Clifton Merchant Magazine - November 2013

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Table of Contents

What’s Inside? 6


Stories of Military Service Generations of Clifton Veterans

22 Athenia’s Helene Lenkowec She Was A Coast Guard SPAR

28 WWII Army Vet Sam Citero & Carmela, His Bride of 67 Years

48 Reunited in Basic Training Tony Latona & Yvonne Nollman

60 Nov. 10 Veterans Parade Van Houten to Avenue of Flags

62 Passaic County Elks CP Center NJRCC’s Community Champion Award

38 A look back at Dutch Hoogstraten

70 Students of the Month Five Mustangs at CHS 16,000 Magazines

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Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko Business Manager Cheryl Hawrylko Graphic Designer Ken Peterson Contributing Writers Richard Szathmary, Irene Jarosewich, Carol Leonard, Jack DeVries, Rich DeLotto, Don Lotz

76 Optimist Hot Dog Night Our Annual “Tube Steak” Tradition

80 Community Cares St. Peter’s Wholly, Doing Good

86 Life’s a Pageant

82 Boys Club Gala Dinner

Richefield’s Jonellyn Stanek

90 Fernando Rossi Alumni Game His Son’s Numero Uno, Too Ed Notes: In last month’s cover story, Angelina Tirado Smashes Through, we need to clarify that Tirado is a 2001 CHS grad. Also, we went to press on Oct. 26 and could not include photos from Clifton Rec’s Halloween Parade. Get the digital edition of Clifton Magazine as well as more stories and info at

54 ‘Sarge’ Joe Padula


Clifton Merchant • November 2013


From left to right, Jim Moll, Alex Donetz I and II, below Greg Donetz and Robert Donetz.


By Richard Szathmary

WWII veterans die daily at an alarming rate. 700 nationally, the median strength of a then-battalion. Sixty-seven years ago the Japanese government, in a stunning bit of verbal weaseliness, announced to its own war-weary troops and citizens that since “the war has not necessarily gone to Japan’s advantage,” it was caving to the Allied forces. Thus ending hostilities and military service for the “Greatest Generation.” But some still hear the guns. (Unfortunately, too, they still go off assorted places.) Cannot quite still the noise even now. Perhaps don’t even really want to. Remember what it all looked and sounded like Below, as Clifton preps for its annual Veterans parade (see page 60) and however modest it is as repayment, we offer a few brief looks at some vets from Clifton. And, as a sort of lagniappe, a tale of someone who almost “over-remembers” in near-nerdy detail a great personal loss to him during child6 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Below from left to right, Rudy Zajac, Bill Niader and Sam Citero.


SHERIFF RICHARD H. BERDNIK I am writing to request your vote as I seek reelection as Sheriff of Passaic County. As you probably know, my commitment to Clifton runs deep. Having grown up here and raised my family in my hometown, I feel strongly about the continued success of the municipality. As I have stated previously, I am proud of my public career, as not only a Clifton Police Officer but now as the Sheriff of Passaic County. Being Sheriff has given me an opportunity to continue to serve and protect the residents of this great City.

If I am fortunate to be reelected, I intend to continue my commitment to the Sheriff ’s Office and initiate more innovative programs and policies to help keep our families safe, while reducing the burden on our taxpayer. So again, I ask that on Tuesday, November 5th, that you please vote for me, Freeholders Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore and the entire Row B Team. Thank you and God Bless! Sincerely, Richard H. Berdnik

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Honoring Veterans hood, which occurred at the tail end of the struggle for the Pacific. To a degree hinting of obsessiveness, reminds how long some nagging wounds may remain. Today as we approach the day once known as “Armistice Day,” so many of us just go to Macy’s for the sales. Yet in the UK they still term it “Remembrance Day” and they make bloody well sure to. By sharing these stories, we’re making our own paltry stab at thanking all of Clifton’s vets for their service. Sergeant Moll Attends A Mauling Peleliu (now Palau), a Pacific isle that’s part of the westernmost band of the Carolines, was where the Japanese dug in doggedly late summer 1944. A Marine general, in one of those fatuous, dopily rosy predictions generals are fond of, predicted it’d “fall in four.” (Yes, and Tebow will always be a Jets QB. Sanchez, too!) Instead, it took 74 entrails-spattered days and a 40 percent USMC casualty rate to take an island of no strategic value whatsoever which was never even used again as a staging area. Eight Medals of Honor were awarded post-battle, five posthumously. Jim Moll, from what was then called “the Weasel Brook section” of Clifton (“on Sylvan Ave. between 2nd

and 3rd Sts., and boy was Clifton just a great place to live and grow up in then”) was part of the first assault wave in. Japanese fire on the beach took out both his platoon leader and platoon sergeant. Within minutes he was hit with a small piece of shrapnel (which he removed himself with his “K-bar” knife) and he killed a Japanese soldier. Things didn’t get much better over the next 21 days before his unit was finally pulled off line. “But it never bothered me much to talk about it,” the 92-year-old Moll says from an assisted living facility in Laguna Niguel, CA, near Sacramento. “Just get used to it, you know? Get used to it and get over it.” Postwar, after first marrying a war widow from the Delawanna section (“Do they still really call it that?” He was also amazed to hear Rutt’s Hut endures, “because, hey, I remember them there even from when I was a kid.”), Sara Adams, and eventually adopting her two sons, Jim Moll during his 65 year marriage moved many, many times. “To Glen Rock, To Florida, To Michigan. To California. Back to Florida. Back to California. Back to Florida. Then back to...” It’s a litany of locations. He even did a five month stint in South Korea during the 60’s as an engineering consultant.

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Honoring Veterans But he never got back to Clifton itself, except once, “very briefly,” when one of his two brothers died. “But I’ll always remember Clifton. It really was a very nice place. I liked being there a lot.” It was certainly better than the next hellish place he wound up, after turning down a battlefield commission on Peleliu because the Corps couldn’t guarantee he’d then stay in-

unit with the 1st Marines, the little “home island” under Japanese regnance called Okinawa. The 1st Marines had 1200+ killed on Peleliu, 1600+ on Okinawa. Moll says, “You just have to go on.” He went on. Speaking Of Okinawa... Kunishi Ridge on Okinawa, from all reports, was a sucky, muddy, booby-trapped kind of place. The bat-

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tle for it began June 10, 1945, more than two months after the overall battle for Okinawa, rated as the greatest sea-air-land battle in history, commenced on April Fool’s Day. Kunishi Ridge was ably defended by an enemy which notoriously for weeks already had been handing out grenades to the Japanese civilians they were supposedly there to “protect”, warning them of the American “barbarity” sure to ensue if they fell into our clutches and even killing them themselves if said civilians wavered or expressed skepticism. During the overall course of that battle, some 12,500 America soldiers and sailors died (plus, famously, one beloved war correspondent, Ernie Pyle). Amidst all that slaughter (often cited as the source of U.S. reasoning for dropping atomic bombs on Japan rather than the planned but likely high casualty invasion of the Japanese mainland, on June 12, during a 3-week struggle which on June 21 effectively ended the campaign for Okinawa, a Clifton Marine, Pvt. William Niader was killed by a shell blast while serving as a stretcher bearer. Niader was two weeks in as part of a replacement draft in the maelstrom of Okinawa. According to brother Frank, just 13 back and back in Clifton when his brother was KIA, he was a good man who “barely had time to even serve on Okinawa. A couple days in and “bang, he was gone.” Which makes William Niader akin to the sailors at Pearl Harbor entombed in the U.S.S. Arizona, sort of forever on “active” duty. And in a place whose Japanese inhabitants seem long tired now of an


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Honoring Veterans American military presence on their island home. Niader thus never lived to become a bona fide veteran. He’s buried at “The Punchbowl,” a/k/a the National Military Cemetery of the Pacific on Oahu, and his 82-year-old brother Frank has never gotten to see his grave. Frank Niader Remembers. And Remembers. And... There is a story by Henry James of some relevance here, “The Altar Of The Dead,” about a man who, as he ages, realizes how many people he’s lost in his life. So he begins lighting candles at a Catholic church by way of remorse. “Waves sweep dreadfully over the dead” goes a line in this tale which hints that too much self-bearing of grief might not be the altogether wisest way to live. Frank Niader continues himself to remember his brother in a way which recalls the James story. Even when asked if his pursuit of his grief (even fascination, it seems) regarding certain events in WWII is a bit, well..., he pre-emptively supplies the word himself. ”Obsessive?” he asks with a sly smile, in a tone which says that he knows that you now know that all “this” has somehow become his life’s work. “I want people not to forget these guys,” he says firmly. He points out that he “might as well do this work” because there are in fact no more Niaders around. “When I peter out, that’s it here.” His parents are dead and he never married.

12 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

(He does have on his left arm a tattoo with surprisingly fresh colors, given his own age, in commemoration of a beloved girlfriend who died, at age 65, only a few years ago. It’s in memory of “Margo,” and was only done after her death, with Frank at an advanced age when most of us shy away from needledriven pain.) Certainly Frank, an employee of the Clifton DPW for more than 20 years ago who resides on Van Houten Ave., set out to learn as much as feasible about his brother’s death. Starting with William’s letters home to his family before he landed on Okinawa. Continuing with letters from his CO (the inevitable, a-hard-to-write personal condolence letter, a missive from a buddy in the Corps, etc.) Amounting to five rather thickly stuffed albums full of memorabilia about his brother William and his own Frank’s quest since. It’s a sort of portable altar of the dead, a package of grief. Frank’s personal “vision quest” (American Indians would probably acknowledge it as that) has also led him down surprising byways. He’s corresponded with/informed about his brother’s death a truly amazing list of correspondents, from Steven Spielberg to historian Stephen Ambrose to, of all Navy veterans, Regis Philbin. He’s located about 500 former Marine WWII vets across America. He serves as a clearinghouse



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Honoring Veterans

At left: the Donetz brothers Alex, Greg and Robert who served in the Vietnam years, in a photo taken at a wedding a few years back. Above: their Uncles Walter and Anthony with their dad Alex in an image created during their service in World War II.

for the exchange of memories of WWII, and gladly shares all the amassed contact data. And he received the signal honor indeed of being asked as a private citizen to lay a wreath in Arlington, VA at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a Christmas wreath, its laying occurred on December 4, 2006 and it was part of the wonderful “Wreaths Across America” program noting the sacrifices of vets nationally with wreaths on their graves during the holiday season. So it seems fair to ask Frank Niader how he feels about the ineluctable fact that he himself never served in the armed forces. He couldn’t be drafted; as a result of his brother’s death, he qualified when he came of age for the “Sole Surviving Son” exemption. “Well, when I got to the age when I could go...,” he says. He shakes his head. “Since then this country hasn’t necessarily been going in the best direction. Let’s leave it at that.” It’s an odd reaction, a suggestion that grief yet dominates. The names tumble out of him. Marines long dead and gone. Others soon to be gone. Celebs he’s alerted so that they too won’t ever forget the sacrifices of our veterans. Frank Niader has a story to tell, that he wishes to make fully known. It’s a bit like the “Ancient Mariner” in the Coleridge poem “The Rime of The...” who importunes the Wedding Guest to hear his tale, even to the guest’s 14 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

active annoyance. But it’s still a trove of memories worth cherishing. Whether or not one of our own kin was killed on seemingly God-forsaken Kunishi Ridge in 1945. A Platoon’s Worth (At Least) of Donetzes Some families... the Rockefellers, maybe, or the Kennedys... seem to be “everywhere.” In Clifton, in terms of the sheer sacrifice of serving in the armed forces (and it is sacrifice whether or not one enlists in the first place), that’s the Donetzes. During WWII the Clifton-based Donetz clan along with assorted cousins and uncles wound up everywhere from northern Europe to North Africa to across the globe to the most forlorn of ships squatting in the vast reaches of the Pacific. One, Anthony Donetz, was on the USS Canberra when it was torpedoed off Okinawa in 1945. Another relative by marriage, Ed Dronka, lost a left hand for his country while in the Army slogging through the morass of incompetent and sluggish generalship of the Italian campaign, which historian Douglas Porch nonetheless termed “the hinge of victory.” So they’ve sure as hell given back to America. They’ve continued this tradition post-WWII, in, among other places, Panama, Korea and SE Asia. The Donetzes show up for their country.

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Honoring Veterans In a familial tradition of service, at least 30 have served in the armed forces since WWII. Alexander Donetz, an Army vet who in fact lives right next to the Clifton VFW’s Post 7165 on Valley Road, says that his own interest level in the military whereabouts of family members stems from a long out-of-print book published in 1945 by the Herald-News when the paper still had a discernible editorial budget. He is seen on page 6 holding the book. “Anybody Here From Jersey” is a compilation of reports, articles and lists from three intrepid war correspondents (back from the days when being a correspondent meant more than just looking spiffy in a hand-tailored “utility vest” while doing your daily satellite feed), William McBride, Carl Ek and Rodney Odell. The three, more or less Clifton’s own versions of the then-revered Ernie Pyle, ranged across both the European and Pacific theaters of war and simply asked around for their in-state neighbors. Some of the resulting stories pack a real wallop. It’s a classic volume if you can find a copy; it’s around $40 a pop from online booksellers or Amazon. One thing that Alexander Donetz says he learned from this book is that “all of our servicemen, regardless of race or religion, had one thing in common, and that was to end the War and go home.” (Which is basically all the current civilian population of Okinawa is asking today of America, come to think of it.) Donetz is also a thoughtful sort, so one of his lingering memories of WWII’s aftermath is that his dad Alexander Sr. brought back both a German dagger adorned with a swastika and a sharpened belt buckle as souvenirs. The dagger Alexander Jr. cut himself on as a child; he still has the hairline scar on a finger from “playing” with it. As for the belt buckle, which “had two claw-like fasteners sharpened to a point,” he wore it during the 50’s “when black leatherjackets and motorcycle boots were in fashion...At the time I thought it was ‘cool.’ “Now, I think of the pain and suffering it could have caused...Not so ‘cool’ now,” he concludes ruefully. The Donetzes remain active in veterans’ organizations and concerns, by the way (and not just because Alexander lives so close to the VFW). Brother Greg (the Nam-era Army) is the current Commander at Post 7165 16 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

An old favorite son of Clifton, Rudy Zajac, served as the Grand Marshal of the Veterans Parade a few years back. He is pictured above with niece Leondra Rybensky and her husband Joe.

and Alexander’s son John (Navy, service on the USS Milwaukee, a “replenishment oiler”) even tends bar some nights at the Post. The line of service holds. Centenarian Status? On April 17, 2014, Rudolph Stanley (‘Rudy”) Zajac will turn 100. Well, may, anyway. We necessarily have to be grim here, as WWII vets age and pass on thanks to Father Time’s essential ruthlessness. Rudy is currently in a nursing home in Bergen County but, according to his loving niece Leondra Rybensky and her spouse Joe, retains his faculties as he nears an actual century of existence. “It’s just that he can’t get around very well anymore,” she says. Before and after his service in WWII, Rudy was, to the best of Leondra’s recollection, usually either a caddy or a caddy master at area golf courses. Sometimes, too, he was one of the lucky few who’d, in those days before discount air fares (which are no longer terribly discounted again), “winter over” in Florida as a caddy. He’d also, according to his niece, “sometimes earn extra money by driving their cars to Florida” for wealthy golfers. Even as he seems to have “followed the sun,” however (and perhaps because of his drifting way of life), Rudy never married or had children.

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans But WWII erupted and suddenly on March 26, 1942, rhe enlisted and eventually found himself in the Army’s 77th Infantry Division. And the 77th, re-activated in early 42, after a post-WWI shutdown in 1919, became that kind of outfit esteemed by the old breed of soldiers (such as the “lifers” portrayed before Pearl Harbor in the novel “From Here To Eternity”), a fighting unit. An almost constantly engaged fighting unit. Which barged bloodily onto Guam, did some heavy scuffling on Leyte and then, after a sort of “tune-up” on the bastion of Ie Shima, stormed onto Okinawa, where one of its “actions” also resulted in the combat death of Ernie Pyle. The 77th fought alongside seasoned USMC units on both Guam and Okinawa, for its valor was routinely referred to by many Marines on Guam, including Lt. Gen Holland “Howling Mad” Smith, as the “77th Marine Division.” That’s real tribute. And somehow on one of those ever-horrible days on Okinawa then, Rudy Zajac was wounded by a mortar blast, sent stateside to Walter Reed Hospital and discharged on October 20, 1945 and decorated for meritorious service during ground combat. Postwar, however, is things get hazy. Rudy never wed so he also then never imparted his “secrets” to someone

18 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

very, very close to him in a marital mode, His niece and spouse Joe simply recall that, as Leondra says, “He didn’t talk about the war much to his family. I know he had a friend from the 77th and they’d get together and talk about old times. But he certainly didn’t often talk to any of us about those days. “I know he did go to Purple Heart meetings because he had one.” She means the Clifton-area chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, an organization restricted solely to combat-wounded veterans where he was great friends with Gib Kanter and Dominic DiPaolo. “But,” she laughs about his membership, “that was because there was food there.” “He was friendly but pretty distant. Stayed to himself,” Joe adds more soberly. “Didn’t ever seem to have much to say.” Leondra says that her uncle Rudy did, however, belong to and attend get-togethers of the 77th Division Association through the 60’s to early 80’s. “But that eventually stopped too.” “The 77th Division just aged out,” Joe says. By way of explanation, the 77th Division was again, as per post-WWI, deactivated, in March ‘46. No new, or even relatively new, blood ever thus poured into

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans the ranks of the 77th Division after a brief stint in the military occupation of Japan. No one formally records its history, serves as official keeper of its memories. (Some remnant of its military identity remains in what is known as the “77th Sustainment Brigade,” an Army Reserve unit at Fort Dix which did a tour in Iraq. The 77th Sustainment’s sleeve patch is a gold Statue of Liberty upon a deep blue background.) No actual representative of his old unit can ever thus be present to pay formal respects to Rudy Zajac when he passes. The modest reminiscences above have to suffice. Failures of Memory The frequently quoted opening line of the well-known novel “The Go-Between” is that “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Just how differently, perhaps only veterans of America’s wars can tell you. If they wished. Or could still get words out. Soonish, too, will come the grim “turn” of Nam-era vets. Yet the past also persists in curious ways. Small, but lethal, pockets of resistance remained on Okinawa for months after Imperial Japan’s formal surrender. Peleliu required visitation by a former Japanese admiral in 1947

to convince one last recalcitrant knot of troops to call it quits. And in the Philippines actual Japanese WWII “holdouts” were still out and violently foraging about for 20 or more postwar years. We even have as Secretary of State a decorated Nam veteran who once tossed his medals at the Pentagon in disagreement with the thencourse of his country. Admittedly, vets’ voices aren’t exactly stilled altogether. There is, for example, the vast machinery of the VA to service them, however inadequately. And organizations like the American Legion and VFW which, even in obvious membership decline, still carry considerable clout when they rear up and offer advice and counsel. And nobody except maybe the most perverted raises a public voice against veterans, their personal plights and rising medical costs. None of this, however, guarantees a large turnout for Clifton’s own annual Veterans parade. One “filled” with rapidly thinning ranks of WWII and Korean vets. The parade’s tradition, nonetheless, proudly continues. We hail sacrifice and patriotism in Clifton. It’s just that there are fewer and fewer veterans of such long-ago battles as Okinawa and the Bulge to honor.

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans

That’s where Helene Lenkowec’s WWII Coast Guard Tour Began By Fran Hopkins

Athenia’s Helene Lenkowec, who turned 91 in September, has a life story worth sharing. Born in Greenspring, West Virginia, “a honky tonky little town along the Potomac River,” she lived there with parents Boris and Helen and elder siblings Mary (still living) and John until age four, when floods destroyed their home. “My mother’s family lived in New Jersey, so we moved up here. The home behind Mario’s Pizza was in fact her grandmother’s home. She finished her sophomore year at CHS. “And then I quit so I could go to work. I wanted to help out the family.” At 15 , she sewed collars onto men’s jackets. “But I couldn’t stay there too long, Three cents a collar, I couldn’t see that.” She took an usherette job at the Central Theater in Passaic. “All the ‘big bands’ were there!” she recalled. “ I have pictures signed by Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey. I met them all. It was exciting.” Eventually, she opted for national service. Her brother and uncles were in the Navy. But at 19 she chose the distaff side of the Coast Guard, the SPARs. (SPARs stands for Semper Paratus, Latin for “Always Ready.” ) And although she feared she’d fail the written tests for the SPARs, she passed easily. Soon she was on a train to “boot camp” at the Biltmore Hotel in West Palm Beach, FL. “We were trained by the Marines and let me tell 22 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Above, Helene while in the Coast Guard, below left, in the mid 1980’s...and below right, Helene in 2001.

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Honoring Veterans you, if anybody trained you well, they did.” Four weeks into training, she received her first assignment. “The officer said, ‘Helene, you’re going to Washington.’ I said, ‘Oh, great, Washington, DC, I can go home on weekends.’ She said, ‘No, you’re going to Seattle, Washington.’ I kind of cried because I wanted to be close to home.” She was a pharmacist’s mate. Next she was sent to Columbia University in NYC during the summer of ’44 for further medical training. “I got my first class (stripe) after going to New York.” Then she was sent to the “mountains,” accom-

panying fellow Coast Guardsmen learning to ski. “I had to be there in case somebody got hurt.” Near the end of her three years’ service, she suffered a spinal injury and was classified as a disabled veteran upon discharge in June 1946. Back home, Lenkowec wanted a high school diploma. CHS offered night classes just for vets. She graduated with 400 other male vets and one other woman. Eventually she became an orthodontist’s assistant in NYC. “But I said, ‘Do I want to stay here?’” The orthodontist encouraged her to apply to colleges. She chose the University of Miami, where she majored in Russian and completed requirements for her BA in two years. “I wanted to better myself,” she said. “The girls in the dorm would say, ‘When I get out of college, I’m going to get married.’ I said , ‘Not me.’” Post-graduation, she applied to the CIA in Washington and was offered a job. “They said (the job) would become more difficult as the years went by.” She declined due to her disability. Lenkowec decided to follow advice given her at the CIA, that she’d make a good teacher.

Helene modeled coats and suits back in the 1940’s.

She began at Thomas Jefferson Junior High in Fair Lawn in 1954. She attended Montclair State nights and got a Master’s in social studies and English. “When Russian became part of our curriculum, I was able to study Russian during the summer under the National Defense Education Act.” That meant summers at Dartmouth, SF State, Indiana University and finally the Soviet Union. She gained 45 credits above her Master’s degree.

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans As a teacher she was an overachiever. “English, social studies, math, Russian, good grooming, drama, and special students,” she said. “I’d walk into one classroom sometimes and I would say hello in Russian and the students would say, ‘Miss Lenkowec, this is your English class, not your Russian class.’” She was invited to speak at colleges about her teaching style, her focus on speaking Russian

before reading it. A professor asked her she didn’t give her students books and papers right off the bat. She replied, “What did you do when you were a child? Did you learn to speak first or did you learn to write first?” But teaching ceased after an accident. “I injured my knees. I fell into a pothole,” It was full of water and I never saw it. “After that, I said, ‘No, climbing the stairs, I can’t do

Helene was on the May 1999 cover along with John Biegel, Walter Pruiksma, Joe Tuzzolino and Randy Colondres.

that anymore.’ I’d had total knee replacements in both knees.” So in 1985, Lenkowec retired. But not to a rocking chair. “I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been helping the veterans, helping my sister. My mother was sick with cancer and I took care of her. My nephew died of cancer and I helped him out.” A parishioner at the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church, she also served for decades with the Athenia Veterans. After multiple knee surgeries, and now in her ninth decade, she is no longer as mobile as she was a decade ago, except for visits to the doctors’ office. But you can’t keep her down and she’s even considering penning a memoir. She also herself broached the topic of why she never married. “I say, ‘Because my name is Miss. I was missed by everybody because I was too busy.’” She added a simple understatement that could easily serve as epitaph: “There was a lot that I wanted to do.” 26 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans

Sam Citero A Veteran of the Greatest Generation By Irene Jarosewich

Smiling, both Sam and Carmela Citero call themselves the Valentine and Christmas babies: he was born February 13, 1920, and she on December 11, 1925. At 93 and almost 88, they are healthy, cheerful, and each year they feel that they have been given a Valentine and Christmas present of good fortune. “We have been blessed with a long and happy life,” said Carmela. Both are active in senior and church activities and Sam volunteers at St. Brennan’s bingo every Friday. “When he doesn’t show up, they miss him, ask him where’s he’s been why he was gone, what’s wrong,” said his wife. To help stay in top shape, each day Sam walks five miles around his neighborhood in Clifton’s Lakeview section and surrounding areas. “We’ve lived in this house for 52 years,” said Sam, “and for the past 40 years I’ve been walking here, walk through the neighborhood. Everybody around here 28 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

knows me. And it doesn’t matter whether or not they want to see me,” he said with a grin, and then added more seriously, “no kidding, I’m a good neighbor and I think it’s important to be a good neighbor.” Last month, the Citeros celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary; they were married on October 13, 1946. The wedding, which took place in St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Passaic, months after Sam was discharged from the Army on February 1, 1946. The couple had been dating for almost four years. They met in 1942. Sam entered the US Army on April 24, 1942; he was stationed at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, where he was a supply technician with Company C of 241st Engineer Battalion. Also stationed there was Carmela’s brother Charles Comito. Together Sam and Charles would travel by train to New York – Sam to his home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he grew up, while Carmela’s

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


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Honoring Veterans brother would continue on they are all too busy starto his family’s home in ing down on their little Passaic, the town where screens, playing games Carmela grew up. and whatnot. One time, during a visit From the Philippines, to his buddy Charles in Sam was scheduled to go Passaic, Sam met Carmela. with the ground troops to He was smitten. Japan and he did arrive in After that, while on Kyoto. leave, he would first go to “We were heading for Brooklyn, then travel up to an invasion,” said Sam, visit Carmela in Passaic. “but the war ended This routine continued between the time we left until Sam was shipped out the Philippines and the to the Philippines in 1944. time we arrived in Japan. With no more visits, However, Japanese solSam and Carmela today and on the previous page, on October 13, 1946 and Sam from his Army days. said Carmela, they stayed diers remained in the in touch the old-fashioned mountains. They hadn’t way – “we wrote letters with pen and paper” - someheard or didn’t believe that the war was over. So, they thing, added Sam, he is pretty sure that his great-grandcontinued to keep shooting at the Americans. I wasn’t children would not know how to do today. sent out on the patrols into the villages. But, the guys He does not hold electronic communication in high who went out there with the soldiers from the regard. Kids these days, remarked Sam, are not going to Philippines who understood the situation on the know how to carry on a normal conversation because ground, those guys were still in danger. In real

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Honoring Veterans danger of being shot. We originally set out for an invasion, but when we got there and plans changed, we set up and lived in an abandoned Japanese airport. From invasion our orders were then switched to monitor and patrol the territory.” Military Discipline Sam remembers that during his time in the Army, he was a quiet kind of guy, kept to himself, and unlike many of his military buddies, was never much of a partier, staying away from drinking, fighting and staying out of trouble. He remembers, though, the one time he innocently went outside the strict military discipline.

In 1997, the Citero’s, Dennis, Theresa, Sam and Carmela, Father Sam.

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans “We had to sign out and write down where we were going one Sunday and a buddy of mine Manny and I wrote down ‘church’. We had leave and they didn’t tell us to come back early. So we went to church, and afterwards to the church picnic, which we hadn’t planned for, weren’t expecting, and ate with his family who had come to visit and we stayed for a while. “When we got back to the base, the battalion had been called out for a surprise inspection. And we were the only ones not there. We were told to go speak to the two officers in charge. First Manny went in and I saw him come out pale and not looking at me. Then I went in. The officers had put their guns on top of the table where they were sitting. I walked in and saw the two guns lying there on the table, pointing my way and instead of saluting, I instinctively put my hands in the air and cried out ‘don’t shoot.’ That may seem funny now, but you could get into really big trouble for not saluting. But they left me alone. I guess they could see I was scared. I was just a pretty innocent kid.” Then,” Sam continued, “they asked me where I had been, why I had been away from base for so long, even though I was still on leave. At the end, they let me go

and told me to tie a towel to the railing at the foot of my bed that night. I didn’t know what they planned to do, but my instinct told me it was going to be something no good, so I tied the towel at that foot of another guy’s bed. Sure enough, they came and pulled him out of bed in the middle of the night. Not sure what they made him do, maybe run laps. Poor guy. Looked exhausted the next morning.” Sam chuckled. It was a good memory. World War II concluded in both Europe and Japan – V-E Day and V-J Day - in 1945, or 68 years ago. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, more than 16 million Americans served in World War II. The youngest of those who served are now in their mid-eighties. And, according to the Rutgers Oral History Archive, which has interviewed more than 500 World War II veterans from New Jersey for the university’s ongoing oral history project, the statewide population of veterans from the Second World War fell below 40,000 in 2012. Sam is proud of his service during World War II. A photo of his battalion hangs in a room of the home, and a photo of him as a young soldier slipped into a clear protective sleeve holds a permanent place in Carmela’s

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans kitchen. After war’s end, Sam continued his involvement as a veteran with American Legion Post 8 in Clifton, where he has been a member for 48 years. Clifton After he returned from the war and Carmela and he married, they lived in Brooklyn for two years before moving to Clifton. Although they have seen many changes in Clifton during those 50 years, said

36 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Carmela, “we don’t want to live anywhere else, where else would we live? This is home.” Carmela’s brother-in-law, the husband of one of her sisters, had a business in Brooklyn and Sam went to work for him when they lived there. When they moved to Clifton, he worked for Clement Ferdinand and later for Pashman Supply in Passaic until he retired. They both came from big families, said Carmela. Sam was one of

eight children, four boys, and four girls, with Sam in the middle. “I had a good life as a kid in Brooklyn, a good life,” recalled Sam, “and before I entered the Army, I worked briefly in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Montana. That was also good.” The Civilian Conservation Corp was a government program that employed young men during the Depression to work on large public works projects. Sam was with the CCC from Oct 3, 1939 until March 25, 1940. He was sent to work in rural Montana where he was part of a project to fell tall timbers and shape them for telephone poles so that lines could be strung up across Montana, especially out to desolate ranches. Carmela came from a family of four girls and two boys, and “when my kids were growing up, we continued the Italian tradition of multigeneration families getting together for Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. The kids knew Sunday dinners were always at Grandma’s,” said Carmela. Carmela stays in touch with her sisters, all of whom are in their nineties. Sam and Carmela are the parents of three children: Theresa, who lives in Kentucky, Dennis, who lives nearby in, Succasunna, NJ and Sam, the priest with St. Terese parish in Cresskill, NJ. They also have three grandchildren – Paul, Christine, Jacklyn - and five great grandchildren – Alanna, Laurna, Garrett, Joseph, and Nicholas. As for longevity, “it must be a family thing,” said Sam. Asked if he had plans to be the oldest veteran in Clifton, Sam grinned, “Could be. My aunt just died at 108.”

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans

Clifton’s Dutch Hoogstraten, at right, served with distinction in Vietnam.

A Silver Star For Dutch By Jack De Vries

It was a reminder of the danger that was all around him. Except Dutch Hoogstraten didn’t see it that way. He thought it was damn funny. Dutch had stopped off that morning October 7, 1967, at a Vietnamese restaurant with his boss, Lt. Colonel Bob Sanders, and a South Vietnamese commander and his deputy. The four men wanted breakfast before leading their battalions on a search and destroy mission. They sat around a table, eating their soupy meal, picking the meat out with chopsticks. Dutch’s machine gun rested on the dirt floor leaning against the table, his hat hanging over the muzzle. As they ate, Dutch’s hat began to dance and wobble. A rat had silently crawled up the machine gun and under the hat’s brim and was now gnawing at it. Dutch slammed the rat to the floor with the back of his hand, never letting go of the chopsticks threaded between his fingers. The four men laughed like hell. They enjoyed moments like these. It might be the last laugh they’d have before a bullet ended their lives. 38 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Later that day, Dutch Hoogstraten would be closer to that bullet than ever before. The rat was an omen— death could sneak up on you in Vietnam. And, if you went looking for it like Dutch would do that day, it almost never missed.

Fateful Morning By 8 am, two battalions of 1,600 South Vietnamese soldiers had fanned out across the Tan Ba jungle, west of the Bien Hoa Air Base. Captain Hoogstraten was one of four United States officers helping lead the mission. The air was hot and humid, and Dutch and his men trudged through knee-high underbrush, looking to engage the enemy. That wouldn’t be a problem. In preparation for the upcoming Tet Offensive, a wave of Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops had secretly deployed and waited in the jungle. By 8:30 am, all hell broke loose as the enemy opened fire. To his left, Hoogstraten could hear shots fired and saw smoke wafting up, a signal some of

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Honoring Veterans his troops were in trouble. He moved toward the fighting as the battalion took up a safer position behind him. When Hoogstraten got about a quartermile from the smoke, he learned an entire company of soldiers was pinned down by the enemy. Two or three were wounded, lying out in the open under intense fire. Dutch didn’t hesitate. Along with two other American soldiers, he raced to retrieve the fallen men and bring them to safety. “First you hear the bullet fly past you,” he describes of his run through enemy fire, “then you hear the bang. When you’re can hear the bullet whiz past your head, you know it’s close.” The men ran through the brush, diving to the jungle floor several times to avoid Dutch receiving the Silver Star from Gen. William C. Westmoreland. enemy fire. Behind them, the South uation spot. With the men safely aboard, he returned to Vietnamese troops shot cover fire over their his position as the South Vietnamese battalions surheads, hoping to give Dutch and his men enough time rounded the enemy forces. to reach the wounded. “We captured a number of them,” he says. “And we “You really don’t think about fear at a time like that,” captured some weapons. Later, we learned this was the Hoogstraten describes. “It all boils down to training. initial infiltration for the January Tet Offensive. We You also care for your comrades who have been woundblocked that, at least for the time being.” ed. But it’s the training that gives you the focus, brings The men Hoogstraten helped to save recovered from you to that point where you do what needs to be done.” their wounds and returned to their units. When Dutch reached the men, his shirt was soaked “That night, we went down to the officer’s club,” through with perspiration. The men he had come to resDutch remembers. “I had so much adrenaline in my syscue were covered in blood—unconscious but alive. “I tem that, I don’t know how many scotches I had, but I didn’t know if they were fatally wounded or not,” he was sober.” recalls. “I didn’t think of that. I only cared about getting Hoogstraten’s heroism did not go unnoticed. them out of there.” “It was through Captain Hoogstraten’s continuous Lifting the wounded onto their backs, Dutch and the encouragement and his constant display of courage,” other rescuers began crawling through the brush, again wrote Captain Edward J. Johnson, “that all of the through the enemy fire. More bullets whizzed past, cutwounded and dead were evacuated from the field of batting into the brush around them. Incredibly, they made tle. His conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk it back to their line, hoping to evacuate the injured by of his life above and beyond the call of duty was directhelicopter. ly responsible for the saving of two Vietnamese allies.” But the enemy would not quit. Hoogstraten deterFor his actions, Richard B. Hoogstraten, son of mined it was not safe to land the “dust off” helicopter. Dutch immigrants and former quarterback for Clifton Again braving the assault, he and another soldier began High School, was awarded the prestigious Silver Star. searching for a second landing area. They found one at General William C. Westmoreland, commander of the the top of a hill, about 150 yards from their location. U.S. Military assistance Command in Vietnam, preAfter contacting the helicopter, Dutch raced back to sented the medal. help carry the wounded back up the hill to the new evac40 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

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Honoring Veterans “A sportswriter,” Hoogstraten remembers, “wrote ‘that maybe as he was running through this fire, it reminded him of the time that he was running on the gridiron.’ That kind of struck a bell. The training and discipline you derive from sports and teamwork gets carried over for teamwork in the military.”

One of the Mustangs Hoogstraten remembers the day well—the first time he ever set foot inside Clifton School Stadium. As he entered, he saw Coach Joe Grecco walking toward him, his eyes dark, his face serious. The man who had built the Mustangs into a football powerhouse after years of losing looked down at Dutch and his friends and said, “Good morning, men.” “That was the first time I was called a man in my life,” Hoogstraten says. “Here I was, 13 years old, and this big gap tooth guy was calling me a man.” Grecco had watched Hoogstraten develop since he was a gym teacher at School No. 3. During football season, the coach watched the boy throw passes to friend Warren Tunkel during touch football games outside the school. After one of those games, Grecco took Hoogstraten’s hand and measured it against his own. It was clear to the coach where the boy’s future would lead. In 1950, Hoogstraten became the quarterback for the Clifton freshman team and spent the next season as the JV starter and backup for varsity quarterback Billy DeGraaf. “We called him ‘Hooks’ back then,” remembers lineman Ray Capilli, who also played a few games at quarterback during the 1950 season. “He was a good passer, good leader. The kind of guy who would go out of his way to help you.” Becoming a Mustang had meant a lot to Hoogstraten. As a young boy, he had watched his heroes Bobby Boettcher and Ray Malavasi play under the lights at Hinchcliffe Stadium. As a sophomore, he was inspired by his senior teammates— playMustang ers like DeGraaf, Frank Pecci, Tommy Dunleavy, and Steve Garabics. “We’d sit on the bench,” Hoogstraten says about he and his underclassman teammates, “and watch them. We were 8-1 in 1951, and that developed a sense of pride in all of us. Their example made us play so much harder when we were put into their roles.” 42 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Dutch learned discipline as a Mustang.

With the loss of All Americans DeGraaf and Pecci, and only Henry Nalepka returning, newspapers predicted the 1952 Clifton squad would be one of the worst teams in the Passaic Valley Conference. “Coach Grecco knew we’d be pretty good,” says Hoogstraten, “but he wanted them to write that. He felt we’d surprise teams that way.” The surprise didn’t last long. Clifton ripped its competition for five-straight victories, setting up a showdown with undefeated East Rutherford. The HeraldNews predicted the game would be a “passing duel” between Hoogstraten and Wildcats quarterback Billy Shepherd. “Hoogstraten,” the Herald-News wrote, “who seemed to be a year away, has been spectacular at providing the Mustangs with an air attack.” While the game did not come off as billed, it was clear Hoogstraten was the superior quarterback that afternoon. Leading Clifton to a 13-6 victory, he completed 12 out of 16 passes including a touchdown and ran for another score. The Mustangs ended their season 8-1 (their only loss a 13-0 defeat to Montclair), good enough to tie West New York for a share of the Section I Group IV state championship. While Hoogstraten was a big part of the Mustangs success in 1952, there were other stars. “We were a close knit team,” Hoogstraten says. “Besides Henry Nalepka, we had Mickey Schimpf, Ray Capelli, Bill Botbyl, Bob Van Der Linda, Sal Barcelona—so many truly outstanding players.”

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Honoring Veterans In 1953, opposing schools were ready for Clifton, but it did them little good. Behind Hoogstraten, Van Der Linda, end Ken Lenert, and tackles Bob Spiotta and Al Belestoski, the Mustangs went 7-1-1, tying Paterson Central, but getting blitzed by rival Montclair, 40-6. Despite the crushing loss, Clifton again tied West New York for the Section I Group IV state championship title.

Beyond Clifton After the season, Hoogstraten received 22 college scholarship offers. His best recruiting trip memory was journeying to West Point with Grecco to meet coach Red Blaik. After the meeting, he and Grecco had dinner at the Bear Mountain Lodge with one of Blaik’s assistant coaches, the legendary Vince Lombardi. Though Hoogstraten wanted to go to West Point, a January bout with pneumonia during his senior year hurt his chances. The Academy wanted him to leave Clifton to take math classes; instead, he remained with his class and choose to attend Lehigh University. Hoogstraten spent his college football career backing up the Lehigh starter, All-American Dan Nolan. Ironically, he earned greater success on the baseball dia-

mond, a sport he had little success with at Clifton High. Switching from pitcher to catcher, as a senior, the .300hitting Hoogstraten won the “Bruce Thompson Baseball Award” as Lehigh’s most valuable player. It was at Lehigh where Hoogstraten found his true calling. Participating in the school’s mandatory ROTC program, he became a U.S. Army reserve officer before being called to active duty. He spent two years in the military, serving in Middletown, N.J., and at the Highlands Air Force Station in Highlands, N.J., with the Missile Master Unit. At the end of his hitch, Hoogstraten, now married with two children, left the Army and took a job in sales for AT&T. After a year, he realized he’d made a mistake. “I missed the Army and made a mistake in getting out,” he says. “While I enjoyed working at AT&T, I enjoyed the service life much better.” Dutch went back to his old base and asked to return to active duty. Soon after, he underwent guided missile training in Fort Bliss, Texas, then was sent to Korea in command of an “Honest John” Battery—a large, nuclear capable rocket that sat on a five-ton truck. In 1967, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam.

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Honoring Veterans Hoogstraten was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam, acting as the duty officer at the Bien Hoa Air Base. One of his responsibilities was to call in artillery support for units under fire. Besides ground missions, he flew helicopters twice a day, earning two Air Medals and left Vietnam as a major. Hoogstraten feels the leadership skills displayed throughout his career owe much to the example set by his high school coach. “Joe Grecco was one of the greatest men I have ever met,� he says. “He’s been my mentor over the years. One of the things I took from Joe was to remain cool under pressure. Try to think things through.� Another lesson he took from Clifton was honoring tradition, like the kind Grecco established with the Fighting Mustangs. “I tried to build on tradition when I commanded my battalion,� Hoogstraten notes. “I tried to build on the tradition of how the division performed in World War I and World War II, to relay some of the things that the men of our units did during those particular conflicts.� After Vietnam, Hoogstraten was assigned to teach ROTC at Bowdoin College in Maine. There, he found himself in the midst of an active anti-war movement.

“Some of the faculty members were very vocal against the effort,� he says. “It was just, in some cases, a very unpopular war. But as the military, we still knew we had to do our job. And we did our best.� Besides teaching ROTC students, Hoogstraten also worked as a “next of kin notification officer,� informing area parents of the loss of a son killed in action. He also worked as a “survivor assistance officer,� helping arrange funerals and assisting families with paperwork. “I was jostled at funerals,� he remembers, “by relatives who were grieved because they had lost kin.� Over the rest of his military career, Hoogstraten served in Germany, Fort Monroe, Va., and Fort Polk, La. He was promoted to colonel and later served as ROTC director of training. He retired from the Army in 1984 and worked with Newport News Shipbuilding until October 2000, managing a training program for Navy crews serving on submarines and aircraft carriers built by the shipyard. While a frequent vistor to his hometown for get togethers with former Mustangs every June, Dutch lived the last 30 years of his life in Virginia. Col. Richard B. ‘Dutch’ Hoogstraten, U.S. Army ret., 69, died Feb. 16, 2006, in Williamsburg, VA.

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Honoring Veterans


By Carol Leonard

Military Life Reunites Former Neighborhood Friends Tony Latona and Yvonne Nollman It really is a small world. Just ask Tony Latona. While growing up on Samuel Ave. during the 1980s, the lifelong Clifton resident and firefighter enjoyed hanging out with the other kids on his block. The group would spend hours at the park playing stickball, baseball and other games. Among his friends was Yvonne Nollman (nee Mandyk), who lived a few houses down from him in the Athenia area neighborhood they shared. “She was the only girl on the block, but she fit right in with the boys,” Latona recalled. “She was a really good athlete.” As a teenager, Nollman moved to Florida with her family and Latona never saw her again. That is until the two surprisingly met up a few years later at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. It turned out they’d enlisted in the Air Force and reported for basic training at the same time. Latona and Nollman both say they had never thought about joining the military while growing up, and it wasn’t until they were seniors in high school that either of them even considered the possibility of enlisting. “When I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to be a fireman,” Latona said. “Then, when I was in high school, they had this military testing day. I had no intention of joining the military at that point, but I decided to take the test anyway.” 48 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Tony and Yvonne during their Kindergarten year going for a stroll in Sperling Park.

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Honoring Veterans A few weeks later, he received a letter from a recruiter citing his success on the test and suggesting that he consider a career in the Air Force. Career Decisions “When we talked, I told him I was more interested in firefighting and he told me that they have firefighters in the military,” Latona said. “I thought about it and decided to enlist.” Meanwhile, down in Florida, Nollman eventually adjusted to being away from Clifton. “I met new friends and life went on,” she said. During her junior year at CHS, she helped lead her softball team to a state championship, playing shortstop in the team’s first year of fast pitch competition. She also played volleyball and basketball in school. While her softball coach tried to convince her she stood a good chance of getting an athletic scholarship, Nollman doubted it. “Even if I did, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college and I didn’t think I’d be able to handle college and playing a sport,” she said. During the winter of her senior year a family friend mentioned the Air Force to her, so she decided to check it out.

“My mom hesitantly took me to the recruiting office and I decided to sign up in what they call the delayed recruitment program,” she said. “I raised my hand and took the oath before I even graduated from high school.” Nollman said she looked at it as an opportunity to do something different and travel the world. She also liked the fact that she could receive tuition assistance and pay for college classes while on active duty. She was supposed to report for basic training in August 1992, but she asked for a delay because her summer softball team had made it to the Big League World Series and she didn’t want to miss it. “My recruiter worked it out where I could go in September instead, which was great,” she said. And, the one month extension of her enlistment ironically coincided with the same week that Latona was scheduled to report for training. Fate’s Timely Twists A mutual friend had mentioned to Nollman before she left that Latona had also enlisted in the Air Force and was going to basic training around the same time.

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Honoring Veterans Finding a kid she grew up with in Clifton and had not seen in a few years would be a stretch. It is a little tougher considering every recruit looks the same. “I just remember that I was constantly looking for that familiar face,” she said. “Every guy seemed to look the same at basic, with those bald heads, but that one bald head stood out right away.” The two old friends were at chapel together when Nollman first spotted Latona. “I was standing on the side doing my chapel guide duties and waiting for him to look up,” she said. “When he did, his mouth just dropped.” Latona said he couldn’t believe his eyes, recognizing Nollman immediately. “I kind of looked at her and mouthed, Yvonne?” The two couldn’t wait for the service to be over to talk for a few minutes before making formation with their respective units. Latona and Nollman ran into each other a few more times during basic training and learned that they both had orders to go to Germany for their first bases. Latona was assigned to Spangdahlem Air Base and Nollman to Buechel Air Base, not far away, so they saw each other periodically.

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Divergent Paths While in Germany, Nollman met her husband Eric, who was also in the Air Force, and Latona attended the couple’s wedding. When his four year stint was up, Latona decided to return to Clifton to pursue his dream of a job in the Fire Department, while Nollman continued on to make the Air Force her full-time career. The youngest of seven children, Latona felt an attachment to his family and his home town. “I guess it’s the old school Italian in me,” he said. “I grew up here and I wanted to come back to my roots.” To continue his involvement in the military, he joined the Air Force National Guard, which he feels gives him the best of both worlds. “I always knew I wanted to serve my country and my community,” he said. The timing of Latona’s return home was such that he had to wait almost three years for the next cycle of testing for firefighter jobs. In the interim, he worked for Fed Ex and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department. His patience and persistence paid off, though, and he landed a job with the Clifton Fire Department 13 years ago. “It’s been a great run,” he said. “Because I grew up here it’s especially satisfying knowing that I’m helping those I have a connection with. When a call is over, I always follow up to see how the people are doing. For me it doesn’t end when the fire is put out.” Latona also celebrated what he calls his “blackjack” anniversary with the Air Force, 21 years, from which he has a lot of great memories. “It’s given me a chance to serve my country and to see the world,” he said. “I’ve sat in the Space Shuttle Endeavour, I’ve been in front of Big Ben on New Year’s Eve, I’ve skied in the Swiss Alps and I’ve sat at the Vatican with the Pope saying mass. I’ve been to Israel and to the Berlin Wall. I even have a chunk of it in my house.” Aside from his fireman’s job and National Guard duties, Latona stays involved with other community activities, including helping to organize the annual Tank Pull to raise funds for the Wounded Warriors Project, as well as Clifton Cares, an organization that coordinates donations of food, snacks, toiletries, recreational equipment, and cards and letters to send to troops overseas. Nollman started out as a security specialist in the Air Force, and then retrained in medical administration and

later in human resources. She is currently a personnel officer, which involves managing the base military personnel offices as well as the fitness center, dining facilities, lodging, and morale, welfare and recreation activities. Her unit also organizes the itineraries of distinguished visitors to the base. Joining The Ranks Of The Commissioned About 12 years into her career and while she and her husband were stationed at Camp Smith, Hawaii, she enrolled at the University of Hawaii and in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) offered through the university. That move turned out to be a life changer. She graduated, was commissioned as an officer in 2008, and is now a captain. “Life in the military has been great,” she said. “I’ve been stationed in Germany twice, Turkey, Iceland, Florida, Hawaii, Virginia and now Arizona. For most of their married life, Nollman and her husband have been stationed together, except for a year when she was in Iceland and he was in South Korea. Right now she’s on her third deployment to Afghanistan, but she expects to return to her husband in

December, when her tour is up. This will also coincide with his retirement from the military after 24 years. Nollman herself will be eligible to retire in less than five years, but she isn’t sure yet about her plans. “If I’m still having fun and enjoying what I do, I’ll stick around,” she said. “I would like to eventually work in a health and wellness center.” When not working, she and her husband enjoy biking, playing golf and hiking together. Friends Forever Latona and Nollman deeply value their renewed friendship. Since meeting up again in basic training, they’ve communicating as often as possible via e-mail and phone, and they make it a point to get together whenever Nollman has occasion to be in New Jersey. “Both of us being in the military, we have that bond and can talk with each other on issues and know that we understand each other,” Nollman said. “I’m just so proud to have him as a dear friend and what I like to think of as the brother I never had.” Latona added, “It’s great to know that we each took successful paths in our lives and are such good friends.”

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Grand Marshal

US Army Vet, Retired Clifton Cop, Veterans Parade Grand Marshal By Tom Hawrylko Joe “Sarge” Padula hit his personal trifecta in 1981. He had just retired from the Clifton Police Department, bought a new Cadillac and met the love of his life, Elizabeth Verderosa. It just took Sarge 32 years to cash in that ticket. Earlier this year, he retired from his second career as the city’s liaison to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. More importantly, he and Elizabeth made it official and tied the knot on June 30, 2013. Why did it take so long? “We were taking care of our parents,” he says with a smile. “But we still got two homes, Toms River and here. We gotta consolidate.” But at age 80, Sarge admits that may be tough to do. He likes having lunch at the Hot Grill, Tuesday night poker games, getting fresh Gerbino’s bread at Corrado’s and seeing “the guys.” Meaning oldtimers he grew up with in the so-called Beantown neighborhood and scores of other pals from across town. Those guys should come out to see Sarge lead the Veterans Parade up Van Houten Ave. on Nov. 10. The Korea-era Army Veteran—“make sure people know I wasn’t in any action,” says Sarge—was named the Grand Marshal for his service to our nation and as a way to honor him for a lifetime of being a part of Clifton. Sarge Padula was never one for big speeches so don’t look for him to hang on to the microphone too long. And if he does say a few words, his speech may be slurred, due to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Sarge Padula still sports his trademark fedora and toothpick. At left, with his bride Elizabeth, and on the next page, when Sarge got made and earned his name.

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Grand Marshal About two years ago, friends became worried as his speech got funny and his gait slowed. He went to see a few doctors but did not get straight answers. Then he began to notice a strange feeling in his body, along with heart palpitations and shortness of breath. “An A-fib,” he shakes his head. “Bang.” Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and rapid heart rate that causes poor blood flow. Next, Sarge, who is always on the go, ran into a bad case of dizziness, getting disoriented and losing his balance a few times. “Vertigo,” he recalls of his third pick in his 2013 trifecta. He laughs and then continues using his thumb and pinky to illustrate the problem: “Somebody got the horns on me.” Sarge is old school Italian and some in the culture believe in il malocchio (pronounced maloik.) Part superstition, part tradition, it is the belief in the so

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called evil eye, placed on a person when someone else is jealous or envious of the other’s good luck or success. The malocchio then takes over and manifests itself in some sort of misfortune onto the cursed person, usually some physical ailment. He doesn’t believe that lore exactly but the three hits of bad health did rattle his stripes. “I’m always pushing. Always pushing,” he stops to catch his breath, then continues. “But what is success? What does all this mean,” he points around his tidy Warren St. home, “if you don’t have your health?” Mom’s Meatballs and Macaroni Giuseppe Padula was the only child of Mildred and Giuseppe and like many Italian lads, grew up devoted to his parents. He tells how it all began in Beantown,

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Grand Marshal that section of Valley Rd. where farms sloped off of Garret Mountain with fruit trees, acres of vegetables and yes, bean fields... many of them. His mom’s family were the Michelli’s and they were butchers. His dad’s side had a grocery store on Valley and Warren. “We all lived here,” Sarge says, “Three houses on Warren St. We had it all tied up.” Sarge was just little Giuseppe Padula in those days, a tough 5 foot 8 scrapper. “Mom’s side were all pussycats,” he says of the family. “Dad was the enforcer.” But Giuseppe fit in with the School 5 kids and never got into too much trouble. He graduated Clifton High in 1951 and then started working for the US Post Office. But the Korean War began on June 25, 1950 and the Selective Service draft called for Padula and 26 other Clifton kids. He signed the papers and began Army basic training at Ft. Dix on March 16, 1953. After basic, he was assigned for a few months of training with a transportation division at Ft. Eustis, near Newport News, VA. Army life reinforced a lot of the lessons his dad had begun to teach him in Clifton. Respect and discipline. Organization and authority. When to speak and when to keep his mouth shut. What he missed most was good food. “Every weekend I’d drive home for meatballs and macaroni,” he says of his roadtrips back to Clifton. “Mom was the best.” His next duty station was Ft. Lewis, in Washington State for a few more months of training before being shipped out to Pusang, Republic of (a/k/a South) Korea. Soon he was made corporal and got a familiar job: “They put me in the Post Office. I handled all the regular mail going in and out. No action. No hero stuff. There’s not too much to say about my time there. Guys there saw some terrible stuff. Terrible. It was a hellhole.”

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These Mustangs from the Class of 1951 still make time for lunch at the Hot Grill. From left, Sarge Padula, John Celentano and Robert Stier.

By 1955 and at the age of 22, Joe Padula returned to Clifton as a veteran. He took up his old job in the Post Office but when he heard that the test was open for a few Clifton Police jobs, he decided his career path. He was sworn to office with nine other guys on May 1, 1956 and that’s when his life changed. He walked the beat back in those days and applied some of those skills his dad first taught him and which the Army helped refine. Over the years, that scrappy kid from Beantown learned how to be a good and fair cop and by 1967, he was made sergeant. “I’m a bad test taker but I made up for it with the physical side,” he says. Proud of his strength, “I’m still a tough little guy” he still works his cop muscles and puts a grip on a guy that let’s you know that Sarge still got juice.

Counts His Blessings So yes, Giuseppe Sarge Padula, the guy that holds Clifton’s record as the longest continuously public servant—from 1956 to 2013—is counting his blessings. He married young and his son Michael, now 54, is a personal trainer who owns a fitness center in Paramus. Michael also has a 14 year old daughter, Samantha. Sarge also enjoys telling how a friend who lived on Troast Court, Gloria Padula, “no relation, her husband Jimmy was a Paterson cop,” introduced him to Elizabeth. “It was love at first sight,” admits Sarge. “I’m very comfortable with her. I always tell her that there is nothing we cannot accomplish together. My Betty, Elizabeth. Sweetheart. All of the above.” Beyond the card games, trips to Corrado’s, Atlantic City, Cape Cod getaways with Betty, and excursions in the Caddy across town, Sarge still makes time to walk a mile daily. And to keep that grip strong, he works out with weights at home. “I’m still a little powerhouse.” There is another source of goodness in his life. Since he was young, Sarge said he prays to the Virgin Mary. “Everyday,” he explains. “Constantly. All day long.”


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Veterans Parade

Purple Heart veterans Rudolph Zajac, Gib Kanter and Dominic DiPaolo shown in 2007 at the Purple Heart monument at the Clifton Library on Piaget Ave. These three men and other groups and those who served are invited to march in the Clifton Veterans Parade on Nov. 10, which steps off at 2 pm at the Athenia Vets Hall. For details, call Keith Oakley at 201-774-6666.

Early morning flag raising. Followed by marching. And more marching! Sounds like a typical crud morning in basic training, right? But it also sums up two key components of Clifton’s vital Veterans Day commemoration. On Sunday, Nov. 10 the good folks behind the Clifton Avenue of Flags would really appreciate your help to raise all 1,572 flags, around 6 am If that’s too early, they alternatively will need help taking all those those flags down the following day, Nov. 11, at 4 pm. If you’re up for this (and they are counting on a few good volunteers), call John Biegel at 973-519-0858 to do what they told you back in basic or boot camp to never, ever do: volunteer for something. 60 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

It’s a pretty darn good parade and tbe CHS Mustangs Marching band in particular always makes a really great presentation and struts its stuff with style and dedication. Plus it’s Clifton’s special way of showing we love America and care about the sacrifices our veterans have made for it and us. Be there and make yourself feel good for showing up. The parade coordinator if you dare have further questions is Keith Oakley. To support the effort in any way, call 201-774-6666.

Avenue of Flags ground coordinator Bill Van Ek, pictured above left with Biegl at right, also needs someone termed a “Barn Master” to take charge of loading and unloading the flags, if you’re feeling really ambitious. Then, since we figure you shouldn’t be too tired from all that flag raising you’re signing up for, we’d also like you to show up and cheer on our annual Veterans Day Parade. It kicks off 2 pm from the Athenia Veterans Post on Huron Avenue and wends its way down Van Houten to the Avenue of Flags on the City Hall campus.

Post “Toasties” In a somewhat related vein, VFW Post 7165 at 491 Valley Road announces that its monthly breakfast program, held the first Sunday of each month, on Nov. 3 will feature “Freedom Toast,” which is thick “Texas-style” bread, with three eggs any style (fried, scrambled, maybe even shirred), bacon, sausage, Taylor ham, home fries, OJ, coffee, tea, milk and cake. On Dec. 1, it’ll be pancakes; on Jan. 5 there’ll be “make your own” omelettes; on Feb. 2 it’s back to Freedom Toast, and from March till May this schedule repeats. Chow call is $6 per person, runs from 8 to 11 am, and kids 12 and under always dine free. Call the Post at 973-523-9762 for more info.



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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


NJRCC Awards

An Award Well Earned By Richard Szathmary

Passaic County Elks CP Treatment Center Executive Director Dr. William G. Weiss will be honored by the the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first ever “Community Champion” Award on Thursday, December 12. There’s a unpreposessing sort of building on Main Avenue right next to Kamil’s Restaurant, and its siting means that some of us drive past as many as 100 times a week. Yet most of us probably never notice the structure, its signage or even the school buses disgorging or loading kids there, or that said kids look and act quite, ah, “differently” from the usual run of adolescents at any of our local schools. 62 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

This is the Passaic County Elks Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center, and on Thursday, December 12, the Center, in the person of Executive Director Dr. William G. Weiss, will be honored by the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first ever “Community Champion” Award. And there’s a story here that, alongside providing the “why” for the award, also explains what goes on in that building that is both so crucial and so heart-rending.

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NJRCC Awards Time, Tenure and (Dual) Dedication The Passaic County Elks Cerebral Palsy Center (“the CP Center”) has been around since 1947, 66 years ago. Back in the days when children and adults alike with CP were viewed by many others as objects of, alternately, pity, disgust and plain old bafflement. Dr. Weiss has been with the Center since coming there as a teacher in 1978, and for the last 11 years, as Director. That’s 35 years ago, far longer than most people ever stay at any one job these days. And one might well ask of Dr. Weiss, “Why?” “Why? Well, the why is because I still find the work extremely fulfilling and rewarding. It’s meaningful work. Not many positions ever are. “Because they don’t have an easy path in life, we try to make it a little easier for them to negotiate.” As do five local lodges of the national Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks: Clifton’s own lodge, the Passaic Valley Lodge in Totowa and the Wayne, Pompton Lakes and Paterson/Woodland Park lodges. All Elks Lodges everywhere are encouraged to serve and raise money for charities — it’s key to members’ very perception of themselves as members of this fraternal order since its founding in 1868 — but these

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five local lodges place a special emphasis on cerebral palsy and the developmentally disabled, pinpoint their activities towards charitable support of the CP Center. “We simply couldn’t go on as we do without the actual charitable support and even the moral encouragement of the Elks,” Dr. Weiss points out. Since its founding as a bare-bones operation in the basement of a Passaic elementary school, the CP Center has expanded, expanded and, for a change of pace, expanded some more. The CP Center is now a threebuilding operation: the grade school HQ on Main Ave. with about 120 kids, the high school on Union and Main Ave. with another 100 or so and the Adult Training and Medical Day Care Program facility out on Route 46 at Hazel St. which services another 40, all grads of the Center and other specialized schools. That’s approximately 260 people with the condition (and it is properly labeled a condition, cerebral palsy or CP is not a disease or even a Divine judgment of sorts) who are aided and cared for and generally prepared for entrance into the ordeal for all known as the “adult world” on a daily basis. “We are an extension of the public school,” Dr. Weiss notes. “Most public schools really do want

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


NJRCC Awards Pre-School Program

It dawns on even the casual observer that these kids are loved and, more to the point, respected by the CP Center’s staffers.

Elementary School Program High School Program to help these kids. And they realize that the help is often best offered at a facility like this one. They just don’t have our proper facilities and certified personnel.” Attendees thus come to the CP Center from more than 50 sending school districts across Passaic County and neighboring towns. They are referred there by Child Study Teams in the relevant districts, and the average cost is $70,000 per pupil. (About as much, perhaps only coincidentally but perhaps not, as a year at Harvard or Amherst.) Which even then does not cover the total cost of educating each pupil, or even of transporting him or her to the center five days a week. Hence the absolute importance of the Elks lodges’ ancillary fundraising efforts, Total support and revenues at the CP Center for fiscal 2013 (including Medicaid monies, state and federal grants, etc.) amounted to $17.2 million, with $48,000 in net support and revenues over expenses. Yet without the $301,000 supplied by contributions, special events and fundraising (aka, basically, the efforts of those five Elks lodges), the CP Center would indeed be running a large deficit. “We certainly want to brag about the wonderful work of the Elks,” Weiss says. “$10,000.000 over 66 years is very significant support from just five lodges.” 66 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Adult Training Center Program Reality, Always Biting, And Harshly Indeed To properly understand what the Passaic County Elks Cerebral Palsy Center does, however, and thus why the coming recognition of the CP Center and the efforts there which are led by Dr. Weiss are even more important, it’s necessary to get a bit grim here. In the 17th century, the famed philosopher Thomas Hobbes offered that life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” And he was not at all referring to the developmentally disabled (whose lives in 17th century England

The Clifton Elks is a major supporter of the CP Center. Pictured with Dr. Weiss are Keith Oakley (left) and James Van Leuvan, Clifton’s Exalted Ruler.

were surely brutishly shorter than anyone else’s). But, rather, to the “normal” run of mankind. The developmentally disabled and the sufferers from CP on any level, however, start out with even more strikes against them, to a point crabby Hobbes could never have foreseen. And to walk the halls of the CP Center, even just to observe the specialized equipment in the classrooms right down to the “walkers” which allow the extremely disabled to move about in some modest approximation of “normal” movement is to realize how few of us could ever work there. Then, to witness these kids as they meet the challenges life has put in front of them is to expose your own heart to something that at times can be wrenching. But it also dawns on even the casual observer that these kids are loved and, more to the point, respected by the CP Center’s staffers. They arrive at the Center daily with happy expectations, and with the added reassurance that they can expect care and concern. And they seem to leave reluctantly, which is rare among any grouping of school-age children. This, in other words, is the concept of in loco parentis carried to its highest, most exemplary level. And very few of us have such commitment within ourselves. Amazingly too, given the magnitude of its existing care mandate, the CP Center, thanks to a generous additional donation from local Elks, has over the last 18 months managed to launch a Special Toddler Playgroup for kids from birth to three who are already receiving physical therapy via the state of NJ’s Early Clifton Merchant • November 2013


NJRCC Awards Welcome, Challenge, Celebrate and Encourage... those four words sum up what the staff at the PCECPC does... “I’d like people to know that we are an agency that welcomes all people with disabilities,” says Dr. Weiss, “and that through individual plans and customized therapies, we can help them live better lives.” Intervention Services. Parents can even come to the playgroup to socialize with and support each other. (There’s no other group like this in north Jersey.) And toddlers themselves can implement their individual goals in the form of guided play. To a point where even Hobbes, who was basically politically liberal if despairing, might smile. Weiss’s Story William Weiss began his own career/commitment at and to the CP Center, after a stint as a counselor at a camp run by the Easter Seals organization, Camp Merryheart. “It gave me some sense of how much remains to be done in this world,” Weiss says now, “and of what I might myself contribute.” He even changed his college major from elementary ed to special ed. And when he started at the CP Center as a teacher after graduation from St. Peter’s College back in 1978, he was also lucky enough to meet his future bride, Christine, there; she was a staff speech therapist. (An remains one, but not at the CP Center.) They also have three daughters, Marybeth, Leanne and Samantha. Interestingly, too, although before becoming Executive Director of the CP Center he toiled there as, respectively, teacher, program supervisor and principal (all front-trench sort of jobs) Dr. Weiss says he never truly brings his work “home.” “No, it’s not wearing at all in that way. Anyway, not near as much as it is to the direct care staff. You can’t take it home with you very much because it’s better to be fresh and up for the next day’s challenges. “My job is fundamentally to help the staff succeed.. My job is hard sometimes, yes, but not as hard as it is for those who work face-to-face with the children all day. No matter how hard their jobs are, however, I know and see that the staff continues on a daily basis to bring great joy to the kids and their families. “We use four words around here to sum up what we do: Welcome, Challenge, Celebrate and Encourage. 68 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Dr. Weiss with his wife Christine, and their daughters, from left, Marybeth, Leanne and Samantha.

That’s what we do. All we do, really. I think we do it pretty well. And so I’d like people to know that we are an agency that welcomes all people with disabilities, and that through individual plans and customized therapies, we can help them live better lives. Because their lives almost certainly will be hard.” A CP Center program which Dr. Weiss is particularly proud of is its Adult Training Center, for ages 21 to 55. It incorporates both independent living skills and socialization with work skills for employment training. He proudly cites the Passaic Avenue Shop-Rite, Kmart, Burger King and CVS as firms which gladly accept the program’s graduates. “Probably our major worry is how much funding we’re going to get in any given year. Funding is currently fair, I think. But we’re under the same budget caps as local school systems.” Which during the current (and probably for four more years) Christie administration is but a Hobbesian-reminiscent, surely piddling 2 percent annually.

An Award That Matters On December 12, the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce (NJRCC), based (but of course!) in Clifton, in a function to be held at the Westmount Country Club, will honor the CP Center, via the person of Dr. Weiss, with its first annual “Community Star”award. Normally, the NJRCC at its annual awards program focuses on local business leaders. This time, it’s adding a (long-overdue) nod to actual.organizations which advance the idea of community. (Without which, it follows, there’d be no need for a Chamber of Commerce in the first place.) And Dr.Weiss is well aware of the significance of this award. “It places us within the community and it reminds people in it of how we’re of service to it. A lot of people simply don’t understand what we do. So in a sense this is our opportunity to remind people of exactly what it is we do here.” And they do it all in this same unprepossessing building on Main Avenue which genuinely rings with laughter at the start and end of the schoolday, and at two other locations in town. As for those five Elks lodges which so strongly support the CP Center, well, the Community Champion Award can duly and properly be viewed as recognition of their efforts as well as those of Dr.Weiss and his staff. There is as much dedication inherent in the Elks selling all those 50-50 raffle tickets as there is in overseeing an actual classroom of the developmentally disabled. Elks, too, serve ably and diligently on the Board of Trustees of the CP Center. Remember This, Too “A facility like ours basically reflects as well as serves the needs of the community,” Dr.Weiss notes. “People only really wonder what it is we do here until they have actual need of our services themselves.” For 66 years, since 1947 at the height of the postWWII baby boom, the CP Center has done its best, with the considerable aid of five Passaic County Elks Lodges, to make an impact on the lives of those most in need of certain kinds of assistance. That alone sounds like just cause for this year’s Community Champion Award, courtesy of the NJRCC, an award long, long overdue, as those 250 families who utilize its many services would surely concur.

Chris Grevesen

Kevin Cummings

Not To Overlook Other Award Winners Alongside the first annual “Community Star Award” the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce is also handing out two of its annual Star Awards to, as NJRCC prexy Brian Tangora says, recognize Chamber members notable for their business leadership, “highlighting their business leadership, vision and success, as well as their significant support of the Chamber.” This year’s honorees are Investors Bank, headquartered in Short Hills but with two branches in Clifton, and DeVry University, which is based in Downers Grove, IL but has a physical campus in Paramus. Accepting for Investors Bank will be Kevin Cummings, President and CEO since 2008. Tangora says of Investors Bank that “if you see a community event in our communities, you’ll see Investors as a sponsor. And that translates right into the programs that we do at the Chamber for our membership. Investors is deeply involved, and their support always allows our members to learn and prosper.” Accepting for DeVry will be Chris Grevesen, Ph.D., President of DeVry University’s NJ campuses. And Tangora, himself a DeVry grad, comments that while he never expected to have a relationship (with his alma mater) post-graduation, “we’ve nonetheless created this partnership which allows us to offer our members various benefits at no charge to them.” These include educational seminars, access to faculty advice, etc. “They’ve really stepped up for us,” he emphasizes. The NJRCC’s Star Awards Dinner is on December 12 st the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park. For further info about tickets or other services of the business advocacy group, call the Chamber at 973-470-9300, or visit its web site at Clifton Merchant • November 2013


By Richard Szathmary One just isn’t quite enough in this particular case. Accordingly, we’re happy and proud to announce that, in conjunction with the CHS administration and faculty, which did the actual selections, we’re now covering five—count ‘em!—“Students of the Month” here each month. Devashri Parikh Marek Skubisz One from each wing of the physical plant of the Clifton High campus and one from, to establish our basic political nonElena Mikhaylova, from the partisanship, the Brighton Rd. Annex. North Wing, is somewhat in sync Frankly, we’re delighted to introduce to with Carlos in that her own fave our audience five such outstanding students class is AP History. She says Mr. at the proverbial one fell swoop, to celeHenry there “pushes you to work brate more than our usual “allotment” of really hard.” He also “treats you just one Student of the Month as we have like an adult.” done for the past few years. These kids are also (as it almost So, given this grand opportunity, let’s should go without saying) much swoop in. into extracurricular activities. First, from that Central wing (and yes, Devashri Parikh, for example, students, we agree, all this talk of wings is has become involved with the sort of like talking about prison architecFrench and Asian clubs and even Elena Mikhaylova ture), there is Devashri Parikh. something which sounds impossi“My favorite class is chemistry and my bly daunting, the “Knights of the favorite teacher is Mr. Chilowicz,” she says. Pythagorean,” whatever the heck it turns out to “do.” Asked why, her ready reply is that Mr. Chilowicz “is She plays varsity tennis, swims, has logged over 200 one of those teachers who want us to learn rather than hours (to date) as a library volunteer and a tutor. just pass tests. Apart from chemistry he just gives us Marek Stubisz, in turn, is already as a freshman a great guidance.” member of the Key Club and is planning to try out (as Speaking as the Annex’s representative, frosh Marek this is written) for the Ice Hockey and Volleyball teams, Skubisz clims to “love all” of his teachers. “They make since he played both sports in middle school. us laugh, treat us like we are their family.’ Carlos Polanco already plays in the CHS orchestra Carlos Polanco, however, from the East Wing, is and runs cross-country; he also plans to go out for indoor more specific. His favorite class is World History and and outdoor track. And Elena Mikhaylova plays tennis he’s also “extremely interested” in politics, for which he and also is involved in Key Club. cites the influence of Mr. Rogers. (No, sillies, not the guy (On the 7th day, we assume these kids just rest. But who used to slip into a ratty cardigan as soon as he got we’re not totally sure. Just reading lists of these kids’ home from wherever he supposedly worked.) aggregate activities tires us out. It almost, but not 70 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Students of the Month quite, makes you wish they’d all just Month.” They get good grades, they join a gang and/or slow down as much have plentiful extracurrics and their as possible.) teachers in progression notice them They also all cite the value of the perhaps a bit more than their fellow friendships they’ve made and continue students. to make at CHS. Devashri Parikh, for Only Carlos, refreshingly, admits he instance, names Jasmine Roque as her honestly “has no clue” why he was best friend. She says that the two of selected. them “have the same personality. Nor do these kids lack for career “We happened to come to the plans. Elena is pointing herself United States at the same time,”she towards a career as a pharmacist. continues, “so we can relate to each Marek’s “looking into,” as he puts it, other’s stories.” becoming a radiologist or a psychiaMarek’s best friend is Mateusz trist. (Spoken like a shrink, Marek.) Carlos Polanco Hernik, whom he met in 7th grade And Carlos very specifically says he “simply by saying hello. He makes me has “aspirations to go to Stanford U feel like I have another brother.” (go Cardinals!) for undergraduate work and afterwards For Elena, it’s Cathrine Esguerra, whom she’s “to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.” “known for a looonnng time” and with whom she shares Devashri wants to continue to study chemistry on a a similar sense of humor.” And Carlos goes way, way higher academic level. We’re betting all of these back with two special friends, Victor Sierra and Brandon “wingers” do just what they set their hearts and minds in Sanchez. the future, even as they’ll probably all change their Three of these kids also pretty much have sussed out minds more than once during their time in h.s. why in fact they’ve been chosen as “Students of the All of these kids seem to have outstanding futures.

72 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Even, dare we say, seem to be prodiProficiency in “Polish as a foreign langies just waiting to erupt soon upon the guage.” Even last year, just a few days so-called “adult” world.” They even after major surgery, she insisted on make us feel a little more reassured showing up to complete her quarterly about the future. exams with the rest of then-sophomore You’ll also have noticed by this classmates. juncture that we haven’t yet mentioned Clearly, this was a young woman the South Wing’s own Student of the who wouldn’t be denied, who reafMonth. That’s because Maria Kutyla, firmed the vitality of human spirit daily universally described by friends and by her display of it and embraced the faculty alike as an exceptional individvicissitudes of life. She was affected by ual, battled some serious health issues. bad health, yes, but never surrendered Regrettably and sorrowfully, she died to it. She’d planned to become a veterishortly before this issue was closed, narian and treasured her miniature Maria Kutyla from a rare form of bone cancer called schnauzer, Felix. Ewing’s sarcoma. Death will not diminish how much But Maria will indeed be fondly and indelibly rememMaria Kutyla did nor how much she meant to loved bered. Previous to her health issues, Maria was a “three ones. The most frequent description of her by others was season athlete” at CHS, in volleyball, swimming and that “she’s such a great kid.” Just like our other four track. Even after developing medical problems, howevStudents of the Month, of course. er, she continued to achieve and excel academically. She So there you have them, neighbors: five simply outkept hard at her grueling schedule of honors and AP standing kids. (But one perhaps a little bit more than othclasses. She also received the Distinguished Academic ers, because of how much she did in comparatively little Award two years running, along with a Certificate of time.) We’re well pleased to hail them here.

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


CHS Drama

See them on the JFK stage or in the wings at Clifton High, top from left: Christopher Reyes, Gourgios Hallak, Kylie Marie Gonzalez, Monika Dlugosz, Kira Abrams, Rebekah Kusher. Middle Row: MariAngel Rodriguez, Devin Sogluizzo (Stage Manager), Catherine Esguerra, Austin Broadwater, Julianna Finocciaro. Bottom Row: Mateusz Kowalczyk, Noor Abedrabbo, Natalia Piekarus. Not pictured: Maura Huelbig, Kevin Kornecki, Alejandro Joewono, Juan Adames.

CHS’s Theater Department, under the able direction of Dave Arts, is doing two seasonally themed one-act plays this, well, “themed” holiday season Act I is “The Long Christmas Dinner” by three-time Pulitzer winner Thornton Wilder and written in 1931. It depicts 90 years of Christmas dinners in the life of an affluent New York family. Act II will be a one-act version of the familiar, familHire a Name You Know

Tom Hawrylko Jr.

74 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

iarly reassuring “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Performances are Friday, Nov. 22 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 pm. The Sunday matinee and finale is Nov. 24 at 2 pm. During intermission, the audience will be further entertained by caroling members of the CHS Choir. Tickets go for $10, $7 for students and seniors. For tix or further info, please call 973-470-2312.


Members of the Class of 2013 earned about $33 million in scholarships and grants. Clifton graduates earned over $2.75 million of those scholarships and grants.

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Optimist Cup

The Optimist Clubs of Clifton & Passaic present...

HOT DOG NIGHT Top left: Ronald Cuello, Traverus Moore, Ralph Cuello, James Sonzogni. Front: Passaic Indians Coach Phil Delzotto, Malik Mouzone, Steven Naideck, Stephen Lazorchak and Clifton Mustangs Coach Steven Covello.

For two decades, the Optimist Hot Dog Night has celebrated the traditional Clifton versus Passaic Thanksgiving Day football rivalry in a special pre-game sort of way. On Wednesday, Nov. 20, football players, cheerleaders, band members, trainers and coaches will once again break bread (hot dog rolls, actually) at the Athenia Veterans Hall on Huron Ave. at 6:30 pm. They’ll dine on franks, fries and sodas, plus get a chance to meet and size up their rivals. There will be cheers, table banging and good natured jeering, 76 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Clifton’s band members Rebecca Brand and Mohin Patel, trainer Samantha Wojtowicz, cheerleader Zion Hall and once again, James Sonzogni.

Passaic vs. Clifton 1923 1923 . . .Clifton 12 ......Passaic 7 1924 . . .Passaic 23 ......Clifton 0 1925 . . .Passaic 21 ......Clifton 6 1926 . . .Passaic 21 ......Clifton 6 1927 . . .Passaic 13 ......Clifton 0 1928 . . .Passaic 24 ......Clifton 0 1929 . . .Passaic 24 ......Clifton 0 1930 . . .Passaic 26 ......Clifton 0 1931 . . .Passaic 7 ........Clifton 0 1932 . . .Passaic 26 ......Clifton 7 1933 . . .Clifton 7 ........Passaic 6 1934 . . .Passaic 26 ......Clifton 0 1935 . . .Passaic 6 ........Clifton 0 1936 . . .Passaic 34 ....Clifton 14 1937 . . .Passaic 6 ........Clifton 0 1938 . . .Passaic 19 ......Clifton 6 1939 . . .Passaic 31 ......Clifton 6 1940 . . .Passaic 13 ......Clifton 6 1941 . . .Passaic 0 ........Clifton 0 1942 . . .Passaic 19 ......Clifton 0 1943 . . .Clifton 12 ......Passaic 6 1944 . . .Clifton 26 ......Passaic 6 1945 . . .Clifton 6 ........Passaic 0 1946 . . .Clifton 26 ....Passaic 14 1947 . . .Clifton 32 ......Passaic 0 1948 . . .Clifton 7 ........Passaic 7 1949 . . .Clifton 12 ......Passaic 0 1950 . . .Passaic 20 ......Clifton 7 1951 . . .Clifton 26 ......Passaic 6 1952 . . .Clifton 33 ....Passaic 12


INDIANS MUSTANGS 36 Wins 43 Loses 5 Ties

43 Wins 36 Loses 5 Ties

1953 . . .Clifton 21 ....Passaic 20 1954 . . .Passaic 7 ........Clifton 6 1955 . . .Passaic 7 ........Clifton 0 1956 . . .Clifton 48 ......Passaic 0 1958 . . .Clifton 40 ......Passaic 7 1959 . . .Clifton 41 ....Passaic 21 1960 . . .Clifton 28 ......Passaic 6 1961 . . .Clifton 35 ......Passaic 7 1962 . . .Clifton 31 ......Passaic 6 1963 . . .Clifton 50 ......Passaic 0 1964 . . .Passaic 27 ......Clifton 0 1965 . . .Clifton 15 ....Passaic 13 1966 . . .Clifton 7 ........Passaic 0 1967 . . .Passaic 7 ........Clifton 7 1968 . . .Clifton 27 ....Passaic 10 1969 . . .Clifton 40 ......Passaic 0 1970 . . .Clifton 49 ......Passaic 0 1971 . . .Clifton 20 ....Passaic 12 1972 . . .Clifton 35 ......Passaic 6 1973 . . .Clifton 75 ....Passaic 12 1974 . . .Clifton 47 ......Passaic 6 1976 . . .Clifton 28 ......Passaic 6 1981 . . .Passaic 20 ......Clifton 3 1982 . . .Passaic 33 ......Clifton 0

1983 . . .Passaic 20 ......Clifton 7 1984 . .Clifton 16 ......Passaic 0 1985 . .Passaic 28 ......Clifton 7 1986 . .Passaic 21 ......Clifton 8 1987 . . .Clifton 24 ....Passaic 13 1988 . . .Clifton 22 ....Passaic 22 1989 . . .Passaic 22 ......Clifton 0 1990 . . .Passaic 14 ......Clifton 7 1991 . . .Passaic 33 ....Clifton 16 1992 . . .Passaic 13 ....Clifton 10 1993 . . .Passaic 0 ........Clifton 0 1994 . . .Passaic 12 ......Clifton 7 1995 . . .Passaic 21 ......Clifton 7 1996 . . .Clifton 23 ......Passaic 6 1997 . . .Passaic 22 ....Clifton 20 1998 . . .Passaic 25 ......Clifton 0 1999 . . .Passaic 20 ......Clifton 7 2000 . . .Clifton 21 ....Passaic 14 2001 . . .Clifton 20 ....Passaic 19 2002 . . .Clifton 19 ....Passaic 14 2003 . . .Clifton 17 ......Passaic 0 2004 . . .Clifton 48 ......Passaic 0 2005 . . .Clifton 7 ........Passaic 6 2006 . . .Clifton 14 ....Passaic 12 2007 . . .Clifton 18 ....Passaic 13 2008 . . .Clifton 28 ......Passaic 0 2009 . . .Clifton 7.........Passaic 0 2010 . . .Clifton 42.......Passaic 0 2011 . . .Clifton 55.......Passaic 29 2012 . . .Clifton 0.......Passaic 29

Happy Thanksgiving Best Wishes to Both Teams... Enjoy the Holiday!

Passaic County Clerk

Kristin Corrado Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Optimist Cup as competitors meet face-to-face before the 84th annual Thanksgiving Day clash. The game is at “our house” this year, on Thanksgiving Day at 10:30 am at Joe Grecco Field. Clifton currently leads the series 43-36-5, but the Mustangs are coming off a loss, last year’s 29-0 Passaic triumph at Manilo Boverini Stadium. The Hot Dog Night began in the 1990’s as a way to make the world a

bit more civil and for (supposedly) the bitterest of rivals to get to know each other better. To Optimist Club members, with chapters in both Clifton and Passaic, the game and hot dog event serve as a way to let kids at our two high schools know that despite different uniforms, we/they can all still be friends. At the event, one designated student from each team will speak about his experiences on the field

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Open House Tues. NOV. 26 7-9pm

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78 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

SAT Prep @ CHS A Local Remedy For SAT-Borne Stress? CHS’s own fine faculty has jumped into the crowded college admissions marketplace with its SAT prep course. Courses are held on convenient Saturdays from 8 am to noon and weekdays from 7 to 9 pm, beginning January for the March SAT and late February for the May round. They’re also reasonably priced ($295) vs. the competition, and vow to expose attendees “to what a real test is like” and to teach them “how to construct a powerful essay.” They also promise to “deconstruct” and clarify the math section of the SATs where so many traditionally stumble and/or get very angsty. For further information or to register in these stressful times for students, contact Steven Spota, SAT Prep Supervisor, at or call Louise Iuele at 973-470-2310 and in the classroom, and about what this historic rivalry means personally to them. The goal is to have our student-athletes recognize each other not only as competitors, but also as neighbors. Accordingly, cheerleaders, band members and athletic trainers from both schools also attend. Kids eat free but feeding 400 of them can be costly. So Optimist Club members are selling tickets. The public is invited and adult tickets are $10. To support the cause, contact Clifton Merchant’s own Tom Hawrylko, 973-253-4400.

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Community Cares One of Clifton’s bellwether charitable efforts is the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive sponsored by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Clifton Ave. This year, however, fundraising for this always crucial drive to aid the less fortunate has been kicked off with funds and goods from two donors. As pictured, the Rev. Peter DeFranco, Acting Executive Director of St. Peter’s Haven & Food Pantry, recently accepted a check from Roy B. Garretson, Owner/ Manager of Shook, and his son Thomas J. Garretson. The check represents proceeds from the First Annual Shook Funeral Home Car Show, which was held in Shook’s parking lot on Sept. 15 in conjunction with the Van Houten Avenue Street Fair. On Oct. 16, which was the Muslim festival of Eid-Al-Adha when believers traditionally make a donation of fresh meats to the poor and needy, Rev. DeFranco accepted approximately 150 lbs. of fresh lamb and beef. St, Peter’s Haven & Food Pantry has served as Clifton’s food bank since 1986, and now supports over 300 clients per month. Its mission is to provide food and shelter to the poor and homeless and especially to assist the children of families in need. Donate to this year’s Thanksgiving Food Drive with canned and perishable food items, including turkeys. Call 973-543-3406 or go for details. Giving at St. Peter’s from top: Thomas J. Garretson and his dad Roy of Shook Funeral Home with Rev. Peter DeFranco. Middle, from left, NJ Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Ercan Tozan and Mel Turk of the Peace Islands Institute, Rev. Peter DeFranco and Assemblyman Tom Giblin with Lynn Bocchini. From left, launching a coat drive, Clifton Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mulligan, Firefighters Andrew Intile, Scott Isenhour, Tim Flynn, Steve Turi and Lt. Frank Darzanoff.

80 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

The Clifton Fire Dept.’s coat drive is underway. Drop off new or gently used clean coats at: Fire Station 1, 69 1st St.; Fire Station 2, 7 Dumont Ave.; Fire Station 3, 180 Mahar Ave.; Fire Station 4, 144 Main Ave.; Fire Station 5, 51 Brighton Rd.; Clifton Fire Station 6, 1202 Van Houten Ave. To find out how else you can help, go to Once you go to the website, the Clifton FMBA will likely have details about their next annual campaign which begins soon—Toys for Tots. Clifton Fire Department Honors Bestowed. In a ceremony held at City Hall on Oct. 25, the Clifton Fire Department recognized community and staff members. Firefighter Arthur Weber was named “Emergency Medical Technician of the Year” and Firefighter Christopher Struening was similarly hailed as “Firefighter of the Year.” A Class 4-Meritorious Service Award went to Firefighter William McCarron and Deputy Chief Michael Allora. Letters of Appreciation went to David Myhren, Ann-Marie Lancaster and Thomas Sabatie. Platoon 1–Engine 5/Rescue 88 received a Unit Citation. Members include Lt. Patrick Tanski, Firefighters John Dubravsky, George Fen, John Beard and Daniel Hertel. Platoon 1–Engine 6/Rescue 89 also received a Unit Citation. That group was led by Lt. Eric Marshalleck and included Firefighters Steven Turi, Timothy Flynn, Joseph Bennett and Eric Babula. Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin has launched his 2013 Holiday Toy Drive. The goal, he said, is to work with local agencies and individuals to help ease the burden for families who otherwise might not be able to afford gifts for their children. Age appropriate toys, for children ages 3 to 15, should be new and brought to the office unwrapped before Dec. 16. His office is at 1333 Broad St. Clifton, and is open Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. For info, call 973-779-3125.

There is another entrepreneur in Clifton’s DeRobertis family beyond the namesake and his son Peter who head up Vito’s Towing Inc., our “town tower.” Vito’s wife Carolyn (below) now has her own venture too. She just launched her own business of turning old, well, “stuff” into “renewed furnishings.” Carolyn’s Junk-n-Treasures just debuted at both the Rutherford Antiques Fair and the Arts and Craft Fair in Hoboken to approving nods from buyers and browsers alike. Some of her collection are also currently on sale at the Hermitage Museum “Classic Creations” event in Hohokus, which runs through November. Carolyn doesn’t have a fixed-location shop (yet!), but her son, Peter, gave her an old white school bus for her birthday on April 5 which serves as her mobile “Junk-n-Treasures Boutique,” keeping Vito fairly busy as her driver during their joint “retirement.” Carolyn just loves the challenge of transforming each piece she sells into a beauty; each is hand painted and unique. She also is the host of the up and coming Estate Sale on Nov. 29 and 30 in North Arlington on Ilford Ave. selling some fabulous antiques. Her wares can be found on the noted ETSY jewelry website and soon at In the meantime, you may call her at 551-265-3449.

Wine, Cheese, Crafts... The “Wine & Cheese Preview” for the Passaic County Historical Society’s 26th annual “Holiday Boutique” at Lambert Castle occurs Nov. 8, 6 to 9 pm. $15 gets you sips, nibbles and a crucial first look at the merchandise assembled for the Boutique (which itself runs Nov. 9 to 30). Plus two additional trips to the Boutique. For further info, call them at 973-247-0085 or go to Clifton Merchant • November 2013


B&GC Alumni Gala

They’re All Champions In 1987, the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton had a pretty good boys’ 7th and 8th grade basketball team. So good they won the North Jersey Junior Basketball League title in the winter of that year (the very year that the Boys and Girls Clubs consolidated). Hoops Were Key “We sure did well that year,” recalls Tom Di Donna, who in his fifteenth and final year as coach saw his charges finally take the title via a 43-42 thriller over Ridgewood. It may have been (despite that 43-some points is often chickenfeed in the basketball life of someone like Lebron James today) one of the greatest moments of Sam Poulis’s life, too, since he made the game-clinching foul shot with no time left on the clock. This is why the Boys & Girls Clubs, at its 7th Annual “Alumni Gala Dinner” on Nov. 15 will honor that team, which went 17-2 during the regular season. The players pictured above are Sal Anzaldi, Dave Brace, Clifford Carney, Pete Collesano, 82 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

From left, Carl Williams, Barbara Armelin Dobol and Tom DiDonna at last year’s Alumni dinner when Williams was inducted.

Wayne Demikoff, Chris Freeman, Roman Kosz, Mark Lasky, Brett Liszner, Ron Logue, the afore-mentioned Sam Poulis, Jason Riley and Mark Serafin. Coaches for “that championship season “ (to reference the rueful Pulitzer Prize-winning play about how past hoops glories don’t necessarily play out well later in life) were DiDonna and Carl Williams. Williams is an especially interesting honoree. Last year he went into the B&GC “Hall of Fame” on his own. This year, as a rare double honoree, it’s for coaching. He cites DiDonna as truly important to his life. “His influence was monumental,” he says. “I had a bad temper that he helped tone down. He gave me a chance. You played for Tom DiDonna, you played for the best.”

From left, Tracey Jay (TJ) Krzanowski, Steven Ocampo, Tamara Ferragonio, Steven P. Krzanowski, Robert W. Krzanowski and Lianne Maldonaldo.

And while she didn’t play on Coach DiDonna’s actual team (we weren’t quite that “liberated” back in ‘86, we’re still usually not), another key “player” during the autumn 85-winter 86 is in fact a rare double honoree this actual year, as both a Club alum and as manager of the 86-87 team. That’s Barbara Armelin Dobol, who says “my happiest memories as a teenager were spending time at the Boys & Girls Club and Camp Clifton.” Today, Barbara looks back on 32 successful years as a Certified Registered Dental Assistant and Treatment Coordinator, with the appropriate professional certifications from the Berdan Institute. But back in 86, Barbara, a Club member 74-83, was, says DiDonna, “a key part of the team and the process. She was a great cheerleader for the team, both on and off the court. And then all of sudden she was a great team manager, too.” DiDonna also recalls that, when he first began coaching, “I was 19 and basically I knew nothing about coaching basketball.” Nonetheless, he kept at it for 15 years, until the fall of 85 “when I told them this would be my last season.” Luckily for the B&GC, his last season was also his best season.

Not To Be Overlooked... The other members of this year’s Hall of Fame Class follow. Note that, as we go to press (early this month, it happens) we don’t have biographical info (or it’s spotty at best) for some honorees. The honorees themselves (or our readers) are thus much encouraged to help us fill in the gaps, which are, sadly, rather large and egregious. Here they are sorted by the decades in which they were Club members. Please bear in mind, too, that these are but “capsule” versions of honorees’ lives. The 50’s Michael LaCorte and Walter Tenza are this decade’s honorees. LaCorte is a long-time local realtor and owner of LaCorte Real Estate. Extremely active in veterans organizations, too, he’s a Past Commander of American Legion Post 8, a member of VFW Post 7165, an Elk at Clifton’s very own lodge and, perhaps most importantly, a Past President of the B&GC. The 60’s Barry Costanza, currently of North Caldwell, is President of Costanza Contractors Inc. He’s a cum laude grad of Montclair State who achieved Honors in both

PoliSci and Humanities. “The Boys Club was very instrumental in my future success,” he says. “The lessons learned and goals attained were precursor to my adult development.” John Glowacki, now of Hillsborough, has a BS from Montclair State and is a systems analyst at AECOM. He’s very active in Freemasonry, in its Scottish Rite. “Just to be recommended to become a member is an honor,” he says. “Becoming a member (will be) a great moment of pride.” The 70’s Joseph and Walter Jablonski are this decade’s honorees. Joe’s BS and MS are from the University of New Mexico. A scientist, he also served a stint as Associate Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the United States Naval Academy. “The Club offers a safe environment where kids can learn and grow in a nurturing environment surrounded by role models to cultivate their expectations for a meaningful and prosperous life,” he notes. Joe retired with the rank of Commander from the USNR. The 80’s From this decade the Club is saluting the three Krzanowski

Clifton Merchant • November 2013


B&GC Alumni Gala

Richard Rowbotham, Michael LaCorte, Adeline DeVries, John Glowacki, Joseph Jablonski and Barbara Armelin Dobol.

brothers, Steve, Robert and T.J. and, as already noted above, Barbara Armelin Dobol. Steve is a manager at Horizon Blue Cross & Blue Shield of New Jersey. A William Paterson grad with a BA in Communications, he credits the B&GCC with providing him “with a positive outlet to make friends, participate in sports and other activities, and an opportunity for my first experience with employment and being responsible for other people.” Brother Robert is a CPA and CFO for Stone Industries Inc. An FDU grad, he’s active in children’s charities. He believes firmly “in helping the Club succeed in any way possible,”and notes that “it’s a great honor to be recognized for my past work at the club.” Third brother Tracy Jay (“T.J.”) is Medical Director at Malo Clinic for Ambulatory Surgery; Staff Anesthesiologist (regular and pediatric) at St. Barnabas Medical Center and Associate Director of Anesthesia Residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical CenterChildren’s Hospital of New Jersey. He did his undergrad work at Seton Hall and is a fully board-certified anesthesiologist.

from the Ivy university with which it often seems CHS has a “pipeline,” meaning Cornell, is a web developer with a BS from “Big Red” in Economics. He praises the positive impact the Club has had on his life “by teaching me the importance of community.” Daniel Ocampo, like brother Steven rode CornellCHS pipeline and holds both a BS and an MS. A soccer fanatic, he’s a game-day volunteer at Red Bulls games. “I’m truly grateful for everything that the Club provided me throughout the years,” he affirms Lastly, continuing in a soccer vein, say the name Lianne Maldonado around town and “student-athlete” comes right to mind. She was outstanding on CHS’s girls’ soccer team and currently plays for the “Golden Knights” of the University of Central Florida. She in fact was the American Athletic Conference’s pre-season consensus pick for “Goalkeeper of the year,” and third-team All-conference for the 2012 season. “The Boys & Girls Club contributed a great deal to the person I have become today,” she says. “It was a place that allowed me to grow and reach my full potential as an athlete, student as a person.”

The 90’s Richard Rowbotham heads up Rowbotham & Associates, specializing in web consulting services. He’s a Montclair State grad and also a member of Toastmasters International. “My years at the Club helped mold myself, my brother and many friends into the men we are today. It provided us with positive influences and skills,” he says. Tamara Tinajero is a Felician College grad with a liberal arts degree. A licensed hair stylist and cosmetologist, she’s in the CHS “Hall of Fame” for softball.

Lastly, Hardly Least Finally, there’s an award for someone who, as the proverb goes, “needs no introduction.” At least not to anyone who ever attended Camp Clifton. We’re speaking of course of Mrs. Adeline DeVries, who for the longest time was Camp Clifton’s nurse. We can’t think of anyone more deserving of citation. So there you have it, folks. True worthies from the past 60 years. Proof, too, that the Boys and Girls Club of Clifton is a mighty nice organization well worth your support. Again, the dinner honoring Club members is Nov. 15. The cost is $40 with entertainment by “Brookwood,” beer, wine and soda will flow freely and Stew Leonard’s Wines of Clifton is even holding a wine tasting. For info, call the Club at 973-773-0966.

The 00’s The latest honorees are Lianne Maldonado and the brothers Ocampo, Steven and Danny. Steven, a grad 84 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Infants • Pre-School • Kindergarten Full Day & Half Day

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Pageant Circuit

Jonellyn Stanek: Life’s a Pageant. And It’s Meant To Be

At left, Christopher and Jonellyn Stanek with their daughter Angelina who is also pictured above in competition.

Fun, Too! By Richard Szathmary This is a tough one, folks, honest. Because when you mention the topic of toddler pageants to most people, at best, if you don’t get a nasty comment about the televised horror known as “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” which is (appallingly) now in its second season), you’ll generally just get derisive snorting back. Because, let us face it, few people take this aspect of the entertainment world terribly seriously. Nonetheless, Clifton has at least one aggressive, very upbeat and articulate defender of the world of toddler pageants, and her name is Jonellyn “Jonel” Stanek. And she doesn’t lack for contrarian views on this somewhat controversial topic. Jonel isn’t just a defender of the pageant circuit, either. She’s an active participant and proselytizer, too. Together with partner Maria De Santis, Jonel runs the “Hollywood Stars” Pageant operation, which on October 9 on the prestigious The Learning Channel (TLC) in fact had an entire episode of its popular “Toddlers & Tiaras” show devoted to its last pageant, which was held in Fairfield. But line up parents. Another round of Hollywood Stars pageant is set for 2014. 86 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

The Lady Opines “I was absolutely skeptical myself until I entered my daughter in her own first pageant,” Jonel says. “Now, I just love pageants so much,” she adds. It wasn’t always so. Originally from Bayside, Queens, Jonel lived on “the Island” (no points for knowing which island) before meeting husband, Christopher, who, born in Poland, grew up here and is a CHS ‘99 grad. They reside, along with almost-eight daughter Angelina (now “retired from competition in New Jersey” at 8), in the Richfield section. Christopher heads up CGF Construction and Restoration here. “I was lonely out here, I didn’t have many friends,” Jonel says. A friend suggested she attend a pageant with her then-toddler daughter. That was in Wildwood and the circuit and the excitement just hooked Jonel in. “Pageants really bring out the creativity in children,” Jonel claims. “And it can make parents and their children closer, too. Because you actually have to listen to their opinions in so many areas: what they want to wear, what they think about the other contestants. No parent should think that their kid is automatically going to be a star,” she cautions. “But they shouldn’t deny them that opportunity, either. Because it can and does happen.

“Pageants do give a child the chance to perform, after all. But it’s up to the child to do that job when she or he (there is in fact a “male” division for Hollywood Stars’ pageants) gets out there. But it’s also okay if things go wrong. They’re just kids, in the end.” Jonel really does seem to believe that pageants can lead to eventual stardom. (“For some, but all you really need is one, right?”) Her partner, Ms. De Santis, in fact, owns an agency titled Xist Talent in Montclair, and her bio on Hollywood Stars’ website lists one Gina Guidice as her agency’s prize client. This may ring no bells similar to those once tolled for the child star likes of Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin and Elizabeth Taylor (in her ripe, lubricious adolescence), but Ms. Guidice as it turns out is the daughter of one Teresa Guidice of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (relative, anyway) fame; careers have been built on less, as any examination of the Kardashians proves. How It All Works There are two divisions to a typical Hollywood Stars pageant: a “Natural,” no makeup division which should please the most aggressive critics of this substrata of showbiz, and a “Glitz,” which does entail full makeup. Jonel also always make sure that every competing child gets a trophy. “Nobody goes home without being noticed by everybody else, and all the parents and their children leave as friends, too. That’s very important.” She adds, as evidence of her pageants’ inclusiveness, that even children with brain cancer and visible leg deformities have competed. And that other rival pageant directors hate her for such genuine efforts at outreach. “But it’s only a pageant in the end,” she says. “It’s a chance for kids and parents to get together and to have

a good time. The possibility of becoming a star is way to the back of what’s really important here.” It seems to work, too. Jonel averages 38 to 45 contestants for each of her one-day pageants, at a sliding cost of $150-450 per child. This is in fact is (we checked) a good deal less than the usual going rate on the pageant circuit. Jonel also comes off as decidedly unfussy about the attention to “details” which apparently so obsess the parents of, for example, Honey Boo Boo. There’s also very little advertising done for Hollywood Stars’ pageants. Jonel relies heavily on word of mouth among parents and has no real complaints about attendance at her events. Her judges, interestingly, are usually former ‘titleholders” themselves from pageants past. Jonel, who also finds time to volunteer as a VP with the School 2 HSA, also stresses the normalcy of her family. (Again, too, it’s refreshing to compare this to the social horrors shown on “Here Comes...”) “Angelina takes riding lessons in Morristown and studies Tae Kwon Do at Clifton Martial Arts on Bloomfield Ave. and does ballroom dancing. The three of us do plenty of things together on the weekends. I’d never let pageants dominate our lives.” “Most of it, however, is still all really fun,” she exults with a rise in her vocal tone about the pageants. “It’s especially fun for me to run. It’s all, in the end, just like a really great play date for everyone concerned, and I intend to keep it that way to the best of my ability.” Sounds fair. The curious and the fairminded are hereby reminded that the next Hollywood Stars pageant is on Jan. 14, at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Fairfield. Details and entry info are both available at Jonellyn Stanek’s website,

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Clifton Merchant • November 2013


Birthdays & Celebrations - November 2013

Nicole Mokray will be 13 on Nov. 7. Happy 54th to Joe Angello on Nov. 6. He and Sue celebrate their 14th anniversary on Nov. 14. Van Houten Ave. jeweler Frank Lacki turned 87 on Nov. 2. Happy 28th birthday to niece Nancy Hawrylko on Nov. 19. Peter and Heather Fierro’s son Matthew will turn 2 on Nov. 25. Tricia Montague will be 19 on Nov. 9. Michael Zangara is 21 on Nov.16.

Birthdays & Celebrations

Send dates & Jazzlyn Caba ................11/1 Robyn Jo Paci................11/2 Thomas Scancarella .......11/2 Kelly Tierney .................11/3 Lance Dearing ...............11/4 Olivia Nysk ..................11/4 Andrew Seitz ................11/4 Victoria Krzysztofczyk ....11/5 Tanya Ressetar...............11/5 Kristina Azevedo ...........11/6 Nicole Lorraine Bonin.....11/6 Martha Derendal ...........11/6 Danielle Osellame .........11/6 Kristen Soltis..................11/6

88 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

James Ball.....................11/7 Kevin Lord.....................11/7 Francine Anderson.........11/8 Ray Konopinski..............11/8 Beverly Lascina..............11/8 Marie Sanzo .................11/8 Donna Camp ................11/9 Tricia Montague ............11/9 Brandy Stiles ...............11/10 Tom Szieber ................11/10 Stacey Van Blarcom Takacs.....................11/10 Joseph Franek III ..........11/11 Laura Gasior ...............11/12

Geraldine Ball .............11/13 Patricia Franek ............11/13 Robert Paci .................11/13 Gregory Chase ...........11/15 Ken Peterson ...............11/15 Matthew Phillips ..........11/16 Anthony Wrobel ..........11/16 Marilyn Velez ..............11/18 Joseph Tyler ................11/19 Joseph Guerra.............11/20 Jon Whiting ................11/21 Andreas Dimitratos ......11/22 Katerina Dimitratos ......11/22 Margaret Egner ...........11/22 Carol Peterson.............11/24 Brian Derendal ............11/25 Eileen Fierro................11/25 Peter Kedl ...................11/25 Crystal Lanham............11/25 Rachel Prehodka-Spindel ..11/25 Brian Derendal ............11/25 Kristen Bridda .............11/26 Jessi Cholewczynski .....11/26 Dillon Curtiss...............11/26 Bethany Havriliak ........11/26 Kelly Moran ................11/27 Sami Suaifan...............11/28 Amanda Grace Feiner..11/29 Anne Hetzel ................11/29 Christopher Seitz .........11/29 Kaitlyn Graham ...........11/30 Barbara Luzniak ..........11/30

Wish a 6th Birthday to Mr. Cupcakes on Nov. 1.

Keith Oakley turns the big 60 on Nov. 26. Clifton Merchant • November 2013


90 November 2013 • Clifton Merchant

Fernando Rossi was a great soccer coach (as well as an Italian and Spanish teacher) for CHS. Son Guiseppe, who plays for Fiorentina in the elite Italian “Champions League,” at this writing is ranked the no. 1 player in the world by the AP. (He scored 3 goals in 14 minutes against perennial power Juventus in a game where multiple goals by a player are about as common as approving comments about Hillary’s hairstyle by Republicans.) Here’s your chance to honor the former while contributing to a college scholarship fund for a deserving CHS student soccer player, and meet, greet and maybe get an autograph from the latter. That’s because on Saturday, Nov. 16, the CHS Men’s Soccer Alumni Association is hosting its 3rd Annual Alumni Game at CHS’s soccer field. CHS girls’ soccer coach Stan Lembryk promises that “Il Pepito magnifico” as the hyper-volatile Italian soccer press tags him, will, in just tribute to his esteemed dad, fly over to be in attendance. “Let’s come together and kick the ball around for this great cause!” Lembryk enthuses. He hopes to see an awful lot of CHS boys’ soccer alums turn out for this one. Proceeds go, as noted above, to an annual scholarship for a CHS student, and Lembryk is asking from a modest donation of but $20 per player from alums who wish to play in the game (or maybe, depending on age

and/or injuries, just watch and “coach” from the sidelines). The coach also needs t-shirt sizes from prospective players - the game will be between teams from, respectively, odd and even past years - and asks that everyone who turns up to play have the appropriate medical insurance. Last year’s game raised an impressive $2,000, which Class of 2012 recipient Filip Lech is now happily applying to his educational costs at Rutgers. This year’s contest kicks off at 2 pm. Interested soccer alums are asked to respond via e-mail to the Coach at, giving their shirt sizes, although attendees need send no money since the requested donation will be collected before the game. If you simply wish to make a donation and can’t attend, checks made out to CHS Men’s Soccer Alumni can be sent to Stan Lembryk at 22 Stirling Lane, Wayne, NJ 07470. This really is a wonderful, one-time chance for soccer alumni to play (show off?) before someone currently rated the “best” player in the world in their chosen game at its highest professional level. Maybe even kick the ball around with him. It even sounds a bit to us die-hard NFL fans like soccer’s terrific equivalent to having Peyton Manning or Ndakumong Suh on your flag football team for an afternoon.

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