Clifton Merchant Magazine - March 2015

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Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Planning Ahead

What’s Inside? 12 Beata Embraces Her Mentor Student, Mom, Friend at St. John Kanty

20 Ashworth Walks the Line With a Fondness for Following the Rules

24 Inspired by Homcy Place Our June edition will celebrate Clifton residents of the High School Class of 2015. Our July edition will focus on Mustangs who graduated 05, 95, 85, 75, 65, 55 and maybe even 1945!

Priestly Journey From Botany Village

32 Remembering the Great Ones Readers Recal Their Favorite Teachers

46 Coaching is Teaching Wrestling Coach Dan Geleta

52 Fighting Mustang Coaches The Search is on for Number 20

70 On the Junior Bowlers Tour Eight-Year-Old Keggler Sam Zwiebel

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Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Paul Lechthaler at Passaic High School in 1971 and his teacher Gale Motaski who graduated CHS in 1963. At right today with Gale’s husband Bob Perkowski.

In Momma Mo’s Classroom... Chaucer Came with a Dose of Reality By Irene Jarosewich The teachers we remember are the teachers that care. Care not only about the subject they teach, but care about us. That’s what Paul Lechthaler remembers most about his Passaic High School English teacher Gale Motaski— or Momma Mo as she was known to the students who loved her. “She was strict but always fair. She took no guff,” said Lechthaler, who grew in Dutch Hill but on the Passaic side of neighborhood, making him an Indian. “Her lessons were not just about English, but also about life.” Motaski shakes her head in agreement. “We do a big disservice to kids when we don’t demand respect as teachers. We’re here to teach them, not to be their friends. Their job is to learn, and we are to be their guides.” A resident of Clifton from childhood, Motaski now lives with her husband Robert Perkowski – Dr. Bob to his students at Passaic High - in the house in Athenia where she grew up and lived with her parents. Both Motaski and Perkowski are teachers, and theirs is a 39year marriage and partnership dedicated to education, including the time when Bob was appointed to the Clifton Board of Education, serving six years. “It was sometime during Gloria Kolodziej’s term as mayor, so not that long ago,” laughs Gale. Kolodziej actually served as mayor from 1982-1990. 6 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

A Gale-sized Personality Motaski’s parents planned to name her Janet. “Except that I was born during a hurricane, so my father decided to call me Gale.” She began teaching at Passaic High School soon after she graduated Farleigh Dickinson University in 1967. Earlier she had gotten a certificate as a hairstylist from Capri Institute in Downtown Clifton, a skill that helped pay her way through college. “It’s also the skill that probably got me the job at Passaic,” she laughs again and explains: “I was hired to teach English and beauty culture. They probably could have found another English teacher but not one that was also a professional hair stylist.” Those were the days when a high school education was more comprehensive and included vocational training. High schools offered machine shop, and home-ec, and typing, classes that taught you skills so that you could also find employment after graduation. “College is not for everybody,” said Motaski, “back then, high schools helped prepare you for jobs, for the real world. It’s a shame that we’ve lost that.” Her husband Bob understands this really well since he joined the teaching staff at Passaic High School in Sept. 1960, a member of the Industrial Arts department, a department that no longer exists.

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


He left the high school in 1974 to head up a K-6 program “Technology for Kids” and returned to Passaic High School in 1988 to chair the Science Department. Along with Gale, he retired in 2010, after 50 years of teaching. “I knew about Gale even before we met,” he remembers, “I overheard kids in my shop classes talking about her. Tough, but fair, that’s what they said about her, tough but fair.” “She taught you that actions have consequences,” said Lechthaler, “if you brought her an excuse about not doing your homework, or finishing a report, her favorite line was…” “Obviously you have confused me with someone who gives a damn,” said Motaski finishing his sentence and giving us “the look.” “That’s it,” hoots out Lechthaler, pointing to Motaski’s face, “that’s ‘the look’!” All students knew that Momma Mo meant business when she gave you “the look”.

Motaski also taught cosmetology.

Living Under a Rock She admits to being “a bit of a ham” in front of her students, adding “come on, how else will you get them to pay attention to Canterbury Tales?” and what she will admit to the most is that she cared about her students deeply, not just about their grades, but she wanted them to be decent people. As one of her former students said about her, “She constantly informed us that we lived under a rock and that school was simply schooling us, not educating us. She spent most of the

class telling us stories about her life that somehow always seemed to end up with us learning more about the text, or a concept, or about life in general. There was also her ability to, without speaking, completely get across her point that she expected us to act like civilized human beings, not hormonal, brainless high school kids, and matters of etiquette were unofficial law in her classroom. She showed us how the different "classes" (history, science, English, math) were linked together. Her class was probably my most educational class. Not just because of the subject matter, but because of everything she taught besides the subject matter.” Her students understood, noted Motaski, that when she said that when she said they were living under a rock that she meant that they were oblivious to what life was like beyond their own world. By weaving in stories from her own experiences, what it was like growing up during World War II, or having a father who worked at Manhattan Rubber in Passaic, at one time the largest rubber supplier in the United States, or the importance of always being ready to work, she was weaving together history and economics and politics and offering perspectives and parallels between modern reality and some of the reality found in literature from the past. Commitment Counts Both Petrowski and Motaski feel that nowadays it would be hard to be the kind of teachers that they

8 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


were, to have a 50-year (Bob) and 43year (Gale) teaching career, much less in the same school. They fervently believe that the modern-day animosity towards teachers is actually most detrimental for the children. “We were committed to the children, and they sensed that. Kids are smart. They tried to live up to our expectations. Nowadays, when teachers don’t have job security, if they could be gone in five years, if 25 years of experience is used as an excuse to get rid of you so that someone younger, and at a less expensive salary, can get hired, then the kids know that they are not number one, their education is not the priority,” said Gale. Teachers are less likely to be committed to them, to the community because they could very well be gone in a few years. Motaski and Petrowski are enjoying retirement, between Clifton and their second home in nearby upstate New York. And with decades of teaching experience, they’re always running into former students. It makes

Paul Lechthaler wrote: Gale Motaski was a tough no excuses, no BS type of teacher. She ran her classroom like the real world. Mo equated being late or unprepared for class with being late and unprepared for work. Be there, properly attired, shirt tucked in, groomed and ready to learn. She permitted you the latitude to be an individual in class, but called you on it when you pushed the boundaries. Nothing was really out of bounds. I did a book report on Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal this Book” Was she easy? No! Did she expect respect? Yes! Made learning fun? Yes! She even made Canterbury Tales tolerable! My two wishes are that my son, a sophomore at Nutley HS has a teacher like her somewhere in his academic future; and that she enjoys her well-deserved retirement. My neighbor had her as a teacher 20 plus years after I did, and has the exact same opinion of her as I do. Then again I do not have to say that, because she always said “Momma Mo knows…” Love ya Momma Mo.

her day, says Gale, whenever she’s standing in line at a supermarket, or wherever and all of the sudden she hears “Momma Mo, it’s so good to see you! Do you remember me? I had you for twelfth grade English!”

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Clifton Merchant • March 2015


After 24 Years,

Beata Embraces A Tough Teacher By Michael C. Gabriele It took Beatrice Rybak-Petrolle 24 years to realize that Jean Czerniecki was her favorite teacher—a dedicated educator who had the greatest impact on her life. Beatrice, who graduated from St. John Kanty Elementary School as an eighth grader in 1975, said she reached that enhanced state of appreciation at a difficult stage in her adult life and only when Jean was a teacher for Beatrice’s two sons, Joseph and Michael. Earlier this year, when the two women sat down to be interviewed for this article, the candid and often humorous dialogue between them flowed spontaneously, as they interacted and reminisced about their days at the now-shuttered Catholic School. Both admitted that their student/teacher relationship, during the 1974/1975 school year, was, at best minimal. Jean was Beatrice’s social studies and English teacher. “I remember Beatrice as being a very quiet girl in class,” Jean recalled. “I thought Mrs. Czerniecki was mean,” Beatrice said, flashing her signature smile. “You were hard,” she continued, turning to Jean. “You gave us a lot of work. Your tests were tough.” “I was hard,” Jean concurred, replying with a knowing, unapologetic grin. “I was a demanding teacher. I gave my eight graders high-school level work. As students, you were in school to learn something. As a teacher, you have to set your standards high. I thought it was important to give students a full understanding of a subject—outside the book.” At one point, the convivial banter came to a surprising, momentary pause, when a long-hidden truth was revealed. “Beatrice was quiet, but she had big beautiful eyes and pretty smile,” Jean said. “All the students liked her. 12 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

I was the teacher who nominated her as the May Crowing Queen.” “That was you?” Beatrice said, astonished by the remark. “I never knew that!” The May Crowning is an annual Catholic tradition, a devotion that honors the Blessed Virgin Mary as “the Queen of May”—a Marian celebration that proclaims the mother of Jesus as “queen of heaven and earth.” It’s typically a major event for Catholic schools and being selected as the May Crowning Queen is considered a big honor. Jean then produced a copy of “Horizons ’75,” the St. John Kanty school yearbook, and read the quotation below Beatrice’s picture. “Always wide-eyed and experimenting…willing to care for others…a future model…cute smile.” A Marvelous Profession Following her years at St. John Kanty, Beatrice went on to Pope Paul XI high school and graduated in 1979. She briefly attended Rutgers Newark University. Eventually she married and worked at Novartis

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Pharmaceutical in East Hanover for 15 years. She lost her job in 1996 due to a company downsizing and reorganization. During this period Jean was a teacher for Beatrice’s two sons and the two women would “occasionally bump into each other” around town. “I never really appreciated Jean until she was a teacher for my sons. That’s when I got to know In 1975, Beata bottom left and Mrs. Czerniecki in the center of the second row. her. I never realized how much she went out of her doctors or lawyers. As a teacher, you have to be very way for her students. I started to understand how much observant of a student’s learning abilities. Everyone she cared about teaching. I could see how she influlearns at a different pace. You always have to be positive enced a lot of lives.” with students. It takes a lot of work and preparation to “Teaching is a marvelous profession because you can be a great teacher. There’s no greater joy than to see the have such a positive influence on your students,” Jean expression on a student’s face when they grasp the subexplained. “If it wasn’t for teachers, you wouldn’t have ject matter or solve a problem.”

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Encouragement Jean frequently stayed late at St. John Kanty, often until 9 p.m., reviewing curriculum, working with students and providing extra help. It was one late night in 1999 when Beatrice approached Jean at the school. That year Beatrice decided it was time for her to go back to college and finish her degree, and so Mrs. Czerniecki’s 4th grade class in 1999. Front from left: Michael Tanayan, Ashton Sroka, she enrolled at Felician Adam Bajek, Darrel Soto. Second row: Alymarie Nipal, Danielle Nebesnak, Tammy Love, Ayushi Desai, Laura Petrillo, Briana Zygadlo, Lauren Fitzgerald, and Jacqueline Zygadlo. College in Lodi. Third row: Francine Montalvo, Shirley Romero, Isabel Gomez, Mark Sieczka, Monica Ostensibly, Beatrice Bielecki, Tiffany Pena, Rima Shastri, Amanda Zliceski, Allison Genao. Fourth Row: wanted to reconnect with Christopher Bednarz, Charles Kruplea, Jr., Ravi Shastri, Tadeusz Zubek, Michael Jean to get feedback on Niebrzydowski, Danusha Sanchez, Joseph Karcz, Deanna Giordano. some writing assignments. once or twice a week, discussing life and writing assignHowever, when pressed, she confessed that there was a ments. Beatrice showed her appreciation by bringing deeper reason for seeking out Jean’s advice. She, too, flowers to Jean. On more than one occasion they cried needed some “extra help” at that stage of her life. together. “Encouragement,” Beatrice admitted. “I was really Beatrice, while she was a part-time student at looking for encouragement. I needed to know that I Felician, divorced in 2001. She pursued her degree, could do this after being out of college for so many “one course at a time,” and graduated with honors in years. I felt uncomfortable being in the classroom. Most 2007. One year later tragedy struck as her older son, of the students were younger than me, so I felt out of Joseph, died at the end of his freshman year at Mount St. place.” The two women, despite a somewhat distant relaMary’s University, Emmitsburg, MD. Her younger son, tionship 24 years earlier as student and teacher, suddenMichael, recently graduated from Berkeley College, ly bonded in a profound way. It was a long-overdue conWoodland Park. nection. Following that initial meeting, they interacted

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Beata the Activist In the ensuing years, Beatrice became involved in Clifton’s political and civic affairs. Her community activism started when she took part in a protest over the closing of Firehouse 2. She then became an advocate to improve sewer lines on Roland Ave.. She ran for city council in 2014, finishing in 13th place with 2,231 votes in a field of 15 candidates. She vowed to run again in the next city council election. She’s also active in the St. Philip the Apostle Knights of Columbus Council 11671.

Born in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, Beatrice—her given Polish name is Beata—came to the United States with her parents when she was three years old. Originally, the family landed in Boonton, then moved to Passaic, and then Clifton. Beatrice entered St. John Kanty as a third grader. Today she works as an account executive for a cosmetic company in Clifton. Jean retired from St. John Kanty in 2002 at age 65. In addition to teaching English and social studies, she served as vice principal. Three years later St. John Kanty closed its

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doors due to a trend of declining student enrollment. She graduated Passaic Valley HS in 1954 and went on to earn her teaching degree from Montclair State College in 1958. She accepted a teaching job at Passaic Valley, where she met her husband, Eugene Czerniecki. After teaching for two years, she had the first of her four children, Brian, followed by Susan, David and Jeanna. She returned to education and became a substitute at St. John Kanty and in 1970 accepted a fulltime position and became a teacher for her three youngest children. Ten years later her husband passed away, but despite her loss she continued to be dedicated to the school. From her own perspective, Jean Czerniecki weighs the success of her teaching career by the many students that have gone on to become teachers. Measured by this yardstick, many former pupils, no doubt, would cite her as their favorite teacher. Her own children are stellar examples of her ability to inspire: Brian is a surgeon; Susan an architect; David works for a financial firm; and Jenna is a principal in the Rutherford school system. “I’m always amazed to hear about how successful my students have become,” she said. “Today, when I see my former students, they come up to me and say: ‘I remember how much you helped me.’ What satisfaction!” Satisfaction, indeed. All things considered, this was a most gentle, genuine, and dignified way to sum up a distinguished career—an honest, heartfelt reflection by Beata’s meanest, toughest and most encouraging teacher.

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Ashworth’s Philosophy: Make it Fun Not The Most Profound Thought, But The Most True By Irene Jarosewich “When I was just starting out on my road to becoming a teacher,” reflects Kevin Ashworth, English teacher at CHS, “I took a class called ‘Teaching as a Profession.’ The first thing the professor asked was ‘what is your educational philosophy?’ I didn’t have any experience in teaching, and didn’t have an educational philosophy, so I made up something that I thought would sound good. What I came up with was ‘make it fun.’” Ashworth quickly realized that “make it fun” was not exactly a deep or profound philosophy. Nonetheless, he has held true to his first instinct. “In order to have children learn, I was determined to From left, Billy Gibson, Mr. Ashworth, and Ashley Parsons. make the learning so much fun that they erature. Clifton High School has a novel-based curricuwould not realize that they’re learning. And now, after lum and Ashworth has discovered “that I absolutely love 13 years of teaching, I still infuse my teaching with this teaching George Orwell’s’ 1984. I find that 1984 gets philosophy daily.” my students to get beyond just reading and to actually A lifelong Totowa resident who lives there now with think.” wife Daniella and children John, Cassy and Ben, Ashworth has also been associated with Clifton his Most Influential entire life. His mother Kathleen (Farrell) graduated Ashley Parsons, CHS Class of ’08, acknowledges CHS Class of ’59, and Ashworth attended Paul VI High Ashworth as one of the most influential people in her School on Valley Rd. before going to William Paterson life. “I can say comfortably that freshman year of high University. He has been teaching English at CHS since school was the peak of my social awkwardness and, as 2001. a result, I wasn't exactly the most enthusiastic student in “I was hired one week before the 2001-02 school CHS. I was the type that always sat towards the back of year started,” said Ashworth, “and was broken into the classroom so I could finish my work and ‘rest my teaching when a week after my first day, the country eyes’ a bit...until eighth period -- English. experienced the worst attack on US soil since Pearl “However, from the very start of the year,” she conHarbor: 9/11. Now that’s what you call a way to cut tinued, “Mr. Ashworth got a kick out of calling on me. your teeth on a new job.” I'll be honest, I resented him for it. But as the months Over the years, Ashworth has taught everything in went on, I realized that he didn't enjoy picking on me; the English department from alternative education to he saw that my brain's gears were constantly turning Honors classes. Recently he has taught English IV behind that sleepy face. College Preparatory classes, which focus on British lit20 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant


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“He was the first person to encourage me to write, and the free-writing journals he allowed me to submit for class did nothing short of change my life. Nearly 10 years and an English degree later, he is absolutely the one person I have to thank for all that my writing endeavors have provided for me. He managed to be one of those most influential people I've ever met, even after spending only 45 minutes a day is his classroom. That kind of dedication is something that all teachers should have.” Beyond the Classroom Part of the job of teaching is to broaden your student’s horizons, to make them better people. “My classroom has a few rules, those relating to honesty and respect play a major role, but probably my most important rule is this: form an opinion and then back it up. This rule forces the students to become thoughtful with what they believe.” He also brings his own personal experience into the classroom. For 10 years, between 1985 and 1995 he was a “Dead Head” – part of the loyal group of fans that followed the rock group Grateful Dead around the country,

traveling to concerts that were often multi-day events. He is also a big fan of athletics, having been a lifeguard and swimming instructor when he was younger, and is now the site manager for the CHS hockey team, as well as being heavily involved in youth soccer leagues in Totowa and nearby Morris County. Billy Gibson, currently a senior at CHS, says that “not only was Mr. Ashworth supportive in the classroom, but he was also supportive in attending all my hockey games. I had Mr. Ashworth as a sophomore for English. He had this easy, laid-back type of personality that made me want to listen and learn. It wasn’t robotic or repetitive or boring. He made the class fun. He made it real. I thank him for being a great role model.” “At the end of the day,” notes Ashworth, “I have further found that by showing genuine concern for a student’s well-being beyond the classroom, a student is much more apt to learn in the classroom. I think about the way it was for me in high school and remind myself that I was the same then, as the students of Clifton High School are now. I had the same hopes, dreams, and fears.”

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Inspired BY Homcy Place Steve Shafran Answered His ‘Call’ to the Priesthood By Michael C. Gabriele

Spiritually speaking, Homcy Place was, is and always will be at the core of Fr. Steve Shafran’s heart and soul. Flanked by Nash Park, the Passaic River and Botany Village, Homcy is the street where Fr. Steve absorbed the essence of the Ukrainian culture, and gained a strong sense of community, purpose, faith and family values. All of his hometown experiences will continue to fortify him as he prepares to serve as provincial superior of the Eastern US Province of the Salesians, the Catholic order of Religious and lay people, headquartered in New Rochelle, NY. The post is a major leadership position in the Salesian order and Fr. Steve begins a six-year term of service on July 1. Much like a diocesan bishop, Fr. Steve will have responsibilities for overseeing ministries, business decisions and supporting the lives and work of the Salesian Religious and lay associates. 24 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

The Old Neighborhood Fr. Steve was born at Passaic General Hospital in 1956 and lived in Passaic until 1959 when his parents moved to 19 Homcy Pl. “The Botany neighborhood was one big family,” he said. “It was a real community where everyone mingled and knew each other.” The diverse enclaves included Ukrainian, Italian, German and Polish immigrant families. “ His parents, Steve and Olga (now deceased) owned a luncheonette at the corner of Highland and Barbour Avenues. His favorite places in Botany included Dayton Chocolates, Dayton Restaurant, various dairy stores, two shops that offered live chickens, Italian specialty delicatessens, Maria’s Raviolis, and Damiano Pharmacy. His parents knew families that frequented “The Coop” (Cooperativa) Italian social club and tav-

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ern in Botany. And, just for good measure, Fr. Steve enjoyed the world-class, All-American delicacies of the nearby Hot Grill. “The Hot Grill’s special sauce still runs in my blood,” he said with a laugh. Damiano Pharmacy, located at the corner of Durant and Parker avenues, in particular, holds special memories as it was the store where, for the first time, he was old enough to shop and buy Christmas gifts for his parents (cologne and perfume). Finding His Voice Fr. Steve’s love of religion, dancing and music came from his family’s involvement in St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Center—both located in Passaic (President St. and Hope Ave., respectively). In addition, he attended St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School in Passaic. The kindness and compassion of the religious Sisters that taught at the school are among his fondest memories from those days. For his high school education, Fr. Steve chose Don

Bosco Prep in Ramsey. He was drawn there, in large part, due to its affiliation as a Salesian Catholic school (part of the Archdiocese of Newark) as well as a number of Ukrainian-American students enrolled there. Encouraged by priests and lay teachers at Don Bosco, Fr. Steve adapted well to his new environment. It was during his high school years that he, quite literally, “found his voice” in music and acting. He loved performing in shows at Don Bosco, but also learned the behind-the-scene skills for producing, organizing and directing musical theater.

Top, Fr. Steve taking his vows in the Ukrainian Catholic (Byzantine right) Church. Above, Steve with fellow 1970 8th grade graduates at St. Nick’s with Very Rev. Mitten Walter Bilynsky, the Pastor of St. Nicholas, an early mentor.

26 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


inspired by the life and work of While at Don Bosco, one of St. Francis de Sales. As a his most influential teachers priest, most of Don Bosco’s was Dr. James Scanlon, a forspiritual life was dedicated to mer principal at the school educating the impoverished who also taught Latin, philosgirls and boys living in the ophy and psychology. “It was slums of Turin, Italy. It was much more than what he there that Don Bosco founded taught,” Fr. Steve explained. the Salesians. He died on Jan. “It was how he taught and the 31, 1888 and 46 years later he rapport he developed with his was declared a saint by Pope students.” He cited Scanlon’s Pius XI. (“Don” as in the name propensity for engaging stuFr. Shafran with Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, former Don Bosco is an abbreviated dents, outside of the classPastor of St. Nicholas UCC on President St. Italian expression for room, in casual, light-hearted “Dominus,” meaning priest.) chit chat as well as serious, scholarly discussions. Studying the life of Don Bosco, Fr. Steve began to see his passion for community theater and working with Answering ‘The Call’ young people in a new light. He realized all of the skills Among the Catholic faithful, there is respectful fascihe had developed in the theater—public speaking and nation for those who receive “The Call” for a vocation performing, teaching young adults, interacting with in the priesthood. The belief is that this a spiritual diverse groups of people, producing and promoting “seed” planted by the Holy Spirit in hearts and minds of events; (and a healthy, down-to-earth sense of humor)— men to consider a lifetime of service to the Church. For were gifts he used to support others, allowing them to those that answer The Call, there are periods of discernexpress themselves on stage and in life. ment, followed by intensive study at a seminary, and Following this moment of illumination and after finally ordination. graduating from Don Bosco Prep in 1974, he entered the Even at a young age, Fr. Steve had thoughts regardSalesians’ formation program at Don Bosco College ing the priesthood. “The priest that was inspirational to Seminary in Newton, NJ. He was admitted to the semime at St. Nick’s was Fr. Walter Bilynsky,” he said. “I nary’s novitiate on Aug. 31, 1975. (A novitiate is a forwas an altar boy with him for many years. There was a mal period of discernment for “novices” contemplating seed of a vocation there (for me), but it remained somelife in the priesthood.) One year later, on Sept. 1, Fr. what dormant and left me in the 8th grade and into high Steve made his first profession of religious vows. school as I ‘spread my wings’.” He said Fr. Al Fr. Shafran was ordained on May 5, 1985, at DiCairano, a Salesian priest at Don Bosco Prep, helped Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Cathedral in to reignite his thoughts on The Call. Philadelphia. He did graduate studies at the University He enjoyed his years at Don Bosco and continued to of San Francisco and garnered a doctorate in education pursue his passion in community theater and music. He in 1994. His dissertation was titled: “The Educational also volunteered to do outreach work at summer youth Method of St. John Bosco as School Culture in the camps organized by the Salesians. While he was workSalesian High Schools in the United States.” ing at the summer camps, Fr. Steve began to study the He currently serves as the president of the Don Bosco life of John “Don” Bosco, the founder of the Salesian order. Cristo Rey High School and Corporate Work Study Giovanni (John) Bosco was born to a farming family Program in Takoma Park, MD. In 2006 he organized the on Aug. 16, 1815 in the European kingdom of Sardinia. founding of the school in collaboration with the He was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1841, Archdiocese of Washington DC, which co-spon28 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

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sors the school with the Salesians. Don Bosco Cristo Rey is one of 25 Cristo Rey high schools through the country. The Son of Ukrainian Immigrants This year, Fr. Steve, who celebrated his 59th birthday on Feb. 22, will mark his 30th year as a priest. He also noted two major anniversaries for the Salesian order in 2015: the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth; and the 100th anniversary of Don Bosco Prep. When time permits, he still enjoys singing at public functions. He has recorded two CDs: “Songs That Inspire My Life” and “A Christmas Collection.” Proceeds from CD sales have gone to support Salesian programs. When he visits Clifton, Fr. Steve always takes time for a sentimental walk through Botany Village. His sister, Dorothy Miller, still lives in Clifton. She and her family are members of St. Philip the Apostle Parish on Valley Road. His brother, Terry, is a resident of Landing, a town located in Morris County. His dad, Steve, was born in Pittsburgh to Ukrainian immigrants. The family moved back to Ukraine for several years, then returned to the United States prior to the outbreak of World War II. Fr. Steve’s dad was drafted into the Army and served with distinction in the war’s European Theater, where he earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. After running the luncheonette in Botany Village, Fr. Steve’s dad took a job at Clifton’s old Athenia Steel plant, where he worked during most of the 1960s and 1970s. Olga, his mom, was born in Ukraine. She and her family were forcibly moved to German labor camps during the war years. After the war, Olga came to the

At his 3rd birthday party with his parents in the back of the Botany luncheonette where the Shafran’s lived. Also pictured are two unidentified neighbors.

United States and lived in “Little Ukraine,” which was a neighborhood in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It was there she met her husband through mutual friends. Fr. Steve issued a statement via the Salesian communications office, following his appointment as provincial superior. “God writes straight with crooked lines in our lives. I am humbled by this call to a deeper service as a Salesian of Don Bosco. I’m the son of Ukrainian immigrants who knew suffering and sacrifice, taught me hard work, and to never forget God.” (Editor’s note: Special thanks to Father Michael Mendl of the Province Communications Office, Salesians of Don Bosco, New Rochelle, who provided background material for this article.)

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Through our Facebook page, in emails and through interviews, readers exchanged memories of teacher and mentors. We followed up through emails and by telephone, through personal contacts and social media. Some comments are from for-

mer residents now living out of town while others are from those still residing here. Thanks to all who took the time to respond. As you will notice some are in our readers own words and others we have taken the liberty of editing or making into a story.

Religion & Politics in the Classroom Presidential election and she Dean DeGhetto brough history into the classI attended St. Brendan’s gramroom. mar school on Lakeview Ave. The always innovative Sister and Clifton High School. Ellen staged mock Presidential During those school years in debates and provided her stuClifton, I had many good teachdents with insight into the caners, but four of those teachers didates’ positions on key issues stand out for their roles in such as the Vietnam War, preparing me for college and a women’s rights, and environcareer in environmental engimental protection. What a way neering. to tackle the subject. We Sister Francis Catherine, engaged and we loved it. S.C,. was my sixth grade teacher Kenneth Zadoyko was my at SBS. In addition to being a biology teacher and Charlotte stern disciplinarian, Sister Weissberger was my psychology Francis was an excellent math teacher at CHS. From the voluand social studies teacher. minous reading assignments to Sister Francis had a strong Dean De Ghetto today and during the independent study projects knowledge of Latin American high school. Two of his favorite teachto the challenging quarterly geography, having served in ers back at CHS in 1977 were Ken examinations, Mr. Zadoyko and missions in a variety of Latin Zadoyko and Charlotte Weissberger. Mrs. Weissberger empowered American countries. I think it and prepared me for the academwas this personal experience ic rigors that I would face at Rutgers University. that made her such a good teacher. Teachers like Sister Francis, Sister Ellen, Mr. I had Sister Ellen O’Rourke, S.C., for eight grade Zadoyko and Mrs. Weissberger are still among us and social studies. Sister Ellen had a passion for governdespite the often negative things said about teachers ment and politics. It was 1972, and Richard Nixon was today, I celebrate them all. running against George McGovern in the November 32 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Seeing Clearly in Eastside

always had a smile on his face and was so pleasant whenever I saw him. I later saw that he Thomas P. DeVita was never far from his office I had some good experiences with and he frequently walked near teachers but the individual who his wife who also worked there. stands out in my mind (some 50 Later I got involved working years later) is Mr. Joseph Frank. with him on some projects and He was a counselor at Eastside in saw him in a different light. So Paterson in charge of extra curricwhenever you start feeling sorry ular activities. He was a very for your aches and pains or pleasant man always walking small challenges in your life, around and smiling and saying Thomas P. DeVita, Joseph T. Frank in 1964. please think of Mr. Frank who hello. went through life blind, smiling It wasn’t until my second year and happy for the blessings he had—and shared. that I realized he was blind! Maybe it was because he

John Lesler

Billy Gibson Mr. John Lesler was my History teacher for two years and he brought the subject to life. You were able to have debates in his class that everyone would just participate because you can say whatever you want and express your feelings without anyone laughing at you or putting you down. As a CHS Senior, I realize there are so many challenges in today’s society. It is good to hear about different opinions and learn how others face challenges and how to overcome them. He taught us how to express your feelings and how to focus your feelings. Clifton Merchant • March 2015


learned so much from him and I Suzanne Sia was truly lucky to have such a While I graduated CHS in 1983, phenomenal teacher. Mr. Bob Zschack was my bioloMr. Dennis Harding was my gy teacher is 9th grade. At that 10th grade world history time, 9th grade was in the midBob Zschak and Dennis Harding teacher. His favorite sayings dle school and Mr. Zschack was “nothing in life is fair.” I taught our class about genetics. was frustrated by this as a sophomore, but as I got older ‘Til this day, I have a very clear understanding of genes, I remembered his words and realized he was just chromosomes and DNA. His approach in teaching all preparing us for a world outside of our comfort zone. topics was logical and he applied what he was teaching One topic was the Russian Revolution. I was particto everyday life. ularly fascinated by this period. He saw my interest This was the class where we dissected a cockroach, and lent me a book on Nicholas and Alexandra. Their a frog and a pig fetus. Although it was very difficult to lives were fascinating and their deaths...tragic. Mr. dissect these creatures, once again his approach was Harding fed my interest in this topic which has become scientific and clinical. This approach, helped the class a lifelong interest. I still purchase books on this subget past how disturbing these dissections were. My ject and I credit my 10th history teacher with broadeninterest in watching TV shows like CSI are directly ing, encouraging and expanding my horizons. related to my 9th grade bio teacher Mr. Zschack. I

Florida Sunny Dollars for Mr. BelBruno Named class clown in 1970, she laughs, “I remember Terry Braun them because the papers were yellow.” Once a student Practical life skills were what Terry Braun Kronz learned earned a Sunny Dollar, he or she came after school to pay from Anthony BelBruno’s Junior Business Training for the misdemeanor. Each slip of yellow paper had a (JBT) class in 1970 at Woodrow Wilson Middle School. phrase written on it which the student then had to copy a Back then a class like JBT was new technology—the certain number of times. In Terry’s case, “I will not talk,” idea was to give middle school students a basic underwas the Sunny Dollar of choice. standing of how to manage one’s personal finances. With this breezy system of punishment, Mr. BelBruno From managing a checkbook to filing a tax return, JBT was able to earn and maintain the respect of students but prepared students for much more than college. also to enforce order at the same time. “He was one of “That was the one class I actually learned in. And we those teachers that spoke to us on our level, but he also learned some really useful had super control of the class. He stuff,” Terry recalls, some 50 didn’t take any guff. He was years later. Those lessons come tough but we had a lot of fun.” in handy when she pays the Terry graduated CHS in 1973 mortgage or grocery shops — and moved to Boyton Beach on she can easily figure out which the East coast of Florida. Now cut of meat gives you the most retired from a career of selling beef for your buck. However, printer circuits, Terry looks back the most memorable part of JBT on where she came from. “I’ve for Terry were the Sunny Dollar been here longer than I’ve been in detentions that BelBruno gave Clifton, but I will always rememTerry Braun Kronz and Anthony BelBruno. out for talking in his class. ber Mr. BelBruno.” 34 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

year Chemistry teacher. No doubt Diana McKenna one of the most difficult teachers I As a 2014 CHS grad, I had severhad, but when you did well in his al teachers that were exceptional. class, it was a rewarding feeling. Ms. Melissa Kurbansade was my History teacher Christopher fourth and fifth grade teacher at Henry was nothing less than pasSchool 5. Fourth grade was my sionate about his subject matter. first year there and she made me Ms. Daniela Buzzelli, my junior feel welcomed. year Algebra II teacher is a menMy English teacher in WWMS, tor. I feel that her interest and attiMs. Sara Lattavo went beyond her tude towards me opened my mind daily lessons. I wrote short stories to pursuing math as my major in which she always had useful comcollege. She continues to encourments for and encouraged me to age and support me. Her influcontinue writing. ence and guidance is invaluable. English teacher Ms. Susan Mr. Mike Rogers was my hisZarabi was passionate and enthuDiana McKenna with Mike Rogers. tory teacher for three years. siastic about her lessons. She also Additionally, I was on the track team in which he is one shared my interest in Harry Potter. Mr. Rafat Ewais was of the coaches. my geometry teacher and made learning fun. Mr. Mr. Rogers impacted my thought process. His quesJoseph Feeley I think will remain one of my all-time tions pushed his students to think out of the box and we best math teachers even when I include college math had substantiate our responses with clear and concise professors. He taught math in such a way that the communication as well as valid information. “scare” factor was removed. His teaching style supported having a value system Biology teacher Steven Meck discussed current and he let us know how important it is to have one and events relating to biology which made his class and its use it throughout life. topics very relevant. Daniel Chilowicz was my junior

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Alex Mazur Mrs. Friedberg was our CHS computer teacher but she was more like our in-school mom. She has a set of twins at home, Jeremy and Julia so we called ourselves her in-school twins. Eddie and I were close to her on a student level, but after the four years also on a personal level becasue of our unique connection. We were able to to tell her pretty much anything as she was like our in-school mom. I started everyday saying good morning to her and ended everyday in her class saying, Have a good night... an absolutely amazing teacher.

Laurie Friedberg and the Mazur brothers, CHS 2014.

A Teacher Remembers Every year we ask students to give a shout out to the teachers they best remember and admire most. This year we received a response from Genevieve (Gen) Generalli, an outstanding teacher who was featured on the cover of our magazine in 1998. Generalli, now retired, decided that she wanted to give a shout out to students and to the noble profession of teaching. Here are her words... If you can’t do anything else, teach! Bah, humbug! Teach I did, for 30 years, 25 of them at School 14. All I ever wanted to do was teach and it has paid big dividends right to the present day. If you don’t like the profession, get out right now; if it is your thing, be proud of all your daily successes, no matter how small. The students can make your world and you can make theirs. There’s no limit to the good a teacher can do. I have proof positive in my files: the joy of rereading notes, cards, and letters from children, parents, colleagues and administrators. In the classroom, there is no end to the ways you can brighten the day, light those bulbs, amuse, and involve those children as they learn about themselves and the world around them. We kept a poetry box with 3x5 cards on which final copies of poems were written and illustrated by each 36 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

class. I still have this box from the 1970’s. My third graders loved to go through its contents, to find poems siblings wrote, their mothers’ poems, and enjoy the writing of students who came before them. There were science exhibits, invention contests, children winning all kinds of accolades for their endeavors. Brian Berlinski, an auditory-handicapped boy, won a trip to Washington DC to receive a medal for his invention to help the deaf. I had nominated Brian for the medal and on behalf of winners from 37 states, Brian and another boy accepted the medals from the President’s wife. What an honor! But my story is not unique. Teachers everywhere have their own stories to tell. More of these positive points should be covered by our press. Our educators deserve more appreciation, praise, and public acknowledgment of their good works. But accolades do come to us in other ways. We have students who remember us for decades, who tell our adult children what great teachers we were. With some, we have the good fortune to continue friendships as they marry, become parents and send their children our way. Thanks for allowing me the privilege of sharing my heartfelt thoughts with your readers...

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Eventually Sue Ellen underSue Ellen Lian stood that everyone can Perseverance is what Sue Ellen improve and that Mrs. Zarabi’s learned from her CHS English perseverance is what helped her teacher Susan Zarabi. “The to excel at essay writing. teachers that are the most fierce “A professor of mine said and stubborn turn out to be the Sue Ellen Lian and Mrs. Susan Zarabi. that my best quality is that I best. Mrs. Zarabi never gave up, never give up, and I'd like to say one of the influences no matter how much a student resisted,” she remembers. that embedded that quality in me was Mrs. Zarabi,” Sue Ellen found herself rebelling in the face of Mrs. says the 2012 CHS graduate. Now pursuing a teaching Zarabi’s determination to improve her students’ writing degree at Montclair State University, she hopes to teach skills: “If you thought you were a genius when you as “stubbornly and fiercely” as Mrs. Zarabi did, and to walked into her class, she brought you down from your expose unwilling students to the joys of literature. cloud immediately. I was one of those geniuses.” Lisa Ciolino Ambrose

Meg Kostisin Gray

“I had Mrs. Helen Toth in 8th grade at CCMS and loved her. She was the reason I fell in love with chemistry and excelled at it in high school,” says Ambrose, who graduated CHS in 1990. “It was even my first major in college. I still have my notebook from her class.”

Meg Gray remembers the late Mrs. Helen Toth, who taught 8th grade science at Christopher Columbus Middle School. “She had the best one liners. If you yawned she might make you stick your head out the window to “aerate your brain,” wrote the 1990 CHS grad. “If you weren’t paying attention she might call you “density personified!” It might sound mean written here, but the way she said it, you knew she was just having fun with us.”

Kathy Treole Cox

Kristie Dino “Mr. Tony Orlando!! I had him as a gym teacher at CCMS!!! He was the best!!”

“I had a great education in Clifton with lots of great teachers like Mrs. Maryellen Lepkowski from 5th grade at School 9, William Smith (chemistry), Bob Morgan (band), and Laraine Mayewski (theater) at CHS. Lots of great people there,” wrote the 1987 CHS graduate, who works as a speech pathologist out of East Carolina University.

Rachel Christopher Bottaro “I still think of School 2 first grade teacher Paula Mutter even now, 20+ years later,” says the Tobyhanna, PA resident, who operates a crocheting business by night. Christine Labash “Dr. Judith Bookis. I had her at CHS from 1983-1984. Great teacher,” says Labash, who went on to study marketing at WPU after CHS. Christine Gres-Brendel “Mr. Robert Seppentino taught 5th grade at School 1. I still remember the songs we sang in his class,” says the 1981 CHS graduate, who later went on to work at Music Together.

38 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


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Valentine Roses For The Teacher With Heart By Irene Jarosewich

By his own admission, John Luciano was not an ideal student while at CHS, a fidgety guy who preferred moving to sitting. When sitting, he preferred to shake a leg or tap his fingers rather than be still. Part of it was inherent - he acknowledges a certain level of natural hyperactivity - the other part was the tough break for his family. His father died when he was seven and his mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was a sophomore. An only child with no real support network, at 15 he went to work part-time at Ackerman Auto as a mechanic. For a teenager in high school, he carried quite a load. Pretty overwhelmed and with a growing bad attitude, he began his senior year. For morning classes, he had sociology and psychology back-to-back. The classes were held in the North Wing – he even remembers the room number – N112. “The first class was sociology and the teacher was very frustrated with me, always drawing attention to me, sternly telling me to calm down. After that class ended, I stayed in the classroom since the next class was psychology with Mrs. DeLorenzo. “One day she came in earlier and greeted the other teacher. Then she saw me sitting there and said ‘Hi, John!’. The other teacher looked at her and commented sarcastically, ‘Oh, so you have John in your class? Well, 40 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

aren’t you lucky.’ She said this loud enough for me to hear.” Luciano was prepared for the two teachers to begin to commiserate how difficult it was to have him in their classes, that his hyperactivity drove them crazy. “I was sure they were going to jump in on me.” Instead, he heard something else. Janice DeLorenzo, or Miss D as she was called, looked at the other teacher straight up and said “well, if you can’t manage it, that’s your problem, not his.” “I was blown away,” said Luciano, “because not only did she come to my defense, but I thought to myself, ‘She gets it. Plain and simple. This lady gets it.’ I knew she understood. She knew I wasn’t a bad kid, I was a kid with bad circumstances.” Not only is it true that one person can change your life, sometimes it can be just one moment. Thirty years later, Luciano still vividly remembers that moment in Room N112. Respect and Compassion Janice DeLorenzo was in her second year of teaching at CHS when she had Luciano during his senior year. A New Jersey native, she had graduated Montclair University, where she had majored in psychology and obtained her teaching certificates. She later earned an MSW from Rutgers University and now is a practicing psychotherapist, as well.

Back when she was in high school, DeLorenzo had thoughts about becoming a teacher. “I admired many of my teachers who served as positive role models, but could not decide what I would enjoy teaching most. Then after only one class, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in psychology. So, I was overjoyed when it was possible for me to become a high school psychology teacher in Clifton, where I’ve now taught for 32 years.” She remembers Luciano, remembers his difficult circumstances. Her reaction to defend Luciano was not unique to him, but came out of her bottom line for working with all students. “Invaluable lessons that students can be taught include having respect, compassion, and an understanding of and for themselves, as well as for others,” she said. “Another crucial lesson is knowing that success is not determined by one’s circumstances, but responding to those circumstances.” She believes that Luciano did an excellent job turning his life into a positive. More Than A Thank You For Luciano, his teacher’s compassion and respect helped him out not only that one time, but at other times during the year. “We had a big test day in Miss D’s class, but I didn’t study. I showed up and couldn’t answer any-

thing. I put my head down. She came up to me and quietly whispered that I didn’t have to take the test now, but I could take it when I was ready. So eventually, I did and I probably still failed, but it does show what kind of lady she is. And it wasn’t just with me. She was like that with my friends, with everybody.” After he graduated CHS in 1985, Luciano did not forget Miss D. In 1986, he delivered a bouquet of red roses to her on Valentine’s Day as a thank you. “I wanted her know that I knew she had heart and I would not forget that.” He continued to deliver roses for the next few years until one year he began to notice the impact the roses had on Miss D and her students. “By now, she knew that I was thankful, so it wasn’t just that, but it’s something else. By now it was an event. The message was different. The students, the teachers, now paid attention to WHY I thank her, to the importance of her message of respect.” “She gave me many, many better days back then. The least I can do is give her one better day now,” he adds with a smile. DeLorenzo is a low-key person who is not sure that she likes the publicity, but nonetheless deeply appreciates the gesture and the importance of Luciano’s action. “A teacher’s role and responsibility is to encour-

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


In 1988 at Nash Park front row from left: Coach Angelo Intile, John Hanle, Rich Bel Bruno, Drew McTaggert, Owen O’Rourke, Eddie Klimeck, Bob Fasino, Ken DeVita, Edgar Feliciano, Shephen Thomas, Coach Paul Pignatello. Second row from left: John Luciano, John McClain, Mark Tomaskovic, Alan Wilson, Joe Cicenia, Ted Plaskon, Stephen Ramsthaler, Eric McShane, Dan Spreen. Standing: Claudia Mueller and Sherry Spoerry.

age the expression of the various and different characteristics of each student, to create an atmosphere that enables each student to realize their individual potential for success,” said DeLorenzo, “offer a climate of trust to foster a positive attitude and self-confidence and to encourage students to then take risks in both academic and personal settings.” Drive and Motivation Another critical factor in developing a student’s success comes not from the teacher or classroom, but from within the student. That factor is motivation, and while the classroom and teacher can stimulate and influence motivation, ultimately the student must bring it to the table. So, while DeLorenzo is grateful for Luciano’s recognition of her positive influence on him, she feels that his personal motivation, which she notes was quite powerful, needs to be given more of the credit. Luciano remembers that sometime when he was still in high school, he had another AHA! Moment besides the one in Room N112. “We lived in the apartments on Day St., across from 42 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Christopher Columbus Middle School. I used one of the garages to work on cars. Once I dropped a wrench and had to go under the car to get it. When I crawled out and lifted my head, the first thing I saw was our apartment window. Right then and there, out of nowhere, like a flash, this thought came to me: ‘I have got to get us out of here. If I don’t get us out of here, I’m going to be living here with my mother until I’m 90.’ That’s the day I turned my life around.” He continued to work as a mechanic at Ackerman Auto where he was making $10 per hour, a kingly sum for a teenager in those days when minimum wage was $3.35. After graduation, he went to work for a title company, and then began his own print media distribution business. Within five years, he had saved $22,000 dollars, enough for a large down payment on a Cape Cod in Lincoln Park, where he brought his mother to live with him. With her cancer in remission, his mother is a 30year survivor and still lives in the Lincoln Park home. This kind of motivation, noted DeLorenzo, must be encouraged and not stifled by teachers, but still must come from within the student. “I know John

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


appreciates my efforts,� she said, “but it came from him. I didn’t give him his drive. I’m impressed with what he’s done, proud of him and John should be proud of himself.�

younger, also gave him structure and direction. “During the summer, most kids would go away. We couldn’t afford to do that. There weren’t that many kids left to play with. So I played by myself by practicing throwing a Success Comes In All Forms baseball up against a wall.� Those She’s also impressed with how many hours of solitary practice is Luciano gives to the community, what made him good and even for years being involved in Little now, he can still pitch a mean fastLeague and right after high ball. school, with the American Legion DeLorenzo loves to have her Post 8 Summer Baseball Team students return and tell her about that in 1986 went on to the state their small triumphs and large Coach Paul Pignatello championship and won. “Former successes; it is one of the reasons CHS baseball coach Paul Pignatello was also influential that DeLorenzo still enjoys teaching. “For me teaching is in my life,� said Luciano. “In the past, he and I had had a fulfilling and rewarding profession. It is because of the some disagreements. But when I got out of high school impact and influence that my students and I have on each he called me and invited me to coach with him.� other that I continue to love teaching. I am extremely For Luciano baseball was one of the elements of his fortunate to have had a career that would still be my life for which he has a great passion and when he was choice as a profession today.�

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Coaching is Teaching PE Teacher Dan Geleta Grapples With Success By Tom Szieber To Dan Geleta, the most special aspect of coaching is that while sports may not constitute pure, traditional academics, they teach certain life lessons that last forever. Clifton’s 38-year-old head wrestling coach is reminded of that unique quality each time one of his former athletes comes back to the upper gym at Clifton High School—he is reminded that not only does coaching involve teaching, but that coaching is teaching. “One of the most fulfilling parts of this job is that whenever they come in, they say they wish they could’ve spent one more year on the team,” said Geleta, who in his nine seasons at the helm of Clifton has turned the Mustangs into one of North Jersey’s best and most consistent squads. 46 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

“They come in, and they remember that their days as wrestlers were good times, even though they had to work hard. It isn’t always pleasant when you walk in that room, it’s blood and sweat. But they’ve learned that you don’t get anything for free. You have to work hard to achieve your goals.” Team Has Many Working Parts Under Geleta’s tutelage, Clifton wrestling has become one of the most consistent sports programs at CHS, with much of that evolution coming as a result of an approach he picked up in his one and only year as a Mustang wrestler. Before his family moved to Little Falls following his freshman season, he was influenced

heavily by former Clifton coach Ted Levine—who Geleta says he admired due to his visible passion for the sport and the way he treated each and every one of his wrestlers as equally important to the team’s success. Today, Geleta notes that that approach is very much how he looks at his own team. “There might be some names that you hear a lot more often in the newspapers,” he said. “But there are guys like [current upper weight wrestlers] Anaes Allan and Jacob Abill who have improved tremendously in just one year. The same for wrestlers like [lightweight wrestlers] Chris Zaccone and Sean Yadimarco. We need more guys like them. They are going to be the guys who will decide if you have a great season or an average one.” In his time at Clifton, the Mustangs have been far more “great” than “average,” accumulating a 132-55 record (71% win percentage) and the 2013-14 North I, Group IV title. They’ve also won a District XV crown (in 2013-14), advanced to at least the sectional semifinals in each of the past five seasons, and won four From left, Sophomore James Murdoch, Sophomore Kareem Askew, Head Coach Dan Geleta, Junior Patrick DePasque and Junior Moe Farhan.

straight Big North Liberty Division championships. They were just points away from repeating as sectional and district champions this year, as well. Geleta has quietly become Clifton’s latest elite-level coach—a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the New Jersey wrestling community. Last season, he nearly swept Coach of the Year honors from every relevant grantor—winning the The Record, Star-Ledger, District XV and Region IV versions of the award. “In recent years, he has done a tremendous job,” said Passaic Valley head coach Joe Benvenuti. “[His wrestlers] are talented, skilled and hardworking. It is definitely a reflection of Dan. He has really turned the program around. They are competing for titles year in and year out.” He was a Mustang—For a Year Geleta grew up in Slovakia, and began wrestling in the fourth grade. He came to the United States and Clifton in the ninth grade, and was undefeated as a freshman at CHS until tearing his meniscus and missing five weeks of action. When his family moved, he transferred to St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark), where, as a 152-pounder, he took second place in the

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National Prep School CHS), and I liked the atmosWrestling Championships— phere the coaches created for losing 7-4 in the finals to Ty us. I wanted to coach here.” Willman of the Hill School Upon taking over, Geleta (Pa.), who won two prep indihad only three returning vidual titles. starters from the previous He was ranked nationally year’s team, but set the lofty twice at Montclair State goal of turning the Mustangs University, and became a twointo championship contime academic All-American tenders. His first team went before suffering a broken 10-13, but by year two, the back in a car accident and team had improved greatly. missing his senior season. They haven’t had a season After stints at Montclair with more than eight losses Wife Zuzana, Luke and Joseph. Kimberley, Pope John and (or less than 12 wins) since. Bergen Community College, Geleta turned down offers “My staff and I knew we could succeed here,” he to coach elsewhere and became Clifton’s head recalled of the early days. “You start with 3,000 stuwrestling coach in 2006. dents in the building. There must be athletes. Then, “I wanted to teach and coach in the same building,” there are others you are going to recruit and help them Geleta recalled. “Recruiting is very important. You become good wrestlers. You need depth, and that is want to be around your kids and be in a building where what we accomplished over the years. We never forfeit you can promote your program to other students. I also a weight class, because we have so many kids on the liked the camaraderie we had (when I was a wrestler at team that want to compete.”

48 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

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Leadership in Many Forms Geleta also teaches humility to his wrestlers. It is an attribute he practices, as well, as he is quick to shift credit for the wrestling program’s success to his assistant coaches, as well as his family—all of whom bring their own contribution to the program. “Our success would not be possible without [assistants] Fred Hemsey, Jan Kepic and Omar Polanco,” he said. “They all have different roles. Coach Hemsey is like a father figure to our kids. Jan is like a technician with upper body moves, and Omar is a lightweight technician. My wife Zuzana is our biggest fan, and so are my sons, Luke and Joseph.” Over the last several years, his successes as a coach have become most apparent on New Jersey’s biggest wrestling stage—the NJSIAA individual state tournament. In the pre-Geleta era, Mustang appearances in the tournament were few and far between. But more recently, Clifton representation has grown, topping out with seven Mustangs going to the dance last year. According to one of them, junior 138-pounder Moe Farhan, the head coach is as much a reason as any other that Clifton has gained such a presence at Boardwalk Hall. “Coach Geleta brings a lot as a coach, and he makes sure that we do the right thing on and off the mat,” 50 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Farhan said. “He’s more than just a wrestling coach, he’s a really good man. He’s always on top of our training and practice and he wants nothing but the best for us. He always finds a way to make me better and make the team better. He has made me believe in my self each and every time I step out on to the mat, I’m confident when we wrestle because of all the work we put in together.” As the program moves forward, Geleta insists he is having as much fun as ever—that in both the short-term and long, Clifton wrestling’s future looks bright. In nearly a decade on the job, his passion for teaching the sport burns as intensely as ever, and it continues to show with every match the Mustangs wrestle. He says his goal, first and foremost, is to provide opportunities to the student-athletes he coaches. Provide them, he has, and those student-athletes have made the most of them—turning the program from a middling one to a North Jersey powerhouse. “Dan gives attention to every single wrestler, and he allows them to wrestle their style, and hone each one’s individual skills,” said Hemsey, his long-time assistant. “Dan has a passion that is second-to-none, and his love of wrestling exceeds the perimeters of the mat. He is the catalyst behind the transformation from where we were, and the success is recognized by his peers and throughout the state.”

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Carlton Palmer (1921)

While Clifton’s football legacy

Art Donnelly 1926-1934

Below are the names and dates of service of two Clifton Football coaches that pictures are not available for: Clifford S. Hurlburt (1922-1923) Steve Holster (1925)

Al Lesko (1935-1940)

Vic Dragon (1941-1944)

Joe Grecco (1945-1963)

Bill Vander Closter (1964-1979)

John Lischak (1980-1981)

Jack Jones (1982-1984)

Dennis Heck (1985-1987)

has been one of state championships and packed stadiums, it’s also been one of rocky fields, political bickering, and disappointment. Nineteen coaches have lived through those seasons, all leaving their mark on Clifton’s football history. On these pages are the photos of those coaches who have guided generations of young men on the gridiron...

52 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Harry Steinmark (1924)

Alex Kaplanovich (1988-1989)

John Iannucci (1990-1992)

James Kelly (1993-1997)

James D. Hill (1998)

Chet Parlavecchio (1999-2003)

Ron Anello (2004-2010)

Steve Covello (2011-2014)

With the February dismissal of head coach Steve Covello and staff, Clifton football is once again at a turning point. The Mustangs, coming off a 1-9 season that was their worst since 1999 (and one of the worst in school history), will usher in a new era this fall, and the coach who is chosen will have the tall task of turning around a team that was largely non-competitive in 2014 (losing by approximately 27 points per game). Since the firing of Dennis Heck in 1987, Clifton’s most success has come under Jim Kelly—now the coach at Queen of Peace—during the Joe Haro era, and the post-rebuilding period under Chet Parlavecchio (recently hired at Passaic Valley) and Ron Anello. The Mustangs won a North 1, Group 4 title under Anello in 2006.

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1 0 0 ICHS


“Find your passion and when you do, engage your heart” This is the message that Joseph R. Azzolino, both the president and the principal of Immaculate Conception High School (Lodi) presents to students as the guiding philosophy for their years at ICHS and as one to remember through life. Established in 1915 by the Felician Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the all-girls Immaculate Conception High School marks their centennial this year. For a century, ICHS has been forming young women within an environment that offers both a rigorous curriculum of college prep and a nurturing school commu54 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Some Clifton’s girls attending ICHS include: Jacqueline Zegler, Patricia Baran, Brittney Acevedo and Amanda Leger. Not pictured is Mirabelle Saad. Next page: Gina Zegler with daughter Jacqueline.

nity. Essential to an ICHS education is adherence to a traditions that emphasizes core values such as compassion, community service, respect for human dignity, personal growth and transformation, as well as working for a common good so that we all may have a better chance of living in a world where there is justice and peace. Empowering Young Women Academic rigor and a heritage of core values are the key reasons that parents, such as alumnae Gina Zegler of Montclair Heights, choose ICHS for their daughters. Gina’s oldest daughter Jacqueline is already

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


ICHS Centennial attending ICHS, soon to be joined by younger sister Rachel. “I believe that the school gave me sense of confidence,” said Zegler, ICHS Class of ‘88. “I could be the leader, president, anything I wanted to do. The school gave me, it gives girls, a strong feeling of empowerment. That's what I want for my daughters.” Nadine Mooers, who is the director of Institutional Advancement at ICHS agrees with Zegler. She emphasizes that high school is a time of learning, discovery, as well as a time for fun; these are the years when girls develop their self-concept and inner strength. “Single-gender education gives girls a distinct advantage in life. In an all-girls school, students are the leaders, their role models are primarily women. They are encouraged to find their voice, to be active in and out of the classroom. ICHS fosters individuality, strength, and perseverance in all its girls. Nothing stops them from being independent and successful.”

56 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Lifelong Bonds Another benefit of the school is the ability to not feel a pressure that is present in most high schools, the need to emphasize dressing and clothing that can result in wasted time and expensive competitiveness. Notes Zegler, “Some people say ‘oh those poor girls, they have to wear uniforms.’ But as a mother, I can tell you that it relieves a lot of the pressure and is easier and simpler and saves time for everyone all around. There is more time for studying. Attention is paid to young girl’s achievements, accomplishments, not the kind of clothes she is wearing.” Zegler also appreciates the sense of security the school gave her. In a more secure environment, friendships develop. She continues to have a core group of friends from ICHS that have been there for each other through the years, providing lifelong support. With about 200 students, the girls get to know each other well at ICHS and strong bonds are formed.

Besides Jacqueline Zegler of Montclair Heights, a graduate of St. Philip the Apostle on Valley Rd., several other Clifton girls are also on track to one day become ICHS alumnae. Patricia Baran, who attended St. Andrew the Apostle school on Mt. Prospect Ave., lives in the Allwood section, which is not far from Brittney Acevedo, who also attended St. Andrew and who resides on Passaic Ave. in the Delawanna area. Amanda Leger, who attended St. Philip lives in Downtown Clifton, by Lakeview Ave., and Mirabelle Saad, also a St. Andrew graduate, lives near the Richfield Farms section. The Centennial The year-long celebrations of the 100th anniversary began last fall with a memorial Mass and a Christmas homecoming. Upcoming in 2015, are two additional events. The first, on March 7, is the “Special 100th Anniversary Reconnect and Renew: Golden Reunion Celebration” that will begin with a prayer service. Later, the Time Capsule that was buried at the school's Lodi campus 50 years ago, in 1965, will be opened and in that

location, a new Time Capsule from 2015 will be buried, to be opened in another 50 years. Another outdoor activity wil be the release of 10 doves. Doves were chosen in recognition of the the school's core values of peace and justice. Each dove symbolizes one decade of the school's existence. Then a catered luncheon will complete the day. Centennial celebrations will come to a close on Oct. 22 at the 100th Anniversary Gala Dinner to be held at Il Villagio’s in Carlstadt. Hall of Fame recognitions and Women of Distinction awards will be presented. Mooers notes that during the events, recognition of past traditions and historical highlights, such as Pope John Paul II visit's to the school in 1980, will be acknowledged. “This high school did really begin with the proverbial 'little red schoolhouse' in 1915 with 16 girls, who became the first graduating class. The little brick building still stands near the edge of our campus. However, now we have 213 girls enrolled and currently are experiencing great interest and growth. In a few years we expect to level off at between 250 and 260 students.” A strong start towards the ICHS bicentennial!

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Houses of Worship

The Geraci Citizens League’s St. Joseph’s Day Gala is on March 7.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli addressed employees and visitors during the morning liturgy at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. He also marked the foreheads of the faithful with ashes in the sign of the cross on the holy day of Ash Wednesday, which was Feb. 18. He is pictured (center) with Clifton’s Sr. Maryanne Campeotto, SC and St. Joe’s new President and CEO, Kevin J. Slavin.

The Feast Day of St. Joseph—the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary—is on March 19. In Sicily, where St. Joseph is a Patron, and here in many ItalianAmerican communities, thanks are given on that day to St. Joseph—San Giuseppe—for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. Keeping that tradition alive, the 85th Geraci Citizens League St. Joseph’s Dinner Dance is on March 7 at The Brownstone at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $90. Coordinated by Nina Corradino, those who attend will enjoy traditional pasta dishes, finocchi and zeppoli, dancing and music. For tickets, call Corradino at 973-278-0356 or 973-470-8982. The Women’s Ministries United Reformed Church of Clifton will be hosting a Good Friday White Breakfast on April 3 at 9:30 am at the United Reformed Church of Clifton and Passaic (352 Clifton Ave.). Women who would like to participate and bring a guest should call 973-365-1666 by April 1. The concept is to highlight the historical death and the resurrection of Christ Jesus, and to reach out to the greater community with a message of sharing God’s love. 58 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 81 Washington Ave., will host its fifth annual Ukrainian Easter Egg Pysanka Decorating Class on March 22 at the church hall between 1:30 and 3 pm. Fee is $13 (for any age), and includes all necessary supplies. Instructor Motrja Fedorko has many years experience in this traditional art form of the Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated with folk designs using a wax-resist (batik) method. The word pysanka comes from the verb pysaty, ‘to write’, as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax. To register, reserve by March 20 by leaving name, number of attendees and return phone number on 973-546-2473. The church kitchen will be open and feature homemade pierogies and baked Easter goods on March 22 and there will be a raffle, and Ukrainian-themed ethnic gifts will be available for sale. The St. John Lutheran Church Thrift Shop is on March 7, from 9:30 am to 1 pm. Parishioners and vendors are offering clothing, household items and toys at bargain prices. The church is at 140 Lexington Ave., Passaic. Call 973-779-1166 or 973-777-0322.

A German Style Luncheon is on March 15 at noon at St. John Lutheran. Adult tickets are $15 and include a short sheet of raffle tickets for gift baskets. Lunch for kids under 12 will be $6. Doors open at 11:30 pm. Mail ticket requests with checks (payable to ‘WELCA’ for Women of the ELCA) to 140 Lexington Ave., Passaic, NJ 07055. For more details, call 973-779-1166 or 973-868-3380. A new choral group—a musical collaboration between the Sequoia Senior Center, a program of the Jewish Family Service of Passaic/Clifton, and the Garden State Opera—made its debut at a Purim party on March 3 at 11 am, at 565 Broadway, Passaic. Over the winter months, seniors participated in training three times a week by Garden State Opera singers, under the direction of Maestro Francesco Santelli, pictured left. For info on the Sequoia Purim party, call 973-246-7717. For info on the GSO, go to

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


In our Schools

Eight out of nine eighth-graders of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School on President St. in Passaic scored in the 90th99th percentiles nationally in Math, Reading, and Language Arts on the 2015 COOP exams. All have attended St. Nich’s since Pre-K. They are Michael Lechicky, Adrian Skala, Zakhar Figol, Alexander Miklosh, David Shevchuk, Juliana Loukachouk, Angelika Holak and Julia Citkowski. Also pictured are ELA and Math teachers Sonia Lechicky and Tatyana Fedak. For information on the school, tuition and open house dates, call 973-779-0249.

St. Brendan Catholic School Tricky Tray is on noon on March 15 at the Brownstone. Proceeds benefit students of the Lakeview Ave. facility. Dinner, for those 18 and over only, is $45 and the price includes one sheet of tickets. Call 973-772-1149 or 973809-2297 or email: Christopher Columbus Middle School HSA hosts a Tricky Tray on March 27 at 6:30 pm at the Boys & Girls Club. Tickets are $15 for the bring your own food and beverages event. Reserve 10 tickets and pay $12 per ticket. No one under 18. Call 973-818-6045 for info. Clifton School 16 is having its Tricky Tray/Sweet 16 on March 12 at the Valley Regency. Doors open at 6 pm and drawings begin at 8 pm. The $50 admission includes buffet dinner, dessert, coffee and a set of tickets. For tickets, call Diane Bertone 973-783-7525 or email her at 60 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Six Mustangs signed their letters to attend various colleges to continue their education and soccer careers. Pictured here, on Feb. 13, are from left top, Lady Mustangs Coach Konrad Kruczek with Nicole Rzekiec (MSU, Athletic Trainer); Meghan Sekanics (MSU, Communications); Marisa Jaramilo (Iona College, Biology); Mark Glodova, (Rutgers Newark, Physical Therapy); Brian Pariona, (Criminology, Berkeley College); Lenny Contreras, (Berkeley, Criminology); and Boys Coach Stan Lembryk.

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Community Events The Clifton Rec’s Bowling night is March 13 at 6 pm at Garden Palace Lanes. Two hours of bowling, shoe rental, pizza, soda, laser lights, bowling bingo and more fun-filled contests are included in the cost of $40 per lane, which fits six people. Only 16 lanes are available. Purchase at or at Clifton Rec., second floor of City Hall, 900 Clifton Ave. Call 973-470-5956. Clifton Mustang Band Alumni Association hosts Moonlight Bowling at Parkway Lanes on March 14 at 6 pm. The cost is $50 per couple or $15 per person for those wish to come and eat but not bowl. Bowl and enjoy a buffet until 9 pm with raffle prizes and a 50/50 to follow—you must have a partner to bowl. Info at The North Jersey Volleyball Club is an under 18 year old national team coached by Mike Doktor. The group is going to Penn State in May for the annual Happy Volley Tournament, a great college showcase for the young ladies of the squad. Help underwrite the cost of this trip by attending a Beefsteak/Tricky Tray on March 13 at 6 pm at the Boys & Girls Club. Call 973-2077156 or email

62 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Clifton’s Relay for Life is on May 30 and 31 and the theme is Movies, Lights and Camera as we Relay for a Cure.

The Relay for Life of Clifton 2015 is on May 30 and 31 with the location to be determined. Now in its 11th year, companies, community groups, civic associations, religious organizations and schools are invited to form a team or becoming a sponsor. Movies, Lights and Camera as we Relay for a Cure is this year’s theme. For more call Kristin Bruno at 973-285-8041or go to

Robert Andres reminds you to look for even greater savings in our three frozen food aisles during March. Nutritious, delicious and economical, he says it’s time to “Take a Fresh Look At Frozens!” Fidel Urbina keeps our Seafood section well stocked with dozens of great buys on fresh or shelled fish. From lobsters and shrimp to a variety of daily fish specials, we will also steam or fry your ‘catch’ while you shop!

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Community Events Woodrow Wilson Middle School HSA Tricky Tray theme is New York New York. The fundraiser for those ages 18 and over is on april 24 from 6 to 11 pm at the Bethwood. Tickets are $40 and include dinner, entertainment and a sheet of tickets to get your started. Call Robyn Urbanowycz at 201-388-3528 for tickets. The 8th Annual Boys & Girls Club of Clifton Tricky Tray is May 8. The Ladies Auxiliary is asking for your support. Proceeds from this event will go Clifton Cares Chairs: Lizz Gagnon, Dona Krum and Chris Liszner. directly to the operating costs of the Boys so on your next shopping trip add to your basket some & Girls Club of Clifton. Mail donations to B&G Club, beef jerky, cookies, licorice, ramen noodles, cup a 822 Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ 07013 Attn: Ladies soup, lemonade or ice tea powdered packets. Bring Auxiliary. Call 973 773-2697 x143 with questions. items to City Hall by March 10. Donations to help pay for postage are also needed. Priority flat rate box costs Clifton Cares shipped 152 packages to our troops in $15.90 but any amount is accepted. Write to Lizz December. Since Aug., 2010, over 3,000 packages of Gagnon, c/o Clifton Tax Assessor’s Office, 900 Clifton everything from socks and soups to cookies and canAvenue, Clifton, NJ 07013. Email her at dies have been shipped to men and women serving our or call her cell: 973-818-8141. nation overseas. The next shipment goes mid-March,

64 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Some of the Mustang models set to walk the runway for the March 29 CHS Prom Fashion show to benefit 2015 Project Graduation: Brianna Labanich, Gabriella Barcelona, Lacey Loughlin, Samantha Declet, Andrea Garcia, Lizannette Thormes.

The CHS Prom Fashion Show is March 29 at 2 pm. It is presented with the support of CASA (Clifton Against Substance Abuse) and again staged at the JFK Auditorium. The event is a major fundraiser for the Class of 2015 and the cost of admission ($10) helps fund tickets for Project Graduation. For the show, the models—seniors from the Class of 2015—will be styling tuxedos donated by Deluxe Formal Wear of Clifton. Gowns will be donated by BouBou, Sisters Bridal Boutique, Unique Designs by Viki and VESA. Money raised goes to underwrite the cost of Project Graduation on June 26 right after Commencement, which this year, will likely be on the new turf at Clifton School’s Stadium. Project Graduation is an all night party with a lock-in at an undisclosed resort, a place where graduating seniors are safe from alcohol and drugs. Class of 2015 seniors will meet at CHS and are then taken by bus to the resort at 10 pm. They remain there with plenty of food and time to frolic. Doors are locked until 5 am and then they are bussed back to CHS. Want to help out as a sponsor, contribute the styling services of your salon or somehow get involved? Call chair Nancy Delaney at 973-951-5024. Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Arts & Music Seventy entries will be screened at the 2015 Passaic County Film Festival on April 25. Now in its 11th year, this juried exhibition of independent filmmakers’ work showcases projects created by those who live, attend school, or work in Passaic County. Entries are 10 minutes or less. The festival’s goal is to support filmmakers by providing a public forum to showcase their work and provide an opportunity to interact with members of the television and filmmaking community. There is free admission to the festival and screenings, which will take place at the Fabian 8 Theater in historic downtown Paterson. While most films are appropriate for a general audience, some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. For info, call 973-5694720 or In Celebration of Spring is a program of live jazz and art at the Clifton Arts Center on March 15. Come hear musicians Mike Luipersbeck, a retired police detective and accomplished jazz drummer, piano prodigy Peter Greco and bassist Ron Naspo at 2:30 pm. Their performance of selections from the Great American Songbook, jazz, and Broadway, begins at 3 pm. Tickets

66 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

Jazz drummer and retired Clifton cop Mike Luipersbeck.

are $10 and include light refreshments. Located at 900 Clifton Ave., on the campus of the municipal complex, patrons can also view a display of original works by Clifton Association of Artists members. Admission is $3. Call 973-472-5499 for info or go to

Dreams & Nightmares is the concept behind ATC Studios’ 2015 Young Playwrights Project. The competition is open to middle and high school students who submit one-act scripts, 10 minutes or under. Scripts, written for one to 10 actors, with technical requirements, can be submitted to ATC by emailing to (as a .doc or .docx) before March 15. Six to 12 submissions will be selected for public performance, and cast and produced through ATC. For info:

Singer Dennis Sprick today and inset as a 1974 CHS grad.

Vocalist Dennis Sprick and pianist Jimmy Horan present a concert of Oscar-Winning Songs at the Clifton Senior Center on April 24. The 8 pm show is a benefit for Clifton Cares and The Homeless Bus. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Sprick is a 1974 CHS grad who has emerged as a lounge singer. The duo will be reprising their February 2014 show at the Duplex nightclub in New York City as they perform songs made famous by Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and Adele and many others. For tickets, call Laura Byrouty 973-224-3608. Donations may also be made by check as follows: For Clifton Cares—made payable to Lizz Gagnon, 346 Mt. Prospect Ave., Clifton, NJ 07012. For the Homeless Bus—made payable to Homeless Bus Inc., 143 DeMott Ave., Clifton, NJ 07011. Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Around Town

Matt Grabowski

Matt Grabowski died on Feb. 25. The second term Councilman was ill for about a year and a half with liver cancer. Despite his prognosis, Grabowski, age 53, worked hard at keeping all aspects of his life running smoothly.

In addition to his role on the City Council, he was also a Coldwell Banker realtor, president of the Athenia Business Association and lead singer of Swingman & The Misfit Mutts Band. Flags in the city have been lowered to half mast for the next 30 days in his honor. At the end of that period, the other six City Council members will decide on an individual to fill the vacant seat. Grabowski is survived by his mom Jean, and siblings Chris, Ray, Val and Alex. The family asked for donations to the Athenia Business Association in Grabowski’s memory can be sent to 800 Van Houten Ave., Clifton NJ 07013. Saturday Labor Art Classes for third to fifth grade students are offered at the American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark. Funded by the Puffin Foundation and the Horizon

Foundation for New Jersey, the free classes run March 7 to May 2. Students will learn of the history and contemporary issues of working people and immigrants through the visual and performing arts. Students participate in hands-on activities to develop their understanding of an immigrant worker’s home, lifestyle and workplace as a means of comparison to those issues today. Classes are at the American Labor Museum, 83 Norwood St., Haledon. To pre-register, call 973-595-7953, email or go to Mr. Cupcakes is the title sponsor of the Savor Food and Wine Experience on March 9. Presented by the North Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the event features 100 main dishes and fine wines from over 30 restaurants. Held at the Preakness Hills Country Club on Ratzer Rd in Wayne, cost is $50. Call 973-470-9300.

On Feb. 11 at the monthly breakfast meeting hosted by Passaic County ELC (Employer Legislative Committee), Assemblyman Tom Giblin (second from left) was the guest. Also pictured is Frank Robinson of NJBIA, Angelo Morresi who organizes the events and Brian Tangora of the North Jersey Chamber of Commerce. The March 10 meeting is at 8 am at the Holiday Inn of Totowa with Michele Siekerka, NJBIA President, as speaker. The cost is $15, which covers coffee and bagels, and it is a pay at the door event. For info, call Morresi at 973-239-5626 or Tangora at 973-473-9300.

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The staff was doubled on the floor and the kitchen as Clifton’s IHOP served up free stacks of pancakes on March 3 as part of the restaurant chain’s National Pancake Day promotion to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Help the Clifton Animal Shelter win a $25,000 Makeover! Our city’s chief cat guru Liz Taranda is in the running for Volunteer of the Year award in a Purina Cat Chow promotion. To help her win, vote before March 15 at If Taranda is selected, the Clifton Animal Shelter will receive $25,000 to renovate the facility. For the past decade, Taranda’s role at the center has grown incredibly. She coordinates most everything as it relates to the smooth operation of the shelter, from intake of strays to adoptions as well as fundraising and running the office. Here is what one fan wrote about her: “What she doesn’t do is quit. Liz does all this, for over 10 years now—and does it pleasantly—because she can see the difference she is making. Liz is the sort of volunteer that is one in a million.”

The Theater League of Clifton’s ‘Once Upon A Mystery’ dinner theater whodunit with performances March 6, 7 and 8 at Mario’s Restaurant, 710 Van Houten Ave. Tickets are $40, which include dinner and show. For tickets and info, go to or call 973-928-7668. Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Going Pro?

SAM ZWIEBEL Strikes and scores keep this eight-year-old competitor in the lane of winners By Irene Jarosewich

Sam Zwiebel was introduced to bowling by his father. When he was six years old, Sam and father Shane by mistake walked into a bowling tournament in progress. On the spot his father decided to sign him up. Sam won. His father then entered him in an adult junior league competition. There Sam tied for first place. Two weeks after that he entered into the Professional Bowling Association’s Regional ProAm. There Sam won the Bantam Division. The next week, Sam entered the Junior Bowlers Tour. He has not looked back. Now an eight-year-old, Sam loves to bowl and multiple times a day can request that his father take him bowling. During vacations and school breaks, Sam will often bowl two to three times a day. As Shane explained recently, Sam has an impressive ability to maintain composure far beyond his years. “He does not lose control, never backs down. He is a fierce competitor. If he senses that you are not on your game, he will compete even harder.” 70 March 2015 • Clifton Merchant

“Sometimes it’s hard to remember,” adds Shane, “that Sam is only eight years old. We make sure that he has time to play and that he has the opportunity to be just that, a little boy.” Sam’s passion for bowling is obvious. He has more than doubled his average in less than one year. He works diligently on his game. Sam bowls almost every day. He’s already decided that his favorite lanes are in Howell, however on a typical Sunday afternoon, he can be found with his father, mother Rebecca and sister Sara at the Garden Palace Lanes in Clifton. Shane is a life-longer bowler and has taken to teaching his son some techniques. Sam is a natural lefty, which brings a certain set of challenges when bowling. “Sam is proficient in moving left to combat lane conditions,” said Shane, “he is capable of reading oil patterns and adjusting. We bowl in up to six bowling centers per week. This is something I learned to do from my father, who took me all over to bowl.”

The variety of lanes helps develop perspective and train under different conditions. Currently Sam is the Junior Bowlers Tour handicap points leader in New Jersey, having taken the lead in mid-February at a tournament in Stratford. There are no age brackets in the JBT, and according to his father, “Sam is trained to bowl and beat against his average, not to worry about the other bowlers.” This past December, Sam was the champion at the NJUSBC Youth State Tournament – Division D. Sam is coached by Ken Yokobosky who is a USBC Gold Coach and coached Team USA for several years. Although a good part of Sam’s life is devoted to bowling, he is also training in the martial arts at the American Falcon Hopkido school on Clifton Ave. and is proud to be a yellow belt. Sam lives with his family in Country Club Towers in the Allwood section and attends the The Learning Center for Exceptional Children. Mother Rebecca is not a bowler, which leaves sister Sara. “She’s coming along,” said Shane, “it’s great to watch. And while she can’t beat Sam yet, she can definitely win against her mother.”

Young bowling champ Sam Zwiebel, 8, with sister Sara, 6, and parents Shane and Rebecca at the Garden Palace Lanes in Lakeview where the Zwiebel’s can be found on most Sunday afternoons.

Clifton Merchant • March 2015


Birthdays & Celebrations - March 2015

Sister Elaine Sassine... Happy 65th on March 15! Jeremy Joseph Sadowski was born on Dec.12. William Thomson will celebrate his 3rd birthday on March 8. Fabian, Melisa, Damian and Nicolas Calvo welcomed Isabel Victoria on Jan. 12. Congratulations to Corey & Michelle Genardi, celebrating their anniversary on March 28...their daughter Bianca Eda is all smiles for her 9th birthday on March 2.

Happy Birthday to... Send dates & names... Julie Generalli Dominick .......3/1 Kathleen Pocoek ..................3/1 Meaghan Franko .................3/1 Kenzie Lord .........................3/3 Valerie Godowsky................3/5 Alice Paxton ........................3/5 Patricia Vigh........................3/5 Carol Crudele......................3/6 Ted Grzybowski...................3/6

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Pat Smith.............................3/8 Victoria Crudele...................3/9 Pamela Culque ..................3/10 Tiffany Sabo ......................3/10 John Gorny .......................3/11 Teddy Harsaghy.................3/11 Eddie Gasior, Jr. ................3/12 Mike Pesaro ......................3/12 Victor Berdecia ..................3/13

Diego Hernandez ..............3/15 Tyler Hughes......................3/15 Elaine Sassine....................3/15 Laura Lee ..........................3/15 Melisa Calvo .....................3/16 Suzanne Ciok....................3/19 Janette Hughes ..................3/19 Caitlin Lotorto ....................3/19 Colleen Murray..................3/20 Holly Sorenson ..................3/20 Nenad Vuckovic ................3/20 Monica Ahmed..................3/21

Casey Hawrylko turned blissfully 25 on March 2. George Andrikanich...........3/22 Pat Hiller ...........................3/22 Elisabel Reyes ....................3/24 Carmen Rivera...................3/24 Kyle Hooyman ...................3/24 Suzanne Wachtler..............3/26 Michele Andrikanich ..........3/27 Jennifer Mondelli................3/27 Nicholas Surgent................3/27 Aidan Tedesco ...................3/27 Muriel Curtin......................3/28 Francis Salonga .................3/31 Paul McVeigh.....................3/31 Chris Kolodziej ..................3/31 Joe & Pat Torelli celebrate their 44th on March 6. Nina & Frank Corradino celebrate 42 years March 25. Happy 19th birthday to Kenneth Bucsko on March 19. Clifton Merchant • March 2015


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