., on Feb. 10 featuring live music by Swingman and the Misfit-Mutts. Cost is $30 or $250 for a table of 10. Hot and cold buffet, BYOB. Doors open at 7:30. Proceeds benefit the school. For tickets, call 973-772-1149.

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February 2018 •

EVENTS Your Heart is in My Hands Safety Rally is a CPR, AED and First Aid training program for adults offered by Clifton Recreation on Feb. 10, from 8:30 am to 4 pm, at the Rec Center at 1232 Main Ave. Participants will learn to respond to emergencies, recognize respiratory and cardiac events, attend to choking victims, and how to perform CPR as well as an Automated External Defibrillator or AED. Passing students will receive an American Red Cross certification valid for two years. The cost is $35. Pre-registration is required as there is no onsite registration. Info at or at the Clifton Recreation Department, 900 Clifton Ave, second floor of City Hall. For info, call 973-470-5956. PRAISE stands for Clifton Parents Requiring Action and Information for Special Education, and it is a non-adversarial parent support group for parents and families with special needs children based in Clifton. The next meeting is Feb 26 at 7 pm at the Allwood Library. Brenda Figueroa, Program Coordinator for SPAN's Parent to Parent NJ, and Norberto Jimenez, a self advocate, will be presenting Charting the Lifecourse: Integrating Supports Across the Lifespan. Email or for more info.

The 13th Annual Cut-a-thon at Christopher Columbus Middle School is on May 21. CCMS’s Character Education Club is again sponsoring the event and will send the collected hair to Children With Hair Loss. Children With Hair Loss provides human hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. If your hair is at least eight inches and are willing to donate, contact Kim Dreher ( Permission forms are needed for students and those under 18. To register, go to

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The Marching Mustangs and the CHS TriM Club teamed up to collect warm supplies for the area homeless. They also raised ove $900 for St. Peter’s Haven.

The CHS Marching Mustang Band asked attendees to their winter concert to bring donations of hats scarves gloves as their entrance fee in lieu of their entrance fee normally charged. This was the first time that 100 percent of the profits from a concert were given to a philanthropic charity and it was overwhelming received by families friends and the community.

Band members made drop off boxes and monetary jars and the collection within the band began. Project Leader Sara Liszner and fellow band members collected 102 gloves, 122 hats, 102 hand warmers, 26 scarves 48 pairs of socks, 14 jackets, three pairs of pants and 58 chapsticks... plus over $900 in donations. All items and donations will be given to St. Peters Haven. The band wishes to thank all those who helped to make winter a little warmer for those less fortunate. Marching Mustang Band Director Bryan Stepneski said he was proud of the work of the band members and happy to collaborate with other groups in the school. The 14th Passaic County Film Festival is on April 21 at 10 am in Paterson’s Center City Mall. Film entries are due now. Open to filmmakers in high schools, colleges and independent producers, categories include: general short film; PSAs; documentary; music video and tourism, or eco-tourism; history short film. For details, visit


February 2018 •


Pirates of the Cure-ibbean is the theme of Clifton’s 2018 Relay for Life. To begin the team making, the fund raising and to help spread the word, a kickoff was held on Jan. 27 at the Senior Barn on Well Rd. behind city hall. Guests were greeted by Mateys Teresa Colon and Barbara Maak, Relay for Life chairs. Clifton resident Johanna Purdon shared her story as a cancer survivor as well as active volunteer of the American Cancer Society. Those who attended learned how their participation in the nationwide movement benefits lifesaving ACS research and brings the community together to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.

The kickoff is a prelude to the 14th Annual Relay for Life which is at Clifton Stadium from noon to midnight on June 16. On that day, folks come out and walk, run or simply enjoy a day in the fresh air to remember those who passed and support those who are going through cancer. To learn more about the Clifton event, form a team or volunteer, call Chris Liszner at 973-650-2719 or Kim Castellano at 201-328-2326. Information can also be found at To learn more about ACS and the services they provide, visit If you are a cancer survivor, register on the website and join Clifton Relay for the Survivor Lap on June 16.

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377 1/2 Valley Road Clifton, NJ 07013 T: (973)542-8071 F: (973)542-8073 • February 2018



Tony Sanchez, the manager of Weichert of Clifton, was named the 2017 Regional Manager of the Year. Besting other managers in Passaic, Bergen and Rockland counties, the award is based on his ability to lead and motivate office associates, sales figures and ethical standards as it relates to delivering Weichert’s full-service value to all of its customers. Above right, St. Joseph’s University Medical Center Director of Robotic Surgery, Dr. Tanuja Damani, speaks with a patient who says his life has been completely changed by an innovative robot-assisted surgery in a new procedure to stop severe acid reflux in patients. In a same-day hospital visit, patients are soon on the road to relief and away from lifelong antacid medications that treat the symptoms but not the root cause. For more info, go to


February 2018 •


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TLC’s Trouble at the Tropicabana opens Feb. 23 at Mario’s Restaurant and harks back to the antics of I Love Lucy. Frank Favata is Ricky Bicardi with Tara Moran as Lucy. Gary Koseyan and Annette Winter are Fred and Ethel Schmertz.

Take a walk down memory lane with Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel at Ricky Bicardi’s nightclub as he gets ready to sign a contract with a movie mogul. Will Lucy and Ethel ruin Ricky’s big chance with another of their harebrained schemes to get into show business? What’s the notorious gangster Mr. Big doing at Ricky’s club, and who committed the murder? It’s all part of Trouble at the Tropicabana, the annual dinner theater production of the Theater League of Clifton. Performances are Feb. 23, 24, 25 and March 3, 4 10, and 11 at Mario’s Restaurant, 710 Van Houten Ave. The Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 pm while Sunday matinees are at 4 pm. This year, by popular demand, a third weekend has been added for the dinner theater performances.

Tickets for the dinner and show are $45 per person. Family style dinner includes salad, pasta, chicken, sea bass, vegetable, potato, dessert, soda, coffee and tea. Tickets may be reserved by phone (973-928-7668), online ( or by check and regular mail (PO Box 4072, Clifton, NJ 07012). Founded in 2005, the Theater League of Clifton is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the arts through theatrical performances, while providing quality entertainment for all ages. The Theater League of Clifton welcomes volunteers in all aspects of performance and production. Rebecca Shuster is the director of the show, while Mark Peterson serves as the producer. Peterson is also the president of TLC. • February 2018


Happy Birthday to... Send dates & names... Robert Krupinski a Clifton bugler from our May 2015 edition celebrates on Feb. 25.

Natalie Pych turns 17 on Feb. 8. Sam Citero will be 98 years young on Feb. 18. Happy Birthday to sister Donna Hawrylko on Feb. 25.

Alison Degen.......................2/1 Robyn Feldman................... 2/1 Jack Houston ...................... 2/1 Kristin Reilly........................ 2/1 Mary Jane Varga................ 2/1 Emil Soltis, Jr ...................... 2/2 Joseph Fierro ...................... 2/3 Bob Naletko....................... 2/3 Catherine Grace Burns ........ 2/4 Diane Di Pietro ................... 2/4 John Nittolo........................ 2/5 Richie Szepietowski............. 2/5 Courtney Carlson................ 2/6 Joseph DeSomma ............... 2/6 Ashley Rose Montague........ 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


Ernie Rodrigues celebrated his 42nd birthday on Jan. 14. Troubadour Nick Zecchino celebrates on Feb. 11. Jayke Williams turns 10 on Feb. 26. The Lux siblings celebrate in February—Eric turns 22 on Feb. 3 and Renee will be 16 on Feb. 14. Bryan Kelly....................... Matthew Seitz .................. 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 ............

February 2018 •

2/10 2/10 2/11 2/11 2/11 2/12 2/12 2/12 2/13 2/13 2/14 2/14 2/14 2/15

Chickie Curtis ................... Frank Klippel .................... M. Louis Poles .................. Ashley Brandecker ............ David Fazio ..................... Leann Perez...................... Lorraine Rothe .................. Michael Del Re ................. Richie Bandurski ............... Stephanie Peterson............ Michael Papa................... Robert Mosciszko.............. Taylor Jesch ...................... Diana Murphy ..................

2/15 2/15 2/15 2/17 2/17 2/17 2/17 2/18 2/19 2/19 2/20 2/21 2/22 2/22

Aria Federle is all smiles about her 7th birthday on Feb. 15. John T. Saccoman ............ Robert Adamo................. Eileen Feldman ................ Kimberly Mistretta ............ Kimberly Gasior .............. Joseph J. Schmidt............. Brittany Helwig................ Joyce Penaranda ............. Brittany Pinter .................. Lauren Ricca.................... Charlie Galluzzo ............. Mark Zecchino ................

2/22 2/24 2/24 2/24 2/26 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/27 2/28 2/28

Don Knapp celebrates a birthday on Feb. 6. • February 2018



Moms and dads are invited to find out what Clifton Music Together is all about. While the winter session is underway, late registration is open for the Wednesday 10 am classes and Saturday classes at 2 or 3 pn. The group meets at In-Step Fitness, 819 Van Houten Ave. Go to or call 973-365-0718 to register.


February 2018 •

Tomahawk Promotions 1288 main avenue Clifton, NJ 07011

PRSRT STD U.S. Postage PA I D Phila Pa 191 PeRmiT No. 7510

Fred Spoelstra

Dave Kellleey

Linton Gaines

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Luiss Yzaguirrre

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Jose Gignoux

Sophia Constandinou

Nancy Rodriguez Waltter Porto

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Mabel Mesones

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Roselyys Ramirez


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Patricia Hankerson

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Nikolas Ralllii

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Emiliio Oscanoa Yanira Angelees

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Clifton Merchant Magazine - February 2018  
Clifton Merchant Magazine - February 2018