Clifton Merchant Magazine - July 2009

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Clifton Merchant Magazine • Volume 14 • Issue 7 • July 3, 2009

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1949 1959 1969 1979 1989 1999 Where are these Mustangs now?

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Clifton Merchant Magazine is published the first Friday of every month at 1288 Main Ave., Downtown Clifton • 973-253-4400



Threatening skies only delayed but did not dampen the strides of about 750 of our neighbors as they walked the field of Clifton Stadium on June 26 to receive their diplomas... on their way to colleges, careers and jobs. In 10 years, we’ll be asking Where are these Mustangs Now?

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J U LY 2 0 0 9 Clifton Merchant High school years can yield some wonderful memories. So for the second summer in a row, we’ve mined the well of past CHS grads by catching up with members of the Classes of ‘49, ‘59, ‘69, ‘79, ‘89 and ‘99. On the next 60 pages, you’ll enjoy some back-in-the-day phoThe more things change... Above is the 1959 prom and below is the 1999 version. tos and read what some of those At the top left of the page is ’79 grad Andrea Bobby, a coach and teacher at CHS. Mustangs have been doing since they threw their caps up in celebration at Clifton Stadium. For Mustangs who graduated on the ‘0s, get ready—we’ll be writing about you next summer!

Where are these Mustangs Now?

On the cover... From left: 1949: Murray Abill, Leonore Cadorin Brenan, Clinton Sparr, Rita Pascrell, Robert Rento. 1959: Kathleen Farrell Donnel, Gerry Friend, Marie Giunta, Robert Leciston, Maryann Luipersbeck. 1969: Rich Pashman, Jayne Mohrle Alles, George Cowan, Janice Corsi, Larry Zwick. 1979: Vicky Generalli, Dale Sprauer, Elaine Maroon, Mike Astion, Andrea Bobby. 1989: Michael Chomiak, Genia Filewicz, David Moore, Stefanie Liechenstein, Emil Dudas. 1999: Mary Choteborsky, Peter Bakarich, Kari Petrasek, Michael Graziano, Jessica Leigh Bear.

16,000 MAGAZINES are distributed to hundreds of Clifton Merchants the first Friday of every month. SUBSCRIBE PAGE 56 $16/year in Clifton $27/year out of town CALL 973-253-4400 entire contents copyright 2009 © tomahawk promotions

EDITOR & PUBLISHER Tom Hawrylko BUSINESS MANAGER Cheryl Hawrylko STAFF WRITERS: Joe Hawrylko, Jordan Schwartz GRAPHIC ARTIST: Tomahawk Promotions Rich McCoy 1288 Main Avenue CONTRIBUTORS: Downtown Clifton, NJ 07011 Don Lotz, Rich DeLotto 973-253-4400 • July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From left, Lorraine Agnello, Louis Andreotta, Catherine Martinelli, Murray Abill, Rita Pascrell and Robert Lesko.

’49 enjoys new Clifton Stadium Story by Joe Hawrylko When the Class of 1949 left CHS, America was a country in transition, just a matter of years removed from World War II, a new era for the U.S. President Harry Truman, who took over when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away, was in the midst of his first full term in Washington. The first Volkswagen Beetle came to the U.S., but would not be popular for some years to come. The 1949 Mustang baseball squad was the first team to take the field at the new Clifton Stadium, ahead of the highly touted football team that


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Senior officers for the Class of June 1949: President Richard Levin, Vice President James Neyland, Secretary Gladys Vanden Heuvel and Treasurer Ronald Rossetti.

From left, Frank Mocek, Gloria Peluso, Robert Rento, Olga Csaszar, Joseph Sidor and Basil Surgent.

was coached by Joe Grecco. The Polaris, the CHS yearbook, noted Mayor Walter F. Nutt threw out the first pitch at the stadium, which was finally built after years of delays.

Due to class sizes, Principal Harold J. Adams graduated two groups of students in 1949; one in January and one in June. Some notable grads include Murray Abill, a

builder, ‘Ditch’ Malavasi, who coached in the NFL, John Kostisin, a basketball coach at CHS and Michael Pelech, who you will read about on the following pages.

The 1949 baseball team was the first to use the new Stadium. First row, from left, J. Savasta, D. Vasta, H. Scofield, G. Pasterchick, F. Pecci and K. Kurnath. Rear: Asst. Coach Emil Bednarcik, J. Shaw, W. Tencza, E. Pami, J. Sammarco, L. Andreotta and Coach Edward Bednarcik.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Free Screening for ‘Flat Feet’ Pes Planus, also commonly known as flat feet or fallen arches, is a condition when the entire sole of the foot comes into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In as much as 20 to 30% of the general population, the arch simply never develops in one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterally). It is a condition some people inherit or one which anyone, from children to the elderly, can develop from use.

Normal Arch

Fallen Arch or Flat Foot For instance, running increases the force of weight through the foot, said Clifton foot surgeon Thomas Graziano, MD, DPM, FACFAS. Common overuse injuries include Achilles tendonitis or plantar fascitis. Dr. Graziano is now doing a new out-patient procedure that takes about 10 minutes to perform and can correct Pes Planus, offering a quick return to normal activities.

“It is done on an outpatient basis here in Clifton and can be performed on anyone from children to the elderly—as long as they fit the criteria.,” he said, adding: “Right now, we offer a complimentary consultation to screen these people.” Dr. Graziano said the foot is the most used and abused part of our body. “We put our socks on, put our shoes on and basically forget about our feet,” he said. “My goal is to educate and treat patients, offering a variety of options.” 8

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

A Foundation in Football Michael Pelech learned a lot playing under Coach Grecco Story by Jordan Schwartz Michael Pelech wanted to follow in Coach Joe Grecco’s footsteps. Coach was a center on the football team at Upsala College, a small private institution in East Orange. Pelech was a center on the football team at Catawba College, a small private school in Salisbury, NC. But the ’49 alum had to wait a few years before playing college ball. Upon graduating from CHS, Pelech weighed just 159 pounds, big enough to share a high school line with future Los Angeles Rams coach, Ray ‘Ditch’ Malavasi, but not quite heavy enough for the next level. “I tried to go to college right after high school, but I was too small and no one wanted me,” he explained. So the Park Slope resident went to work for the Weston Biscuit Company on Getty Ave. He delivered cookies, admitting in a recent interview, that he “ate a few” along the way. But after a couple years there, Pelech was drafted into the Army.

Above, Mike Pelech visiting teammate Jim Haraka in the hospital after he broke his thighbone during the 1948 season. From left, Coach Grecco, Ray Malavasi, Pelech and Haraka. Below, Mike and his late wife, BettyJean, in 2006.

From 1951 to 1953, he was an aviation mechanic stationed in Texas, Virginia and Alabama. The veteran had a brief stay in Panama, but he was lucky enough to avoid any sort of combat during the Korean War.

After two years of military work and two more eating cookies, Pelech had bulked up to 180 pounds—big enough to be offered a scholarship to play football at Catawba. “The coaches there were more mouthy than Grecco,” he said. Pelech started all four years at college, while double majoring in biology and physical education with a minor in driver’s ed. “At first, it was tough to do all that,” he said. “After four or five years out of school it’s tough to get studying again but after the first year, it was alright.” While at Catawba, Pelech married his wife, BettyJean, in January 1956. Following college, the couple stayed in North Carolina and the Clifton native began teaching July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Memories for a Lifetime Clifton holds a special place in Leonore Brenan’s heart Story by Joe Hawrylko Although Leonore Brenan now lives in Hamburg, NJ, Clifton will always be her hometown. There are too many memories for her to cut ties with the city in which she grew up. “Oh, I still go down to Clifton,” said Brenan. “I still have friends down there. None of them were in my class—they were a bit older than me—but I still go.” The June 1949 graduate grew up in Botany Village, where she attended the now-defunct Schools 7 and 10, which used to house Clifton’s ninth graders. Brenan’s father, Santo ‘Sam’ Cadorin, owned a prominent business in Botany Village. “Cadorin’s Market, on Parker Ave. and Exchange. It’s now a dentist’s office,” she said. “ He had a grocery store and a lot of teachers used to come up and shop at his store. He started when he was a young boy and bought it and then retired there in 1959 or 1960.” Upon graduating from CHS, Brenan was accepted to William Paterson for a six month nursing program.

Michael Pelech cont’d biology and driver’s ed for the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System. He also coached football, baseball and wrestling, but quit that after a few years because he was only making 20 extra cents an hour. Michael and BettyJean had three children: Karen, an insurance company manager; Kim, who works for the National Security Agency; and Kevin, a representative for a medical supplies company. After 30 years of teaching, Pelech retired in 1987. He spent the next two decades traveling to every state except Hawaii with his wife until she passed away two years ago. Now the 78-year-old enjoys exercising two hours a day, attending classic car shows at least twice a week and reminiscing about his days blocking for Bobby Boettcher and playing under the great Coach Grecco. “I was very lucky to be coached by him,” Pelech concluded. “He was kind of rough on you, but he made a man out of you. I’d do it all over again for him.” 10

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Leonore Cadorin Brenan at the 1949 reunion, which was held on June 20 at the Valley Regency. The inset is Brenan in the 1949 yearbook.

After that, she was transferred to Passaic General to complete her three years of required training. “From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse,” said Brenan, who studied at Passaic General with CHS classmate Claire Crudele Macaluso. “Actually, my grandmother said, ‘What you want to do that for? You’ll be carrying bed pans. She didn’t want me to go in. It was taboo, because we’ll see bodies and that was a no-no then.” During a break between semesters, Brenan went on a cross country adventure with her brother, Richard (who died in Feb.) and her friend, Elda PraLevis, a ’47 CHS grad. “We had planned on it, but my mother told me I wasn’t taking that trip alone,” said Brenan. “Guess I got to take my brother. He was three years older than me. We took a trip to California with a southern route there and then a northern one home.”

“I took a brief intermission to have the children and went back to work,” said Brenan, who has two kids, Kurt and Carol Walsh. She married her husband, Paul, in 1956. “Years ago, you could spend a lot of times with patients. Before I left, I couldn’t wait to get out of there because you had no time with the patient,” she recalled. “We used to joke and sing together—it was wonderful and you looked forward to going to work.” Brenan, who worked in the orthopedic ward, said the long hours and demands of the job made for long days. However, she believes new nurses may have it even tougher. “It’s definitely understaffed now,” she said. “Once the computers came in, it seemed like we had more work to do than when we did everything by hand.” After working for Passaic General for 31 years, Brenan retired in 1983. She lived in Clifton until 2004. “My husband died in 1996,” explained Brenan. “I was in the house for eight years, but it was getting too big.” The 1949 graduate decided to make the move to Hamburg to be closer to her son, Kurt and her five grandchildren. Brenan currently resides in a senior community there. “There’s more people here my age,” she said. “We’re having a ball!” Still, Clifton will always be home to Brenan. There’s simply far too much to leave behind.

The trio first went down to Georgia and then across the Bible Belt and right on through to the Golden State. In California, Brenan went to visit a friend, who owned Fox’s Hardware across the street in Botany Village years before. “We went to visit them and started talking about earthquakes,” recalled Brenan. “And, by God, that night, didn’t we have an earthquake? It wasn’t too bad, but the New York papers would really build that up, so we said we better call mom and tell her it was nothing.” On the route home, Brenan came back through Nevada, Utah and Wyoming while driving east. “When we were out in Wyoming, a woman recognized my name,” recalled Brenan. “She said, ‘Oh my God, my husband used to deliver milk to your father’s store!” She returned just in time for her next semester of college at Passaic General and had plenty of memories from the adventure. “It was 20-something days. We took our Pontiac Catalina. We had no air conditioning and went around with our feet sticking out the windows to cool off and we all took turns driving,” laughed Brenan. “I don’t even remember the cost, but I don’t think it was much. We probably had $300 each or something like that.” Brenan came home and completed her studies in 1952. She went on to work at Passaic General Hospital, where she was employed for 31 years.

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Clifton’s Pharmacist Clinton Sparr, a 1949 grad, is a familiar face in town Story by Joe Hawrylko The decision to become a pharmacist was easy for Clinton Sparr. His grandfather, William, and his father, Clinton Sr., ran Sparr’s Pharmacy, where Junior spent much of his childhood behind the counter. “I was born behind the pharmacy,” recalled Sparr. “898 Main Ave., in the cold water flat behind the pharmacy.” The building was a second home to Sparr, whose family also owned a house at Clinton Ave and Eighth St. in Clifton. By the age of 13, he was working behind the counter. “I used to walk down to the corner by the old White Castle with Camille Nahass. He was my best friend growing up,” said Sparr. “We’d take the bus down to Passaic. I’d work at the pharmacy from 3 to 6 pm, and Camille used to work at Ral Plumbing Supply from 3 to 6 pm.” Sparr worked at the pharmacy through graduation in 1949 until the fall of that year, when he attended Rutgers Pharmaceutical School. He attended classes with many individuals who would go on to find great success, including Benard Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, with whom he still remains in contact. While at school, Sparr met his future wife, Theresa, who worked at SB Penick, which was the largest importer of botanicals at the time. “The plant was where the ShopRite in Lyndhurst is,” he said. “One of my classmates used to work there in the summertime.” 12

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Clinton Sparr in the backyard of his Allwood home. Sparr, a 1949 CHS graduate, has been involved in the pharmaceutical industry all of his life.

The two dated after Sparr graduated from Rutgers in 1953 and wed March 3, 1956, just before sparr was drafted by the United States Army. “May 15, 1956, I was sent to Fort Dix for basic training,” recalled Sparr, who was attached to the 4th Regimental Combat Team. “They’re drafting you as a soldier, as cannon fodder.” Though he came in with a degree, Sparr entered as a grunt. It wasn’t until a position opened up that he got a chance to advance. “They said, ‘Can you type?’ and I became the company clerk,” he said. “The Army is very well organized, whether you know it or not.” Sparr was sent to Fort Devins, Mass., where he was attached to the 562nd Medical Company, Ambulance Separate as the compa-

ny clerk. There, he learned many organizational and clerical skills that would later benefit his career. Sparr was discharged from the military in 1958, and returned home to work at the pharmacy. However, in 1959, his father passed away and the estate was sold. Sparr began his career as a relief pharmacist. “Back then, the pharmacists were all independent,” he said. “When they want to take a day off, I come in. At one time, I was working 112 hours a week.” Sparr worked many local businesses, including Colonial Pharmacy, the Clifton Pharmacy and Johnson’s Drugstore. “Eddie Sudol and I went to college together,” he recalled. “He was the founder of Colonial.”

Clinton Sparr from the 1949 Polaris.

While doing relief work at the Sheridan Court Pharmacy in Englewood, his clientele included celebrities, such as Jerry Vale, Liz Taylor and Tony Bennett. There was also a fellow named Jack Roy, an aspiring comedian who ran a fledgling business, American Home Improvement. “He used to come in the store all the time,” said Sparr. Some 10 years later, the Cliftonite saw Roy on TV, but under a different name— Rodney Dangerfield. Sparr worked exclusively as a relief pharmacist until 1973, when his friend and fellow Cliftonite, Sam Castronovo, informed him of a job opportunity. “He’s Bob Castronovo’s dad,” he said. “Bobby worked in Johnson’s Drug store as a counterman for me.” The elder Castronovo was a supervising investigator for the Division of Consumer Affairs and set up an interview with Millicent Fenwick, a colorful Republican politician and former editor at Vogue, who was then the head of the NJDCA. At the time, there was a controversy over the new profile cards, which held vital information about customers. According to Sparr, chain pharmacies believed that it

was an attempt to stifle the competition’s business. Fenwick wanted him to educate pharmacists on the program. “She was funny,” he laughed. “She said, ‘No pharmacist has asked me my date of birth, and he better not either.’” Sparr was hired and began working for the state on a per diem basis. In 1982, he was employed full time. “More and more, they depended on me to testify in court,” said Sparr. “But since I worked two days a week, they operated around me.”

He held the position until he retired in July 2002. “I’m 77 and they still call me all the time!” laughed Sparr. “But I continue to work one day a week as a consultant.” The 1949 graduate has no plans to fully retire, and still enjoys working from his basement office. He also helps coordinate the CHS reunions, which he has been doing since 1999. “I really enjoy doing this,” said Sparr. “To me, this is an ongoing challenge.”

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From left, Edward Burke, Dolores De Graaf, Gerald Zecker, Jacqueline Falco, Paul Lebitsch and Marie Giunta.

Marching at the ’59 Rose Bowl The Marching Mustangs perform in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day, 1959.

With the opening of the new high school just three years away, students from 1959 were a part of one of the last graduating classes from what is now Christopher Columbus Middle School. However, in their short time at the old high school, the students shared many special memories. The Class of ’59 graduates witnessed one of the greatest Fighting Mustangs triumphs in 1957, when Clifton defeated the Montclair Mounties on the gridiron for the first time in 11 years. 14

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Story by Joe Hawrylko ‘Of course, we carried home the goal posts,’ said the Columns yearbook writers about the 20-0 drubbing. That same year, the Class of ’59 helped pay for the new scoreboard at the stadium as a class gift. The following season, Clifton once again defeated Montclair en route to the Section I, Group IV title, which the Mustangs shared with Teaneck. It was the eighth title in the past 14 years. The team featured

many standout athletes, including Gerry Manning, Bob Leciston, Bob Papa, Wayne Demikoff and Ray Promin. The Marching Mustangs were also making headlines in the late ’50s. Under the direction of Saul Kay, the band marched for six and a half miles in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Cal. on New Year’s Day, 1959. The Mustangs then watched the second-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes defeat the 16th-ranked California Golden Bears 38-12 in the Rose

From left, Joanne Gursky, Raymond Promin, Maryann Luipersbeck, Robert Leciston, Paula Orlovsky and Charles Oremland.

Bowl. It was a fitting start to their last year at Clifton High School. Next up was the senior banquet, which was held at Neptune’s Inn in January. In May, Clifton seniors celebrated their graduation at the prom, which was held at the Mazdabrook. Then came the finals days in June, which included the

Above, Ray Promin eludes a would-be tackler as he runs towards the end zone. At left, John Scancarella drives towards the hoop against Ridgewood. Scancarella was inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame in 2008 for basketball, baseball and football.

Commencement Dance and Class Day. At graduation, students listened to parting words from Salutatorian Maria Deisler and Valedictorian Donald Zaentz and left Clifton High School to join the world as adults. The Class of 1959 included a number of individuals who would

later become recognizable Cliftonites: Gerald Zecker, politician and mayor from 1978-1982, and Gerry Friend, a long time city attorney whose father was Israel Friend, Clifton’s mayor from 1973-1974. On the following pages, read more about students from the Class of 1959.

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Following Dad’s Footsteps Like his father, Israel, Gerry Friend is a community man Story by Joe Hawrylko Just like his father, Israel, Gerry Friend has dedicated his life to serving his community. The lifelong Clifton resident has been involved in local civic groups, religious organizations and has served as a councilman and city attorney. “It’s kind of ingrained in the family,” said Friend. “It’s just doing something for the community that’s been good to the Friend family for so many years.” The 1959 graduate was born on Washington Ave., just across the street from School 3. “Clifton used to end at our street,” laughed Friend. “There was no Paulison Ave. then. I grew up in Clifton as Clifton was growing up.” After School 3, Friend attended the Annex (School 10) before heading to the old high school, which is now Christopher Columbus. “We knew what overcrowding was,” he said. “There were 625 in my graduating class, but after us, it went up to almost 1,000.”

Gerry Friend, a 1959 CHS alumni, at his Clifton Ave. law practice, Friend and Friend. The inset is Israel Friend, Gerry’s father and former councilman and mayor.

In his youth, he spent a plenty of time at his family’s business, Friend’s Department Store, which was located at 232 Dayton Ave. in Botany Village. It was opened by his grandparents, Nathan and Frieda, in 1902. Friend worked at the store from eighth grade until he left for law school in 1964.

“The city did the urban renewal in Botany and took the buildings,” he recalled. “I used to go to the store everyday.” After graduating from Rutgers Newark in 1964, Friend attended Dickinson School of Law in Pennsylvania. While there, he met his wife, Fran, in 1966.

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“I was fixed up on a blind date, believe it or not,” he recalled. “I was taking the Bar review and the person next to me, who later became my friend, said his wife had a friend and that was it. We married the next year.” That same year, Friend joined the National Guard and was stationed in Jersey City. He was active from 1967 to 1972. “I enjoyed being in the Guard,” said Friend. “The battalion commander saw my abilities were in administration and I became company clerk.” When he completed his studies in 1968, Friend returned home to work with his father, Israel. “My father was pushing for four doctors, but got three lawyers and a business man,” he laughed. Friend’s brother Bill is still with the family practice, and his brother, Herbert, is now a retired superior court judge. Richard runs his own business.

Friend’s 1959 CHS yearbook picture.

“Friend and Friend was originally my father, Israel, and my uncle, Fred, who was the counsel for the Board of Ed,” continued Friend. “I came here with my father, my two brothers and myself.” Israel Friend served on the council from 1969 to 1978, and was Clifton’s mayor from 1974 to 1975. Just like his father, Friend ran and was elected to the City

Council, serving Clifton from 1978 to 1990. “When I did run for political office in ’78, that did cut both ways,” he said. “I had to convince people I was my own independent person.” Friend also served as the city attorney from 1990 to 1994. In addition to politics, Friend has been active with the Clifton Jewish Center for a number of years and is a past president. He was a trustee at the Boys & Girls Club and is active in the Rotary Club. “It’s about the community,” said Friend “Back then, your life was more involved with your school and religious services.” And even as he enters his 43rd year at the family practice, Friend said he has no plans of retiring. “Clifton has been good to me,” he said. “I don’t have any plans of leaving it right now.”

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


First in Special Education Story by Joe Hawrylko Kathleen Farrell AshworthDonnell was one of 12 students in William Paterson College’s speech correction program when she graduated in 1963. Her years at CHS prompted a long career in special education and speech. Miss Kerwin, AshworthDonnell’s speech teacher in junior year, got her interested with a speech on the Alaskan Pipeline. “While visiting Alaska several years ago, I actually climbed on top of a section of the pipeline and called out her name,” she said. The 1959 CHS grad also cited her Latin teacher, Mrs. O’Leary, history teacher Mr. Nicholas Persel and counselor Robert Schofield. “Each day of my life, their individual attributes have played a part


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

in handling the twists and turns of life’s journey,” said AshworthDonnell. Following graduation from WPU in 1963, Ashworth-Donnell began working in West Paterson in the district’s first special ed and speech classes. In 1968, she received her masters and joined the Paramus School District,

where Ashworth-Donnell worked for 34 years. “It became the model class for the county,” she said, adding that she was named Special Teacher of the Year in 1992 by the Special Education PTO of Paramus. In 2002, Ashworth-Donnell retired, and she currently splits time between her residences in Basking Ridge and Cape May Point with her husband, Brad. Ashworth-Donnell still frequently returns to Clifton to visit friends and family. Her son, Kevin, is a teacher at CHS and is known to football fans as the Voice of the Mustangs. Despite her new location, Ashworth-Donnell said she’ll always been connected to Clifton through family, friends and memories.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From left, Edward Bednarz, Nancy Lane, George Dudasik, Maureen Chambers, Gary Ecker and Esther Poller.

Mustang athletics shine in ’69 Story by Jordan Schwartz The CHS athletic teams had a great deal of success during the ’68-’69 school year. Under the coaching of Edward Zak, the cross country team finished 9-4 in dual meets and captured the PVC championship. The Fighting Mustangs, led by Coach Bill Vander Closter, went 8-1, earning a share of the conference and sectional titles. Gary Ecker earned All-County honors, while


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

end Steve Soroka made the AllMetropolitan team. Twelve of the 22 positions on the All-PVC team were filled by Clifton players. These included Captain Rich Tate, Joe Vrecenack and Bob Kurley. Above, the Ski Club poses for a photo during a busy day at Great Gorge. At right, Dr. Einstein (Ralph Levy) looks on in horror as Jonathan (Dennis Zahorian) prepares to strangle Elaine (Grace Comito) in the CHS production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

From left, Jeffrey Gold, Eleanor Koester, Stanley Jakubczyk, Susan Sample, Michael Kowal and Steven Zubatkin.

The boys soccer squad, coached by Severin Palydowycz, won the conference for the third straight year with a record of 10-4-2. Senior goalie Roger Paradiso had seven shutouts behind the defense of Salvatore Zito and Ed Bednarz. Halfbacks Andy Lichter and Bogdan Kowalski also contributed. For the first time in its history, the drama club toured its one act play, Cupid on the Loose. Club members also went on a field trip into New York to see a Broadway production. The school newspaper, The Hub, expanded into a 10-page publication and won first place in the Columbia Scholastic Press contest. The Marching Mustangs performed at every football game, held three jamborees, participated in the Herald News Band Festival and capped off the year with a trip to Washington D.C. in May. A Brazilian foreign exchange student

Coach Bill Vander Closter with Captain Rich Tate.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From left, Bogdan Kowalski, Roger Paradiso, Robert Kurley, Steven Soroka, Andreas Lichter and Joseph Vrecenak.

named Oscar de Bouza attended CHS for six weeks during the winter. He stayed with Steven Zubatkin’s family and received a class ring before heading home. A film festival program was introduced by the English Department. Between Oct. 14 and 21, each grade

viewed two films illustrating their common readings. The seniors watched Lilies of the Field and Requiem for a Heavyweight. The Distributive Education Club was named Outstanding Chapter of New Jersey and Mike Kowal was named Student of the Year.

The horseback riding club attended the National Horse Show in New York City and the ski club attended the New York Coliseum’s Ski Show and took 10 trips to Great Gorge in McAfee. After graduation, the Class of ’69 entered one of the most memorable summers in American history. On July 21, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the surface of the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. On Aug. 9, five people, including actress Sharon Tate, were found dead in Los Angeles. Cult leader Charles Manson and his followers were later convicted of the brutal murders. A week later, Woodstock attracted about a half million concert goers to the rural town of Bethel, NY to watch performances by the likes of Janis Joplin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix.

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The Karaoke Man

Story by Joe Hawrylko

Richard Pashman helps aspiring singers When Richard Pashman got into karaoke during the 1980s, he figured it was an easy way to supplement his sales job. He never guessed that it would turn into his full-time business with his partner, Chuck Caccioli. “We bought it and were doing one gig a week making a couple hundred,” he said. “I got laid off, and what do you know, I’m a real good salesman and we had 30 gigs a week.” Although his company, Sing Sing Karaoke, is now in its 20th year of business, Pashman never imagined himself making a living from the entertainment industry. The 1969 CHS graduate envisioned himself having a long career in sales. “I went two years to Edward Williams College at Fairleigh Dickinson University,” said Pashman. “I married young and was a father. I had the first child of Clifton ’69, my son, Robert, who will be 39 in August.” Initially, he tried to work and go to school, but the long hours forced Pashman to drop out. He then began a career as a salesman. “I became too old right around the age of 41,” said Pashman, who was working for Levition Manufacturing when he lost his job. “I was making too much money and I was salesman of the year. Two months later, they laid me off, which was a shocker.” But by that point, he was already doing part-time karaoke gigs to supplement his income, and Pashman made the decision to go full time with the job. It was the height of karaoke in the 1980s and Pashman wanted to capitalize on its popularity.

Richard Pashman, a 1969 CHS grad, in his store, Sing Sing Karaoke, which is located in Elmwood Park.

“Karaoke right now is in a little bit of a lull, but it always bounces back,” said Pashman. “It’s something everyone does. You don’t need to have great talent to get involved—a great majority that do it aren’t talented people, but they have fun. They have more fun than the people that don’t, it’s great.” Over the years, business has evolved for Pashman. Technology has changed and internet businesses emerged as a major competitor to Sing Sing Karaoke.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


“It’s all about service, service, service,” said Pashman. “You can get a Web order karaoke machine from anyone in the county. But you don’t know where it’s coming from or when you’re going to get it.” Illegally downloaded music has Pashman and others in his field concerned as well. “It’s all legal, all paid for,” he said. “Piracy, of course I’m sure that’s affected our business also.” The practice has probably hurt his suppliers even worse. Pashman estimates that the industry that produces karaoke discs has contracted to just two or three major manufacturers. “You also see them dropping certain things because they can’t get rights anymore,” he added. “All karaoke music is reproduced.” Pashman prides himself on service. That means heading out on the road for little problems, no matter how trivial. Pashman once went out for a service call when his daughter, Alyse, a 1994 CHS grad, couldn’t get a machine working. It turned out that the hardware wasn’t properly plugged in. “I think we do more than our competitors do,” he said. “We’re on call like doctors. If there’s any problems at our place, we pride ourselves that the show must go on. If there’s a problem at a gig, I’m there in 30 minutes.”


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Richard Pashman’s photo from the 1969 Rotunda.

Pashman has also taken advantage of the Internet, and now offers a wide array of equipment and songs on his website, “Well, you know we’re not the cheapest, but I think we offer the most,” said Pashman. “We have a website, we advertise in Steppin’ Out every month. It’s a good entertainment magazine, so other bar owners can see what we do.” Though most of his business is through sales, Pashman does have gigs and rentals, which require a part-time staff. He also has a professional recording studio. “The first recording person was a bride, who recorded something for her husband and played it at their wedding,” said Pashman. “I still have their thank you note.”

These days, he doesn’t personally attend most gigs. Instead, Pashman keeps busy in the office during the day, updating music catalogs and completing other tasks. He also passes time by helping coordinate the Class of 1969 reunions, the most recent of which took place on June 13. Though he no longer lives in Clifton, Pashman still has close ties with the city. “I married two Clifton alumni,” laughed Pashman, who wed his second wife, Fran, 15 years ago. “She was married to Harry Conway, and we’re still friends. We used to live in the Middle Village apartments, right across from the stadium, when we were kids.” His two step-children, Krystal and David graduated CHS in 2000 and 2002. “Their grandmother was Lilian Conway,” said Pashman. “She has a room at the Clifton Library on Piaget Ave. dedicated to her. She worked at the old library for many years.” Looking back, things may not have turned out how Pashman planned , but he’s still happy with the end result. “I’ve lived a bit of a soap opera life,” he laughed. “I might as well keep it simple.”

Forty Year Reunion The Class of 1969 gathered at the Holiday Inn in Hasbrouck Heights on June 13. Here are some of their stories... This unidentified Story by Jordan Schwartz Larry Zwick has been working for Siemens IT Solutions and Services at Hoffmann-La Roche on the Clifton/Nutley border for the past 11 years. He does inventory control to keep track of the company’s IT equipment. Zwick grew up in Montclair Heights and attended School 14 for kindergarten, School 16 for first to sixth grade, Woodrow and CHS. When he was in ninth grade, the administration introduced track at the junior high and Zwick signed up.

Larry Zwick.

“I had been playing Little League, but I went with track because I thought it was less political,” he said. “You get by on your own performance.” And perform he did. Zwick was so good that he earned an athletic scholarship to Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he was a physics major for two years before switching to business. In college, the track star got interested in cars, and after he graduated, Zwick sold vehicles in Montclair for five years. He then went to work as an insurance agent with Prudential in Cedar Grove for 12 years before returning to the auto industry with Infinity and Saturn in Denville. Zwick figured selling cars wasn’t going to work out, so he went back to school to study computers and that’s how he got the job at Hoffmann. The former Lincoln Park resident moved to Barnegat a few years ago after reuniting with his second ex-wife.

woman enjoys a drink at the reunion on June 13.

Now in his late 50s, Zwick still competes in track events. He’s won State championships for eight of the past 10 years in 200 and 400 meter races for his age group. The Clifton native won the Eastern Regional 400 meter championship last year and qualified for All-America status in the event in 2007 and 2008.

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Zwick has an older brother, Steve, who graduated CHS in 1967 and two children, Alex and Kirsten, who were both recently married. Jayne Mohrle Alles was raised in the Lakeview section and attended School 11 and Christopher Columbus. At CHS, she was involved in the history, Spanish and psychology clubs, and was a member of the Keyettes and yearbook. Alles went to Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., graduating with a BA in Spanish/secondary education. “I went to college thinking I was going to study social work,” she said. “However, due to the wonderful Spanish education from Ms. Mastroberte and Mr. Rilli at CHS, I excelled in college Spanish and a professor encouraged me to study Spanish.”

But Alles never felt proficient enough in teaching the language because she never had the opportunity to study abroad. So, in the mid’80s, she switched careers, studied nursing and received her certification in 1990. Today, she works as a school nurse at Montague Elementary School in Montague, NJ. In her spare time, Alles enjoys traveling. In fact, she’s been to all 50 states and every province in Canada, not to mention the Bahamas and Mexico. Her husband Chuck, to whom she’s been married for the past 37 years, graduated CHS in 1968. He works for Fidelity Forwarding International, Inc. on Rt. 46. They live in Byram Township, Stanhope in Sussex County and have three children: Chad, 33; Christen, 29; and Lauren, 27.

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Nadia Kotlar Dubanowitz grew up in the Lakeview section of town, where her father still resides. She attended St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School in Passaic up until the eighth grade before transferring to Christopher Columbus. Dubanowitz studied elementary education at William Paterson College and has been teaching eighth grade math at CCMS for the past 19 years. The ’69 CHS grad lives in Allendale with her husband of 36 years, Joe. They have four children and two grandchildren. Eleanor Koester Masters spent her childhood on Beverly Hill Rd. in Allwood, attending School 9 and Christopher Columbus. At CHS, she was a member of the future nurses club and a selfdescribed soccer team groupie. Masters graduated from Hackensack Hospital School of Nursing in 1972 and now works as a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn. She is divorced with three sons, David, 32; Chris, 29; and Tim, 26, and one granddaughter, Katelyn. Masters’s brother, Dave, graduated CHS in 1972 and now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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“I have become very spiritual since 2001 and have become a bornagain Christian,” she said. “For that I am most grateful. Without a moral compass and an understanding of the goodness of God, this life would be too hard and harsh.”

From left, Jayne Mohrle, Nadia Kotlar and Janice Corsi.

Janice Corsi grew up where Grove and Broad Sts. used to meet, up the road from the Clifton Casino, a restaurant that was torn down to make room for Rt. 19. She attended School 5 and Woodrow Wilson. At CHS, Corsi was a member of the choir and Spanish club. She took college prep courses and ended up at Tombrock College, a small private school in West Paterson. Corsi studied elementary school education, but when she graduated, there were few teaching jobs available, so the Clifton native took a

position in the insurance industry and that’s where she’s remained for most of her career. The ’69 grad lives in Toms River and works in Spring Lake for the company that manufactures the Fendi line of watches. She’s the president’s executive assistant and also handles human resources and insurance matters. Corsi is married with two stepchildren and five grandchildren. Her two brothers live in Oceanport and Springhill, Fla. The former Cliftonite loves to dance, read and focus on her religion.

Diane (Ristagno) Harris spent her early years at School 2 and Woodrow before her family moved to Allwood and she transferred to Christopher. “Although I thought of myself as a bit shy, I had lots of happy, silly, yet responsible friends like Rich Pashman and Nora Ralosky, who always drove around in a car with flowers painted on it,” she remembered. During her junior year at CHS, Harris became engaged to a marine, whom she later married and had two girls with. The ’69 grad didn’t go to college but has still had a successful professional career. She worked as a switchboard operator and

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From left, Diane Ristagno, Fred Powasnick, Patricia Dertzo, John Luzzo and Eugene Sadowski.

receptionist before becoming the proprietor of a fish market and restaurant in Basking Ridge. After nine years there, Harris moved to Philadelphia and worked for Jones Apparel Group in the payroll department. She now works in accounts payable at Sanofi Aventis Pharmaceuticals. Almost three years ago, she was married again to a retired welder named Ed Harris. The couple purchased property in Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay to be used for vacations and retirement. Harris has one-year-old twin grandchildren, Chase and Faith. Fred Powasnick remembers a simpler time. “Before shopping malls, before Willowbrook, there was Monday and Friday nights hanging out in Passaic,” he said. “The stores were open till 9 pm, there were three movie theaters (five if you include Clifton and Allwood) and a slice of pizza and a soda would set us back an alarming 25 cents! No sales tax!” Powasnick grew up on Knapp Ave. and Comfort Pl., attending School 12 and Columbus. At CHS, he was involved in the drama club, concert choir and bands, and after graduation, he skipped college to take over the family business. Today, Powasnick is the president of Grove Maintenance Corp. They do seal coating, striping, building and grounds.

The ’69 grad lives in Nutley but visits Clifton everyday. “It has such a strong sense of community for a city its size,” he said. Powasnick has been married for 36 years and has two children that are 34 and 30 years old. Patricia (Dertzo) Ehrich grew up in Athenia, attending School 6 and WWJHS before getting involved with the psychology, Spanish and future teachers clubs at CHS. After graduation, she went to William Paterson College (then known as Paterson State) and majored in history. Ehrich is now a public librarian working in the reference department and lives with her husband, Bill, in Monroe, NY. She has two grown children and one brother and visits her hometown three or four times a year. John Luzzo was an Athenia boy, who attended School 13 and Woodrow. He played football and

did electrical work in high school before studying business management at Montclair State. Today, Luzzo is a sales manager in the electronic security industry. He also referees high school football and teaches electrical courses at Morris County Vo-Tech. The Parsippany resident enjoys traveling and attending sporting events, concerts and Broadway plays. Eugene Sadowski grew up in Lakeview and went to Schools 8, 9, 11 and 12 before graduating to Christopher and CHS. As a teenager, he delivered newspapers before school started and then worked at a grocery store in the afternoon. After graduation, Sadowski wanted to serve his country, so he joined the Navy during the Vietnam War. Today, he lives in Cherry Hill and is a coordinator for a clinical trial packaging company in Mt. Laurel.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Keeping the Roads Safe George Cowan is a safety investigator for the USDOT Story by Jordan Schwartz You’re driving down the highway at 55 mph on a rainy summer day when you glance up at your rearview mirror to see a tractor trailer fast approaching in the left lane. As you brace for the tidal wave of water about to be splashed onto your windshield by 18 massive wheels, you begin to wonder about the condition of the truck’s driver. Is he at the end of a marathon 16hour shift? Is there a flask tucked into his shirt pocket? Is he hauling hazardous materials improperly? George Cowan’s job is to make sure the answer to all of these questions is No. For the past 35 years, the ’69 Clifton High grad has been a safety

George Cowan with his wife, Susan. The inset is him as a senior at Clifton High.

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

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July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

investigator for the United States Department of Transportation. “We regulate trucking and bus companies on safety,” he said. “We do audits to see if they are in compliance with federal regulation and they can be fined for violations.” The DOT agency for which Cowan works, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is responsible for decreasing the number of accidents, injuries and deaths involving large trucks and buses. It does this by enforcing regulations on the length of a driver’s shift, how hazardous materials are transported and driver drug and alcohol use. Cowan took the job right after graduating Seton Hall University. The criminal justice major considered law school before being offered the government position. “You meet so many different types of people,” he explained. “It’s a field related job, so you’re not in an office. You’re constantly moving around.”

“If you move around, you can advance a lot quicker at my job, but I just chose to stay here because it’s home,” said George Cowan. “It’s wherever you feel comfortable at night.” But once he gets home, Cowan likes to stay put. The 58-year-old lives just a block away from where he grew up on Mt. Prospect Ave. in Allwood. Out the window of his house, he can see St. Andrew the Apostle School, where he attended grades one through eight. “It was convenient,” he said. “I could walk to school and my parents were members of the parish.” But when Cowan reached ninth grade, he decided to transfer to public school and Woodrow Wilson because he wanted to be with more of his friends. He chose SHU not only for its religious affiliation but because he wanted to live at home during college. There, he met his wife, Susan Ryaby, who grew up in Clifton but went to Pope Pius.

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After marrying in 1975, the couple lived in West Paterson for two years before moving to their current address on Luisser St. in Clifton. “If you move around, you can advance a lot quicker at my job, but I just chose to stay here because it’s home,” said Cowan. “It’s wherever you feel comfortable at night.” His three children, Annie, George Jr. and Mike, all played sports at CHS and Jr. has even returned to coach the varsity lacrosse team. Cowan was eligible for retirement two years ago, but he has no plans of riding off into the sunset just yet. “I enjoy what I do,” he said. “My wife is still working as a first grade teacher in Montclair, so I have no reason to retire.” Specializing in Medical & Surgical Foot & Ankle Correction

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From left, Andrea Bobby, Matthew Grabowski, Ruth Walton, Chuck Ranges, Charlotte Klein and Ed Shanley.

Marching Band is 40 in ’79 Story by Jordan Schwartz In 1979, China invaded Vietnam, Jimmy Carter wrestled with a rabbit and 782 students graduated Clifton High School. One of those seniors was Andrea Bobby, who, after being voted the most athletic girl in the class, went on to coach both tennis and swimming at her alma mater. She led the girls tennis team to a league title in the fall of ’78 with an individual record of 17-2. On the track is where Carl Williams shined, earning first team All-County honors with five first place finishes. The boys finished fourth at the NNJIL meet. But the ’78-’79 athletic season belonged to the wrestling squad, which went 12-4 and captured County, District and Regional championships. The Mustangs were led by seniors Ron Nichols, Vinnie Viola, Stan Sarentino, Rich Timm, Mark Feinberg and Jim Williams.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

The CHS Marching Band celebrated its 40th birthday by playing at Yankee Stadium in October for the World Champs’ final home game. The 110 members were also invited to play at Giants Stadium in the first annual Garden State Bowl and were the only band in the conference to create a new halftime show for each home game. The drama club performed the play Jabberwock on Nov. 17 and 18. The cast of 32 was directed by Mr. Dennis Zahorian and fundraising boosters for the play tallied more than $1,000, the most ever accumulated in the school’s history up to that point. The Audio-Visual Aides Club worked the lights and sound equipment for the play, while the Student Council Association put together the programs for the show. Members of the SCA included President Chuck Ranges, Vice-President Charlotte Klein, Treasurer Joyce Amico and

Secretaries Gina De Sordi and Donna Fischer. Ranges now owns and manages two restaurants in Flemington and Branchburg.

Jon Garrison, Glenn Carlson, Eric Kaspriski, Bob Ventiniglia and Greg Skiba count time before taking the field.

From left, Anelise Sieber, John Carpinelli, Leslie Garrison, Carl Williams, Susan Walters and Rosemary Trinkle.

The SCA also sponsored Hat Day in late October. Students wore different types of hats, including ones that were in style and others that definitely were not. The Great American Smoke Out, in cooperation with the American Cancer Society was another major event. Buttons were sold, stickers and decals were distributed and posters were put up in the halls. The Crime Prevention Program was created to show students the need for everyone to be responsible for his/her actions. Guests spoke about the issue and movies were shown.

The concert choir received a silver medal for its performance at the Florida World Music Festival. The choir, conducted by Miss Rosemary Fransisco, also sponsored social events such as the Halloween Party. The second annual Gong Show, a takeoff on the popular TV series, attracted a standing room only audience on Dec. 6. Emcees Mike Agnello and Leigh Herman introduced such acts as “The Dolly Parton Sisters” and “King Tut.” The quiz team was a new club arrival during this school year. Its

members practiced trivia drills and general knowledge every week. Students from CHS attended the Distributive Education Clubs of America’s Northern Region Conference at Montclair State College on Jan. 11. About 2,000 students from 41 high schools competed in the areas of marketing and distribution. Alan Stein and Steven Janowsky were co-valedictorians in the Class of ’79. They were joined in the top seven by John Carpinelli, Anelise Siber, Leslie Garrison, Sheryl Lappin and Nancy Sawicki.

Mark Feinberg controls an opponent, Brian Zubatch as Dolly Parton at the Gong Show and Nancy Bartlett in Jabberwock.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Still Best Friends

Story by Joe Hawrylko

Vicky Generalli and Elaine Sinisi are neighbors in Montclair It’s been 30 years since they graduated, but Vicky Generalli and Elaine Maroon Sinisi are still burnt up about not being selected as best friends in the 1979 Rotunda. “We should have won best pals and this should prove it,” laughed Generalli. “But those two other girls won. Elaine always laughs at me because I always say that, but 43 years later, we’re still friends.” The two have been pals since they were five years old, growing up in the shadow of School 16. Today, they’re entrepreneurs and neighbors. Generalli owns Chelsea Square on Valley Rd. in Montclair and Sinisi runs Little Shoebox, which is just around the corner on Bellevue Ave. Though they’ve moved on, their ties to Clifton remain strong. “Many of the friends we had then we’re still friends with now,” said Generalli. “Linda Lioy Basales, Robin Hole Jordan and others.” Holster Park was the local hang out, and sometimes adventures would bring them to Bond’s Ice Cream, which was then located behind Styertowne.

Elaine Maroon Sinisi and Vicky Generalli in front of Chelsea Square, Generalli’s store, which is located on Valley Rd. in Montclair. On the facing pages are yearbook photos for Generalli (left) and Sinisi.

“We would bike ride everywhere,” said Sinisi. “We would even come here (to Montclair). Parents didn’t cart their kids all over then.”


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When they became of age, the duo would frequent local watering holes. “We used to hang out at the Grande Saloon,” said Generalli. “The drinking age was just 18 at the time.” Sinisi also worked at the iconic Clifton bar for several years following college and met her husband, Danny Sinisi, a 1980 CHS graduate, while working at Saloon. Sinisi’s father, Gabe Maroon, is a part of Clifton history. His hot dog and ice cream stand, Gabe’s Drive Inn, later became Hot Grill after he sold it in 1961. Following the conclusion of high school, both friends moved on from Clifton but stayed in touch. Though they initially started at different schools, Sinisi and Generalli graduated from William Paterson together in 1984.

“We were on the five year plan,” quipped Generalli. Following college, Generalli and Sinisi followed different career paths before starting their own businesses. Generalli went back to school at Montclair State to get her certification to become a school media specialist and worked in the Montclair School District for 12 years. “I knew there was something else out there for me,” said Generalli, who had a home-based baby clothing business. “I had always wanted to have my own business.” But life as a librarian and a parent put a damper on those dreams. That was until Generalli’s friend, Sandy Kelman, announced that she was planning on selling her store, Chelsea Square. The two met in 1984, when Generalli first moved to Montclair for her job and to raise her son, Danny, who is now 22. “She basically trained me to take it over,” said Generalli. “She wanted me to have it. It was almost like her baby.” In 2001, Generalli purchased the shop from Kelman, the original owner who managed the store for 25 years. In 2004, Sinisi opened up Little Shoebox just around the corner on Bellevue Ave. “It runs in my family, being a crazy entrepreneur,” laughed

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Sinisi. “For a while, I had a lingerie shop in Fashion Highlights in Richfield Village.” Sinisi also worked evenings as a bartender for some time while raising her children, Olivia, 14, and Lia, 10. “I didn’t know anything about shoes,” she laughed. “One day, I just called StrideRite.” At the end of July, Sinisi will relocate the Little Shoebox to Valley Rd. directly across the street from her best friend. “She’s now moving to the main drag. She’s 602 and I’m 601,” said Generalli. “We sometimes have lunch together.” And now that they’ll be neighbors, there will be more time together. “It’s fun, we always have a lot of laughs,” said Sinisi. “It gets us through the day.”

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An Asian Education Dale Sprauer learned in Korea, teaches in the Philippines Story by Jordan Schwartz For the first 15 years after high school, Dale Sprauer was a selfdescribed burn out. He fell into the drug scene and put off going to college in favor of living at home and working at Casey’s Nightclub, now Bliss Lounge on Allwood Rd. After a decade there, he moved down the shore in 1989 to work on the Night Hawk, a party and fishing boat in Belmar. “Then I woke up and realized I had to go back to college,” said Sprauer. In 1994, the ’79 CHS grad returned to his parent’s house on Passaic Ave. in Delawanna and began taking classes at Passaic County Community College. He later transferred to William Paterson University, where he discovered a program that would change his life. It was a study abroad opportunity in South Korea and Sprauer, who had recently struck up a long distance relationship with a Korean woman he met online, decided to take full advantage in 1999.

Dale Sprauer, in the center, with his students at Buin Middle School in Bucheon, Korea. The inset is Sprauer in the 1979 CHS yearbook.

Despite being a bit older and a whole lot more American than his classmates, Sprauer completed three semesters at Korea University in Seoul. He had studied general science in the States, but when the former Mustang got to Asia, all the science classes were in Korean, so he had to switch to a humanities major. WPU told Sprauer he had to gradate from an American school, so

he completed his final 12 credits online at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton. In 2002, the Clifton native finished his graduate work at Sookmyung University in Seoul and got a job teaching English. Sprauer returned home for seven months in 2005 to take care of his sick mother, Anne Moschella. He intended to move back to New Jersey, but after his mom passed

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away on Halloween of that year, the youngest of four brothers decided to go back to Korea. Upon his return, Sprauer met a Philippino woman and, after some time together, they moved to her native country in January 2008. Dale and Hillel Sprauer married in August of last year and now live in Angeles City, where the English teacher works at a private language academy. “It’s very different here,” said the former Clifton resident. “It’s a lot slower paced, a step back in time. Sometimes it’s aggravating, sometimes refreshing. “There are a lot of retirees here because it’s quite affordable,” he continued. “The house I bought only cost $37,000. The same house back home would be $400,000. A lot of the time, the water and electric go out, but all in all, it’s not bad.” The teacher recently accepted a job offer from a school system in

Sprauer with his wife, Hillel.

in Shenzen, China over one in Utsunomiya, Japan. That’s worlds away from Newark, NJ, where Sprauer was born and attended kindergarten and part of first grade. Disappointed in the public education their son received in Newark, his parents moved to Delawanna and enrolled him at St. Clare School

on Allwood Rd. He went there through eighth grade, attended Paul VI in ninth and transferred to Clifton High. “When I entered CHS, there were a lot of classes I had already taken as a freshman, so I got to skip those,” he remembered. “Paul VI was uniform and tie, but CHS was more relaxed and the students were friendlier.”

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Managing the Laboratory Mike Astion is a professor at the University of Washington Story by Jordan Schwartz When physicians in the Seattle area need a blood or tissue sample tested for cancer, transplants, or rare diseases, they send it to the University of Washington Reference Laboratory, one of the largest clinical labs in the country.

That’s where Michael Astion MD, PhD manages about 150 employees as Director of Reference Laboratory Services. The 1979 Clifton High School graduate is also a professor in the university’s Department of Laboratory Medicine.

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Michael Astion, MD, PhD, today.

Not a surprising list of accomplishments for a guy whose only grade lower than an A at CHS was in shop class. In fact, he was ranked in the top 15 out of nearly 800 students. But don’t get the wrong idea; as a child, Astion wasn’t holed up in his room studying all day. Instead, he was outside playing with his Montclair Heights buddies. “Kids weren’t supervised the same way back then,” he said. “We spent a lot of time at Holster or Robin Hood Park playing whatever sport was in season.” When he wasn’t throwing the ball around, the School 16 alum was hanging out at his dad Julian’s luncheonette and candy store, the Carousel on Market St. by School 9. Still, academics always came first and that dedication paid off when Astion was accepted to Cornell University.

The two were wed in Bucks County, Pa. in April 1990 and moved out to Washington the following year. In March 1993, Astion joined the university’s faculty and he’s been there ever since. In addition to teaching physicians, residents and medical students about lab testing, the professor also researches how to decrease medical mistakes in the lab. “The biggest error is mislabeling of specimens,” he explained. “We are trying to get rid of every manu-

al process and instead use computer interfacing.” Astion returns to the Garden State on a pretty regular basis to visit his parents, Julian and Adele, who live in a retirement community in Cedar Grove. The Washington resident is rather proud of his roots. “It’s good to be from New Jersey,” he said. “Public school prepares you for life. When you look at the top of some of these medical departments, you almost always see a public school graduate.”

Michael Astion, CHS, Class of 1979.

“I knew I was interested in science when I started college, so I took different courses like chemistry, physics and biology,” he remembered. “I thought I could could do better in biology and it was more interesting to me.” After graduating college in 1983, Astion received a scholarship to a combined medical and graduate school program at the University of Pennsylvania. “The idea was that MDs were not doing as high a quality of science as the government wanted,” he said. Astion completed the program in December 1989 and began the first two years of his clinical pathology residency at UPenn before transferring to UW for his final year. “My spouse had an opportunity in Seattle and I was looking to transfer to my first faculty opportunity,” he said. The doctor met his wife, Jennifer, at a gym in 1987. She’s a Brown University graduate and a graphic artist from Philadelphia. July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Thirty Year Reunion The Class of 1979 will be getting together at the Parsippany Hilton on October 10. Here are some of their stories... Story by Jordan Schwartz Peter Scheffer knows that no matter where you go in the world, Clifton is never too far away. Scheffer and Tom Brandl, a CHS ’75 grad, grew up together on Luddington Ave., playing ball in the front yard and serving as altar boys at St. Paul’s R.C. Church. The last time the two saw each other was when Brandl graduated the Naval Academy in 1979. But while Scheffer was serving in Afghanistan in 2005, he ran into his old pal, who had become a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. “It was a real uplifting moment during my tour of duty there,” said Scheffer. “Naturally, I gave him a big hug and then a proud salute since he outranked me.” The 1979 Clifton High alum deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. After receiving the Bronze Star Medal on his final day there, Scheffer returned home in October 2005. “The most exciting time of any deployment is when you come back,” he said from his home in Platte City, Mo. “I remember the feeling that I had went from joy to sadness when they loaded the flagdraped coffins on the plane with us. I was going home and I no longer felt good about it. I realized someone sacrificed a heck of a lot more than I did.” The following December, Scheffer took a job as a professor at 40

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Lt. Colonel Peter Scheffer (at right) is awarded the Bronze Star Medal on his last day in Afghanistan (October 2005). The inset is Scheffer as a senior at Clifton High.

Georgia Military College and signed a five-year teaching contract. However, during the school year, the veteran was contacted by representatives from an international peacekeeping operation, headquartered in Rome, that works very closely with the U.S. State Department. They asked if he would be interested in serving as the Director of Operations for a small, 15-person Field Inspection Team in the Holy Land to work peace treaty issues between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians in Gaza. “Naturally, I accepted and I negotiated with the college to vacate my post at the end of the school year,” said Scheffer. The West Point graduate flew to Cairo in August 2006 and made his way across the Suez Canal and into the Sinai Peninsula, where he lived

on a small compound along the Israeli border. His duties involved planning, coordinating and overseeing all of the inspections throughout the peninsula. Scheffer spent more than two years there before returning to the States on Nov. 1, 2008. “I had enough of the Middle East at that point, having fulfilled over five years (including my military time) in the region,” he said. “It’s a tough place and to tell you the truth, I missed our country.” The retired Lt. Colonel is now a faculty member at the Army’s Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He teaches courses in Multinational Operations, Interagency Operations, Joint Operations, as well as Afghan Military Operations and Culture.

A few years ago, Ruth Walton Frey went on a raw fruit, vegetable and nut diet. She stopped using products that contained anything that she felt was a health risk, changed to a non-fluoride natural toothpaste and began a search for the right soap. “I wanted something that would not add any toxic substance to my skin,” said the School 1 alum. “I had invested so much into my diet, that I didn’t want to have the largest organ in my body, my skin, absorb anything potentially dangerous.” After many months of research, Frey finally found a soap she wanted, but it took five months to ship from Florida. This is when she came up with the idea to open her very own business, Roo & Yoo Organic Soap in Maplewood. “The business is relatively new, but the response that I have seen from customers has been very positive,” said the married mother of two.

“The soon to be completed Web site will add another option for viewing and purchasing the product line.” Rosemary Trinkle Baran was born and raised in Clifton, where her family has lived since the 1840s. She left 26 years ago to pursue a hotel management career that took her to five states. Baran met her husband in Atlanta, but with the birth of a child and the sudden death of her father, she returned to New Jersey in September 2001. These days, she enjoys staying involved with her daughter’s school at St. Andrew’s. Sharon Kozinn grew up on Haddenfield Rd. and attended School 16 and WWJHS before getting involved with yearbook, French club and the community service club at Clifton High. She went to Ithaca College but transferred to Montclair State,

where she majored in home economics with a concentration in family and child studies. After college, Kozinn got married and moved to Southern California for about a year and a half before returning to New Jersey in 1985. Today, she is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Hillsdale and lives in River Vale. Kozinn has been married for 25 years and has two children. Her older son is a senior in college and her younger son is graduating high school and starting Rutgers University in the fall. The Clifton High School Class of 1979 will be holding its 30th reunion on Oct. 10 at the Parsippany Hilton. Tickets are $89 and include a buffet dinner and cash bar. For information, e-mail organizer Sharon Kozinn at The Class is also planning a 50th Birthday Party for fall 2011. Email

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From left, Eileen Hudziak, David Carlet, Debra Betza, David Moore, Samantha Schlossberg and Michael Chomiak.

Mooney replaces Halpern in ’89 Story by Jordan Schwartz The CHS Class of 1989 was the first to have a junior prom, all-school pep rallies eighth period, mid-term and final exams and third and fifth period lockers. They were the first to play football for Coach Kaplanovich, receive college credit for high school courses and enter CHS under Principal Aaron Halpern but graduate under Principal Robert Mooney. After 25 years in charge, Halpern resigned and was replaced by Mooney at the start of the ’88-’89 school year. The new principal was a Montclair State College grad with 18 years of education experience. In sports, the girls volleyball team went 15-8 to capture its third straight league title. Senior captain Genia Filewicz earned first team All-League and second team AllCounty honors. The boys bowling squad won their division, county and section


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Robert Mooney (left) replaced Aaron Halpern as CHS principal in the fall of 1988.

with a record of 100-19 (including 10 shutouts). Emil Dudas and Mike O’Shea made All-League and All-County. Dudas had the top county series of 698 and O’Shea compiled the highest league average (197), top game (290) and top series (705). The hockey team, under secondyear coach Tom Danko, won a state record 25 consecutive games en

route to a Division championship, before suffering its only defeat in the second round of the State playoffs. Four seniors were ranked among New Jersey’s top 20 scorers: left wing Darren Groh, center Mike Chomiak, left wing George Kwiecinski and defenseman John Spurdis. Senior pitcher Diane Besser led the softball team to a 24-1

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From left, Stephanie Comment, Emil Dudas, Carla De Luca, Darren Groh, Genia Filewicz and Brad Huber.

season, which included a league crown and the program’s first of 10 County championships. The school play was Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue. It starred Chris Taylor and Sandra Lucignani and featured Eileen Hudziak and Jessica Sherman. The top news events during the school year were the election of President George H.W. Bush, the terrorist bombing of Flight 103 over Scotland and the United States returning to space with the shuttle Discovery. Locally, Clifton voted for an elected Board of Education, there was a drought watch and Garden


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

State Parkway tolls were raised to 35 cents. In national sports news, Orel Hershiser and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series and Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl win. The country was watching Roseanne, The Cosby Show and The Women of Brewster Place on television and going to the movies to see Rain Man, The Accidental Tourist and Working Girl. And the Class of ’89 was listening to “Lost in Your Eyes” by Debbie Gibson, “The Living Years” by Mike + The Mechanics and “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul.

Pitcher Diane Besser led the Lady Mustangs to a County title in 1989.

Designing a Life for Himself Jeffrey Kracht was one of the first state certified interior designers Story by Jordan Schwartz Jeffrey Kracht’s interior design work began as a child, rearranging furniture at his grandmother’s house. Three decades later, his resume includes the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan and his own company run out of his McCosh Rd. home. “Interior design was a natural thing that came to me,” said Kracht in the well-decorated living room of his 82-year-old center-hall colonial revival. “When you have a passion for something, you should do it.” The fourth-generation Cliftonite never diverted from his chosen path in life. As a 13-year-old at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Kracht decided he wanted to be an interior designer and so he signed up for art and drafting courses so he could assemble a portfolio for college. “From age eight to nineteen, Jeffrey was exposed to many styles of architecture, decoration and furnishings on several trips to Europe,” explains his Web site, Antiques fill every corner of his home and family artwork hangs on the walls.

Jeffrey Kracht sits in the living room of his colonial revival home on McCosh Rd.

Kracht’s cousin has donated a number of pieces to the Newark Museum, the Montclair Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But one hobby wasn’t enough for the honor roll student growing up, and so he became involved in a laundry list of extracurricular activities at Clifton High. “French Club, Key Club, Knights of Pythagoras, spring track, concert

band, concert choir, Madrigals, marching band,” read Kracht, 37, from a note card he keeps tucked in the pages of his 1989 yearbook. “It was a big high school, but I saw lots of the same people all the time,” he explained. “That’s why art, gym and study hall were great because you got to see different people.” After graduation, Kracht studied interior design at Trenton State

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College (now The College of New Jersey). During his time there, the School 2 alum interned at Greenbaum Interiors in Paterson. It was a furniture store and design studio and Kracht helped the designer present merchandise, research, accessorize display cabinets and price items. Shortly after earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1993, the Cliftonite worked a year as an assistant designer at Norellen Stokley Interiors in Ridgewood. The following 12 months were spent at K.T. Scott, a retail showroom in Fairfield, but Kracht wanted to start his own company. So, in January 1996, the 24-year-old launched JK Interiors, a residential, hospitality, retail and commercial interior design firm. “When you’re young, you sort of go for stuff,” said Kracht. “My mom told me I didn’t have enough experience, but I proved her wrong.” The entrepreneur did all the work himself, from meeting with clients to measuring the project space. His largest ongoing endeavor was a five-year overhaul of the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where a lot of the rooms were used for fashion photo shoots and music videos by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliot. But Kracht still gets excited about selecting tiles to match a suburban kitchen or picking the perfect paint color to brighten up a bedroom.

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Kracht with his grandmother, Florence Pannicke Ploch on his prom day, June 2, 1989.

Jeffrey Kracht’s class at Grove Hill Nursery School in 1976. Front row, from left, Kracht, Carrie Fisher, Jamie Visotsky, Debbie Betza, Juliet Behnken, Tricia Yannarelli, Darren St. Laurent and Michael Harrington. Middle row: Mrs. Gagliardi, David Moore, Dana Schwartzbard, John Renta, Jennifer Jacobus, Stephanie Comment, Todd Novack, Brad Huber and Mrs. Kennedy. Back row: Andrew Di Domenico, Tracie Fiorentino, Harold Rypkema, Stephanie Lichenstein and William Baksa. Not pictured is Linda Onarevole.

JK Interiors graduated to a limited liability company in 2004 and in December 2006, its owner became one of the first in New Jersey to be certified by the Interior Design Examination and Evaluation Committee, which is part of the State Board of Architects. This new accreditation came about because New Jersey began recognizing interior design as a licensed profession instead of just a trade. With the success of his business, Kracht was able to realize his dream of homeownership when he purchased a one-family house in Upper Montclair two years ago. The ’89 grad works out of the second floor office of his home and so Clifton was a perfect location because many of his clients reside in North Jersey. The city also holds emotional significance for Kracht, who represents the third generation of his family to be born in Clifton. Born two weeks early in 1981, Jeffrey entered the world at Dr. Lou Bertolotti’s office on Grove St. (now Dr. Foukas’), two doors down from what was Kracht’s great-grandparent’s Ploch’s farm house. His mother, a CHS Class of ’54 grad, taught at School 16 until her first son, Stephen (Class of ’85), was born. The elder Krachts still live in town on Rutgers Pl.

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Training Future Engineers Nora Calato works for McCarthy Building Companies Story by Jordan Schwartz Leonardo DaVinci sent Nora Calato to Arizona. In the fifth grade Talented and Gifted Program at School 9, the Clifton native did a report on the Italian renaissance man and his work inspired Calato to become an architect. “He’s just such an incredible individual,” she said. “He helped society go from a period where knowledge wasn’t explored to one in which it blossomed with so many incredible works of art and buildings.” During one of her first band classes freshman year, Marching Mustangs director Bob Morgan went around the room asking what everyone wanted to be when they grew up. Calato, who played the flute and piccolo, told her teacher she wanted to be an architect and he advised her to check out Arizona State University, one of the best schools in the country for that field. The former Harrington Rd. resident fell in love with Virginia Polytechnic Institute at first, but changed her mind during a February trip to Arizona. “We were having a snowstorm back home but the weather there was gorgeous and I got to tan,” she remembered. “I thought I could do that.” Halfway through college, a professor told Calato that as an architect, she’d be doing someone’s draft work for 10 years before getting a chance to be in charge of a project. “I wanted to be involved out there on the site, making things happen, so I switched over to engineering,” she said. “I’m glad I made the change.” After graduating ASU, Calato went to work for a small subcontrac-

Nora Calato with her husband Travis Gallion on Oct 21, 2008 at Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy at the highest peak they allow visitors.

tor before taking a position with her current employer, McCarthy Building Companies in Phoenix, in July 1996. She worked on a number of projects, ranging from a prison complex to a Hyatt resort, before McCarthy tapped her as Southwest Division Training Manager. Calato is responsible for training all levels of employees in the entire region, including Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. She also instructs new hires at the company’s corporate headquarters. “I’m traveling the country, meeting tons of people and instantaneously helping them,” said the ’89 grad. “I love building but there are ups and downs with every project so it might be a few years before you see that project. But you can train someone and see if they get it in an hour or

two so it’s instant gratification.” In addition to her involvement in training, standardization and integration, Calato was also one of the founding leaders of the firm’s High Performance Building Committee, also known as the “Green Team.” The committee teaches McCarthy partners about sustainable building practices and has encouraged several to become LEED Accredited Professionals, like Calato. The engineer has also served on four committees for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Arizona Chapter, for which she is Past President. On Oct. 15, 2005, Calato married fellow Sun Devil Travis Gallion and they now live in Tempe with their kids—well, sort of. “All of our children have fur,” she said. “We have two dogs and six cats.” July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Voice of Pharmacists Kristen Binaso is a spokeswoman for the APhaA Story by Joe Hawrylko Kristen Binaso has appeared on television, been quoted in publications and interviewed on radio. It’s probably the last thing she expected to do with her pharmaceutical degree from Rutgers. “If you asked me in 1989, ‘What do you want to do?’ I couldn’t have answered this,” she laughed. “My career has been pretty interesting.” Binaso is a director for the American Pharmacists Association (APhaA) in Washington, D.C. Her job is to travel the country and interact with the media, essentially acting as the mouthpiece to the pharmaceutical industry. “I’ve got a lot of extensive background in dealing with senators on The Hill, legislation and media training,” said Binaso. “I’m the spokesperson for the Association. I’m specifically trained to handle media inquiries on a variety of topics.” The 1989 CHS grad began her career with CVS, where she worked for 12 years. Binaso started as a pharmacist and was quickly promoted to the corporate office.

Binaso in 2007, when she appeared on CNN to discuss the passing of Anna Nicole Smith. An autopsy revealed that Smith had a number of drugs in her system at the time of her death.

There, her job was to recruit for the company through student leadership seminars, lectures and other events. “Apparently, I have the natural ability,” said Binaso, who did not study public speaking. “Pharm school is extremely challenging, almost like going to med school. Typically, you don’t see the

light of day, so you don’t find many pharmacists who took a minor.” Eventually, she took a better offer with RiteAid and was put in charge of the entire California division. “I was running their stores there,” she said. “I was commuting between California and New Jersey for a year and decided to come back.”

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Binaso returned home and began working as a pharmacist at Target and then ended up getting a call from the APhaA. She was hired and began working in Washington, D.C. “For me, it’s pretty logical. I’ve done presentations and I didn’t need notes in front of me. I just have a brain that works that way,” said Binaso. “There’s certain ways you need to talk to them and walk around things that you might not want to talk about.” Working with the APhaA has given Binaso the opportunity to appear on various media outlets. When Anna Nicole Smith passed away in 2007, she was invited to speak about circumstances surrounding her death. “It was interesting being on a panel about Anna Nicole Smith,” said Binaso. “We’re trying not to scare consumers and patients who are on these medications.”

Binaso in high school.

More recently, she’s been making rounds as an advisor on Swine Flu, which the World Health Organization recently upgraded to pandemic classification. “Swine Flu—we call it H1N1— I was on Fox for that,” she said.

“The media wants to cause a panic and we jumped on the opportunity to say that there’s no shortage of medication. One reporter was getting a little frustrated because I would not give into the panic.” The WHO raised the alert level primarily because of the high potential for transmission of the disease. Binaso said she may also appear on TV to talk about Michael Jackson’s recent death. “Part of it is training, part of it is common sense work,” said Binaso. “You’ve got to make it so that people will understand. I’m really proud of my work in the media.” “The pharmaceutical industry really is striving to make health care better in this country,” she continued. “The public doesn’t understand. I try to make my friends and family understand this is why it’s like that.” Part of Binaso’s job entails a better line of communication between the pharmaceutical industry

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and its consumers. That includes everything from users satisfaction with a product, right down to how a person interprets the warning labels on a prescription. A recent study that Binaso was working on focused on the warning labels on prescription bottles. She said the results were startling. “A large percentage thought, ‘Well, I can drink alcohol. I just can’t drink martinis,” she said. “I would have never guessed that. That’s part of the thing as pharmacists that we’re trying to figure out, because some of the public doesn’t get that.” Binaso’s work forces her to keep irregular hours and travel often. On days that she must report to Washington, she boards an Amtrak train at 6:30 am to be in the office by 9 am. Work will often take Binaso to various destinations on the east coast, where much of the pharmaceutical industry is situated. Living in her hometown makes Binaso’s commute easy.

“Clifton, in my opinion, is a really great place to live,” she said. “ It’s really convenient to get to the city and everything else.” Binaso still lives in the Albion neighborhood where she attended School 5 and later, Woodrow Wilson Middle School. She was also part of the inaugural ninth grade class at CHS. “We were the first of four year high school, so that was a big adjustment for a lot of people,” she said. “But I think it worked out pretty well.” Remaining in her hometown means that Binaso still sees many Clifton locations that were a part of her memories: the Allwood Theatre, Bruno’s Pizzeria, Carvel and more. The people who made those memories are still around too, such as Jeff Kracht, Nora Calato, Michelle Popovich and Frank Ranu. “We were big on going to movies. The old theater on Clifton and Main, we used to go to that one,” said Binaso.

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“We didn’t go to stuff in Wayne; we had to stay more local. I didn’t really go to Mario’s because that was too far down.” But as much as Clifton has stayed the same, it’s changed. It’s become much larger and much more urban. Some stores and locations that were a part of her childhood are long gone. “Some sections have remained exactly the same, like Allwood,” said Binaso. “But I remember pulling into the shopping center where Big Lots is (Clifton Plaza). I remember when Acme was there.” Still, on those few, relaxing free days that she has, Binaso enjoys coming back home. But she’s not tired of her busy lifestyle yet. “Honestly, right now, I’m not tired of it,” said Binaso. “I’m just a giant sponge. I’m very happy where I am. I’m privileged and I’ll do it for as long as I can, that’s for sure.”



July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

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The Global Executive

Stefanie Liechenstein is a vice president at Goldman Sachs Story by Joe Hawrylko Stefanie Liechenstein’s job has taken her around the globe, and demands creativity, logic and responsibility. It’s a dream job that combines all of her talents. “My parents still don’t know what I do. It’s kind of hard to explain,” she laughed. “I’m responsible for all functions for all of our clients, North and South American. I manage that team and get to travel to some interesting places.” “It’s a very fast-paced, constantly changing industry,” continued Liechenstein. “There’s a lot of thinking outside of the box, being creative and looking for new things. I think it’s an interesting way of catering to my creative side, as well as my analytical side.” The 1989 CHS grad attended Rutgers University and graduated from there in 1993 with a business degree. She began her career at Morgan Stanley, spending seven years with the company doing internal auditing, corporate treasury and bank relations. She moved to Goldman Sachs in 2000 and eventually ascended up the corporate ladder to her current position as Vice President of Global Operations. “On a business level and on a personal level, I’ve visited about 20 different countries,” she said. “India was an interesting place and so was Russia. My favorite has been Western Europe.” A majority of Liechenstein’s travel is within North and South America, though she occasionally

Stefanie Liechenstein with fellow ’89 grad, Jeffrey Kracht, on a recent Christmas night. At left, Liechenstein as a senior at CHS.

works in Manhattan. But unfortunately, one of the days that she was in the office was 9/11. “I think I had first hand, eye witness experience to something you can’t even really articulate,” said Liechenstein. “When I saw pictures on the news, in no way did it portray the magnitude of what went on there at that time.” Though she now lives in Manhattan, Liechenstein still frequents her parents’ Montclair Heights home. “I’ve definitely noticed changes and it almost makes me sad,” said Liechenstein. “All the development on Rt. 3, I feel like there’s fewer trees. And you see all the mom and pop stores turning into big stores and the Hope Depots coming in, it’s a little sad.”

In high school, Liechenstein performed with the Mustang Band, playing the flute and piccolo. “I just think I have a natural talent,” said Liechenstein, who also enjoys history and art. “People in Clifton might remember me. I played piano since I was a little girl. I did recitals in School 2 and solos in front of large audiences.” When she’s not working or traveling the world, Liechenstein enjoys running in Central Park or bike riding. She regularly goes for 30-mile rides through the city’s boroughs. However, with her work and travel schedule, free time doesn’t come very often. But Liechenstein is up to the challenge. “I’m never bored here,” she said. “I’m probably overstimulated. There’s so much going on.” July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From left, Meryl Ashkenazi, Michael Graziano, Narisa Ratana, Chris Luczun, Jen Carlo and Ken Gerlach.

Partying like it’s 1999

Story by Jordan Schwartz

The Homecoming Dance was held on Oct. 3, 1998. From left, Eddie Timmons, Julissa Batista, Jason Torres, Mercedes Sanchez, Francisco Carrasquillo, Adela Diaz, Queen Danielle Bril, Greg Szczygiel, Allison Russo, Anthony Latona, Laura Salerno and Paul Yaremko.

William Cannici was appointed CHS principal during the Class of 1999’s senior year. In this role, he began wing competitions, brought back the teacher skit at the holiday assembly and renewed school spirit and pride, according to The Rotunda. One of the most popular classes at school, CAST, welcomed Mr. McCunney, who taught the course in the brand new state-of-the-art studio on the second floor of the East Wing. 54

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

The Marching Mustangs spent a week in Canada competing in the Calgary Stampede Snowband Competition. CHS earned a gold medal with honors. The Concert Choir competed at Music in the Parks in Hershey, Pa., where they received top marks. In May, the choir performed at Carnegie Hall, while the Madrigals took the stage at Lincoln Center in Washington D.C.

The Drama Club presented Arthur Miller’s The Crucible on Nov. 20. Jessica Bear played the lead character of Abigail Williams. The musical was Sweet Charity by Neil Simon and was presented March 12-14. Bear once again played the lead. A talent show was held on March 26 with acts including a wrestling skit, singers, breakdancers and merengue dancers.

From left, Amy Pasternack, Thomas Rachelski, Megan Doczi, Raul Shah, Bobbi Jo Gonnello and Justin Lopchuk.

In sports, both the boys and girls bowling teams took first place at the Passaic County tournament. They were led by seniors Ken Gerlach, Justin Lopchuk, Lambert Van Beveren, Joe Lahiee, Amy Pasternack, Robin Jo Paci, Megan Doczi, Aimee Saltzman and Michelle Katuba. The Lady Mustangs softball team lost their sixth game of the season, snapping the program’s incredible 67 game winning streak, but the girls still went 23-5 and won the League and County titles before losing in the sectional final. They were led by co-captains Jen Carlo, Megan Doczi and Bobbi Jo Gonnello.

Jessica Bear as Abigail Williams in The Crucible, an unidentified student doing a wrestling skit at the talent show and the Concert Choir at one of their performances.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Editing Bestsellers

Story by Jordan Schwartz

Mary Choteborsky works for Crown Publishing If you’re a New York Times bestseller, a Washington insider or a veteran sports writer, there’s a chance your next book will be edited by Mary Choteborsky. The CHS Class of 1999 grad is a non-fiction book editor for Crown Publishing in New York, a subsidiary of Random House, the largest book publisher in the world. “I do everything from acquiring books, evaluating proposals from authors, developing the idea, editing the full manuscript and guiding it to publication,” she said. “It’s about a year long process. It’s almost like being a project manager.” Choteborsky, who turns 28 this month, has worked with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, on their book, 5 Principles for a Successful Life. She’s also edited New York Times bestseller The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas Kostigen, and this month, Choteborsky is publishing The Beckham Experiment, a soccer book by Sports Illustrated senior

Mary Choteborsky’s 1999 senior photo.

writer Grant Wahl. “I was the ideal editor for that project,” she said. “My knowledge from playing forever and having my father guide me as a soccer fan and coach helped me editing the book and guiding the publicity and marketing plan.” Choteborsky, who grew up in Dutch Hill, played for the Clifton Stallions before graduating to the Lady Mustangs varsity squad. The senior captain midfielder was a member of the first ever Clifton girls team to reach the Passaic County final.

Choteborsky also found time during high school to work at City Hall in the housing and community development departments. “That was my first taste of going to a job everyday, even if it was just for two hours after school,” she remembered. “ I learned about Clifton and local government. I liked that inside look.” As a high school student, Choteborksy wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. She considered becoming a teacher or even Clifton City Manager, but one CHS instructor helped steer her in another direction. “My English teacher, Ms. Candace Redstone, and I just clicked,” the senior wrote in the June 1999 edition of Clifton Merchant Magazine. “We get along so well that we talk outside of the classroom. I can talk to her about anything and she has a lot to offer on about a million different topics.” After receiving her diploma, Choteborksy enrolled at Barnard College in New York, where she became an English major.

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July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“I really wanted to be in the city,” she explained. “I didn’t want to go to the middle of nowhere to learn about the world.” Choteborsky’s first job out of school was with HarperCollins Publishers, where she stayed for two years before switching to Crown in August 2005. She worked closely with the Barack Obama campaign last year on the book, Change We Can Believe In. “That was a really cool experience to, in some way, work with that huge machine that was at the height of its operation,” said the Clifton native, who credits her upbringing for some of the success she’s had with her career. “Because CHS was such a diverse place, you kind of met people from all over and I think that always helps because today, I’m trying to reach a large population with the books I’m selling,” said the ’99 grad.

Mary Choteborksy with Newt Gingrich, John Stewart and Campbell Wharton in the green room at the Daily Show before the Speaker appeared on the show to discuss his book, 5 Principles for a Successful Life. Wharton is the book’s publicist.

Choteborsky, who lives with two roommates on New York’s Upper West Side, said, given today’s economy, it’s hard to predict her professional future, but she’d like to stay involved in books

and media for a long time. “You never know what form book publishing is going to take in the future,” she said. “Making sure I’m at the forefront of that is definitely a priority.”

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Love in the Big City Paul Puzio and Kari Petrasek found love on a bus Story by Joe Hawrylko In your typical romance movie, there’s always that one girl who got away. Luckily, Paul Puzio’s story has a cliche ending. The 1999 CHS graduate first met his future wife, Kari Petrasek, during high school. “He sat behind me in Mrs. Hartman’s anthropology class,” said Petrasek. “I had a boyfriend for the last two years of high school. Paul and I were friendly and hung out once in a while, but then I went away to college and we didn’t really speak.” Even in the waning days of high school, Puzio couldn’t bring himself to make a move. “My mom threw me a going away party the night before I left for college,” said Petrasek, who attended West Virginia University. “Paul came over and gave me a card that had $50 in it. What kind of high school kid has an extra $50 lying around?” Puzio went to Bergen County Community College and then transferred to Penn State. He didn’t see


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Kari Petrasek and Paul Puzio reconnected on a bus ride from New York City after not seeing each other since high school. The insets are them as seniors at CHS.

Petrasek at all after graduation, even though the two both worked for financial companies in New York. Puzio finally ran into his former classmate in February 2006, nearly seven years after they last spoke. “I used to go to the gym right after work and take the bus from the Port home all sweaty and gross,” said Petrasek. “I glanced

over and saw him, so I put my head down and we didn’t talk. I saw him the next night, the same exact time, same exact situation, and I’m like I can’t do the whole pretending I don’t see you thing.” “Usually, I just take the park and ride from Clifton,” said Puzio. “But that one day, I decided to take the late train to the bus.”

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July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The two connected, shared some laughs and became bus buddies, sharing the commute home each work day. Eventually, it seemed like there might be a bit more to the relationship. “He started becoming a regular at the house and would come over for dinner,” said Petrasek. “I didn’t know if he liked me, but he says he knows I didn’t like him in the beginning.” Puzio made his intentions clear when they went out to dinner at Osaka on Market St. “That was kind of our first date,” said Petrasek. “We just laughed and laughed and laughed. That’s when I knew I liked him.” However, before their relationship could progress, Petrasek had to cut ties with the man she was currently seeing. “It was in my Jeep when she broke up with him,” laughed Puzio. “I always liked her from a long time ago. She was the one that got away,” he continued. “I thought I’d never see her again. So much time passed and so much stuff happened between then and now.” Puzio and Petrasek officially became a couple on April 1 of that year. Towards the end of 2008, Puzio began to think about spending the rest of his life with his former classmate.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“My head was going to explode, I had so many ideas,” he explained. “I had the ring, but I held out for a while. It’s like a ticking time bomb when you hold one of those in your hand. You want to make it elaborate, but sometimes it doesn’t work. You want to do a surprise, but that might not work.” Puzio even went as far as carrying the ring around for a week in the city, unsure of when to propose. On Nov. 20, 2008, he finally settled on a suitable location. “He met up with me and some friends for happy hour,” she recalled. “He was acting really strange. They’re like, he’s acting really cold tonight.” The couple took the bus back to Clifton together, stopped at Petrasek’s house and then went to get his car at the train station near the Board of Ed building. “It was so cold that night and I was already in my pajamas,” said Petrasek. “We get there and start talking around 10 pm. Ten turns into 10:15, to 10:30 and I’m like, ‘Alright Paul, let’s go.” Puzio left to warm up his truck and returned with a large, blue box. “We’re sitting there in this little Volkswagen Beetle and I’m in my pajamas and I just say, ‘Oh my God, is this for real?” she said. “He has tears in his eyes and he goes,

‘Carebear, I love you, will you marry me?’ and I said yes.” The moment was so sweet that Petrasek wanted to relive it twice. “She got out of the car and said, ‘You have to ask me on one knee,’” laughed Puzio. “So I got out and we did it again. I slept like a rock that night.” The two immediately went to Pretrasek’s house to share the news. “I said, ‘Dad, did he ask you?’ and he said, ‘No, he told me!’” she said. “He went in to ask him the day before and walked out before I saw him.” With the most nerve-racking step of marriage out of the way, Puzio can focus on the actual event, which will take place on July 10, 2010 at the Olde Mill Inn in Basking Ridge. The young couple’s biggest problem now is trying to find a place to live. A home requires a significant down payment, and if they were to rent, they’d need to find a landlord who will accept their pug, Tank. And since both work in New York City, their residence must be within a reasonable commuting distance. It’s made the search difficult, but the couple doesn’t seem to mind. “We’ll do whatever is going to work with our situation,” said Petrasek. “But if it wasn’t for working in the city, we would have never reconnected.”

Thank you Clifton for the support you have given our Julia and the Young Family

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Engineering a Career Peter Bakarich III is a civil engineer in New York City Story by Jordan Schwartz Peter Bakarich III decided he wanted to be a civil engineer while taking AP Calculus as a senior at Clifton High School. “I thought it was interesting,” he said. “I always had a knack for math so I wanted to see what else was available for me in that field.” So, after graduating CHS in 1999, Bakarich, who is also known at “PJ”, enrolled at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. “I knew they had great business contacts afterwards,” he explained. “It had everything I wanted; I played lacrosse there for a year and it was close to home. It just felt right.” Bakarich, who grew up on Washington Ave. and attended School 3 and Christopher Columbus, also played midfield for the Mustangs lacrosse team, played saxophone in the band and was a peer mediator. In May 2004, the Clifton native received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before venturing out into the real world.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Peter “PJ” Bakarich III today and in his 1999 yearbook picture.

Bakarich got a job at J. Fletcher Creamer & Son, working in the heavy highway construction division down at Port Newark. After a year there, he switched companies to Weidlinger Associates in New York. “I wanted to work in the city and get more design work,” he said. “I was doing more management work before. I work on roadway recon-

struction jobs and do some site work.” One of his projects involved erecting security bollards at all of the local airports. These are concrete pipes that stick out of the ground to control or direct traffic. Bakarich has also done site work for Rutgers University, but most of his work takes place in the five boroughs. The Hoboken resident sees himself staying in the engineering field, but getting into more of the management side. To that end, he is enrolled in a doctoral program in engineering at Columbia University. Bakarich said Clifton’s diversity is helping his professional life. “Working in the city for an engineering company, everyone has different backgrounds, and so CHS helped me get a better understanding of the different cultures that are out there,” he said.

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July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


CHS boys soccer coach Joe Vespignani hosts camp Aug 17-21 at the high school field. The high school boys camp (ages 13-18) is 9 am to noon and costs $135. The teenage girls camp (ages 13-18) is 3-5 pm and costs $100. The co-ed youth camp (ages 3 1/2 to 12) is 5:30-7:30 pm and costs $95. Visit

Donate blood and receive a $20 ShopRite card. The Paulison Ave. ShopRite is sponsoring a blood drive from 1 to 8 pm on July 6. Donors will receive a complimentary gift card and must be 17, weigh at least 120 pounds and be in good health. Call Greg Surgent at 973-471-0868 or visit for details. St. Philip’s Knights of Columbus is holding its Third Annual Golf Outing on July 16 at Farmstead Golf Club in Lafayette. Entry is $125. The K of C Beefsteak follows on July 17 at St. Philip’s auditorium at 7 pm. Tickets are $35. Call Dean Peragallo at 201-452-9303 or e-mail Accordionist Wanted! The De Bellis Music Center alumni orchestra is looking for a new member. Rehearsals are once a month. Call 973-482-9051 or 973-471-5168.

Lady Mustang soccer coach Stan Lembryk’s camp is open to boys and girls ages 4 to 18 years old. The camp will run from July 20 to 24, from 9 am to noon. Coach Lembryk’s assistants include Clifton alumni and U.S. National Team members Chris Karcz and Nikki Krzysik. Registration is $120 and includes a free t-shirt and ball. E-mail

Clifton boys soccer coach Joe Vespignani, third from left, is holding camps this summer. He is joined here by, from left, Liz Kutchar (Asst. Athletic Trainer) Dan Chilowicz, Andy Piotrowski (Boys Freshman Coach), Fred Bido (Boys JV Coach), Rick LaDuke (CHS A.D.) and Art Vespignani (Boys Associate Varsity Coach).

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July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Cliftonite Ernie Miller (above) has launched ITeenNJ, a new multimedia zine that provides print and online resources for teens and parents living in the greater Bergen/Passaic county region. For more info, go to or call 973-707-8317. The Parkinson’s disease support group will meet at Preakness Healthcare Center, 305 Oldham Rd. in Wayne, on July 16 at noon. Mike Patterson of Clifton will be the facilitator at the meeting and neurologist Dr. Louis Chodosh will be the guest speaker. RSVP by calling 973-904-3979 or write to UNICO hosted a Flag Day benefit beefsteak for burn victim Julia Rose Young on June 14. Still recovering in a protected environment at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital, Julia was unable to attend, but her father, Jerry, was present to see about 300 people gather and raise more than $13,000 for Julia’s recovery. The event included dinner, live music by Clifton band Brookwood, a tricky tray and other raffles. Donations can still be made to Julia Young Trust and sent to the PassaicClifton UNICO at 1360 Clifton Ave., Suite 152, Clifton, NJ 07012.

Investors Savings Bank took over the American Bank branch at the corner of Clifton and Fourth Aves. on June 14. Pictured are Nancy Iacobbucci, Branch Manager, and Domenick Cama, Executive V.P., COO of Investors Savings Bank.

One World, Different Music, Song and Dance held its first presentation, “Exploring Africa,” on June 13 at the Clifton Library. The Phenomenal Grandmothers and Colleen Murray designed the event. More than 30 children and adults learned about the changing traditions in Africa. To donate books to a new school being opened in Kenya, call 973-253-9579. The Clifton Stamp Society meets at the Senior Center on the City Hall Complex on July 6 and 20 and Aug. 3 and 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Call 973-470-5956. The First Annual Jimmy Hoey Memorial Golf Outing is July 20 at Greenbrook Country Club in North Caldwell. The CHS student died in 2008 and the monies raised will be used to fund a scholarship in his honor. The day of golf and food costs $250. E-mail The Van Houten Avenue Street Fair is Sept. 13, 11 am to 5 pm. Live music, plenty of entertainment for the kids. Vendors can call 973473-0986 or 973-202-8578.

The Boys & Girls Club 38th annual golf tournament is at the Upper Montclair Country Club on Aug. 3. The 3rd Annual B&G Club Alumni Fundraiser Beefsteak is Nov. 13 from 6:30 to 11 pm. Returning this year will be the induction of Club Alumni into the newly created Alumni Hall of Fame. Call 973-773-0966. The Passaic County 200 Club beefsteak is on Sept. 17 at the Brownstone in Paterson. The Club is an organization of business people, public safety professionals and others who provide financial assistance to the families of emergency personnel who die in the line of duty. Visit Donate school backpacks to St. Peter’s Haven. The 2009 goal is to distribute 350 fully loaded backpacks to the children in the Haven’s programs. Donate by July 15. Call 973-546-3406. Justin Mozolewski, 32 Troop 8 Boy Scouts and friends cycled from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park on May 30 to raise money for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s research fund to fight GIST cancer. July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Show off your Ford at Fette on Rt. 46. The Garden State Region Mustang Club is hosting the Aug. 8 event from 5 to 9 pm. Registration is 5-6:30 pm and the parking lot is limited to 125 vehicles. For more info, call 973-697-8811 or 973875-9615 or visit

CHS junior Emily Urciuoli won the state pole vault title on June 4 with a Meet of Champions record 12-6 jump at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield. She beat out Nicole Pompei of Hanover Park, who set the meet record in 2008.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Jack Kuepfer needs your help. The Clifton resident has spent the past quarter century maintaining Morris Canal Park on Broad St. but graffitti and vandalism is wearing him down. Volunteer (973-473-5176) or donate to Friends of Morris Canal Park, 68 Merrill Rd., Clifton, NJ 07012.

Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin (at left) presents a Clifton Mustangs jersey to NJ Devils’ Goalie Martin Brodeur (center) and Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek (right).

Sign * A * Rama owner Mike Placko (at center) is proud to support the Clifton PBA & the Police Unity Tour

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Clifton Community School Story by Jordan Schwartz Clifton Adult Evening School on Colfax Ave. changed its name on July 1 to Clifton Community School. Historically, the school, which opened in 1964, has always had several missions, which remains true today. One arm is the adult continuing education, which continues to the present time. “Our course offerings are the most diverse that they’ve ever been,” said Director John P. Lopez. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are something that have always been offered. Besides a registration fee, these classes are free to Clifton residents and adults are able to get four hours of instruction per week for 20 weeks out of the year.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

An English as a Second Language class at Clifton Community School.

Child care services are available to ESL parents with school-aged children. Tutoring is available to these students as well.

“Our afternoon program for senior citizens is as popular as ever,” said Lopez. “Seniors get similar classes offered to them in the after-

noon for a substantial discount over the night rate.” Cliftonite George Swaryewski teaches golf at night and piano/organ in the afternoon. Fellow Clifton instructor, Daniel Bouadana, teaches volleyball on Monday and Thursday nights. “His class has a huge following,” said the director. City historian and Clifton Merchant Magazine contributing editor Don Lotz will be teaching a history class this fall. In addition, the school has started before and after child care services on-site at Schools 2 and 13 and it will be expanding to School 3 this fall. Also in the works is a children’s camp for next summer.

Above, the popular volleyball class taught by Daniel Bouadana on Monday and Thursday nights. Below, salsa and other dance classes are also available.

“With the name change, I’m striving for more community involvement to prove that learning is lifelong,” said Lopez. He is the sixth director in the school’s history, following Clifford Swisher, Tom Mullins, Robert Starling, Val Mayerzak and Sandra Sroka. “I’d have to credit my predecessors for keeping really good class offerings,” said Lopez. “We have a lot of physical education type activities like yoga and pilates.” For more information on the school, call 973-470-2438 or visit its new Web site at

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The Greater Passaic Old Timers won the 1958 Clifton Midget League championship with a record of 6-0-1. Pictured at Albion Park on Maplewood Ave., from left front row are cheerleaders Betty Henry, Mary Csuka, Scott Bleaken, equipment manager, Cheryl O’Connell, Cindy Bleaken, Cathy Devitt, Linda Babula and Carol Van Dillen. Second row: Larry Babula, Sandy Crawford, Ron Grieco, Bob Csuka, Skip Csuka, Paul Van Dillen, Jack Synnott, Steve O’Connell, John Dewald, Walt Yungenger, James Kenny and Steve Synnott. Third row: Jeff Bleaken, Ralph Eastman, Craig Maher, Fred Henry, Jack Farina, John Ziemba, John Messlehner, Mark Devitt, Rich Kolodziej, Stan Kolodziej, Bruce Blaum, Mrs. Jean Henry, cheerleader instructor, and Ruth Blaum. Fourth row: Coaches Sal Grieco, Barney O’Connell, Olly Henry, Ed Bleaken, Larry Babula, Andy Schimph, Tom Devitt, Mrs. Connie Bleaken, team mother and Steve Synnott. Rosemary Csuka and Dave Kenny were missing for the picture.

Fred W. Henry, pictured above as a child in the third row, fourth from left, passed away last month. Bob Csuka remembers his as “a loyal, compassionate, caring family man.” The Clifton City Picnic is July 4 (rain date July 5) from 12 to 6 pm at Main Memorial Park. Fireworks follow at dusk at Clifton Stadium. The ticket office will open at 7 pm. Downtown Clifton Salsa Night is July 10 at Clifton and First St. and every Friday from 11 am to 6 pm there is a Farmer’s Market, through Oct. 16. The Free Summer Sunday Concert Series at Main Memorial Park is at 7:30 pm. The lineup includes The Teddy’s (July 12), Top of the Hill (July 19), John Somers Dream Orchestra (July 26) and Nick James Amarillo Band (Aug. 2). Call 973-470-5680. 70

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Historic Botany holds summer concerts as well. Friday shows are 6-9 pm in the Sullivan Square Triangle at Parker and Lake Aves. and Saturday concerts are held in the Village Square from 7 to 10 pm. The lineup includes Jimbeau and the Retrocasters (July 10), The Mike Luipersbeck Trio (July 17), Joe Marrero Band (July 24), Tex Doyle and the Country Thunder Band (July 25 and Aug. 28), Chaz DePaolo (July 31) and Matt Roach (Aug. 7). Visit The 7th Annual Clifton Arts Center Free Outdoor Concert featuring the Clifton Community Band is July 11 at 6 pm on the City Hall grounds at the Clifton Arts Center. Bring your lawn chair or blanket. Contact or 973-777-1781.

Eighteen-time Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr returns to Passaic’s Third Ward Park band shell, at Passaic and Van Houten Aves., on July 15 for a free concert at 7:30 pm. Call 973-473-5111. On Aug. 11, 3D Ritmo de Vida, a Latin Grammy nominee, will perform in a free concert at 6:30 pm. The band name derives from the three D’s— dynamic, diverse and danceable— and their music is influenced by salsa, reggae, soca, R&B, gospel and Caribbean rhythms. Parking is available, but bring a lawn chair. Call 973-365-5745. Clifton’s Music Matador Bob Obser can provide a comprehensive list of all free summer concerts in the region. Send $3 (made to Bob Obser) to defray costs at 6 Grant Ave., Clifton NJ 07011-3512.

A Gubernatorial Goal Gary Steele, a 1974 CHS grad, runs for governor Story by Joe Hawrylko Gary Steele has always had aspirations of one day running for governor. And with the given political climate in New Jersey, he believes he can win over voters and bring positive change to Trenton. “We have a Democratic governor that doesn’t appear to be well liked by the state,” he said. “The state is also very hard pressed to elect a Republican governor. As an independent, I’m not holding to either of the parties and I feel this year is right.” Most polls show Governor Jon Corzine trailing Republican nominee Christopher Christie. Some pundits have speculated that Christie’s feuding with Steve Lonegan in the primaries may have soured some voters. However, even with these factors working in his favor, Steele is an independent candidate without much political experience. But that’s something he hopes will work in his favor. “I never ran before this,” said Steele. “This is truly a David

Gary T. Steele stops by the Athenia Veterans Post on Memorial Day. Steele is running as an independent in the upcoming gubernatorial election. Visit his campaign website at

Clifton Memorial Post 347 American Legion Commander Lou Poles • Vice Commander Mike Gimon

The Four Pillars of Our Service • A Strong National Security • Taking Care of Veterans • Mentoring Youth • Promoting Patriotism & Honor July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


vs. Goliath type of race. It’s going to be a very uphill battle. But I don’t have all that baggage that most politicians have.” To overcome the odds, the 1974 CHS grad is turning to his roots for voting support. He’s enlisted help from his brother, Tom, and family friend Doretta Halpern (whose father, Aaron, was principal at CHS) to promote his campaign. “There are some consultants that are offering some advice on how to go about things,” said Tom, a 1975 CHS grad. “But, for the most part, we’re doing it the American way.” Steele lived in Clifton’s Athenia section for nearly 40 years and his family has plenty of history here. His father, Thomas G. ‘Buddy’ Steele, was a Clifton Police Officer for nearly 23 years. Gary is a part of Clifton High’s history, as he helped form its first ice hockey team in 1972. “I can still sing Nine Will Shine Tonight,” Steele said, referring to the School 9 song. the grade school which he attended. “I played Little League ball in Clifton and I was the first president of the Clifton Ice Hockey Booster Club.” He’s counting on Clifton voters, whom Steele hopes will spread the word to friends and family. He’s already started to make public appearances locally.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

The Steele family in 1980 at Buddy and Fern’s 25th wedding anniversary. From left, Nancy, Buddy, Fern, Gary and Tom.

“We just started that. We were down in Clifton for Memorial Day. I marched in the Allwood Rd. parade and stopped at the fire house there,” said Steele. “We also went by the Athenia Vets, which is right down the street from where I grew up.” He is also banking on support from Kinnelon, where Steele has lived since 1996. He hopes to do the same in Montvale, where his tax attorney practice is located. “We’re doing everything—grassroots and, of course, word of mouth,” Steele explained. “We’re just trying to get our message out.” “A bulk of the voters in the State

of New Jersey are unaffiliated. Next is the Democrats and the last is the Republicans,” continued Steele. “If we can sway the independents to vote with me, I can win.” The easiest way to sway those of voting age is to appeal to their pockets. Steele, a self-described social moderate and fiscal conservative, said his top priority is to reduce spending. “It’s the whole state, the direction it’s been going in for the last 15 to 20 years,” he said. “Look at the amount of spending that’s occurring in Trenton. $32 billion in debt they’ve incurred—any dime that comes in goes out.”

According to Steele, the budget shortfall was exacerbated by the unexpected recession. As an entrepreneur, he believes his experience could prevent future disasters. “Career politicians find it more difficult to cut spending because they’ve never had to do that,” he said. “I’ve had my own firm for 19 years now, and when you have down years, you have to cut.” “Governments are afraid that if they save money, they’re not going to get the same amount next year,” Steele continued. “I want to set up a plan with an incentive to save. That’s what this economy is proving—no one is saving for a rainy day.” Steele said that tax cuts are good—and possibly necessary—but the budget trimming must come first. Once that is done, taxes can be lowered to stimulate the economy. “They’re talking about increasing the highest tax rate on the wealthiest residents,” Steele said. “Corzine wants to raise it to 10.75 percent, I believe. That chases people away.” While he acknowledges that the middle class is overburdened, Steel said that a raise on the highest bracket has a trickle down effect that will result in job losses. “I grew up in the shadows of Hoffman-LaRoce,” Steele said. The pharmaceutical giant is in the process of relocating. “How expensive is it to live in San Fran?”

Steele’s ultimate goal is to have the annual budget reduced to $24 billion. It was last at that level five years ago. To get there, sweeping changes need to be made. Steele has a list of items he’d like to see reduced or cut all together. “Over $500 million to the pre schools, and no one in the constitution does it say that the state has to provide pre-school,” he said. “The Feds are not mandating that, it’s the state themselves. Corzine wanted to throw $24 to $25 million more into that this year.” Steele would also like to review the funding for School Development Authority (formerly Abbott Districts. “The Supreme Court ruled that they’re going to get rid of designated Abbott Districts and implement a per student funding plan,” he said. “Last year, numbers for Newark were like $29,000 per student. I read that Mountain Lakes, one of the top in the state, spends $16,000 to $17,000 per student.” Steele’s concern is that state funding never reaches the intended target: the children. He would also like a review of the NJ Schools Development Authority (formerly the Schools Construction Committee), which oversees the allocation of funding and construction of schools. The SCC went bankrupt in 2005 after just give years due to inefficient spending and planning.

“There was $7 billion borrowed without asking voters of the state,” he said. “I’d like to have the Attorney General go after that money and get it back. If you get $2 billion back, imagine how much we can get for building schools?” The theme of accountability permeates throughout Steele’s platform. He wants politicians to be held liable for their decisions and actions without expanding the government. Steele wants voter-approved spending, and funding divided equally. “$8.8 billion a year—55 percent was going to 31 towns,” he said. “If you look at Newark, they probably have more ratables than any other town in the state and they get more money. The whole intent of the income tax in 1976 was to keep a lid or control on real estate taxes,” he continued. “The state keeps pulling money from the suburbs and putting it into the 31 cities.” He would like to also create incentives to invest in green energy for local governments and home and business owners to reduce dependence on foreign oil and create much needed jobs at home. Creative budgeting is needed to escape this mess, and Steele said his experience makes him the best candidate. “It’s getting to the point that when my children finish college, they won’t be able to afford to live here,” he said. “I feel that I can make a difference.”

1376 Clifton Ave., Clifton Richfield Shopping Center • 973-779-TCBY (8229) Daily Flavors: 973-779-3176 July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Midnight Masquerade Theming, staging and then converting a decades-old dark and dank gymnasium into a bright and memorable dance hall is a much anticipated event for the 8th grade classes at Christopher Columbus Middle School. And as in past years, CC art teacher Jeff Labriola and his cohorts of fellow teachers, parents and past CC students did not disappoint. This year’s colorful and fanciful mardi gras theme—Midnight Masquerade—set the stage for a vibrant transformation, much like the 8th graders who are moving on to CHS and other area high schools. Labriola noted that many positive things happen at CC and the students there should be lauded for their diverse accomplishments and contributions to Clifton. On these two pages are photos showing the transformation of the gym by volunteers and snapshots of the rising freshman at the dance on the evening of June 12.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Running for Mom & a Cure Story by Joe Hawrylko “I just felt helpless.” There wasn’t any other way to react when Melinda Coyne heard the doctor’s diagnosis. Her mother, Denise Palmer, had essential thrombocythemia (ET), an extremely rare type of blood cancer in which the body overproduces platelets. Symptoms include hemorrhaging and clots in arteries, which can lead to a wide array of cardiovascular problems and other issues. There is no cure for ET. Instead, doctors simply try to mitigate the symptoms. Palmer started an oral chemo cycle to slow platelet growth and began to suffer throat ulcers. She’s also developed glaucoma and now has mitral valve prolapse, which is making her heart leak blood. Watching her mother’s health deteriorate before her eyes, Coyne felt powerless. Her mother’s fate rested with doctors. But when taking in the mail back in April, Coyne found the means to lend a helping hand in her mother’s battle against ET: Team in Training. “I don’t even know how I got it. Maybe they did a local mailing,” Coyne said. “But it was perfect because I took in the mail and the rest was on me.” TNT is an organization that trains athletes for events that benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Funds go towards leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma research. Coyne, who recently started running again, signed up for a half 76

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Denise Palmer with her daughter, Melinda Coyne. In Oct., Coyne will be running a half marathon in San Francisco for Team in Training to benefit blood cancer research.

marathon (13.1 miles) in San Francisco. The event will take place on Oct. 18. “I was a little nervous when I signed up at first just because it’s such a huge commitment,” said Coyne, a 2003 CHS grad. “I’m going to be spending time outside of grocery stores collecting money. I’m just going to do everything I can.” All participants must raise at least $4,200, 76 percent of which will go towards cancer research (the other 24 percent covers the athlete’s expenses for the event). All donations beyond that threshold go 100 percent towards research. TNT derives its name from the support system used to train athletes. Athletes of varying skill levels are grouped together and rely on one another for support and motivation. Coaches are also on hand to assist in the training and there are seminars for nutrition, health and

injury. Teammates run together weekend mornings. “They increase the mileage every couple of weeks so we accomplish our goal of reaching that endurance level early rather than getting there right before,” she said. “The entire support system is great. There’s people who have done it before and help you any time of day.” Though Coyne has been running at least three miles daily, she has been having difficulties in reaching her goal. Coyne can’t make the early Saturday runs with her team because she closes bar at Pub 17 in Ramsey on Friday nights. The Montclair State graduate has been looking for a job with regular hours so she has time to run, but has been unable to find steady work. She’s also had injury woes, taking about a week off to rest her aching knee.

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


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“I went to the doctor. If I’m running a half marathon, no way I’m going to risk injury,” said Coyne. “But no matter what, I’m running unless I really physically can’t do it. It’s never even crossed my mind to not do it.” For inspiration, each team has a member who survived cancer. “It was sad, because one of the tables had a picture of a 10-year-old boy,” said Coyne. “He was their honored teammate that passed away.”

Want to get involved or donate? Marathons aren’t the only events that TNT has to raise money for cancer research. The organization also offers triathlons, 100-mile century bike rides and hiking adventures. Athletes can pick their event and have a choice from several destinations. Last year, with the assistance of TNT, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society contributed over $71 million towards research for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma. Coyne has currently raised $700, just 17 percent of the required amount. She aims to raise $6,000. Corporate sponsors are also needed for the events and the TNT website, To donate, visit Coyne can also be reached by e-mail at

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Feature is optional and subject to terms and conditions. Available in select states now and in most states by 1/31/06 (subject to regulatory approval where required). Deductible Rewards apply to collision coverage.Allstate New Jersey Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Home Office, Bridgewater, NJ © 2009 Allstate Insurance Company.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

The biggest inspiration was Mother’s Day, when Palmer learned of her daughter’s plans. “It was one of those really good moments. I had to stand there and read it to her,” Coyne said. “She had tears in her eyes but she was happy and so thankful. It just completely caught her off guard.” That’s all the motivation Coyne needs to make sure she reaches her physical goal. Finding donors is proving to be more difficult. Her uncle, Bob Vogel, got some coworkers to pitch in as well. She’s received money from strangers, including one generous donation of $100 and an inspirational letter. With the amount of support she’s received already, Coyne hopes to raise at least $6,000. She’s received money from friends, including Theresa Van Ness and Sean McElhinney, who will be cheering her on in the Golden State. But when she crosses the finish line, Coyne’s biggest fan will be at home due to health and financial constraints. However, Coyne knows that her efforts will be appreciated— and not just by her mother. Each exhausting step means one more life might be saved. “When I got that letter in the mail, I immediately thought of her,” she said. “She was my main inspiration for joining.”

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Rich and Susan Van Blarcom celebrated 30 years of marriage on June 2.

Amanda Di Angelo . . . . . 7/3 Ray Merced . . . . . . . . . . . . 7/3 Herbert Schwartz . . . . . . . .7/4 Chris Torrao . . . . . . . . . . . . .7/4 God Bless America!. . . . . .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

Congratulations to CHS grad Giovanna Modola who also celebrated her 18th birthday on June 14.

Birthdays & Celebrations! send us your dates and names...

Carol and Bob Van Der Linda were wed 58 years on June 10.

Angelo Grippo . . . . . . . . . 7/7 Edward Sepulveda . . . . . . 7/7 Jenna De Liberto . . . . . . . 7/8 Joyce Sunshine . . . . . . . . . 7/8 Kristi Schopfer . . . . . . . . . 7/10 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 Kaitlin Vinciguerra . . . . . . 7/22 Harry Quagliana . . . . . . .7/23 George Shamar . . . . . . . 7/23

Congratulations to Anna and Edward Smith who celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on July 5. Also, best wishes to Anna whose birthday is July 25. 80

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Kayla Lord . . . . . . . . . . . . 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 Stephen Camp, Sr. . . . . . 7/30 Mary T. Mancin . . . . . . . . 7/30 Frances Greco . . . . . . . . .7/31

Herbert ‘Poppie’ Schwartz celebrates his 86th birthday on July 4.

Happy Birthday to Marie Angello on July 3.

Happy 70th Birthday to Joyce Sunshine on July 8.

Maggie DiMolli graduated Alliant International University, in Fresno CA, on June 5 with a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology.


July 2009 • Clifton Merchant


From the ‘Only in Clifton’ file of...

True & Amazing Tales Coach Vandy’s ashes spread at Clifton Stadium: Robert Zeke Knight and I took Gilda Vander Closter to dinner on May 30, when she asked us to fulfill Coach Vandy’s request to have his ashes spread on the Mustang football field. Zeke and I said it would be an honor and on June 1, we ventured into the stadium around noon.

It was very surreal because no one was in the stadium except the two of us. We said a few prayers and then spread some good luck ashes from a great legend of CHS football. Coach had also requested that half of his ashes be spread at Wallkill Golf Course, a public course in Middletown, NY, where he had been club president and had

John Saffioti’s

Artfully Pouring Stella on Tap The glory years and life of Mustang Coach Bill Vander Closter, who died March 26, 2007, was profiled in our Sept. 2005 edition. Just a few weeks ago on June 1, two of his former players scattered his ashes at Clifton Stadium.


A Great, Affordable Place for Drinks & Good Food Dear Friends, I proudly invite you to Clifton’s most charming tavern. Our draft beers are ice cold and always cpoured perfectly. You’ll find a nice sele e tion of wines and we serve delicious hom very a in es wich made dinners and sand stclean and meticulously restored “Po Prohibition Era” building. Plus, if you are planning a party for e any special event—we can accommodat From le. peop private parties up to 50 drinks to food, I’ll work with you to create an affordable and memorable affair. We’re on a one way street so to get here take Pleasant or Sade St. off of Van ing Houten. I think you’ll enjoy an even at Heart of Athenia... John Saffioti

Major Credit Cards Accepted 82

July 2009 • Clifton Merchant

several holes in one. Gilda and their daughters handled this tribute in mid-May. Because Coach had three daughters, he unofficially adopted three boys, Dr. Robert Amoruso, Knight and myself. Bob played in 1963, Zeke in 1958 and I graduated in 1957 before being inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame. All three of us were lifeguards for Coach at Bubbling Springs Lake in West Milford, a favorite Clifton hang out. In a final testament to his generous spirit, Coach had his body left to science, and that explains why the delay in scattering his ashes. Now I ask Clifton community leaders: since the field is named after fellow legendary Coach Joe Grecco, should we not name the fieldhouse in honor of Vandy? David ‘Moose’ Bosson, CHS ‘57 on behalf of Mustang players & fans

July 2009_cover from TEMPLATE


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July 2009_cover from TEMPLATE

Tomahawk Promotions 1288 Main Avenue Clifton, NJ 07011


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