Clifton Merchant Magazine - July 2010

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Congrats, Dr. Michael Rice Our friend, former Clifton Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice, is once again improving education in a growing school district. This time, it’s in Kalamazoo, Michigan— and he got a little help from President Barack Obama. Kalamazoo Central High School was named winner of the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. The US Dept. of Education’s competition attracted more than 1,000 schools, which submitted a series of essays and videos as evidence of how each school was building a college-bound culture. In April, six high schools— including Kalamazoo Central—were named finalists. President Obama selected Kalamazoo, and later spoke there at graduation in June 7. Rice, who has been the superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools since 2007, cited the Kalamazoo Promise as one of the major reasons for the school’s success. Funded by anonymous donors, the program provides up to 100 percent free tuition at a state college or university for eligible students. The Promise and other changes in the district have proved beneficial: Nearly 96 precent of students are going to college, up from 84 in 2005. Advanced Placement course enrollment is up 148 precent amongst economically disadvantaged students; 166 for AfricanAmericans and 400 for Latinos. The accomplishment is even greater when considering the background of the students. Over 70 percent of all students are free and reduced-price lunch eligible—almost double that of Clifton. Kalamazoo is also diverse, with the population breaking down as 48 percent AfricanAmerican, 39 percent Caucasian, 10 percent Latino, 2 percent Asian American and 1 percent Native American. Rice, who served in Clifton from 2002 to 2007, also achieved similar success in this district. During his tenure, three consecutive budgets were passed, compared


President Barack Obama and former Clifton Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice at Kalamazoo’s June 7 commencement. Photo by Michael Lanka.

with three of the 14 years prior to that. Residents also approved eight of 12 voter questions, and the CHS Freshman Annex. One of Rice’s greatest accomplishments was implementing full day kindergarten throughout the district. He also oversaw dual enrollment at CHS and Montclair State and Passaic County Community College, and implemented career internships for CHS students. And the ever important test scores rose during Rice’s tenure, with all grade levels showing marked improvements in both language arts and mathematics. Clifton was also awarded two state bilingual/English as a Second Language awards and enrollment in Advanced Placement courses spiked 89 percent. We’re proud that our friend, who accomplished plenty during his time in Clifton, is being recognized on the national stage. Congrats, Dr. Rice! 16,000 Magazines


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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Editor & Publisher

Tom Hawrylko Business Manager

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Irene Jarosewich, Carol Leonard, Rich DeLotto, Don Lotz, Jack DeVries

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant



July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

TEANECK: Move right in to the 3 B/R, 2 F/Bath Colonial. New eat in Kit. Hardwood floors. Big basement & attic ready to be finished. Wood burning F/P in LR, walk from dining rm to 3 season room. MLS#: 2778522. $449,000

CLIFTON: Cozy expanded Cape in Allwood offers L/R & D/R combo, eat in Kit, 3 B/R, Sitting room (13 x 6) and 2 F/Baths on large property with garage. Near park and NYC transportation. MLS#: 2780824 $320,000

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PATERSON: Spacious Colonial in Lakeview with formal dining, living room and sunroom. 4 great size bedrooms, 2 Baths make this cozy for growing family. Driveway and garage and part. finished basement. MLS#: 2780830 $249,900

CLIFTON: Great value in a great neighborhood. This 2 B/Room Cape Cod is well maintained and offers expansion options. Central A/C, Fin basement is a large fam room. Nice yard with pation. MLS#: 2780935 $269,900

CLIFTON: Expanded (back & up!) Albion Cape w/ 3 B/R, lg Kit w/ sep. separate dining area has sliders to deck. Formal LR. Fin. basment has rec rm & laundry rm. Newer windows & roof. Lots to see. MLS#: 2778102 $333,000

WOODLAND PARK: 55+ community offers 2 B/R, 2 Bth Condo w/ walk in closets & balcony has all appliances & backs up to a park for green views. Parking plus Billiards Rm, Elevator, Exercise Rm. MLS#: 2780096 $269,900

CLIFTON: Solid 2 B/R brick ranch w/ Lg. Eat in Kit, D/R attached garage,central air, central vac. & patio w/brick barbeque. Close to shopping NYC transp. Waiting for your personal touch!!. MLS#: 2779178 $299,000

CLIFTON: Richfield Colonial perfect for indoor & outdoor entertaining. Entry foyer, LR w/ FP, For. DR, EIK, 3 spac. BR, 1 full bath, 2 half baths, with spectacular fin. bsmt , 1 car gar, & inground pool. MLS#: 2757257 $435,000

CLIFTON: Large Delawanna 2-Family with big yard and room to grow offers great potential for owner or investor. 1st Fl has 2 B/R, 2 F/B plus more. 2nd Fl has 3 B/R, 2 Baths and lots of room.  Sold As-Is. MLS#: 2778447 $398,888

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant



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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

1940: Two Classes at CHS 1940 Cheerleaders. Sponsor, Mrs. Anne B. Curtin; CoCaptains, Claire De Koyer and Carol Cheston. The Cheering Aquad supports all high school teams and encourages spirit. The first Clifton High girl ever to receive an athletic sweater is its captain, Claire De Koyer. “Her reward was for four years of active membership.”

From left; Olga Zanetti, Martin Donkersloot, Ruth Zanetti, Charles Lotz, Sophie Iwanowski and Stephen Farkas

From left; Joseph Domiano, Dorothy May Finkle, Paul John Huk, Helen Kulbitzky, Michael Kashey and Geraldine Quinlan

Back in 1940, Clifton High School was still forging its identity. The Marching Mustangs were but two years old, with James C. Moscati directing just 35 students. The Fighting Mustangs were just another football team. The high school still actually had two separate graduating classes, one in January and one in June. The SCO for the winter class were President James Kirkaldy, Vice President Steve Luka, Secretary Kathleen Schneider and Treasurer Marion Powers. For June, it was President Ray Stewart, Vice President Lois Zimmerman, Secretary Florence Walton and Treasurer Bill Dranke. Though they graduated at different times, the classes generally held activities together. Both groups were

present at the Jan 13, 1938 junior prom, which still had a nice turn out despite a huge blizzard. There was also the Harvest Hop on Oct. 20, 1949, which featured Ted Roland’s Orchestra and Don Lewis. The classes also joined for the senior play, Ladies of the Jury. The Last Will and Testament of the 1940 class contained some gems as well. Among the things students bequeathed were: Louise Rahnfeld’s easy going disposition, Ray Stewart’s line of talk to drivers who cut him off on the way to and from school, the flirtatiousness and Park Avenue accent of Ruth Bartholomew and Bob Hubert’s method of finding the one girl—try them all and pick the best. July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


CHS 1940 The January 1940 Soccer Soccer Team was coached by Charles W. Hartzell and managed by Lester Hebenstreit. Co-Captains were Robert Dietrich and George De Lotto.

The January 1940 Football Team. Coaches were Albert Lesko and Daniel Cheston. The manager was Jack McHenry and the captain was Joseph Roche.

The January 1940 Girls Cheerleaders. While the students were unidentified, their sponsor was Anne Bannister.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

CHS 1950 The 1950 Girls’ Athletic Association. Rear Row: Carol Darkins, Sylvia Springer, Agnes Hick, Eleanor Chowlinski, Ann Ward, Claridel Kinney, Evelyn Duban, Mrs. Altvator. Front Row: Helen Franek, Margaret Lehmkuhl, Ruth Fisher, Corrine Wisniewski, Adeline De Liberto and Janet Taylor

CHS 1960 1960 Electronics Club. Seated: Dennis Abraham, Louis Ploch. Standing: Mr. Edward Klinger (Advisor), Henry Grilk, Robert Nacon, Larry Cane, Stephen Bistritz and L. Len.

CHS 1970 In 1970, these young ladies represented Clifton in a competition called Girls State. From left: Norma Birnbaum, Allison Piscitello, Jane McGowan, Fern Swersky and Andrea LaPlaca.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


CHS 1980 The 1980 Ice Hockey Team finished second in the B Division. Captains were Bill Brancato and John D’Anna with John Krenicki, Stu Kramer and John Tabacka as leading scorers.

CHS 1990 Top fron left: Walter Piechowski (90), David Moran (90), Michael Logue (90), Michael Missbrenner (91), Brian DeVera (90), Louis Fraulo (92) Bottom: Jerry Nieto (90), Bill DeStefano (92), Tom Bartholomew (90), Thom Bollettino (92).

CHS 2000 ERASE officers included President Raquel Rivas, Vice President Jonathan Casafanca, Secretary Jason De Fino and Treasurer Christina Yosco.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

From left, Gregory Szetela, Jen Reynolds, Kevin Riebesell, Abbiegail Lacsina, Michael Stolarz and Jamie Anzaldi

From left, Lauren Iapicca, Ammar Abbasi, Theresa Bivaletz, Scott Gibson, Jessica Hadad and Konrad Olszak

One Decade Later—CHS 2000 It was just ten years ago that the first class of the new millenium left the halls of Clifton High School for good. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but things have changed a lot since. A decade later, who would admit to voting Eifle 65’s Blue as their favorite song to listen to while driving during their senior year? And Y2K? It just seems funny now thinking about all the chaos generated from that scare. Remember Floyd? That hurricane drenched the east coast and mucked up several sporting events in late 1999. But poor weather wasn’t enough to dampen the Mustang’s pride in athletics. The boys soccer team, led by the late head coach Fernando Rossi, who would depart at the conclusion of the 2001 season, was ranked second in the nation. The girls volleyball squad was named Team of the Year by The Record for their unexpected run to the state semis. The boys bowling team dominated enroute to a state title. The spring play in 2000 was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Scott Liloia in the lead role as J. Pierrepont Finch. Mr. McCunney and his students also celebrated CAST Day in 2000. Mustangs enrolled in the class were tasked with creating a day’s worth of programming for channel 19, allowing all of Clifton to see work by talented students. Do you remember your senior class officers? They were President Vincent Sinisi, Vice President Joe Rodosti, Treasurer Allison Pruiksma (also the Band Major at right), Recording Secretary Jessica Burgan and Corresponding Secretary Theresa Bivaletz. July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


The 3 East Proprietor Frank Ponte is following in dad’s footsteps

Story by Joe Hawrylko

Just like his father Vincent, Frank Ponte is on his way to become a successful entrepreneur. The 2000 CHS alum works with pops at All American Recycling—Frank being the fourth generation of Pontes in the business—and operates his own bar and grill, 3East in Secaucus, with his brothers Joe and Mike. “I previously owned Tonic (a bar) in Hoboken for three years with my cousin,” explained Ponte.

That’s Frank Ponte in front of his business and at left, Ponte as an intern back in 2000 with former New Jersey Net Gheorge Muresam.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Working with family wasn’t necessarily the game plan from the beginning. The 2000 CHS alumni attended St. Joe’s in Philadelphia, where he studied marketing. Ponte, who was profiled in the Clifton Merchant June 2000 CHS graduation edition, worked as a ball boy in college for the New Jersey Nets for three years. “I was there the year they went to the finals and for the All Star Game,” he said. “It was pretty cool.” After graduating, Ponte worked at the New York Board of Trade for one year before returning home to work with his father, Vincent, at their family business, All American Recycling. There, Ponte was essentially the jack of all trades, doing sales and whatever else was necessary at any given


moment. He also took note of his father’s other ventures. “My father owns Bareli’s next do or and F. illi Ponte in Tribeca,” he said. Although Ponte never worked in his father’s restaurants, he has relied on him for advice. “By watching my dad, I learned how to interact with customers,” said Ponte. “And now with our own place, my brothers and I have created a comfortable atmosphere for everybody.” Frank and his brothers have attempted to create an atmosphere that appeal to all crowds. The CHS alum said that 3East is in a prime location for sporting events, drawing people for football, baseball, boxing and MMA events. “We’re close to the stadium and we’ve got 11 plasmas,” said Ponte, who has lived in Secaucus for five years. “When the Yankees won the World Series last year, this place was insane.” He also noted that this past November, the CHS Class of 2000 held a reunion. The CHS alum relishes the opportunity to go to work every day and be around family. “Working with my father is great,” said Ponte. “And my brothers, we had always been involved with the family business. We never thought owning a bar could happen, but we talked about it.”

CAST opened doors to his career at HBO With a stable job in a field that he loves, Nick Genchi is satisfied with the direction of his life. The 2000 CHS alumni credits his high school experiences for helping him get started on his career path. “I work for HBO in Manhattan,” said Genchi. “I do tech support for the studio and Nick Genchi (left and broadcast operations.” inset), his dad Nick and Ten years ago, the brother Mike, CHS 2003. Cliftonite was at CHS, gaining early life experience in his field of choice. “I did CAST in high school, which kind of sparked the interest in the whole film and tv production stuff,” said Genchi. “I had Al Dixon my first year, and then McCunny afterwards. When I first got to CHS, they already had the CAST program, but I think my sophomore year they expanded it.” The CHS alum said that the course is what prompted him to begin exploring colleges that offered film and television production courses. Ultimately, he settled on Quinnipiac University. “One of the main reasons I chose Quinnipiac is that the computers and resources available were equivalent or better than what we had in Clifton,” said Genchi, who attended School 3 and CCMS. “I originally started with a small production group in Connecticut. This is my second job now, but I’ve been here four years.”

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Her Life in the Fast Lane Christine Canavan Jones is still on the track to success Story by Joe Hawrylko Washington, D.C. has given Christine Canavan Jones just about everything she needs in life: Two degrees from American University, a career and her husband, Mike. And it’s now the place that the 2000 CHS alum calls home. Jones, who has a Bachelor in international studies and a Masters in foreign policy, is in charge of logistics operations for the Department of the Navy, where she has been employed for five years. “I work with managing our civilian work force of over 200,000 civilians who work in addition to our military folks,” she said. “I deal with all the logistics.” “We do a lot of travel. There are Navy civilians all over,” continued Jones, who estimated that she spends 25 percent of her outside of the office. “I’ve been to Hawaii a bunch of times, San Diego, Naples, Italy—that’s where Africa and the Middle East are all handled from.” Often, such excursions from the office require her to go on site and visit shipyards or other American bases. “It’s really interesting, all the stuff that the Navy does,” said Jones. “Once we went out to a shipyard and I got to walk around on a submarine in a dry dock. They were retrofitting all of the ships.” Her line of work has given her several unique cultural experiences as well. “When I was in grad school, I worked for the Australian embassy. I worked abroad in Australia and interned at their embassy in D.C.,” said Jones. “I was their token American! They’d ask me all the weird cultural questions about America. Why do they put ranch on everything? Is New Jersey like the Sopranos? What state is Tennessee in?” Used to the hustle and bustle of working on the East Coast, Jones was particularly fond of life on the other side of the country. “Working in Hawaii is really tough, because no one else is in work mode,” laughed Jones, who recalled a visit to the island state. “A couple of us from Pacific Command were walking into the hotel in suits and someone was walking out, and they said, Hello, mainland people!” The CHS alum noted how the Navy’s presence can have a big impact on the local economy. 16

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Christine Cananvan in 2000 and today with her husband Mike.

“I really like San Diego,” said Jones. “The Navy is really the major employer in San Diego. We have a lot of people there. And Puget Sound in the North West is our shipyard. It’s out on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s just a really beautiful place.” “I was in the ninth floor of a hotel during a massive earthquake in San Diego,” recalled Jones. “The buildings are meant to sway but I didn’t know that! I was holding on and it almost knocked me over.” Most often, Jones works from Washington, where her hours shift depending on what Navy branch she is coordinating with for any given project. “I take calls at a lot of weird hours,” she said. “Some weeks, when we’re working with the Pacific, our hours are 3 pm to midnight.” It sometimes means working erratic hours, but this former Cliftonite doesn’t mind. “Everyone’s working for a cause here in the Navy,” said Jones. “We have a very strong connection to our mission, our sailors and our Marines.”


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Networking to a New Career Andrew Tatarenko went from the financial field to government After graduating from Villanova in 2004 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Andrew Tatarenko opted to instead change fields, hopping into the expanding financial service industry. “I was still undecided when I graduated. The financial service industry at that time was growing, and I decided to just jump right in,” he explained. “I did well for five years and then kind of hit a wall and decided that sales wasn’t for me for the rest of my life.” “I wasn’t happy with what I was doing,” continued Tatarenko. “[The recession] hit us pretty hard. I figured this is a perfect time to change paths once again and that’s where I got into government and city management type of work.” The 2000 CHS alumni decided to leave his job and enrolled in night courses at Fairliegh Dickenson University to pursue his Masters in Public Administration. It was a particularly risky decision, considering the layoffs state wide in the public sector. But despite not having any previous working experience in the field, Tatarenko has been around it for


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Andrew Tatarenko, RJ Hammel, Chris Fischer in 2000.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


most of his life. His late father, Stefan, was a Councilman and leader in the Ukrainian-American community. “I enjoy working with people and I enjoy working in the community,” he said. “My mom was a teacher and

Andrew Tatarenko with his mom Anna, his brother Peter, a chiropractor, and his wife Larysa at Clifton’s Relay for Life, which they walked in memory of Stefan.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

my dad was a Councilman, so I kind of had that public service background. I saw how many people my father touched in the community and decided that was the path I wanted to go.” When he made the decision to reenter school, Tatarenko made sure he utilized all networking options at his disposal. “I met [City Manager] Al Greco when I joined the Rotary Club when I was in the financial service industry,” said Tatarenko, who has lived in Clifton all his life and attended School 2 and Woodrow Wilson. Eventually, that relationship led to job opportunities. “I decided to intern at the City Manager’s office,” he continued. “Eventually, a part time position opened up in the City Clerk’s office. I’ve been there for six months, seeing how municipal government works. I’m hoping with my Masters in Public Administration and the time I’ve spent in City Hall, my goal is to become a city manager one day.” Tatarenko explained that, while he has an interest in serving the community, he’s not looking for a career as an elected official. He feels that a position like city administration will give him greater flexibility in dealing with local issues. “You can pretty much work for any government agency or non-profit,” explained Tatarenko. “It was just a personal choice and I decided it was best for me to go the city management route.”

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Travel, Work All the Same Career in PR field has Kristin Sommers trotting the globe Kristin Sommers always wanted to travel in college, but found free time to be a rare commodity at Florida State University, where she graduated from in just three years. However, opportunities at her public relations firm have allowed the 2000 CHS alum to see some of America’s greatest cities, living and working in Los Angeles, Miami and finally, New York City. Oddly enough, PR isn’t the field Sommers originally intended to work in. “I kind of fell into it,” she said. “I actually wanted to do advertising. For a while, I wanted to be Angelina Powers. I used to write slogans and make story boards when I was little. In my elementary yearbook, where you write what you want to be, all of the kids said said, policeman, fireman or astronaut, and I said an advertising agent.” Sommers majored in English and minored in communications at FSU. One year, she was looking for paid internships, and being unable to find anything in advertising, she turned to family members who already were in public relations. The

Kristin Sommers with fellow grad Robbie DeVito.

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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Meet Charles D. Crowley, M.D. and his Associates Today’s lifestyles require good eyesight, 24/7. That’s why it makes sense to have your eyes carefully examined regularly. At Associated Eye Physicians, we take the time to thoroughly examine your eyes, test eye function and diagnose eye problems. What distinguishes Associated Eye Physicians? For starters, we offer all your vision needs under one roof, from contacts to cataracts. Next, we are renowned for our eye care and offer one of the finest private practices in northern New Jersey. Finally, expert physicians and personalized care. Our doctors have more than 60 years combined experience in vision care and will make your visit a positive one. —Dr. Charles D. Crowley

All you need is at AEP—Associated Eye Physicians Linda Hogan, O.D., joins us with a broad and detailed knowledge of after cataract surgery eye care, difficult to fit contact lenses, and medical management of eye diseases.

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Ceaser Pitta, M.D., specializes in diseases of the retina including Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Holes, Macular Pucker as well as Detachment surgery. Michael Landolfi, D.O., offers expertise in cataract surgery including no-stitch cataract multi-focal and surgery intraocular lens implantation which reduces the need for glasses after surgery.

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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

“My sister was working for the first firm. I had a paid internship and I’ve been there ever since,” said Sommers. “I liked it, they offered me a position and I got to travel around the US. I was young and I wanted to see or work in as many places as I could and they gave me the leverage to do that so I figured why not.” Her first opportunity was in Los Angeles, a place that Sommers had dreamed of working in since high school. “I wanted to go to college out there, but I compromised with my mother,” she said. “I got accepted to USC and FSU. It was between those two and my mom wanted me to stay a bit closer to her. I told her when I graduated, I’d move out there. I always wanted to move to LA, so they transfered me to the LA office and I lived there for a while.” “In California, the work culture is so much different and much more laid back,” Sommers continued. “I loved it and coming from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and North Jersey, you’re few and far between out there. You work harder out there and if you’re in the office past five, everyone’s like what are you doing, where as here you’re expected to be there.” The CHS alum spent a little more than two years at her firm’s branch in Los Angeles before transfering to Miami. Two years later, she once again relocated, this time for the familiarity of New York City. “Careerwise, Manhattan is definitely the best,” explained Sommers. “Miami had a lot of Hispanic focus, so if it was me and someone who spoke Spanish, they’re going to get the position. It’s very good to be bilingual down there.” As someone who did not do much traveling prior to her employment, Sommers embraced the opportunities given to her, and looks forward to exciting new challenges ahead.

“There were so many places I had not been to. One of the things I wish I did in college was the study abroad program,” said Sommers, who has

lived in Allwood for the past two years. She’s moved nine times in 10 years. “This is the longest I’ve ever been in one apartment,”


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David Moran, Samantha Kirchner, Todd Majka, Michele St. Clair, Jason Celentano and Meg Kostisin

A World of Change in 1990 Culturally, 1990 was a turbulent time here in the states and internationally. Nelson Mandela, the South African peace icon and anti-Apartheid activist, was released from prison after 27 years on Feb. 11. It was the step towards racial harmony in the African nation, which hosts the World Cup this year. In 1990, the first steps towards ending the Cold War were underway. On Oct. 3, the world watched as Germany was officially reunited, nearly a year after the Berlin Wall was symbolically destroyed. However, the year was far from being peaceful. On Aug. 2, Saddam Hussein instructed his Iraqi troops to invade neighboring Kuwait, an event which resulted in the seven-month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, which subsequently led to direct military intervention


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

by United States-led forces in the Gulf War. Back at home in Clifton, it was also a good year for Lady Mustang sports. The gymnastics squad excelled, going 8-0 for the second time in three years enroute to a shared NNJIL championship. Team stars included seniors Dana Giordano (All-League, All-County, all around), Jenn Condo (All-League, All-County, floor), and Adrienne Panico (2nd team All-League, bars, 2nd team All-County, beam). The volleyball squad went 22-3 and captured its fourth consecutive NNJIL championship to go with a county crown. The Lady Mustangs were led by senior co-captains Andrea Kasper and Tula Kofitsas, who each received AllLeague and All-County honors. As for the boys, the ice hockey squad turned in an impressive performance.


Jennifer Kolodziej, Peter De Robertis, Roma Duplak, Brian Giovacco, Jennifer Liaci, and James Bel Bruno.

Though a rebuilding year was expected, coach Tom Danko led the Mustangs to a 17-7-2 season, which included the team’s third consecutive Mustang Tournament championship. The team also captured the Handchen Cup as league champs for the second year in a row, and was named number 10 in the state by The Star Ledger. The Senior Class Officers were President Mike Crudele, Vice President Virginia Bernal, Corresponding Secretary Chris Schmidt, Recording Secretary Keri Flubacher and Treasurer Brian Tahan. The Class of 1990 also celebrated United Nations Day on Nov. 15. Over 125 foreign born students, parents, teachers and administrators attended a breakfast sponsored by the Social Studies Dept. and coordinated by Rudolph Hudak. Guests were treated to an assortment of waffles, pancakes, bacon, juice and hot chocolate, and music from various cultures was played as entertainment.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


The Entrepreneurial Itch Full time mom Jenn Liaci has plans for business three Jennifer (Liaci) Obssuth knows the value of a chance encounter as well as following your passions. Born in Augsburg, Germany as an Army brat, Obssuth was only six months old when she moved with her family to Clifton. She attended St. Paul’s School on Main Ave. from kindergarten through eighth grade. When asked about fond memories of growing up in Clifton, Obssuth, CHS 1990, distinctly remembered playing Little League softball every year. “Our team was Garden Palace. We played all over, but we had a lot of games at Main Memorial Park,” Obssuth reminisced. Obssuth continued to play Clifton JV softball once she entered CHS, but her interests quickly turned more artistic. After her freshman year, she began to take painting and art classes during the summer at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. During the school year, Obssuth balanced academics with more art classes at Montclair State University. Through her best friend at CHS, Sarah Vetanovetz, who was two grades older, Obssuth got involved in CHS’s CAST program, introducing her to all aspects of


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

by Tania Jachens

The Obssuth’s: Chris and Jenn with Kate and Matilda.

video production. Obssuth, as an underclassman, would shoot video footage using equipment she learned about in class, while the upperclassmen acted as newscasters. “The program definitely got me interested in media. The show covered sporting events, band stuff, and all the different clubs. Pretty much anything going on at school,” Obssuth explained. After high school, Obssuth’s interest in different forms of art expanded when she attended the School of Visual Arts, where she had first been introduced to the fine arts. As a student, she used her CAST program experience in her film and photography classes, but her main focus was fine arts. While in school, Obssuth worked at a bagel store on Van Houten Ave. When the owner opened another store in Passaic, Obssuth was sent there to work one day, where she happened to wait on Chris Obssuth, who lived across the street from the store. Little did she know that he was her future husband. Through another chance encounter, this time at a restaurant, Obssuth was introduced to the world of graphic arts and to her potential as an entrepreneur. Mary Higgins from Wyckoff introduced Obssuth to the sign business, which prompted Obssuth to buy equipment and start her own company called Forrest Signs, located in Midland Park. “Back when people were still hand-painting signs, we were using computers, especially when lead in paint was outlawed, which led to fading,” said Obssuth. “We were on the edge of the computer age.” She used a machine that cut out computer generated vinyl decals and graphics for custom logo designs, layouts for various businesses, including clubs in New York City, as well as lettering on trucks and store fronts. Yet five years later, something was still missing for Obssuth. “I was always interested in cooking. I had an itch to do something with it,” said Obssuth. Her friend

who was an event planner told her of a catering job for the global Internet advertising company, DoubleClick. Since no one wanted to cater on New Year’s Eve, Obssuth took the job, feeding 20 of the company’s employees. “They loved the food, so I was instantly in business,” Obssuth explained proudly. In order to focus on her catering venture, Obssuth still held onto some sign clients, but passed work onto her business partner. She married Chris Obssuth, the man she met at the bagel store, and during her first pregnancy, Obssuth sold her share of the sign business to her partner. She catered for DoubleClick for one and a half years, but stopped once DoubleClick hired a management firm to run their catering. Obssuth now works part-time at the sign business, but mostly stays at home to be with her two children, five year old Kate and six year old Matilda, affectionately called Tilly. It seems that Obssuth’s artistic abilities have passed down a generation for Tilly’s artwork was among the children’s art auctioned off as part of a fundraiser for the Ramsey Education Foundation. Besides celebrating her 20th year high school reunion, Obssuth will also be celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary in September with Chris, who is also an entrepreneur. When asked about the future, Obssuth still has great ambitions. “I still have an itch to open some sort of food establishment,” Obssuth said. She has thought about opening a child friendly café where moms with younger children can come after they drop off their older kids at school. Obssuth imagines a place where moms can get coffee and a light breakfast while their children have a special place to sit and read or do art. With both her daughters soon to be in school all day, Obssuth plans to use her new free time to make her dream a reality.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


A Look Back to the Class of 1990 Homecoming ‘89 & Other Yearbook Photos

Michael Crudele & Adrienne Panko

Brian Tahan & Dana Giordano

Geraldina Spatola & Joe Lauritano

Marc Neale & Lisa Ciolino

Class Clown: Joan Williams

Most Versatile: Andrea Casper

Best dressed: Grace Roque

Gitesh Pandya in Mrs. DeLotto’s class




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Michelle Blackowski & Meg Kostisin

Mike Compton

Keri Flubacher

Debbie Wudarski

Class Inseparables: Geraldo Bernal & Raul Sanchez

Cheerleading captains: Stacie Selitto & Deana Piserchia

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


CHS 1990 20th Class Reunion

June 12th, 2010

Photos courtesy of Keri (Flubacher) Bratcher

Gina Torino & Sheryl Lauber

Missy Kost & Tara Gouse Haller

Angela Menegakis Lavrador, Gerardo Bernal & Debbie Wudarski Soetebeer

Bruce Casey, Andrea Kasper & Chris Calcagno

John Im & Jim Compton

Michelle Blackowski Wunn, Michele St Clair & Meg Kostisin Gray

Virginia (Bernal) Noriega & Grace Roque Tartari

Joan Williams & Herlan Avella

View The Giblin Report Wednesdays at 8 pm, Channel 76

Proud to Represent Clifton Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin 1333 Broad St., Clifton, NJ 07013 office: 973-779-3125 32

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Kerry Maitland Cuprys, Rosemary Frappier, & Lisa Petrick

Gail Boellmann Aemisegeo, Annie Novello & Denise Brendli

Keri Flubacher Bratcher, Kimberly Kino & Kathleen Vesey Fee

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Greg Lisowski & Jen Tremonte

Gitesh & his wife Rohi Mirza Pandya

Michael Crudele

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From left; Kim Renta, Robert Leeshock, John Samra, Nadine Roskoski, Joe De Liberto, Lisa Ann Grimaldi.

Big Hair, Big Dreams: 1980 Even in 1980, Clifton was culturally diverse. The only difference is that it was a different group of ethnicities and these were represented in the many language clubs at CHS. The Ukrainian Club, which was advised by Mr. Gojnycz, boasted a fairly large roster. One of the major Ukrainian activities is Easter Pysanky, in which members paint eggs in the traditional Ukrainian style. Another popular event is the French Club’s cheese tasting party, or the Der Dvetsch Verein Oktoberfest celebration. Good food was (supposedly) not just limited to the high school ethnic clubs. The 1980 Rotunda proudly touts the diverse menu in the cafeterias, which featured The Hearty Mustang, The Blimp and The Flying Saucer. The menu was augmented with new health conscious items such as salads, fruit and cottage cheese platters, as students began to pay more attention to their dietary intake.

Remember Super Subs? That was the name given to the substitutes who bravely manned the little theater in the absence of a regular teachers. Students were expected to do work, but readily admitted in the Rotunda that such guidelines were not exactly followed. Seniors also had a little bit more additional freedom in 1980, as students were given the privilege of a pass to the senior lounge. There, young Mustangs could play ping pong, watch TV or just relax with friends. Other upperclassmen perks included access to the career center, or perhaps volunteering to work in the student store, which was open during lunch periods and in the morning before classes. At least some of these liberties can be attributed to the skillful negotiation of the SCA. That group included President Steve Wienbrock, Vice President Ann Marie Collins, Treasurer Linda Sorbera, Corresponding Secretary Karen Himmer and Recording Secretary Diane DeMatteo.

At the Clifton Senior Prom, June 2, 1980, at the Westmount Country Club, from left: Sue Den Bleyker and her date Peter Juzwin, Kathy Kosenko and Pat (last name is unknown), Kenny Oswald, Sue Tomcyzk and Dan O’Shea and Ann Foley and George Drelich. At left, Class Couple Joe DiLiberto and Patrice Florentine. 34

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


From left; Gerard Scorziello, Ann Perrdick, Steven Muller, Elaine Ann Seventko, Mark Smeriglio, Susan Tomczyk.

Today, some 30 years forward, we caught up with some of these Mustangs. Among those from the Class of 1980 who still live in Clifton are husband and wife Gerard Scorziello and Kim Renta. Ironically, the couple didn’t even meet each other until the day after graduation at another classmate’s graduation party. “Our class was so big and I never had any classes with Gerard, so we didn’t know each other in school,” Renta said. “I knew his twin brother Tom and we were talking at the party when Gerard came over and Tom introduced us.” The couple started dating the following fall when they ran into each other again at William Paterson University, where they had a class together. Renta, who recently served two terms on the Clifton Board of Education, went on to complete her degree in at WPU and is now an advertising writer. Scoziello transferred to St. Peter’s College and graduated with a degree in finance. He works as a stock

broker. They have two children, a 14 year-old daughter who will enter CHS in the fall, and a 10 year-old son who will start fifth grade at School 2 in September.

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Lifelong Lessons in Family Natalia Fedun’s role as mom includes job as CP advocate CHS 1980 class member Natalia (Fedun) Wojcickyj grew up in what she describes as “a walking distance neighborhood” in the city’s Allwood section. She attended School 9 and has memories of walking with her friends to the Allwood Theater and Allwood Bakery. She also rode her bike to nearby Mt. Prospect Park and sometimes picked up groceries for her mom at the old A&P, which was then where the Quick Check is now on Market St. “We had about 20 kids in my neighborhood and we would all get together and play kickball in the street,” she said. “Someone’s mom was there always watching out for us.” Wojcickyj was born in New York, but her Ukrainianborn parents spoke their native language at home, so it wasn’t until she entered school that she learned to speak English. She went on to attend Christopher Columbus Junior High (now a middle school) before moving up to the high school in 10th grade. Like many other Ukrainian-American students in CHS at the time, Wojcickyj played on the girls volleyball team. In fact, so many members of the team were Ukrainian that they often spoke the language when conversing with each other. She still keeps in touch with Natalie Morawsky, one of her best friends and co-captain from the team. Morawsky, who now lives in Princeton, is also Ukrainian. “They used to call us the Kooky Ukies,” Wojcickyj said. “There were about 10-15 of us who were in accelerated classes together who hung out all the time,” she also recalls of her days at CHS. Wojcickyj speaks fondly of retiring CHS athletic director Rick LaDuke, who volunteered to fill in for the regular girls volleyball coach who was on leave during her junior year. “He was the ice hockey coach then and he didn’t know much about volleyball, so he looked to me and Natalie to help him with the team,” she said. “We really bonded closely with him. We had a lot of fun that year. It was a blast.” Following high school, Wojcickyj went on to college at Rutgers Newark, commuting with longtime neighborhood friend and classmate Donna Marchioni, who now lives in Old Bridge. After getting her degree, Wojcickyj worked in journalism for a while before landing an 36

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

by Carol Leonard

Stefan and Natalia with Marko and Adriana.

administrative position in the Aviation Department of Becton Dickinson, where she worked for 20 years. In 1989 she married her husband Stefan and the two settled in Wayne. The couple has two children,14 yearold daughter Adriana and son Marko, age 6. Today, Wojcickyj’s full-time job and greatest challenge is caring for her two children. The most demanding part is that Adriana was born with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that affects various brain and nervous system functions. Her main goal has been to make sure that her daughter receives all the appropriate medical, educational and support services needed to live a long and fulfilling life. When their daughter was first diagnosed, Wojcickyj and her husband went through great pains to try to learn about the disorder and what may have caused it. There is some speculation that a lack of oxygen for a period of time during the birthing process may have contributed. “It took years for us to accept that it just happened and that we needed to focus on doing what we could to help our daughter,” Wojcickyj said.



Adriana uses an ambulatory walker and attends special needs classes at George Washington Middle School in Wayne. Wojcickyj plays an active role in monitoring her daughter’s IEP (individual education plan), which school districts are required to have in place for special needs students. She often communicates with teachers and school officials to make sure that Adriana is getting the prescribed amount of occupational and physical therapy in addition to her academic classes and other support services. Ironically, one of her other good friends from high school, Heidi Erdos, lives nearby her in Wayne and also has a special needs child, so they offer each other mutual support. Over the years, Wojcickyj has also had to deal with insurance issues to cover her daughter’s medical care, another challenging part of her role. “I have spent so much time on the phone and sending e-mails to insurance companies,” she said. While being an advocate for her daughter has its frustrations, Wojcickyj says she has learned a lot from the experience and it has also given her a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. “I feel that what I do for my daughter also helps other families with special needs children who don’t have the time or may not know how to deal with the system,” she said. In the midst of all her responsibilities, Wojcickyj

has been sidelined twice in recent years with her own serious medical problems. Three years ago, she had brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma, and just a few months ago she was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. During both recuperation periods, Wojcickyj spent some time staying with her parents in Clifton, while her husband took a leave of absence from his job as a financial analyst to help care for the children. And, while she is nearly healed from her latest surgery, she still counts on her husband to do to all of the heavy lifting involved with Adriana’s care. In spite of their daughter’s physical challenges, Wojcickyj and her husband try to keep their family life as normal as possible, including going on vacation and engaging Adriana in as much physical activity as she is able to handle. This includes horseback riding and ski programs adapted for the physically challenged. Last year, they bought a trailer attachment for their car to transport a side-by-side tandem bike that Wojcickyj’s husband rides with Adriana, while she and their son ride along with their own bikes. They plan to take the bikes on some trips with them this summer. Wojcickyj is also looking forward to the upcoming class reunion in September to provide her with a much deserved respite from her responsibilities and to share some laughs and memories with her old friends.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Top of the Class of 1980 Valedictorian John Taylor is now a plastic surgeon It’s no surprise to his CHS classmates that 1980 valedictorian John Taylor went on to a successful career in medicine. He runs his own plastic surgery practice in Long Branch. The handsome, smart and athletic top grad of the class originally thought that he would become an architect. In fact, going to medical school “wasn’t on the radar,” he said, until later during his undergraduate days as a chemical engineering and molecular biology student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He became interested in biomedical engineering, but decided that he didn’t want to work alone in a research lab. Instead, he realized that he wanted to care for other people in his profession. After graduating from MIT, he entered medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he had an opportunity to observe and work under a number of master plastic surgeons. “I decided then and there that plastic surgery was my calling,” he said. Dr. Taylor completed a residency program in general surgery and another residency in plastic surgery at Montefiore Medical


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

by Carol Leonard

Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, and became a board certified plastic surgeon. “After my medical training I knew that I wanted to come back to practice in Jersey, so I sent my resume out to a number of plastic surgery practices,” he said. “I received an offer from a group practice in Monmouth County in 1995, so that’s how I ended up in that area.” He started up his own practice about nine years



July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


ago, specializing in breast reconstruction and other cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. Dr. Taylor lived in Albion since the fourth grade, attending School 5 and Woodrow Wilson Junior High before moving up to CHS. His boyhood days were spent mostly outdoors playing with friends in the neighborhood. “I remember a lot of kids always being around,” he said. “We loved to spend time in the street playing stick ball and football and riding our bikes. We didn’t have to worry about any dangers back then, even after dark.” Dr. Taylor’s love for sports continued at CHS, where he was a wide receiver on the football team and competed in the 400 meter run and 400 meter hurdles on the track team. “I hung out with two different crowds,” he said. “I had my jock friends from sports and my academic friends. I was always a very serious student.” He speaks highly of the teachers who influenced him and helped shape his future. These include retired teacher and vice principal Michael Chomiak, whom Dr. Taylor had for history, and Robert Schack, his ninth grade biology teacher at Woodrow Wilson. One of his favorite sports memories was playing in Giants Stadium in the football state sectional championship game against Passaic Valley his senior year. “They were our arch rivals,” he said. “I just remember that it was brutally cold for that day.” Although Clifton lost the game, it’s an experience he will never forget.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Although he can’t quite recall much about his valedictory address at graduation, he does remember that he ended it with a quote from President John F. Kennedy. “Which quote, I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is that I was incredibly nervous.” Dr. Taylor lives in Monmouth County with his wife Kelly and their four children. Their oldest daughter Caitlin, age 21, is a senior at NYU while 18 year-olds Erin and Amanda just completed their freshman year of college; they also have a 17 year-old son, Matthew. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Taylor is enrolled in a MBA program at Lehigh University, hoping that the training will help him with the business aspects of running his own practice as well a surgical center that he operates. He continues to get together periodically with CHS classmates, including fellow physician Dr. Bob Hole, an orthopedic specialist who has a practice on Clifton Ave., and Gary Hibbard, who runs a small business on Long Beach Island in Surf City. He also keeps in contact with Randy (Ilaria) Young, who lives in the state of Washington, and class couple Maria (Joyce) and Scott Perry. “A bunch of us also started up a Facebook page,” he said. “We’ve had a few mini reunions.” Dr. Taylor is planning on attending the 30-year class reunion in September, and the most convenient part of all for him is that it will be close to home in Point Pleasant.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Hot Grill Olfactory Memory Suzie Avron’s track records fueled by Two-All-The Way Ah! The smell of Hot Grill! Suzie Avrov no longer lives in town but she still has fond memories of growing up on Maher Ave. near the renowned Hot Grill. She went to School 12, Christopher Columbus Junior High, and set several school records as a Mustang Harrier. Avrov, whose last name is now Den Bleyker, says she will never forget watching the football team at Giants Stadium for the state final her senior year. Although the team lost to Passaic Valley, it was a very exciting accomplishment that brought the whole town together. She also laughs when she recalls getting dressed up and going to school in costume on Halloween, especially when she dressed as Miss Piggy senior year. “They didn’t want us to wear costumes to the high school, but we did it any way,” she said. “It was so funny. We got in so much trouble, but it was so much fun.” Avrov grew up at a time when interscholastic sports for girls was still in its infancy. In fact in ninth grade she ran on the boys track team at CC because there was no ninth grade girls team. She was captain of the girls varsity track team, running


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

by Carol Leonard

the half-mile, mile relay and hurdles events. Although the records she set at the time have long since been broken, Avrov is still very proud of her accomplishments on the team. “I loved track,” she said. The CHS track team hosted an Alumni Meet in 2004 and Avrov had a chance to test her stamina and leg strength for the first time in more than 20 years. Not only did she cleanly jump over the hurdles, but only lost by less than a second to two other track alumni, each of them



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20 years younger than her. “If ever there was a proud moment for me, that was it,” she said. Avrov was also a member of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) in high school and spent part of her school day working at J-Mar Electronics on Lakeview Ave. After graduation she got a full-time job with the company. At age 24 Avrov moved out of Clifton and lived in Hewitt and then Rockaway for several years before moving back to town in 1990 when she married her husband George (CHS ’77), a marketing manager for The Record newspaper. The couple lived on Sheridan Ave., and later Merselis Ave., where their two daughters, Sarah and Heidi, attended School 11. Avrov gave up working full-time when she had her children, but kept herself busy working part-time on and off and becoming involved in the Home & School Association at School 11 and as a Girl Scout leader. “My main concern was being there to raise my daughters,” she said. Eight years ago the Avrovs moved to the Towaco section of Montville, but they still own a multiple family home on Sheridan Ave. in Clifton that they rent. Older daughter Sarah just graduated from Montville High School and will be starting college in the fall, and younger daughter Heidi will enter her junior year of high school in September.

In addition to following Heidi around to her high school field hockey and travel team basketball games, Avrov has become a track official, officiating high school cross country and track meets in the North Jersey area. She also works part-time as a crossing guard and serves as a Girl Scout consultant for the Clifton service unit, helping new leaders get started with their troops. She still stays in touch with a number of her old friends from high school, including Sue (Tomczyk) Van Riper, who still lives in Clifton, and Ann (Foley) Fisher, who is now a social worker living in Kendall Park. She occasionally talks with Joe Kolodziej, whom she got to know as a fellow track athlete. “Joe and I were very good friends in high school,” she said. Avrov laughs when she recalls that Kolodziej told her he would take her to the prom and then didn’t come through on his promise. She also sometimes sees Ed Wieczerzak, who now lives in Wayne. Their daughters play on the same AAU basketball team. Avrov attended her class 10th and 20th reunions, but missed the 25th, so she is really looking forward to the 30-year reunion this September. Among those classmates she hopes to see is Michelle (Kastner) Freda, who is planning to travel up from her home in Florida. Avrov reconnected with Freda through the alumni link on the Clifton schools Web site at

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


A Name in Politics & Commerce Former track guy still running at work and in politics When newly elected Clifton City Councilman Joe Kolodziej decided earlier this year to throw his hat into the ring for a seat on the council, little did he know that he would be running the last month of his campaign from a hospital bed. On April 9 Kolodziej received second and third degree burns on 25 percent of his body in a fire at his family’s Huron Ave. business, Conveyors by North American, Inc. Gas fumes from a leaky tank on a truck which had pulled up to the loading dock apparently had entered the building and were ignited by a furnace located just a few feet inside the building. Kolodziej and two others were injured and rushed to the burn unit at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where he spent two weeks in the intensive care unit and another two weeks undergoing skin grafts and physical therapy. “It was difficult to keep the campaign going,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my wife Amie it wouldn’t have gotten done. I couldn’t participate in any of the candidates’ nights, so either she or my mom would read a prepared statement on my behalf. Other than that, we relied mostly on mailings.” Kolodziej, who previously served seven years on the Board of Education, two as president, finished in seventh place in the May 11 election among 20 candidates vying for seven four-year terms on the council. The lifelong Clifton resident and CHS 1980 graduate is used to dealing with life’s challenges and has always been determined to come out on top of adverse situations. The oldest of four children of Joseph and Gloria Kolodziej, the younger Joe Kolodziej grew up in the Athenia section with his brother Tom and sisters Mary Jo

by Carol Leonard

and Jennifer. He remembers his childhood as a time of being surrounded with many other children in the neighborhood and playing soccer, baseball and basketball in the parking lot or field by St. John Kanty Church or at nearby Sperling Park. “Pretty much everyone in the area was attached to St. John Kanty Parish,” he said. “Everyone from about 12 blocks away knew each other. We would play together until the church bells rang and it was time to go home for dinner. Then we would go back out and play until the street lights came on.” Kolodziej attended St. John Kanty School through eighth grade and was active in the parish’s Boy Scout Troop 34. When it came time for high school, his parents gave him the choice of going on to Pope Paul VI High School or transferring into public school. He chose the latter and enrolled in ninth grade in what was then Woodrow Wilson Jr. High.

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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

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As a newcomer to the school, it was difficult at first for him to make new friends. But his cousin Janine Kolodziej, also a member of the CHS Class of 1980, helped develop his social life. “Janine had gone to School 13 and Woodrow Wilson since seventh grade,” he said. “She was very popular, so she made sure to tell everyone that I was her cousin.” Kolodziej also got to know many of his new junior high classmates by joining the boys soccer and track teams. He continued to run track in the spring when he moved up CHS, but switched his fall sport to football. As a wide receiver and specialty squads player, his greatest memory was playing in the state sectional championship game his senior year. “It was quite a thrill to be in the huddle in Giants Stadium,” he said. On the track team, Kolodziej was a sprinter, running the 100, 220 and 440 yard events. In addition to sports, he was a member of the Spanish Club and active with the Key Club, a student service organization affiliated with the Kiwanis Club. After graduating from CHS in June 1980, Kolodziej looked forward to going away to college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick in the fall, where he would major in engineering. It was a carefree time for him, with little to worry about except himself. All of that changed dramatically in August of that year, however, when his father was diagnosed with liver cancer.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

The elder Joe Kolodziej had just started his own company the previous fall after running a division of the Grand Union Company that made conveyers. With a grim medical prognosis, he called his son to his side to tell him that he needed him to come home from college every weekend to begin to learn the business. It was a jolting experience for the younger Kolodziej who had no plans at the time to work in his father’s company after getting his degree. But as a dutiful son, he traveled home each weekend after classes at Rutgers to learn the trade that would eventually become his life’s work. When his dad died in January of 1981, Kolodziej moved out of his Rutgers dormitory and commuted to classes from his Clifton home for the spring semester. He arranged his schedule so that he had no classes on Fridays and could spend three days at the family business. The following fall, he transferred to Montclair State to lighten his commute and changed his major to business. “I figured that if I was going to help run the company, it made more sense to study business,” he said. Kolodziej never looks backs at what might have been if he had been able to follow his original career plan. He and his mother did what they had to do to make Conveyors of North American, Inc. into the business that it has been for the past three decades. Among the company’s customers are Fed Ex, the U.S. Postal Service and Walmart. He decided to run for the council at the urging of friends after his mother made it known that she would retire from public office after serving 28 years on the council, eight as mayor. His father was in the third year of a term on the council when he passed away. “Mom and Dad were always very civic oriented,” Kolodziej said. “They always taught us the value of giving back.” It will be a while before Kolodziej is able to return to work at his company, as he is still undergoing outpatient treatments and therapy for his injuries. But he fully intends to participate in the work of the council. “I might have to excuse myself to leave early or find a way to prop up my legs to make myself more comfortable during meetings, but I plan to be there and get to work on city business,” he said. Thirty years after graduating CHS, Kolodziej still keeps in touch with a number of his former classmates, including husband and wife Gerard Scorziello and Kim Renta. He and Renta served two years together on the Board of Education. He also plays golf occasionally with former football teammate Chris Dunleavy, who works as a chef and still lives in Clifton, and Tommy Lawrence, his old Boy Scout buddy. Lawrence lives in West Jersey, but his mom still resides on Huron Ave.

From left; Jennifer Roberts, Barry Raphael, Grace Giunta, John Forlenza, Roseanne Generalli, Richard Lekston.

Changing Times in 1970 at CHS Once a month Diane Halbrohr, now Diane Halbrohr Kaufman, gets together for dinner with girlfriends from the CHS Class of 1970, most of who were reconnected in recent years through Facebook. Getting on Facebook, she told us, caused a wave of connections with people that she has not seen or talked to in decades. Regulars at the month dinners include Class of 1970 graduates Meryl Topchik, Linda Vreeland, Priscilla Briely, Ann Marie Ayers – whom Diane has known since kindergarten – Gayle Galka, Karen Lazovick, and several others. “I think,” said Diane, “these could be some of the best times of our lives. We have time to relax, catch up, and we’re all really proud of graduating in 1970. It was a pivotal year. A time of great changes.” After CHS, Diane went on to Quinnipiac College, and then returned to Farleigh Dickinson,

Senior Class Officers. President Randy Miller, Vice President Donna Constantin, Corresponding Secretary Jeanne Toro, Recording Secretary Mary Stucky and Treasurer Seth Dworkin.

where she earned a degree in elementary school education. Though she worked at jobs other than teaching, most of her career was in education in Jersey City

schools, and then in Montclair until she retired last year. She married her high school sweetheart Robbie Montgomery after college, and for a

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


From left; Chris Ochetal, Allen Porterfield, Susan Shook, Andrew Mikula, Ann Marie Ayers, Ken Kida.


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while, they lived down at the shore. Though they separated, she remembers Robbie as a wonderful person. Robbie passed away 13 years ago at the young age of 45. She now lives in Little Falls “about a mile from the house where I grew up” with her second husband Louis Montgomery. “I’m nostalgic for those times,” she said, “hanging out with my friends at the Rafters. Great music – great times – music is extremely important to me and there never has been and will be again the music of those times.” It certainly was a unique time for music. Huge concerts with start studded line ups were common. From Aug. 26 to 30, some 600,000 jammed the East Afton Farm at the Isle of Wight Festival off the coast of England. The line up included Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Joan Baez, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull. And a new genre of music took off that year, with Black Sabbath releasing their self titled album, which is heralded as the first true heavy metal album. However, the music scene wasn’t entirely positive in 1970. On April 10, Paul McCartney announced that The Beatles disbanded. On Oct. 4, Janis Joplin passed away due to an apparent overdose. There were plenty of huge changes going around the country in 1970— and at CHS too. The atmosphere at Clifton High School resembled the turbulent atmosphere across the country—everyone was

an activist for a cause. Students protested for and against the Vietnam War. On Oct. 15, 1969, the Student Council organized a peace rally in observance of Moratorium Day. The Council also organized a dance to collect funding for war-torn Biafra, which was trying to split from Nigera. Not all of the dissent was directed at the war. Students campaigned to get the dress code change and emerged victorious—boys now had the option of wearing blue jeans to school. Another hotly debated topic was sex education in schools. The issue was kicked around the City Council and Board of Education, with students and parents alike weighing in at meetings. However, the matter remained unresolved by the time the Class of ‘70 left CHS for good—in gold gowns for the first time ever. There were also firsts in the Mustang sporting world as well. Lacrosse and swimming were added the growingly diverse lineup at CHS, laying the foundation for two sports that still remain popular in Clifton. The bowling team picked up its first state title in 1970, having won the New Jersey State Bowling Tournament to cap off a 25-15 record that season. The Mustangs once again reigned supreme on the gridiron, where coach Bill Vander Closter’s boys marched to a 7-2 record, a Passaic Valley Conference championship and a shared state crown. The Clifton soccer team rolled towards its fourth straight league title under coach Severin Palydowycz.

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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Photographer now a Physician Eric Emont specializes in Hospice Care in California Eric Emont is living his dream, practicing medicine in California, the state that captured his heart during a vacation in 1982. But the CHS 1970 grad has many memories about his high school alma mater, where he served as a photographer on the yearbook staff. He recalled how the Vietnam War shaped opinions and affected the culture at Clifton High leading up to graduation. “There was one particular day where we were marching—I don’t exactly remember where we were marching—but it was a large contingent of the hippies protesting,” said Emont. “I remember there were also protests from the athletic people, who were protesting us.”

by Joe Hawrylko

“It was something that happened at least once,” he added. “I think that was the same year that there were a lot of protests at campuses all over the country. Clifton was just one of many.” The War was on the forefront of the minds of the kids at CHS. Even if individuals on the verge of graduation had plans to attend college—giving one exemption from the draft—most Mustangs had friends or family members who were in some way involved with the War. Even if you weren’t going to battle, you cared. “I know that for most of us, there was not a tremendous fear of being drafted,” said Emont. “We were all planning to go off to college. I’m pretty convinced that had there been [a draft] I probably would have been one of those people who went to Canada to get away.” But the Cliftonite instead accepted an offer to Tufts University that fall, where he would study biology. By the time Emont was enrolled in college, the anti war sentiments began to fade as the conflict in Vietnam neared an end. “When I was in college, I don’t remember any protesting at all,” he recalled. “At that point it was clear that the US was getting out of the war.” There were still reminders of the war taking place on the other side of the globe. In 1973, Emont was selected to participate in the mandatory draft lottery. “I pulled a very high number, which was good,” he said. “I was number 350 or something, so there was no liklihood of me getting drafted.” As he neared graduation in 1974, Emont began eying medical schools. The CHS 1970 alum always had always been enamored a career in medicine, and his decision to apply to medical school was at least partially influenced by his father, who owned a dental practice in Rutherford. “I did pretty much always know I was going to go into the medical field. I just knew I didn’t want to be a dentist,” laughed Emont, who graduated from the University of Panama in 1978. “I felt like the mouth was very confining. It just didn’t seem like something that would be that interesting to me at all.” July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


His training eventually took him to Rochester, NY, where Emont continued his studies in internal medicine. While there, he took a vacation that ultimately helped him decide where he would settle down and begin his career. “I was in California for vacation in 1981 or 1982 and my eyes just bugged out because I had never been to California before,” recalled Emont. “When you’re on the East Coast and you want warm weather, you go to Florida. When I saw California, I was like, oh my God, this is where I want to be.” After his training was complete in 1984, the CHS grad went to Los Angeles to begin his career. “I came to California initially to study at a fellowship. It’s post training when you do a sub specialty,” he explained. “I stud-


973Roofing • Siding Seamless Gutters Additions • Alterations


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

ied internal medicine in Rochester and then I came to California because I was planning to be a hematologist oncologist.” Emont joined the large medical group, Kaiser Permenente, where he has remained since. “I’ve been doing hospice for over 20 years now,” he explained. “I’ve been boarded in internal medicine, geriatrics and hospice palliative medicine.” Emont, who is married and has two sons, said that he still has a few relatives living in North Jersey, but he has not visited in sometime. Instead, he has been using the internet to keep in touch with friends. “It’s amazing. Through Facebook, I’ve been connected again with a lot of people,” he said. Though many fond memories of his hometown still live, Emont has created his own life in San Diego. The CHS alum loves his career, and while some may consider hospice a depressing profession. Emont has a different take. “You’re with them for a long period of time. I think that’s one of the reasons I passionately love hospice work,” he explained. “Even though the patient will most likely die, so much healing occurs during the journey that they’re going through.” “If I can alleviate some symptoms and alleviate some of their fears and get their relationships back together, it’s so rewarding,” said Emont. “It’s such a beautifully rewarding aspect. It’s life affirming as far as I’m concerned. It keeps me focused on what life is about.”


A Unique Patriot Kenneth Dalton went from warhawk to peace activist

by Joe Hawrylko

More than 39 years later, Kenneth Dalton can still remember exactly where he was when he learned the truth about the Vietnam War. It was the summer of 1971 when the 19 year old Navy sailor picked up a newspaper and first learned of Pentagon Papers. “I can remember sitting on a pier in San Diego, shaking my head and thinking to myself, those sons of bitches, they lied to us about the war and got a lot of people killed,” said Dalton. “The hippies were right all along. I felt bad for the people that I abused and mocked.” The Cliftonite had an epiphany on the waterfront that afternoon. The infamous documents, which outlined the American government’s motivation for entering Vietnam, transformed Dalton. Though he’s probably best known as the President of the New Jersey Veterans for Peace, the 1970 CHS alum was actually raised in a family rich with military service. Dalton himself was considering a career in the Navy prior to the revelations. “I was in the Naval Reserve unit in Clifton during high school,” he said. “I played hookie from school a few times and went with the military Honor Guard for funerals. I was also in the Naval Brigade as a kid. We had these Navy uniforms and dressed up like real cute little sailors and we were getting indoctrinated in this stuff.” Though students were typically against the war, Dalton said that there was a sizable contingent of pro-war Mustangs at the high school. The draft was still a very

Ken and Joann Dalton with peace advocate Cindy Sheehan (center) and Ken in 1971, US Navy.

real threat for all soon-to-be graduates, yet Dalton and the others were fully engaged in what he called blind patriotism. “Back in high school, I used to beat up on the peace protestors,” he recalled. “Ken Grunstra was one of them. At our reunion, I apologized and bought him a beer. I said I’ve been waiting to tell you something for many years: You were right

about the war in Vietnam and I was wrong, and I’m sorry for the way I treated you.” “We grew up in a time when people would hide under their beds because they were worried about an atomic bomb going off for God’s sake,” he continued. “The kids in our neighborhood, we were blue collar, working class kids. It was us versus them.” Dalton voluntarily enlisted in 1971, and harbored dreams of a possible career in the Navy, the branch that many of his family members had served in before him. He was shipped out to Vietnam, and was stationed about a transport ship. Dalton was still seriously considering a Naval career right up until he read the story about the Pentagon Papers on that dock in San Diego. Immediately, he felt betrayed. His thoughts traced back to July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


an experience from his time in the Naval Reserves. “There was this kid, Frank Jackarusso, from Spring Valley, NY. I remember holding the flag over the coffin when they did the gun salute. The family was behind me sobbing, Frankie’s never coming home again,

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Frankie’s never coming home again and the old man fainted,” he recalled. “When the Pentagon Papers came out, I had a flashback to all that suffering that the family went through. All that and you find out it was all based on a lie. How many times has that scenario played out across the country?” His perspective changed. Instead of getting ready to sign up for another stint, Dalton was counting down his days until he would be free. “I was one of those guys who wasn’t recommended for reenlistment because of my unmilitary attitude,” recalled Dalton, who was discharged in 1974. “You start to question all the BS in what they’re doing. The whole government, they’re full of crap.” After he came home to Clifton, Dalton found himself in the awkward position: he was philosophically aligned with the hippies that he had tormented for so long. He recalled an evening at the old J&A

Lounge on Lexington Ave., where he had a confrontation with a warhawk who he previously identified with. “He started calling me a pinko and a communist,” recalled Dalton. “That’s the kind of stuff that went on back then.” Years later, such experiences led to Dalton joining the Vietnam Veterans for Peace and becoming an advocate against the Middle East wars. He sees far too many parallels between Vietnam and today’s war, and is committed to the efforts to end the conflict in Iraq. “We should know better, the Vietnam Vets,” said Dalton. “We went through crap like that and it came out that it was a lie. Maybe some people from that era don’t want to accept it. But to send kids off to the same type of thing... shame on them.” “Patriotism doesn’t mean supporting the war,” he added. “Patriotism is sometimes questioning your government.”

Jimmy Sturr & his Orchestra in Passaic’s Third Ward Park Free Concert on Thursday, July 15, 7:30 Third Ward Park is at the corner of Van Houten and Passaic Aves.

Bring your chairs and put on your dancing shoes to enjoy the Big Band sound of Grammy Award winner Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra -- called “the #1 Polka Band in the Country.” The concert is being hosted by the City of Passaic Recreation Department. Call Greg Komeshok for more info: 973 - 473 - 5111 The Jimmy Sturr concert is made possible through the generosity of: Wawel Savings Bank, Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, Garden State Honda, Congressman William Pascrell, State Senator Paul Sarlo, Assemblyman Fred Scalera, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin, Councilman Kenneth J. Lucianin, Jim Robbins, Rosol-Dul American Legion Post #359 and Slovak Catholic Sokol. This project is funded, in part by the Passaic County Cultural and Heritage Council at Passaic County Community College, through a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Department of the State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Park is Handicapped-Accessible. 52

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The Friends You Keep Jack Marshall still loving his hometown John ‘Jack’ Marshall remembers the laughs, the good times, the practical jokes. A lot of the people he has stayed friends with over the years have been part of his life since elementary school when they all met at the Clifton Boys Club, coming from different schools, merging together in CHS, pals for the next 40 years. “Immediately after high school a group of friends would meet to go camping in upstate New York every year,” said Jack, “Haines Falls, up in the Catskills. At first, we stayed in tents and then would rent houses in the summer. This went on for about 10 years – Jimmy Crummy, Ray DeLuca, Tony Lulling, Joe Dera, Bob Marinara, and Robbie Montgomery, who has since passed. They were good times, and we’ve stayed friends ever since.” Now part of the informal committee to organize the 40th reunion of the CHS Class of 1970, Jack, who grew up in the Athenia section, near city hall, added, “I have never lived far away and currently live in Clifton. I like New Jersey, we have everything here, to the west we have mountains, to the east, Manhattan, a few hours south, the Jersey shore, and great restaurants everywhere.” He concedes that Clifton has really changed, he remembers the stretches of farms and a time when the row of banks and medical office on Clifton Ave. were just fields and woods. A district sales manager for Millard Wire, a firm that specializes in recycling copper, he also keeps busy with friends and family. His

by Irene Jarosewich

Top; Jack with his daughter Jacyn and in the 1970 CHS yearbook.

25-year-old daughter lives in Wayne. Besides the practical jokes, laughs and good times, Jack met many people through sports teams at CHS. He earned three varsity letters in high school. “I was captain of my cross-country team in my junior year, it was by default, all the seniors had graduated and I was the only junior,” he said as he grinned. Besides cross-country, he ran track

and was co-captain of the basketball team. He still runs to stay in shape. It was Greg Schabel, now with the Clifton Department of Public Works, that Jack remembers as a serious practical joker. “I had a Ford Falcon,” said Jack, “and Greg had a Ford Mustang. And back in those days, his key could start my car. He would come out in the mornings and park my car around the block. One morning, I came outside and saw my car was gone. The next time, he did that, I knew to go looking.” So to take the joke further, that time,” Jack said with a laugh, “he also took the distributor cap.” To connect to the CHS Class of 1970 for reunion info and details, contact Jack Marshall at or Ann Marie Ayers Williams at July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Keep the Connections Ann Marie Ayers plans the 1970 reunion by Irene Jarosewich

Back when she graduated, Ann Marie Ayers Williams probably never expected to be the person who took on the task of organizing reunions for Clifton High School’s Class of 1970. Describing herself as being “somewhat shy in those days,” she has since blossomed into a sunny extrovert, who has organized seven reunions for her class, starting with the first big one for the 10th anniversary and now the upcoming 40th, with several mini-reunions in between. The planning for the 40th reunion is well underway for Saturday, Sept. 25, at the Mavi Lounge in Fairfield. With the help of Facebook, a reunion committee that is also a network of friends, and with her experience from working on the high school yearbook, Ann Marie is trying to get contact information for the slightly more than 1,000 graduates of the Class of 1970. Part of the fun at these reunions, she said, is meeting people that you never really knew in high school, or hooking up again with people that you haven’t seen in a while. The class of 1970 was a unique one for CHS – in 1967, it was the first class to enter as sophomores into the brand new high school building, and the first class to graduate from there. They were also the class that were on the cutting edge of social change, with classmates going to Woodstock, the Vietnam War, the women’s movement co-existing with the small town traditions of Clifton as it was 40 years ago. After high school, Ann Marie finished Berkley College, went on to work with Hoffman-LaRoche and then a stay-at-home mom for her two children Brian, now 28 and Beth, 25. She later returned to work as a paraprofessional for several law firms, and currently works with Celentano, Stadtmauer and Walentowicz handling worker compensation files for the firm. She gets a great deal of satisfaction from her volunteer work with the Order of the Amaranth, a Masonic charity, partnering with the American Diabetes Association to raise funds for diabetes research and in May 2009 was honored for her work with the young girls who belong to the Masonic Order of Rainbow for Girls. However, the volunteer priority for her this summer is the reunion. Many people have moved out of the area, 54

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but she hopes that somewhere between 150-200 people will be able to attend. She’s already been in touch with dozens of her classmates, and offered to share one of the stories sent to her via email by George Goldey ’70 about the trip to that he and seven fellow CHS’ers took up to Woodstock music festival in 1969: “We were all big music fans and had regularly gone into the City to hear music at all the venues (Anderson Theratre/to become the Filmore East) so we were pretty much on top of what was happening music-wise. The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival as it was called had been advertised for some time, mostly on radio (WNEW FM) and print (The Village Voice). “Tickets were being sold at plenty of venues throughout North Jersey (in fact, we bought ours at a store in the Bergen Mall). It was anticipated that it would be a big event, but NOWHERE near what actually occurred. It was astounding! The sheer amount of people TOTALLY overwhelmed the organizers and although it was an onslaught of humanity, it flowed shockingly well. We actually set up camp about a half mile from the music and walked back and forth to the events on a country road numerous times during out three-day stay. “So much of the actual event is recorded in the documentary, but the local impact was hilarious. All of our parents thought that we were going away to a sizeable folk/rock festival, but when we returned, it was like VE Day or something!



r e c

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“Apparently, the astounding size of this phenomenon caught the whole world - and Clifton – off-guard. ALL of our parents and neighbors were waiting for our return, as if we’d been on the first space flight. Pure shock and awe! And a major curiosity! (The guys who went to Woodstock: George Goldey, ’70, Tom Scudilla, ’70, Paul Paukovits, ’68, John Torregrossa, ’68, Tony Lulling, ’70, Bob Marinaro, ’70, Tom Graziano, ’68, Ed Pskowski, ’68.) Woodstock, however, was not the only hot event that weekend, notes Ann Marie. She also got an email from classmate Richard Shey, a graduate of Villanova Law School, and now a lawyer who lives in Montville with his wife, son and daughter. Richard had a different set of plans for that weekend and on August 17, he was in New Haven and became part of another moment in history. He writes: “While other classmates went to Woodstock, I got a ticket to watch the first pre-season game between the Jets and the Giants. I still have the ticket stub. “When the New York Jets defeated the mighty New York Giants, 37-14, that game became famous as the start of an intense football rivalry that continues to this day,” wrote Schey. It’s for the opportunity to share stories such as these that Ann Marie hopes that people will come celebrate their 40th reunion. So, she says, “see you in September!”

For CHS Class of 1970 reunion information, contact Ann Marie Ayers Williams at or Jack Marshall at

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From left; Kathleen Ploch, George Kulick, Phyllis Grecco, Joseph Holzli, Ruth Ashmanskas, James Kennedy.

1960: The Space Age Class The Class Log in the Columns yearbook ends with this statement: ‘Space Age, we hope you ready for us, because we are ready for you!’ It’s quite appropriate, as the Space Race became the focal point of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR. On Aug. 19, shortly after graduation, Sputnik 5 blasted off from deep inside the USSR. Its cargo was two dogs—Belka and Strelka—40 mice, two rants and a number of plants. The spacecraft and all its contents safely returned Mixed Bowling League of eight teams which met Wednesdays at Garden Palace under the auspices of Mr. Fred Lombardo.

home and the mission was deemed a success by the Soviets. That fall, two prominent Cold War figures squared off in the Presidential election, with John F. Kennedy defeating Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon. The race would directly effect the lives of all of Clifton’s graduates that year. 56

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


From left; Carolyn Cannata, William Malcolm, Patricia Grecco, Nicholas Plishka, Mildred Mastroberte, Frank Mileto.

The Student Council was comprised of President Grant Erbach, Vice President Wayne Demikoff, Secretary Kathleen Kearney and Treasurer Kathleen Latham. The class flower was the rose, the colors, azure and silver and the class motto: ‘No star ever rose and set, without influence somewhere.’ The principal was Elinor E. Hanna. In sports, the Fighting Mustangs turned in another spectacular season on the gridiron. Led by quarterback Wayne Demikoff—now a Board of Education commissioner—Clifton ran the tables and went 9-0 enroute to a state crown. The Mustangs were led primarily by the offense, relying on a number of clever trick plays, reverses and double reverses. All-State athletes included Demikoff, Robert Papa, Donald Grilli and Douglas Weiczekowski. The Columns yearbook delightfully recalled the

senior banquet. Mazdabrook Farms and Jimmy Grimes’ Orchestra provided guests with an evening of dining and dancing. That spring, seniors attended Prom at the Westmount Country Club. For Clifton High news, students relied on the volunteer at the High-Way. Other going ons in 1960: The Summer Olympics were held in Rome. There, a then relativelyunknown Cassius Clay takes gold in the heavyweight division for boxing. Just a few months later, Muhammad Ali would go on to win his first professional bout. In August, a small group of aspiring musicians went off to Hamburg, Germany to play a bunch of gigs. Then completely unknown to the mainstream music world, The Beatles would go on to become one of the most successful bands of all time.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Army, Academia Lifer Col. James Kennedy Sr. had a 35 year career

by Joe Hawrylko

“I was always very education orientated,” explained Colonel James Kennedy Sr. “When the Army said we need a volunteer—I know, they always say you don’t volunteer, but that’s me—well, if you graduate, you have your diploma and they can never take that away from you.” The 1960 CHS alum completely embraced the concept. Over the course of his 35 year career in the Army, Kennedy has earned four degrees in higher education, including a PhD from the University of Kentucky, in addition to five diplomas from military colleges. Without fail, after receiving each of his degrees, he found himself wondering, ‘What next?’ It’s behavior that Kennedy himself describes as eclectic—he thrives under pressure from a challenge. “There’s no sense of relief when you come out of your final exam and then your final oral exam,” he explained. “The chairman of the committee congratulates you and then you leave... walking down the hall, you figure, this really can’t be over.” “I think a lot of doctorate people, especially ones that went through it like I did, it was anticlimactic,” Kennedy continued. “This is over. This is surreal. It’s almost an empty feeling, because this is done and I don’t have any of these pressures anymore.” His passion for education and work ethic were cultivated as a young boy back in Clifton. Though he originally started high school at Pope Pius in Passaic, Kennedy transfered to CHS after one year due to his father’s health. At the time, the high school offered split sessions, allowing him to work more hours during the week. With his father incapacitated from tuberculous, the teenager picked up random odd jobs around town to help pay the bills. “The drugs for tuberculosis are much more sophisticated now than they were then,” he explained. “They had him in the Valley View Sanitarium. He was confined to that hospital for the better part of 18 months because his TB was that serious.” As graduation approached, Kennedy began researching schools and career options. Though his family has a history of military service, the CHS alum never 58

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July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


thought about enlisting until he arrived at the University of Kentucky in the fall of 1960. Like most schools, enrollment in the ROTC was mandatory at UK. For Kennedy, the allure of the school was the ability to cross train with the United States Army Reserve. “It made sense to me at the time,” he laughed. “Over the years, it seemed to play out OK, so I don’t think I blew that one too bad.” Part of the reason that Kennedy was attracted to the military was his experiences in the Holy Name Cadets, which he marched with from 1959-1961. “That was one of the things that formed the foundation for some of the things that happened in the military later in my life,” he said. Kennedy played baritone horn for the group, which is now known as the Garfield Cadets. “It taught me comradery and being part of a team.” Kennedy, who received his Bachelor’s in kinesiology from UK in 1966, also played baseball during undergrad. “I had been in good physical shape and played a lot of sandlot ball between Little League and my time at UK,” said Kennedy, who played for the University for three years. “I walked on and they had some room for me.” After receiving his Bachelor’s he enrolled in the Army. Since he typically worked domestically, Kennedy was able to earn several degrees while on active duty.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

He earned his Master’s in public administration in 1970, and then after some delays, he also received his PhD in business administration from UK in 1980. Over the years, Kennedy also earned diplomas from the US Army War College, the National War College, command and General Staff College, National Defense University and the Armed Forces Staff College. “I was domestic for most of the career,” said Kennedy. “I had a classified tour somewhere along the way. Documents were signed and I was committing my integrity.” He retired in 1999 at the rank of Colonel and was honored with 23 awards and decorations. In addition to his military service, Kennedy has experience as a teacher, working for three years at his alma matter in Kentucky teaching business from 1978 to 1980. The CHS alum also was an employee of the Kentucky State Government from 1988 to 1999. He worked in various departments, including local governments, parks and facilities management, among other positions. “It just seemed to be a good idea to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community,” said Kennedy of his decision to work for the government. Currently, Kennedy resides in Jeffersontown, a suburb of Louisville, with his wife, Jane. They have three grown children and nine grandchildren.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Mary Demikoff sat in a seat below the press box at Clifton School Stadium–far from her son who was the center of attention on the field below. She had gotten the afternoon off that Saturday to see Wayne play. Getting time off wasn’t easy; Mary worked two jobs. Between her fingers, she moved the beads of her rosary. “You do the playing,” she often told her son, “and I’ll do the praying.”

Forever Mustang by Jack DeVries On the field, her only child led the Mustangs to the line of scrimmage. Life was about sacrifice and hard work. Wayne Demikoff, CHS 1960, had learned that from his mother. Sports only reinforced that lesson. The games kept him straight. They made him so busy that he had no time to think about anything but school and his teams. Across the line stood Montclair, Garfield, or Bloomfield. It didn’t matter what team he facedDemikoff knew what was expected of him. He was the Mustangs quarterback–a 6’3”, 185–pound leader. His coach, Joe Grecco, expected him to direct the offense. The Clifton fans expected him to continue the football glory they had become accustomed to. Sometimes on that field, Demikoff would think about the only person that didn’t demand anything from him–the one passing rosary beads through her fingers and whispering prayers for him. “I knew that if I was good enough,” says Demikoff, an honor student in high school, “I could earn a college scholarship and make things easier on her. But if I hadn’t, I knew she would have found some way to help pay for me to go. “She was the best.” Wayne Demikoff grew up near School 12 in Clifton. His parents divorced when he was young, leaving his mother to raise him. She supported the family with her job as a secretary at School 12 and as a part–time saleswoman at the Robert Hall clothing store on Getty Avenue. Often on his own, young Wayne immersed himself in athletics. He played organized baseball and basketball, competing in the Clifton Recreation Leagues and playing on the Nash Park diamonds. The first time he ever played organized football was in his sophomore year in 1957. “I was tall,” Demikoff says, “so I went out for split end. I really didn’t know anything about the position.” Blessed with talent, the rangy Demikoff became a starter. His acceptance on the team was made easier by the Mustangs’ biggest star. 62

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“When I was young, I never had a favorite Mustang player,” Demikoff says. “But when I joined the team, George Telesh went out of his way to make me feel welcome. And he didn’t act that way just to me, he treated many young players like that.” In 1957, Telesh would mark one of the greatest season ever by a high school runner. The All–American would score 129 points and rush for an incredible 2,747 yards. “Though he was scoring all the touchdowns and setting all the records,” Demikoff states, George never

looked down on anyone. He went out of his way to make everyone feel like they were part of the team. In addition to being an outstanding player, George was an outstanding individual.” Demikoff also appreciated the patience Telesh had with the inexperienced sophomore, saying, “As an end, my job was to knock down the defensive halfback so George could run past him. Sometimes I’d miss my block, but George would usually run over the back anyway. Never once did he say anything to me about missing my man.” Success came fast for Demikoff. In his first game against Paterson Central, he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Bob Gursky. His next big thrill came November 16 when Clifton met Montclair at Woodman Field before 14,000 fans. The Mustangs had not beaten the Mounties in a decade, but on that day, the losing streak finally ended. Behind Telesh and the powerful Mustang line, Clifton finally beat Montclair, 26–0. “I remember they brought in extra stands to accommodate the big crowd,” Demikoff says. “When we beat them, everybody went wild. We carried Joe Grecco off the field, and the fans tore down the wooden goalpost, which I still have a piece of. We rode back to town with the horns blaring, and the noise went on long into the night.” The next season would be a completely different one for Demikoff, full of new responsibilities. He was about to take over the position that would define his high school career. “Coach Joe Grecco got the idea to make me a quarterback after seeing me play baseball,” says Demikoff, who threw consecutive no–hitters as a Babe Ruth League pitcher. “He would often watch baseball games to find his quarterbacks–I think he found Roger Fardin that way. Demikoff, who also played basketball for Clifton, became a natural at the position, aided by Grecco’s direction.

“Because I didn’t grow up with a father, Coach Grecco was a big influence in my life and became a father–figure to me. He taught me respect, the importance of teamwork, and that it takes hard work to achieve both personal and team success. He was a no–nonsense coach. His practices were organized, and he was always well prepared. “Coach Grecco also had a great coaching staff under him who helped me–Emil Chaky, John Pellock, Walt Semon, John Corrubia, and Bill Vander Closter.” Another reason Demikoff would enjoy success as a quarterback were his teammates. Two he was particularly close to were lineman Don Grilli and end Bob Papa, who would catch most of his passes. “Each summer before the season, we’d spend five days at the YMCA camp up on Route 23 in Newfoundland,” Demikoff recalls. “That brought us together. We would have three practice sessions a day. It was all work, but that time was key to bringing us together as a team.” In 1958, the Herald News wrote the Fighting Mustangs would replace the graduating Telesh with “Depth, Deception, and Demikoff.” The junior quarterback started off fast, leading Clifton to a 5–0 record before the Mustangs suffered defeats to East Rutherford and Nutley. Demikoff and Clifton regrouped to win their last two games, including another victory over Montclair, 25–20, to finish the season at 7–2. “Wayne was not a ‘rah–rah’ guy–that just wasn’t his style,” says Grilli, who now lives in Massachusetts. “He had a quiet type of leadership and confidence that the team respected. We knew, no matter how tough it got, if the team hung in there, Wayne would find a way for us to win.” For his performance that included over 1,000 passing yards, Demikoff was named to the Second Team All–Passaic Valley Conference squad.

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The 1959 football campaign ranks as one of the greatest in Clifton’s history. The Fighting Mustangs would go 9–0 and win the New Jersey State Championship crown with Demikoff and Papa earning All–American honors. When the season started, Clifton ran through the opposition, piling up points and victories. They opened the year by beating Paterson Central, 32–6, then throttled Passaic, 41–21. A big 14–0 win against rival Bloomfield was next, followed by victories against Lyndhurst and Eastside. The Mustangs then avenged their two losses of the 1958 season by smashing East Rutherford, 42–6, and dropping Nutley, 21–14.


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“During one game that year,” says Grilli, “Bob Papa came into the huddle and told Wayne he could beat his man and get open if we ran a different play. If you played for Coach Grecco, you never changed the play he sent in. But Wayne did that one time–which took a lot of guts–and Bob scored a touchdown. “That was the type of leader Wayne was–he knew changing the play was the right thing to do to help us win.” Taking aim at Clifton’s undefeated record was 5–1 Montclair. Though the Mustangs had beaten the Mounties two–straight years, they were still a big threat to ruin Clifton’s perfect season.

The November 14 game, played at Woodman Field before 10,000 fans, wasn’t even close. Relying on Demikoff’s 10 for 11 passing, Papa’s receiving, and Joe Vernarec’s running, the Mustangs pounded the Mounties, 39–7, as the Clifton defense completely smothered Montclair. Along with his deft passing, Demikoff also threw for a TD and ran for another score. Grecco called the game “the greatest victory of my coaching career.” A meeting after the contest remains one of Demikoff’s most treasured memories. “When the game ended,” he says, “I met Montclair Coach Clary Anderson at mid–field. He handed me the game ball and said, ‘You take this–you deserve it.’ “That meant an awful lot to me. Along with Coach Grecco, Clary Anderson was one of the greatest coaches in New Jersey high school football history. For him to say that after he had suffered his worst defeat as a coach was the proudest moment of my football career.” After beating Montclair, the Mustangs faced a final test. “I remember the last game of the year against Garfield,” says Grilli. “We won 14–0, but it was a lot closer than that. We were trying to stay undefeated and we were seniors–there was a lot of pressure on us during that game. But you couldn’t tell that by Wayne–he never lost his cool. He was consistent and confident, and that helped inspire us.” For the season, Demikoff passed for 16 touchdowns, ran for five more, and threw again for over 1,000 yards–with over 300 of those yards coming in one game. Besides earning Group IV All–State honors with Papa, Grilli, and teammate Doug Wieczorkowski, Demikoff was selected for many other All–State teams, including those picked by the Associated Press, New York Daily News, Newark News, and Star–Ledger. Both Demikoff and Papa also earned honors as Wigwam All–Americans. After attracting the attention of many major colleges, including Iowa, Clemson, Wisconsin, and Syracuse, Demikoff settled on a four–year scholarship from Colgate University. “It came down to Colgate and Duke,” says Demikoff, “but I was Colgate’s number one recruit and was impressed with their academic program.” At Colgate, Demikoff played for two seasons and earned his degree. After graduating, he returned to Clifton and worked for 24 years as a systems development manager for Hoffman–LaRoche. In 1992, he left the corporate world and became a school business administrator.

Alice and Wayne Demikoff today.

Demikoff also returned to school, earning his MBA in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson, graduating summa cum laude in 1974. From 1966 to 1981, he was again part of the Mustangs football program, serving as an unpaid quarterback coach and press box spotter under Coach Bill Vander Closter. “It was important to me to remain in Clifton,” Demikoff says. “I’ve lived here all my life and raised my children here, whom I’m every proud of.” Son Wayne, who has a masters degree, is a teacher at Belleville High School and an assistant football coach at Wayne Hills; daughter Lori, who has a law degree, works for a law firm. Thirteen years ago, Wayne Demikoff embarked on a new phase of his life, marrying Alice Tomesko, former principal at Clifton’s School 3. He calls his November 28, 1997, wedding day “the happiest day in my life.” The couple resides in Montclair Heights. “Alice is a fantastic person, and we share the same philosophy on education. I’m also proud of her daughters. Jennifer has completed her masters degree and is a registered dietitian; Kristen is now enrolled in a masters program at the University of Rhode Island.” Demikoff has also taken service to his community to a new level, serving on the Clifton Board of Education for 13 years, six as board president. This past April, he was once again elected to the Board. “Clifton is a great place to live and a great place to go to school,” he says. “The town and the school system have given me so much. Now, I want to give back. Education is very important to me, and, as board president, I want to do all I can to help give Clifton children the best education we can provide.” July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


From left; Joseph Vincent De Liberto Jr., Mary Decker, Frank Niader, Dorothy Pollara, George Ligos and Joan Porter.

1950: Football in the New Stadium The rhythmic sounds of saws, hammers and drills were an everyday part of life for members of the Class of 1950. The seniors at the high school—then on Piaget Ave. where Christopher Columbus Middle School now stands—studied inside as construction crews finally completed the long awaited Clifton Stadium in 1949. The facility was the crowning achievement of the school, even if administration had to be pressured into securing funding for the building. At the conclusion of the 1946 season—in which Clifton went undefeated— the team was invited to Norfolk, VA, to play in The Oyster Bowl. Joe Grecco’s boys were introduced as

‘The team without a stadium’ and that’s all the ammo the legendary coach needed to ensure funding. In their senior year, members of the Class of 1950 took the field for the first football game in Clifton Stadium. The Fighting Mustangs unfortunately were not able to replicate their past success, but still turned out a mighty fine season, going 6-2, winning the Passaic Valley Conference for the third time in four years. Senior Class Officers for January were President Norma Maksimoski, Vice President Donald Bursch, Secretary Vivian Kardis and Treasurer Joan Westhoen. The June representatives were President Edward Frank,

The 1950 Mustangs went 15 and 6. Back row: Ernest Schmidig, Bob Foley, Billy DeGraaf, Frank Pecci, Gene Kopec. Middle: Coach Emil Bednarcik, Jack Sammarco, Peter Brask, Tom Pojedinec, Gene Pami, Henry Vander Wende and Vincent Antista. Bottom: Donald Dunthorn, Frank Marotta, Walter Tenza and manager Joe McKeown. 66

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From left; Janet Louise Kindsvogel, Charles Kazmir, Catherine Lipari, Nicholas Mandak, Claire Arelene Maxon and Harold Woodruff.

Vice President Allan Christensen, Treasurer Joan Carlough and Secretary Ruth Fisher. Students were moved into mixed sections to accommodate the class size. One of the new changes in 1950 was that all of the students would have the same lunch hour. The Blue Print, the CHS yearbook, detailed some events, such as the Hick Hop barn dance and the junior prom, which featured a winter theme. King Harry Scofield and his Queen, Barbara Burrill, led a march around the frozen gym. Such events kept the focus away from changes going on around the world. The Cold War was underway. Senator

Joe McCarthy was busy with his Commie hunting frenzy. President Harry S. Truman ordered his scientists create a bigger, badder hydrogen bomb to counter the Soviet’s first atomic bomb. The Korean War was on the verge of outbreak. South Africa began Apartheid. But the year was not all doom and gloom. In the World Cup, America shocked the heavily favored English to the tune of 1-0. And a glimpse of the future: 1950 marked the first time that a credit card was used in NYC. And Volkswagen unveiled its Type 2 Van—the hippie bus that was the staple of the 60s and 70s.

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I M l s a E

w M p c s

t E C d


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It shouldn’t have ended this way for 1950 Clifton Mustangs baseball team, but it did. Though they would later be named Group IV, Section I state champions, sharing the honor with Bayonne, the Mustangs looked anything but a 12-4 team during the June 11game against East Rutherford. Perhaps it was the wet field at Clifton Stadium— which led to the Mustangs 11 errors—that hurt them. Maybe it was because their senior ace Gene Pami was pitching on a day’s rest and not as sharp as usual. Or it could have been the dancing knuckleball of the Wildcats starter Chet Yak that did them in. Whatever the reason, Clifton lost, 10-3, defeated by a team they had beaten twice during the regular season— East Rutherford’s only defeats in Passaic Valley Conference play. But the story doesn’t end there. The dreams that began that season went a bit further. Some of

the 1950 Mustangs went on—to places like Hamilton, Ont.; Billings Mont.; and Ponca City, Okla.—even to Riverfront Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Reds. Though none ever reached the major leagues as players, four signed pro baseball contracts: Pami and sophomores Frank Pecci, Billy DeGraaf, and Ron Plaza. “You sometimes hear about one or two signing from one team,” the late veteran baseball scout Joe Popek of Clifton recalled in 2003. “But four? I never heard of that happening. That’s pretty unusual.” What’s also unusual is one never left the game. Plaza, who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., today works for the Oakland A’s as a roving minor instructor and made it to the major leagues as a coach with the Seattle Pilots and Cincinnati Reds. “I tell the kids in spring training,” Plaza says, “that my title is ‘frequent flier’”

A picture of the 1949 team (we used this photo because many members of the 1950 squad are included and were not pictured in their own team photo). Bottom (l to r) Ron Plaza, Ken Kurnath, Lou Andreotta, George Pasterchick, Harry Scofield, Billy DeGraaf, Gene Pami, and Peter Klein; second row (l to r) Asst. Coach Emil Bednarcik, Jim Sevasta, Bill Ziemkiewicz, Joseph Ventura, Don Vasta, Thomas Pojedinec, Walt Tenza, Frank Pecci, Armand Buongiorno, Ray Carroll, and Coach Edward Bedarcik; third row (l to r) Dan Marchisen, Reynold Zanetti, Carlton Ulrich, Frank Baldanza, Edward Frank, Jack Sammarco, Bill Vande Wende, Ed Riley, Charlie Bolcar, Wendell Inhoffer, Frank Niader, and Robert Lubarski. July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Near Glory

The Ace

The 1950 post season started well Gene Pami remembers the first for Clifton. In the first round of the time he touched a new baseball. Greater Newark Tournament, they “Armand Buongiorno and I lived beat Thomas Jefferson, 2-1, behind a near each other,” says Pami. “I lived masterful performance by Pami, who on Highland Ave. and he lived on allowed just four hits, three of them Lake St. One day, we were together singles, and struck out seven. Catcher when a friend of ours, Pete Rizzo, Billy DeGraaf drove in both runs, came over with a new baseball. Pete scoring Buddy Franks with the game had shined shoes so he could buy it. winner in the seventh. “Up until then, we played with “Gene’s curveball,” says teammate taped-up balls and cracked bats Armand Buongiorno, “was somenailed back together that the older times un-hittable.” guys didn’t want. Bases were a After the opening tournament piece of cardboard with a stone on victory, Clifton returned to league top. A new ball—that was play and beat East Rutherford, 6-2, unbelievable for us. Pete would on a five-hitter by Pami. The win take it home and wash it after we Frank Pecci gave both teams 8-2 conference were done playing.” records, setting a playoff showPami became a pitcher for his down for June 12. Nash Park sandlot crew for one reason: he could throw a With the Mustangs scheduled to meet Newark East curve ball. Side on June 10, Coach Eddie Bednarcik announced he “No one taught it to me—I just figured it out,” he says. “I would start pitcher Jim Shaw in the game. Bednarcik, never had a problem with my arm, and I threw more curveballs whom the Herald-News said was “going out on a than anybody I knew.” limb,” explained he needed Pami for the PVC crown After making the Clifton High team as a sophomore, on June 12. Pami learned a new pitch from Ken Belli, an adult who His plan would backfire. helped out with the team. Shaw pitched shutout ball until the fifth inning. After “He called it a ‘nail ball’ because you dug your fingertwo were out, he walked two and surrendered a hit, givnails into the ball,” Pami says. “It’s known today as a ing East Side a 2-1 lead. In the top of the sixth, the knuckleball. When I threw it, the ball would dance up to Mustangs scored three runs—the key hit a double by Al the plate and drop about a foot. The trouble was you Costantin, pinch-hitting for Shaw. never knew where it was going.” Bednarcik turned to Pami to hurl the final innings. But After going 4-2 as a junior, the quiet, easy-going Pami instead of holding the lead, Pami gave up a game-tying was 12-3 as a senior, losing only one game he started. blow with two out in the ninth and eventual game winner Season highlights included striking out 10 in a win on a mammoth 400’ homerun by Newark East Side against Eastside, two-hit and four-hit victories over pitcher Bill Valia. Garfield, and a four-hit win against Bloomfield. East Side went on to win the Greater Newark “Gene was a cutie,” says Pecci. “He wasn’t a hard Tournament, while Clifton lost the PVC title game behind thrower, but he had a rubber arm. He threw four different a weary Pami. curve balls and a knuckler. When he threw his fastball “Though we lost,” says Pecci, “our 1950 team was after those pitches, it looked like an aspirin.” special. No one ever got mad when we made an error, and For his efforts, Pami was named to first-team All-PVC everybody rooted like hell for everyone in the lineup. You and third-team All-State. know how ball players say they don’t hear anything when After graduating, Pami was signed to a minor league they’re playing? Well, we heard each other cheering. And contract by St. Louis Cardinal scout Bennie Borgmann, we came back to win in a lot of those games.” also of Clifton. “I got a $500 bonus and $250 a month,” says Pami. “They sent me to Canada that summer.” Playing for the Hamilton, Ont., Cardinals, Pami went 70

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All-PVC and first team All-State. 16-7 as his team won the 1951 PONY “A catcher is a leader on the League championship. “Since I varied diamond,” says Pami, “and we my arm angle when I threw my curve— followed Billy’s lead, especially on the coming over the top, sidearm, and field. Whatever he called, I threw. He three-quarters—and I wore No. 57, a studied the batters, their footwork, and radio broadcaster named me ‘Heniz’ knew what pitch he wanted.” after the catsup.” When Billy reached high school, he After the season, Pami was drafted was ready for stardom—electrifying into the Army and sent to Korea. “I was Clifton as a 13-year-old freshman lucky,” he says. “They signed a ceasefootball player by kicking a field goal fire a week before I got there. I was against Montclair and taking over at stationed about a mile from the quarterback for the injured Jim Haraka. Demilitarized Zone.” He excelled on the basketball court and When Pami returned to Hamilton in was a solid performer on the 1949 1953, he was suffering from a leg baseball team. irritation that would be his undoing. “I In spite of his athletic talent, high couldn’t run, couldn’t get my legs in school was not always a happy time for shape,” he says. “In my first game, I DeGraaf. He lost both his parents withwas wild. After that game, they released in six months of each other and broke me—it wasn’t much of a chance. I his collarbone during his junior football could’ve cried, but what can you do?” season. Pecci took over at quarterback The former Mustang ace returned to and became an All-American. Clifton, playing in the North Jersey DeGraaf returned and also became League for the Clifton Dodgers. an All-American during his senior year, Despite going 8-1, hitting .355, and going on to Cornell University, where winning the league MVP trophy, no he starred in football and baseball. As a scouts were interested. “I was 23,” Gene Pami pitcher during his senior season, Billy Pami says. “They probably thought I went 9-1 year with a 1.46 ERA and hit was too old.” .316, earning a spot on the NCAA’s All-Eastern team. Pami pitched a few more years before a shoulder What’s remarkable is DeGraaf finished his college injury ended his career. Retired, he lives in Clifton with career by 20, the age of most sophomores. his wife Barbara. St. Louis scout Bennie Borgmann remembered DeGraaf’s play for Clifton and signed him as a catcher. The Leader He played two seasons in the minors—one in Georgia When asked who the team leader was on the 1950 and another in Billings, Mont. When his wife became club, Armand Buongiorno, a senior that year and an Allpregnant with his first child, he gave up baseball and PVC first team selection, doesn’t hesitate. returned to Clifton. “We all looked up to Billy,” he says. It’s interesting to speculate what DeGraaf’s baseball Despite being a 14-year-old sophomore, DeGraaf was career might have been like had he heeded Goffredo’s the team’s catalyst—armed with a loud bat and a words and gone straight to the minor leagues without competitive fire behind the plate. Usually batting playing college football. cleanup, DeGraaf hit .429, getting 24 hits in 56 at bats, “The best one of the four of us was Billy DeGraaf,” and knocking in 21 runs. He hit five doubles, a triple, and says Plaza, who has seen countless big league prospects three home runs—including a 450’ blast against Nutley. during his career. “You didn’t see many 6’2” catchers in “He has a whip-like arm that will develop accuracy,” wrote Herald-News sportswriter Rudy Goffredo. “In school. He had a good arm and ran pretty decent for a big two years, he will be an outstanding prospect for guy. I thought he would go the furthest at the time. But organized baseball.” then football got involved.” After the 1950 season, DeGraaf was named first team DeGraaf passed away in 2000 after an illness. July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


The Ball Hawk Frank Pecci had two outstanding qualities on the ball field—he could run down anything in the outfield and smash balls that other players couldn’t run down. Pami says having Pecci in centerfield was comforting. “Any ball they hit,” he says, “Frank went out and caught. He was fast—a good base runner. He was also a power hitter. Frank swung hard.” One of Pecci’s greatest days at the plate came against Nutley in 1950. In the first inning, Pecci launched a 410’ blast for a two run homer and followed with a solo shot in the fifth, helping Clifton to a 10-8 victory. For the season, he would hit .309, collecting 17 hits in 55 at bats, and earn a first team All-PVC and third team All-State selection. Pecci credits Coach Eddie Bednarcik for much of the 1950 team’s success. “He was a taskmaster,” he says. “Sometimes we’d practice so late that we couldn’t see the ball anymore. He was always stressing fundamentals, like hitting the cutoff man. He was a good teacher—always pressing us to get better.” The practice paid off, especially for Pecci. By his senior year, he had earned a place on the Newark News and Star-Ledger’s 1951 All-State Team for all groups and starred as a member of the semi-pro Uncle Sam’s Shoes team. One of his best memories was hitting a homer off Whitey Ford when the Yankee star brought his Army team to Paterson’s Eastside Park to play against Uncle Sam’s. However, Pecci believed his future was on the gridiron. He went to Kansas State University on a football scholarship, turning down other offers—including one to play football and baseball for LSU, recruited by alum Alvin Dark, then a New York Giants shortstop. Pecci spent a disappointing year at the school before returning home and playing again with Uncle Sam’s. That summer, Phillies scout Chuck Ward signed him to a contract, complete with an $11,000 bonus. Pecci played in places like Hickory, N.C.; Des Moines, Iowa; Blackwell, Okla., and Los Angeles, Ca. His travels took him south to the Caribbean League, where he played with the Cartivia Rum team with future major leaguer and friend Joe Black. “Back then,” he says, “players didn’t have any rights. If a team in the organization needed a player at a certain position, you were on the train the next day.” Midway through his minor league career, Pecci was sold to the Chicago Cubs. His best day in professional baseball was playing for Ponca City, OK in the Western 72

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Association World Series against the Topeka team, a “million dollar” farm club of the Yankees. Though he never pitched before, Pecci started and pitched 8 1/3 innings for the win, homering to help his cause. “Outfielders were required to throw batting practice,” he says. “Because we were leading the series and out of rested pitchers, my manager told me I was pitching. It was my first and only start.” Pecci’s baseball dreams ended during a spring training game in Lafayette, La., in 1955. Chasing a long drive, he smashed into a steel-tank wall. “The last thing I saw,” he remembers, “was the scoreboard and the green metal wall. I woke up in the hospital with a broken nose and seven stitches.” The crash altered Pecci’s depth perception, and he voluntarily retired from the game. He later managed the Clifton Dodgers and lives in Barnegat with his wife Jerry.

The Baseball Lifer Ron Plaza remembers how he and his friends would get their baseball equipment. “We’d go down to the semi-pro game,” he says, “and take home the cracked bats and fix them. When they’d foul the ball off into the bushes, we’d go look for them and hide them. We wouldn’t come out with one, but when the game was over, we knew where a few were.” In 1950, Plaza’s family moved from their apartment on Harrison St. to a new home on Vernon Ave. He also made the jump to the “big high school” and the Mustangs baseball team. “Ronnie loved baseball,” says Popek. “When I was managing the Mystic Rams, he’d come down to Nash Park and watch us play. My shortstop was kid from Lodi who was unreliable, so I asked Ronnie to take his place. ‘You mean it?’ he asked. “After that, he was there every game. He wasn’t starting for the high school then, but when Eddie Bednarcik found out he was playing for me, I think it convinced him Ronnie was ready.” In 1950, he was. The 13-year-old sophomore shortstop had a solid season, batting .373 and earning a place on the All-PVC first team. He also etched his name in Clifton legend by hitting the first fair ball out of Clifton Stadium—a shot Pecci says did not happen, but a blast Buongiorno and fan Lou Poles swear went out. “I really don’t remember it,” says Plaza, “but if they say it happened, maybe it did.” After the season, he agreed to an offer from the St Louis Cardinals, signing a contract in scout Bennie

Borgmann’s car in the Food Fair parking lot on Route 46, where Ron worked. The Cardinals gave him a $10,000 bonus. “My father, who was a tailor, wanted me to school,” Plaza says, “but when he heard the offer, he said, ‘I didn’t know you got a bonus to sign.’” The Cardinals sent the 16-year-old Plaza to Johnson City in the summer of 1951 when the team’s third baseman was injured. He adjusted quickly to his new baseball life—one that would continue over the next 50 years. Plaza played in Albany, Ga., Hamilton Ont., and Allentown Pa., before making the jump to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings of the International League for the 1956 season. Now playing second base, Plaza hit .294 for manager Dixie Walker’s club. Unfortunately, his climb to the major leagues would go no further as a player. In his second year with Rochester, Plaza hit .224 but did add 14 home runs. Realistic about his career, he took a job with in a Ridgewood clothing store and stayed there for 20 months. But baseball remained in his heart, and he got back into the game in 1961, ending his playing career the following season with the Atlanta Crackers, who won the 1962 Little World Series. Plaza began managing in the minors, often without a single coach to help him. “Back then,” he says, “your best friend was the bus driver and your oldest pitcher acted as a trainer, carrying the tackle box with the medical supplies.” In 1969, Plaza finally made it to “the Show,” as a member of manager Joe Schultz’s Seattle Pilots staff. The expansion team lasted one year before being sold and moved to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. At the end a 64-98 season, the entire coaching staff was fired. After working with minor league players in St. Petersburg, Plaza became the minor league coordinator for the Cincinnati Reds, recommended for the job by friend Sparky Anderson, the team’s manager. During the next eight seasons, Plaza ran the team’s spring training

Outside their old high school in 2003 are (front, l to r) 1950 first basemen Armand Buongiorno and Bill Ziemkewicz, and the team's star pitcher, Gene Pami. Behind them is classmate and friend Lou Poles.

operations, instructional leagues, and visited their minor league clubs as a roving instructor, helping fuel the “Big Red Machine” with talented young players. In 1978, Plaza was back in the big leagues as one of Anderson’s coaches, throwing batting practice to the Reds and becoming friends with players like Johnny Bench. On off days, he often worked-out with Pete Rose by throwing extra BP to the all-time hit king. “During his 44-game hitting streak in 1978,” says Plaza, “I remember at least three times Pete swung at a ball late in the count just to get another pitch. Every time, he’d got a hit on the next pitch to keep the streak going.” After the 1983 season, Plaza moved to the Oakland A’s to become a roving minor league instructor, a position he holds today. A widow, he lives in St. Petersburg, about 10 minutes away from three of his four children. Because his family no longer lives in Clifton, he has not been back to the city in years. “Clifton remains a part of my life,” he says. “There were nice people there. I’ll always remember playing in Clifton Stadium—that was a big ballpark.”

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The Clifton Rec Dept. and the Clifton Optimist Club have co-sponsored a night at the NJ Jackals for July 13 at 7 pm. The game will be played at Yogi Berra Stadium on the Montclair State University Campus. Wear a pirate costume to receive a goody bad. Prizes will be awarded. Cost is $5 and includes one free raffle ticket. Call and inquire about being a Spirit Team or Clean Sweep Squad member. 973-470-5956. The Passaic County Fair is July 14 to 18 at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park. Call 973-225-5382. The Clifton Board of Recreation’s 14th annual Free Summer Concert Series is on Sundays at Main Memorial Park. Shows will start at 7:30 pm. Upcoming dates include the American Bandstand Revue (above) on July 11, the Clifton Community Band on July 18, Nick James and the Armarillo Band on July 25, the Ablemen on Aug. 1 and on Aug. 8, Sweeter than Honey will perform at City Hall. Prior to each show at Main Memorial, join the Rec Dept. for a walk around the park at 6:30 pm. In case of rain, concerts are cancelled. Producer Bob Obser recommends that guests bring their own chair. Call 973-470-5680. The Downtown Clifton Annual Salsa Night Under the Stars is on July 9 from 7 to 11 pm in the parking lot at Clifton Ave. and First St. This event features live Salsa, Latin Jazz, and Mariachi bands plus a DJ to keep things moving in between sets. Free; rain date is July 16. For info, call Angela Montague at 973-253-1455.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

The Friday Night Summer Concert Series in Clifton’s Historic Botany Village continues through Aug. 27. In case of rain, the venue moves from Sullivan Square to the Italian American Cooperative Hall. Concerts are free and begin at 6 pm. The lineup: July 9, The Apache Twins, July 16, Jimbeau and the Retrocasters, July 23, The Midnight Ramblers, July 30, Sweeter than Honey and Aug. 6, the Victoria Warne Band. For info: The Big Band sound of 18 time Grammy Award winner Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, dubbed ‘the #1 Polka Band in the Country,’ will perform July 15 at 7:30 pm at Passaic’s Third Ward Park, corner of Passaic and Van Houten Aves. Call Greg Komeshok at 973-473-5111.

At D3 Dancenter, from bottom left: Talia D’Arco, Alyssa Colon, Alessia DiGennaro and Kristina Evans. Middle: Erica Passenti, Stella Spyropoulus, Alexa Garzon, Miss Cathy, Carlos Cardona, Jeryka Morales and Nicole Kusinko. Top: Stephanie Jakimec, Tayler Szabo, Valeria Labudovic, Heather Pastor, Alexis Amato, Alexa Passenti, Bianca Ayala, Gabriella Varano, Dina Kolesar and Michaela Genneken. Not pictured: Teresa Korsen, Jessica Purcell and Caroline Stoch. At right, Alexa Garzon and Carlos Cardona.

Meet six year old Alexa Garzon and eight year old Carlos Cardona from D3 Dancenter on Van Houten Ave. Alexa has been dancing since the age of three and this is Carlos’ first year dancing. They performed a duet to the song “Sway” at Elite Dance Forum, Star Bound and That’s Entertainment Dance Competitions. This pair received two High Gold and one Platinum Award and the Most Entertaining and Highest Score Awards. Their duet was choreographed by Cathy Garzon, Owner and Director of D3 Dancenter (who also these competitions, Alexa and Carlos happens to be Alexa’s mom). Because of their outstanding performances at were asked to perform at the Hispanic Youth Showcase at NJ PAC in Newark. Miss Cathy, the D3 staff and all the competition families are very proud of Alexa and Carlos and the rest of the D3 Dance Troupe which consists of mini, junior, teen and hip hop competition groups. All of these groups earned Gold and High Gold awards. At left, NOC Automotive, owned by Noel and Odette Coronel, provided the D3 Dancenter the use of their Van Houten Ave. facility as a site for a car wash on June 19. All proceed benefitted the D3 competition teams. July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


A Passport to the Arts At the Clifton Arts Center A Passport to the Arts, an exhibit and sale of works by 43 artists, will be on display at the Cliftons Arts Center on the City Hall Campus, 900 Van Houten Ave., through July 31. The event is designed to celebrate a decade of the Arts Center of bringing art to the public, The concept is

for viewers to travel to countries/continents via art created by local artists from these nations and to explore geographical destinations, culture and heritage. The gallery display features art representing 39 countries. The pictures on these pages are from the artist reception, which was held on June 24. Admission is $3 per person. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 1 to 4 pm. Group tours are available by appointment. For info, visit or call 973-472-5499.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

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At the artist’s reception on June 24, above, clockwise, is: Christopher Fabor Mohammad of Ghana, with his family. To the right is Natalka Warchola (with the white shirt) and some friends representing Ukraine. On the bottom right of the facing page are some students from the Clifton High School Chamber Orchestra. To the left of that is a life sized sculpture entitled ‘Keeping Up American’ on loan to Clifton from Seward Johnson. Atop the facing page is Hungarian artist Miklos Sebek, posing with some of his work.

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Troops that help young men with disabilities. Registration is from 10 am to 10:45. Lunch will then be served for an hour prior to the noon shotgun start. Cocktails are served at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30. Make checks out to Jimmy Hoey Memorial Foundation and send to Jimmy Hoey Golf Outing, 38 Meadow Ln., Clifton, NJ 07012. Email

The Second Annual Jimmy Hoey Memorial Golf Outing will take place on July 19 at the Greenbrook Country Club, North Caldwell. Jimmy Hoey tragically died two years ago in an accident at the age of 17. The family created the Jimmy Hoey Memorial Foundation and a scholarship for Clifton High School seniors in Jimmy's name. The Foundation has also purchased two horses for the Somerset Handicapped Riding Stables, and is currently assisting two Boy Scout


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

David’s Day, a fundraiser to benefit The David Nicholas Foundation, will be held on July 10 at the Masonic Lodge, 1476 Van Houten Ave. David Nicholas Porter, above right, was just three years old in 2005 when he was diagnosed with a Stage III Wilms’ tumor. Though he passed away just 14 months later, the family keeps his memory alive through The David Nicholas Foundation. There are three main elements to ‘Super Dave’s’ special day: motorcycles, green things and, most importantly, having fun. This year, the fourth annual David’s Day

is presented by the Foundation and the Red Knights New Jersey Chapter 19, and will begin with ride registration at 9 am . The motorcycle ride kicks off at 11:30 am, followed by a picnic at 1 pm. To ride and eat is $25 and $15 for passengers. For the picnic only, tickets are $25 and $10 for kids ages 5 to 12. Children under 4 are free. Entertainment will be provided by The Truth and the Caledonian Pipe Band of Kearny. For info, go to

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


Birthdays & Celebrations Send dates &

Happy Birthday to Marie ‘Mammie’ Angello on July 3, Rosemary Van Blarcom turned 80 on June 8, granddaughter Shayne Huk tuned 17 on June 11 and Corky Van Blarcom recently hit 81. Jenna DeLiberto is Sweet 16 on July 8th. Amanda Di Angelo ........7/3 Ray Merced ..................7/3 Chris Torrao ..................7/4 Kayla Ann Ferro ............7/5 Robyn Sue Lord .............7/5 Frank Rando..................7/5 Kayla Ann Snell.............7/5 Lori Lill..........................7/6 Ron Curtiss....................7/7 Angelo Grippo ..............7/7 Edward Sepulveda.........7/7 Jenna De Liberto ............7/8 Joyce Sunshine ..............7/8 Kristi Schopfer .............7/10

Nicolas Marcel Calvo turns 1 on July 11th

Anthony Zaccone.........7/13 Alyssa Marie Misyak....7/14 Ann Schamble .............7/15 Michelle Ann Snell .......7/15 Derek Dobol................7/16 Jessica Dobol ..............7/16 Joanne Gursky.............7/17 Carrie Szluka ..............7/18 Alexander Razvmov .....7/19 Ryan Saccoman...........7/19 Cocoa Saccoman ........7/19 Ashley Jacobus ............7/19 Linda Portaro...............7/20 Megan Suaifan............7/20

Have Clifton Merchant Mailed. Sorry but due to problems with Bulk Mail Delivery

$27/YEAR SUBSCRIPTION we no longer offer a $16 rate for Clifton Subscribers. Name: __________________________________________________________________________________ Address: ________________________________________________________________________________ City: ____________________________________________State: _________________________________________ Zip:______________________Phone:_____________________________________________ Email:________________________________________________________________________ PLEASE MAKE CHECKS TO TOMAHAWK PROMOTIONS, 1288 MAIN AVE., CLIFTON, NJ 07011 80

July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

Happy 71st Birthday to Joyce Sunshine on July 8th. Kaitlin Vinciguerra .......7/22 Harry Quagliana .........7/23 George Shamar...........7/23 Kayla Lord ..................7/24 Anna Schubert.............7/24 Eva Gasporowska........7/25 Kathy Valdes ...............7/25 Joseph Lopez...............7/27 Ornella Ganoza ..........7/27 Gina Oliva .................7/28 Amanda Fabiano.........7/29 Lee-Ann Varga .............7/29 Stephen Camp, Sr........7/30 Frances Greco.............7/31

Herbert ‘Poppie’ Schwartz celebrates his 87th Birthday on July 4th.


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant


The Relay For Life of Clifton Committee would like to extend their thanks to all the participants, sponsors, family, friends and volunteers for supporting the 2010 Relay on June 12. This year’s theme was Create A World of Less Cancer and More Birthdays and 46 teams comprised of 501 participants raised $78,000 to meet the challenge of eradicating cancer. “Fifty-five survivors walked in the first lap to kickoff the opening ceremony,” wrote committee member Chris Lizner. “The luminary ceremony is emotional as loved ones lost to cancer and survivors are honored. Stadium lights are turned off and candles are lit for the Luminary Lap. Michael Porter Jr. of the Kearny Caledonia Bagpipe Band played Amazing Grace as participants walked the Luminary Lap in silence.” Go to to learn how to get involved in next year’s event or call Beverly Provido Sahu at 201 457-3418. For info on cancer, visit


July 2010 • Clifton Merchant

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