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By Tom Hawrylko & Jack DeVries

They Want To Pay It Forward

For many of his years since coming home from his tour in Desert Storm, Gil Collazo, 47, has been angry. He has felt lonely, scared, and, he admits at times, lost in a fog of depression. A combat engineer with the U.S. Marines, Collazo tried to put on a happy face to get through his days. First as a diesel mechanic and, since 2007, as a light equipment operator for the Clifton Dept. of Public Works (DPW), Collazo would keep his thoughts inside—dealing with the aftermath of being home after seeing crazy things happen during his tour in the Middle East. “My time in-country was life changing,” Collazo said, “because I went in as an 18 year-old kid. You had to grow

up pretty quick. Carrying a weapon, protecting yourself and others around you­... that was my livelihood.” Civilian life left him confused: “My friends back home were working or going to college. I came back angry. I couldn’t identify what it was. Now it is called PTSD.” As defined by the Mayo Clinic, PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—experiencing or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety. “The Marine Corps,” said Collazo, “know how to turn you on, but they don’t teach you how to turn it off or manage civilian life. I did not have a support group around me to help with the transition.” 16,000 Magazines

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Soldier’s Story The CVMA focuses on helping Today, Collazo stands an imposing veteran care facilities provide a warm 6’4” and despite his scruffy goatee still meal, clothing, shelter and guidance, has the bearing of a Marine. He is a or to simply thank and/or welcome 1990 Passaic High grad who wrestled veterans home. and played football and volleyball. His With friend and DPW co-workmotivation for joining the Corps was er Alberto Perez, Collazo began to the 1983 truck bombing of the Marine search for a meeting place for the barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed group. The VFW Post 7163 on Valley 241 U.S. service personnel. Rd. agreed to let them gather there. Collazo (at right in 1990) joined “It’s a ‘big brother, little broththrough a delayed entry program er’ type set-up,” said Collazo. “The while a member of the Passaic High CVMA helps out on the first Sunday ROTC. After boot at Parris Island, he of month with fundraising breakfasts, did three years of active duty with the and they—the older vets from the 8th Engineer Support Battalion as a post—have been great about assisting combat engineer. in telling us about our benefits “I was a gloried grunt,” “What I learned is that asking and such.” Collazo said. “We hung with both Collazo and Pefor help is not a weakness,” rezLater, the grunts, and we got to build joined Post 7163. They also or blow up stuff.” Part of his Marine vet Gil Collazo said, established their own chapter of duty was during Operation the CVMA, Chapter 38-2. Perez “it is a new found strength.” Desert Storm, the 42-day U.S. is the group’s chaplain. led air offensive in response to The CVMA sponsors also Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Collazo worked participates in many motorcycle-related charity events cleaning up land mines. and donates to various veteran care facilities and charAfter returning home, for two decades, he stayed ities. For example, they help support the Thomas House away from the Veterans Affairs system. Part of avoiding in Garfield, home to eight veterans, by providing food for the VA or dealing with his PTSD was his bravado. their pantry, hygiene items and informal counseling and “‘Spanish Macho’ is not to show weakness,” Collazo support sessions. said, “to be proud, to not to ask for help. Take that [atti“We know what it’s like to be in a combat zone,” said tude] and [add it to] being a Marine—we just suck it up. Collazo, “and they can talk to us. We know what it’s like “I’m 47 now and the anger haunted me since ’93. I to be in their shoes.” floated for 27 years, suffering, not speaking about it, and messing up my life… different jobs...” The Journey Back Luckily, Collazo is a diesel mechanic and that ensured When Collazo first joined the CVMA, its members he always earned a living. In 2011, he made a decision spotted his PTSD. “The older guys saw it,” Collazo said, that would change his life—joining the Chapter 38-1 of “but I never really admitted to it. CVMA guys like Rich the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. Farley and Frank (Moe) Moretska took me under their The CVMA members are from all branches of the US wing. They said, ‘You need to go [for counseling].’” military who ride motorcycles as a hobby. For the first time since coming home, Collazo took The group’s mission is to support and defend those their advice and sought help, receiving counseling who have defended our country and freedoms. CVMA through the VA, specifically through the Bloomfield Vet membership is comprised of full members (veterans with Center, something he continues today. verified combat service) and supporter members (veter“What I learned is that asking for help is not a weakans with non-combat military service who have a sincere ness,” Collazo said, “it is a new found strength.” This dedication to helping veterans). self discovery is why Collazo—as well as Perez and oth“The chapter was based around the Fort Dix area,” er members of the CVMA—are so motivated to help this Collazo said, “so we set up a detachment up here.” next generation of veterans.

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“Gil started one-on-one counselations. He was also with Homeland ing,” said Perez (right), “and realized Security in 2003, securing Army that he missed a lot by not working bases in New Jersey. with the VA and making use of the Sleepless nights, being withdrawn services they offer.” and solitary were among his PTSD Today, Collazo and his wife symptoms. “The mortar attacks in Ubelina have two sons, Joseph, 18, Iraq affected me,” Perez said. and Joshua, 16. Along with helping Collazo was there for him. returning veterans, he also speaks to “Gil was like an angel coming to young people considering the milithe DPW,” Perez said. “He said, ‘Altary. One is Perez’s son, Matthew, 20. berto, you got to get help. You have “Use the service as a vehicle,” to see a doctor.’” Today, Perez also Collazo advised Matthew, “and do a gets VA counseling in Bloomfield as job that you can use in civilian life well as with a private therapist. when you return.” Another way to clear his head Matthew now wants to be- “We call it vets helping vets,” is to ride his 2005 Kawasaki Vulcome a Clifton firefighter and 1600 Classic. “Throttle thersaid Perez, “We’re a bunch can is considering joining the U.S. apy is what we call it,” he said. Air Force Reserves and pursuPerez and Collazo are serious of guys who continue to ing firefighting as his military about helping other vets. Acts of help each other out.” career. charity and compassion are key His father Alberto’s soldier’s to their own recovery. “We call it story is also one of sacrifice, service and, unfortunately, ‘vets helping vets,’” said Perez. “We’re a bunch of guys PTSD. A 1979 graduate of Passaic High, Perez served 29 who continue to help each other out.” years in the National Guard and ran a prison during OpAre you a vet that needs to talk? Call Gil Collazo at eration Iraqi Freedom during 2008-09 in detainee oper201-598-2143 or Alberto Perez at 973-768-2488.

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November 2019 • Cliftonmagazine.com


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Dennis Telischak believed it was a good deal. “I was a ground medic when I went over there,” Telischak said about serving in Vietnam from 1967-68. “I was involved in two small fire fights—one guy was wounded in the arm, another in the leg. Medivac helicopter came, treated them and took them out.” Flying in that helicopter, Telischak saw his future. “I was over there in the monsoon season—you eat in mud, sleep in mud… do everything in mud. I heard the helicopter medics had regular food and a clean tent.” Telischak asked his captain for a transfer. The senior officer tried to dissuade him, saying the combat exposure was much more.

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“He said, ‘I can’t stop you,’” Telischak remembered. “He put in a request and at one that afternoon, they sent in a chopper, a medivac, to pick me up. At four, I was flying out.” The senior officer was correct. Flying on a UH-1 Huey helicopter equipped with powerful engines to lift the wounded, Telischak was involved in fire fights sixto-eight times a day. “You’re going into hot zones,” he said. “If there are wounded, you go in. Helicopters are a pretty vulnerable piece of equipment. It doesn’t take too much to take a helicopter down.” As his captain warned, the medivacs were busy.


Three times, Telischak tried to take R&R but was rejected—the Army couldn’t spare any medics. “I didn’t have the chance to go into the towns,” he said. “When I did, I was totally exhausted. I always saw Vietnam from the air.” Telischak was part of the Army’s 45th Medical Unit, stationed in Long Binh near Saigon. During his service, he was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. “Most people on the helicopter get wounded,” Telischak said. “We wore ‘chicken plate,’ a thick Kevlar around our torsos. You could take an AK-47 round and still survive it. The only place you will get hit is your extremities and open area where the chicken plate is laced together. “The most common place to get wounded was your legs and rear end as they’re shooting up at you—and that’s where I got wounded, in my ass.” During his three years in Vietnam, Telischak received 22 combat medals including the Purple Heart and four Air Medals with the V (valor) designation. Despite his heroic service, there was no patriotic welcome awaiting him at home. It was a different time in America. “They flew me back to San Francisco,” he remembered. “It was ’69 and that was the peak of protesting. I was walking through the airport solo and all the protestors were yelling, ‘Baby killer!’ and things like that. “You’re going from one situation where you are happy that you’re saving lives and doing a good thing, and the next thing they’re spitting on you. It was a traumatic experience. I remember getting lost in the airport and it took the longest time to get out.” While his return to the U.S. still stings today, like other adversities that Telischak faced in life, he rose above it, creating positives as he went along. And this is the rest of his story.

“Immigrants from his area formed the Russian Orthodox Church in Garfield in 1898, called Three Saints.” At age 5, Telischak and his family were dealt a tragic blow when his father Joseph, a successful accountant, died at 39 of a heart attack. Now a single mother, Helen (Krisztofik) Telischak needed to work to support her four children: Dennis, his older sister Kathleen and younger siblings Sandra and Gregory. “My mother graduated high school,” Telischak said, “but had no other skills. She went to a secretarial school and took steno after that. She got a job at Shulton.” Her sons also pitched in, becoming Herald-News paperboys and serving a large swath of customers along Randolph Ave. Starting with two paper routes, the boys absorbed other routes as paperboys quit. Soon they had more than 200 customers.

Enterprising Upbringing Dennis Telischak grew up on Van Riper Ave. in Botany Village, near Nash Park. His family once hailed from the area near Belarus, identifying themselves as “White Russians.” “My grandfather came to America during the turmoil in the 1800s,” Telischak said. Cliftonmagazine.com • November 2019 

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A Veteran’s Tale Later, Telischak moved to a better-paying job in butcher shop on Lakeview Ave. where he remained through high school. A positive influence in the brothers’ lives were the Boy Scouts housed out of Three Saints Church. “The Boy Scouts were good to us,” Telischak said. “They paid for a lot of our trips.” He would later pay back that goodwill by becoming a scoutmaster in his son David’s scout troop based in St. Andrew’s Church in Clifton, culminating in 113-mile hike at the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M. Another organization Telischak and his brother benefited from was the Clifton Boys Club. “There was a Parker Ave. Boys Club,” he said. “It doesn’t exist now. My paper route surrounded Dennis Telischak (left) with a tourist and two other veterans that whole Botany area, and I had the opportunity during his return trip to Vietnam in April 2019. to go in and play basketball.” Graduating from Clifton High in 1964, TelisComing Home chak continued to work in the butcher shop while atAfter finishing his Vietnam tour and serving for a bit tending to Fairleigh Dickinson University. But, after two in Germany and stateside, Telischak came back to Clifyears, he could no longer afford school. ton and resumed his education at FDU, graduating in “It was mainly financial,” he said of the reason for his 1973 with a degree in medical technology. Army enlistment. In addition, when he returned, he took care of some “But at the time, I believed in the Vietnam War.” long unfinished business—marrying his wife Diana, who

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grew in Elmwood Park close to Three Saints Church. “I’ve known my wife my entire life,” he said. “When I was 7, I told her that I was going to marry her. We dated through high school. She went to school, I went in the Army and she dated all these lousy guys from Princeton. I had to fight my way back when I returned from Vietnam.” The couple married in 1971. Diana went on to be a teacher and later managed the Daughters of Miriam building in Clifton for 20 years until it was sold. Starting his own working career, Telischak intended to go into the medical field and began an internship in the Hackensack Hospital lab. But when a sales rep suggested a


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A Veteran’s Tale different path, Telischak rethought his career choice. In 1973, he accepted a sales rep job with the pharmaceutical company Abbott Labs. “I then moved over to Hoffman LaRoche in 1976 with the diagnostics division,” he said, “and moved through the ranks to marketing manager.” Telischak’s career climb would include stops at Sterling Drug, Steinberg and Lyman Investment Bankers, and I-Tech Systems in Clifton. He traveled extensively through the South Asia, researching medical companies and investments, based on his Vietnam experience. Because he led product launches, later in life, Telischak bought Audience Pleasers, a 49-year old special events management company, serving corporations and fundraising organizations. Today, the Telischaks continue to live in Clifton, now in the Rosemawr section. The couple vacations each month in their 37’ Winnebago RV, covering the entire East Coast. Beneath the Surface But there is more to know about Telischak... more beyond his soft smile, gentle manner of speaking and wellgroomed appearance. More beyond the story of a Clifton kid who overcame adversity, served with distinction in the military, and built a successful life and career. Today, Vietnam continues to affect him, both mentally and physically. Before being interviewed for this article, Telischak sat in his car, breathing from a portable oxygen unit to counter the effects of Agent Orange and the “lung gangrene” he suffers from. “When people see you with the portable unit,” he said, “they think differently. They pity you. I try to stretch myself at night and it works. Or if I need to be refreshed, I’ll spend 30-45 minutes breathing the oxygen to get the lung capacity I’ll need.” He tried harmonica therapy to build his lungs. Tiring of that, he took up archery, holding his breath when he pulls back on the bow. Telischak also survived cancer, having his gallbladder burst (the same medical problem that killed his brother a week before his own incident) and two heart operations. “My cardiologist made me start to think of the future,” Telischak said about his eventual retirement in 2018. “And then my son passed away. He was 30 years old.”

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Clifton’s Diana and Dennis Telischak

Telischak will not discuss his adopted son David’s death, only to say it was sudden and that for a time he was doing well. However, he will discuss his work with veterans. “I help out with group therapy with some of the veterans,” he said of his work through Garfield Post 2867 where he is vice commander. He has a particular interest in suicide prevention, though Telischak is quick to say he does not have a degree or is trained in that field, and fearful of saying the wrong thing. While he can talk to veterans about different issues, he refers them to professionals when the subject strays into certain areas. “Because I’m president of my church,” Telischak said, “they think of me as a priest and want to tell me things nobody else would. And because I was a medic, they think of me as a doctor. I tell them they need to speak to their psychiatrist or psychologist.” His interest in suicide goes back to when he was a helicopter medic. When a military suicide victim was found in the field, medivacs were instructed to leave them and the bodies would be retrieved later. Telischak did not feel right leaving servicemen behind. “I’d ask if maybe they were shot from this or that direction,” he said. “The ground medic reporting


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A Veteran’s Tale the death would catch on, and we’d take them away.” Telischak understands the disillusion and hopelessness these men felt. While he was too busy in Vietnam to question the war, when he returned to the states, his views changed about America’s role in Vietnam. Two years after getting back, he sent his combat medals back to the government.

“I then had nothing to do with anything veteran-related,” Telischak said. “But in the last two-three years, I started doing more things for veterans. I got involved when the Garfield VFW wanted to do a casino night.” “They found out I was a veteran and persuaded me to join them, and I did.” Telischak’s work through Audience Pleasers helped the VFW pur-

chase handicap van to transport veterans. The van is also used for other programs, like Meals on Wheels. Now able to separate the soldier’s role and sacrifice from a government policy, Telischak has embraced his veteran’s status. Through the VA, he was selected with 10 other veterans to tour Vietnam in April and May of this year through the program, “Purple Hearts Return to Vietnam.” “Vietnam has changed so much,” Telischak said. “The little shacks that were bars are now 26-floor buildings. New Jersey has 8.5 million people in the state; Saigon has 9.0 million people in the city alone! The single lane highway I remember flying over is now an eight-lane highway.” Back home, he appreciates the veterans’ support from his city and neighbors. “Clifton has been very good to me,” Telischak said. “As far as the veterans’ outreach that the town does—you do appreciate it. Clifton has been very steady—the flags, the tank pulls—they’ve been good with veterans. “Most of my family, and a lot of members of my church at Three Saints, they’re all veterans—WW II, Korean vets, Vietnam vets and now we have the Iraqi and Afghanistan vets. “Taking care of them is a pretty big thing.” On Nov. 15, Dennis Telischak will be inducted into the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton’s Hall of Fame for his military and business career, and fundraising support. Tickets to the “Fall Into the Past” beefsteak are $40. For info, call John DeGraaf at 973-773-0966, ex. 111.

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go with the flow

Boxer, veteran, father and grandfather, the full life of Clifton’s Joe Rivera. By Ariana Puzzo Joe Rivera’s motto is simple: “Win or lose, you just gotta go with the flow.” It was a lesson he learned throughout his life and during his career as a boxer. It was also a lesson that Rivera later taught his sons when they lost a sports game. “All failures and all success lead you to where you are today,” said Rivera, 69. For the Richfield resident, success first came to him as a young boy in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn Start It was during Rivera’s formative years in Brooklyn that he was introduced to boxing. The oldest of six children, Rivera started fighting at about 7- or 8-years-old in the late 1950s. At the time, there was a man who came around the block with boxing gloves, Rivera said. The man had kids fight and gave them a soda or 25 cents. “So, I was doing that, and my father didn’t know,” said Rivera. One day when he was fighting, he hit his opponent and the other kid fell to the ground. “He was bleeding; I thought I killed him,” said Rivera. “I was only 7- or 8-years-old, so I ran home.” When the man came to his house and told Rivera’s father, Jose, that Rivera could fight, it was the lead up to

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an exciting career that would allow Rivera to compete around the world and go professional for a period of time. It was also a path that Rivera always felt supported in by his parents, especially his father. “He bought gloves and he used to take me from block-to-block to fight,” said Rivera. “It was a different upbringing, then,” he added, with a laugh. It was a steady progression from there and by age 15, Rivera was fighting in club fights. Before long, he began his amateur boxing career as a featherweight, which lasted from 1967 to 1973. One moment that stands out to him was in 1969. The Golden Gloves were in New York City and Rivera decided to enter the competition.


“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be, but when you’re fighting in Madison Square Garden and there’s 19,000 people … you get a little nervous,” said Rivera. “But I won it and then I went into the Air Force, and everything started from there,” he said. Proud of his service When Rivera joined the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War, it was a period of transition in his life.

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w

go with the flo Joe, Sr., Nilda, Joe, Jr., Michael, granddaughter Alexa, daughters-in-law Sophia and Diana at Michael and Sophia’s wedding.

He previously attended East New York Vocational High School, now the East New York Transit Technology High School. It was there that he studied aviation, which led to working in aircraft maintenance for the Air Force. After basic training in Texas, he went to Chicago to work on cargo planes that went to Vietnam. While there, he participated in boxing tournaments on base and, after winning all of his fights by knock-out, a master sergeant asked if Rivera was interested in trying out for the Air Force team. Fighting there was entirely different because the fighters came from everywhere, Rivera said. “You’re fighting the best of the best,” said Rivera. “They’re Americans, but they’re stationed all over the world, and they have to win their base tournament and then try to qualify to fight for the Air Force team.” “I was fortunate,” Rivera added. “I won [the Air Force championship] four years in a row.” Rivera’s wins also included three interservice championships, and his final record as an amateur boxer was 89 wins, 11 losses. He also got to travel to places like Africa, where he fought for the Military Olympics. Although Rivera never stepped foot in Vietnam, he served in the Air Force for four years until Sept. 23, 1973. After his four years, he was in active reserve for two years. “I’ve always felt from the beginning of time, war was just about money and land,” said Rivera. “That’s basically what they want, and to enforce your beliefs on the place you’re trying to get... so, I’m not very big on war. Not at all.”

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But does he feel proud of his time serving? “Oh, big time,” said Rivera. “And my grandkids are real proud of it. On Nov. 11, I either go to Jordan’s school or to Alexa’s school and just sit down and talk with the kids.” “They’re real proud to say, ‘My abuelo is a veteran!’” Life’s “Greatest Joy” After an exciting amateur career, Rivera’s professional boxing career lasted for about five years. During that time, he met renowned boxing legend Lou Duva, who was a big-time manager and eventual inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998. When Duva told Rivera that he could “move” his career as a boxer, Rivera and his wife, Nilda, relocated to Clifton in September of 1974. Rivera ultimately switched managers after eight or nine fights when things “weren’t meshing right.” During his pro period from 1977/78 to 1980, Rivera won 16 fights and lost four. “The pro game is a lot harder because there’s a lot of politics involved,” said Rivera. “You’ve got to get the right manager who has the money to move you, get you on TV.” He has no regrets, though. “That’s just part of my chapter in life,” he said. The chapter taught him values that he used in other areas of his life. One value was discipline, helping him follow a exercise regimen and diet when he boxed. “It’s monotonous,” said Rivera, “but you have to do it in order to get in the shape that you need to get into [boxing].”


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go with the flo

Discipline and working hard were also values that Rivera instilled in his sons, Joey (CHS 1993) and Michael (CHS 1997). When they were each 5-years-old, Rivera taught them how to fight, though neither boy went into boxing like their father. “Joey thought he was too good looking, so that was out,” laughed Rivera. Michael enjoyed it, though, and father and son later bonded over the sport. His sons’ first sports loves were baseball for Joey and basketball for Michael. Those early years in the city were hard, though, Rivera said. Today, it is diverse, but when they first lived in Clifton, they were one of few Latino families. “Living in Brooklyn, there’s a lot of Puerto Ricans and blacks, and we went to a town where the majority were whites,” said Rivera. “And it was a little bit tough for Joey because I think he was the first or second Hispanic to go to School 14 at the time and when he started baseball, we got a lot of [derogatory comments].” “But I always told my sons, ‘Listen. You have to work twice as hard just to be equal with what these guys want,” said Rivera. His sons went on to become physical education teachers and coach for CHS, becoming the first brothers to be head coaches for varsity teams. For Joey, he has coached in Clifton for over 20 years and has been the head baseball coach for 12 years. Michael was the head basketball coach until he passed away in 2017.

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Michael’s unexpected passing has changed the way Rivera feels about boxing. After his fighting days ended, Rivera coowned Ike & Randy’s Boxing Gym in Paterson for a while, and today he continues to privately train his clients. It was a job he worked with Michael, who was Rivera’s strength and conditioning coach for the last three years before he passed away. “His knowledge of that was so high [and] I was old school,” said Rivera. “Then I saw Michael doing plyometrics, weight training, protein shakes and just stuff that was not in my league, so I learned a lot from him.” The duo also spoke at seminars together, which Rivera no longer does, and he admitted that he does not watch boxing as much as he once did. During the one-minute rests between the round, Michael would call Rivera. “He would call me and tell me, ‘Pop! Did you see what happened? What do you think? Do you think he’s gonna win?’” said Rivera. “My joy for it is not the same,” continued Rivera, “but when you lose someone, it changes everything. Your perspective of life. Where do you fit after that?” A third generation of athletes Although his sons did not personally pursue boxing, Rivera was never upset about it. “My main thing was whatever they decided to go into, I was 100 percent behind them,” said Rive-


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Financing available one-year at no interest on easy monthly plans. Cliftonmagazine.com • November 2019 

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go with the flo

ra. “Seeing them go through Little League, high school, college and then becoming coaches and then seeing them coach —the greatest joy of my life.” “I had so much fun. So much fun with them.” While raising both of the boys was his greatest joy, he also gives credit to Nilda. “Nilda did a beautiful job with them. Just absolutely beautiful,” said Rivera. “She was the best mother you could ever ask for.” The memories of his parents attending his games as a player and coach are special for Joey, too. The eldest son appreciates any moment spent with family and he recalls being together with his Joe Rivera (center) with son Joe (left) and his late son Mike. father and brother throwing in the backyard or going to the park to shoot hoops. “It means a lot,” said Joey. “I’m doing the Alexa, 10; or cheerleading for Gianna, 9, they will all same thing now for my daughters. As a coach, I have be there. players on my team that I don’t even know who their The old memories and new ones with his family and parents are... so I’m very fortunate.” grandchildren are what bring Rivera the greatest hapNow, it can become an all-day event when the family piness. supports Rivera’s grandchildren. Whether it is attending “I’ve been fortunate, really fortunate with the life football games for Michael’s son Jordan, 9; soccer for that I’ve had,” said Rivera.

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The Amazing Life of Paul Oliver

By Jack DeVries

In 1943, Paul Oliver had just wrapped up the best time of his young life. After attending a tryout camp, he’d spent 13 days practicing with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals in Sportsman’s Park. Throughout Oliver’s time with the team, Cardinals great Stan Musial had encouraged him, clapping him on the back and telling him he was “doing good, keep it up.” Now, the Redbirds wanted the young second baseman to join them some day. Manager Billy Southworth had a minor league contract for Oliver, just like the contacts Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola signed—two players he knew from “The Hill,” the Italian neighborhood where they all lived in St. Louis. The team wanted Oliver to play for Johnson City Cardinals, their minor league team in Tennessee. All he needed was his father to sign off and he’d be on his way.

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“I took the contract to my father,” Oliver remembered, “and he said, ‘You no gonna play no baseball.’ My father had come through the Depression and was making $18 a week as a stone mason. He had no idea of the potential of baseball.” Oliver cried for three days, knowing his dream of playing big league ball was over. His mother tried to console him, saying, “Don’t cry, Paul. Maybe this is God’s will.” At the time, it sure didn’t look like it. Berra and Garagiola, the two kids who Oliver played against in the YMCA and American Legion leagues, would sign pro contracts—Garagiola with the Cardinals and Berra with the Yankees. Each would go on the Baseball Hall of Fame, Joe as a broadcaster and Yogi as one of the greatest catchers of all-time. Even two of Oliver’s teammates from Southwest High—where Paul was captain of the football team and helped the baseball squad win the city championship— would play pro ball.


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The Amazing Life Not Oliver. He’d get a tryout with Sears and Roebuck. “My brother Joe worked in a Sears store putting in an escalator,” Oliver said. “He went to the personnel department and said, ‘I got a brother who needs a job.’ They gave me a job as a salesman. I ended up being a regional buyer for 42 years for Sears and made a lot of money.” He would also serve his country during two wars, marry the love of his life and raise four children, including Clifton Recreation Dept. Supervisor Debbie Oliver, a fine athlete as well. And he would remain connected to the boys from The Hill. Later, the Yankees would move Berra to the East Coast where he settled in Montclair. Sears would relocate Oliver to West Orange. And, while Berra and Garagiola would retire from the diamond, Oliver never has—still competing in a senior softball league at age 93. God’s will, indeed. Adopted Home While Oliver is not from Clifton, he “absolutely” considers the city his second hometown. He is a frequent Clifton Recreation Dept. volunteer, helping daughter Debbie with such events as the Halloween Parade & HarvestFest, Family Campout, 5K Stampede and Daddy Daughter Date Night. Oliver has acted as a family trip chaperon, assisted with summer concerts and helped with the Mini Motorized Car Race. But he is best known for measuring every fish caught at Youth Week Fishing Contest. “I enjoy Clifton,” Oliver said, “and the people, especially the ones who work with Debbie. The mayor goes to every event. They have events for seniors, high school kids, children... something for everybody, always something going on. A lot of towns won’t do that because it takes effort.” Oliver knows his volunteering is important. “Debbie has all these events,” he said, “and rarely do a lot of guys participate. Dr. Harry Maroulakos is one, and maybe the same three or four guys show up. She needs help.” During the Salute to Veterans Concert, Oliver was honored to carry a flag representing the Navy to open

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Paul Oliver measuring a catch at Clifton’s fishing tourney.

the gathering. “Trust me, you don’t have that anywhere else,” he said. “[West Orange] doesn’t have a tenth of what Clifton has for the vets.” Romance and War Oliver’s parents emigrated from Italy, and he was born on Shaw Ave. in St. Louis, one of six children. The family moved often around The Hill, renting five different homes. While they were living in a house on McCune Ave., there was a fire at a nearby steel mill. Oliver and his neighbors turned out to watch—including a beautiful girl named Alta Ann Atchison. Paul was smitten. When he learned she babysit her sister’s kids in another part of town, he hatched a plan to “accidentally” run into her at the bus stop. Oliver found out Alta rode the Lindenwood bus. One day, each time the bus stopped on Ivanhoe St. to dropoff passengers, Oliver casually walked across the street, hoping to spot her. He did that six times until Alta’s bus finally arrived. Feigning surprise when he saw her, Oliver mentioned he saw her at the fire. Alta remembered. “I asked if I could walk her home,” he said. “She said okay and soon we were dating.” Despite not playing pro baseball, Oliver was a good enough quarterback to earn a football scholarship from Illinois Wesleyan University. His proudest moment playing for the Titans was running 98 yards for a touchdown. But his gridiron success would be cut short


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The Amazing Life when he was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1944. Serving aboard the USS Nassau, an escort aircraft carrier that earned five battle stars, Oliver got a job as a photographer aboard ship, chronicling the ship’s service and activities. Also assigned to the photo lab was friend Tony Calleo, who would go on to teach math at Lodi High School and head Elmwood Park High School’s Math Dept. The two remained close friends until Calleo’s death in 2016 at age 90. After WWII, Oliver returned to Alta, St. Louis and Sears. However, his military service not over. “I was discharged from the Navy,” he said, “as an aerial photographer. I didn’t carefully

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check my discharge papers, and they made a typo, listing me as a pharmacist mate (PHM) instead of an aerial photographer (PHoM).” When the Korean conflict broke out, Oliver was called back to the Navy… as a pharmacist mate. “I had lawyers, everybody and their cousin writing to Washington D. C., saying, ‘He’s not a pharmacist, he’s a photographer!’ They wouldn’t listen. I went back in as a pharmacist mate and, as soon as I went in, they made me a photographer again.” Oliver spent the Korean War in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, taking five-hour plane rides to Paul Oliver (left) with friend and photo lab shoot photos of ships taking tarpartner Tony Calleo during WWII. get practice on Culebra Island. On one flight, Oliver nearly crashed when the plane dropped and the pilot recovered just a few feet from the ocean. “His wheels touched the water,” Oliver described. His next experience was more frightening. Having married Alta in 1947, he asked her to come to Puerto Rico where Oliver would be based for six weeks. She made plans to fly from New York. “Her plane crashed in San Juan,” he said. “All the passengers were killed. But my wife had missed her flight! “When I heard about the crash, I honestly felt that I had killed my wife—I was so broken-hearted, nearly insane. But then she called me and told me she was okay.” Business Man After the Korean War, Oliver continued his career at Sears. In 1967, the company asked him to lead an under-performing team in the New York area, serving stores in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. “I always put my plans to God,” Oliver said, and say, ‘Let me do the right thing, God.’ I know

November 2019 • Cliftonmagazine.com


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The Amazing Life

Left, Oliver’s late wife Alta; at right the Oliver family there to see Paul play with his senior softball team, the Embers.

that’s simplistic, but it’s true. I believed if I was a good Christian, God would give me the ability to do the right thing.” At first, God didn’t make it easy. His new team resented the outsider. “They hated me when I first came, and I don’t blame them,” Oliver said. “They thought, ‘Who is this guy from the Midwest telling us how to do things?’” Their opinion would change. Oliver instituted a sales guide he wrote, “How to Sell.” He stressed service— believing treating the customer well was at the heart of Sear’s success. And he traveled 20,000 miles a year, visiting stores and making sure his direction was followed. Soon, the under-performing team was No. 1 in the company. “The salespeople started accepting me,” said Oliver, who retired in 1989 as a regional merchandise manager, “when they began making a lot more money.” He also never stopped playing ball—be it golf, bocce or softball. After retiring, Oliver played for the Tremont Hotel senior softball team, playing in national tournaments and helping his squad win 17 championships. He was inducted into the Senior Softball Hall of Fame in 2006. Sadly, Oliver lost his beloved Alta to cancer in 1994. Together, they raised four children, Steve, Linda, Debbie and Janis, and have four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Full Life Today, Oliver remains in his West Orange home, surrounded by family photos and countless sports awards, trophies and medals. He remains clear-eyed and sharp—

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with square shoulders, strong from hitting a lifetime of line drives. He works out four-to-five times a week, as the recumbent bike with a worn seat and his ab exercise machine will attest. For the last 27 years, he has played in the Morris-Essex Tuesday Morning Softball League, competing in the over-70 division for his team, the Embers. Berra’s sons Larry and Dale also play in the league’s over-60 division. Though he doesn’t play the field anymore, Oliver is a designated hitter and said he had a good season at the plate this year. He continues to play for many reasons. “You have no idea the relationship I have with the guys,” he said. “The sport is always there, but I have such good relationships with the guys in the league.” And, after nine decades, his competitive fire still burns. “I want to win,” he said. “I always want to win.” He also got a chance to say good bye to his fellow resident from The Hill, Yogi Berra, before he died in 2015. “I went to see him when he was in assisted living in West Caldwell,” said. Oliver. “We had a good visit and reminisced about playing American Legion ball. While we weren’t close as kids—Yogi was in a club called the Stags, I was in the Mohawks—I knew what a real nice guy he was. And a phenomenal hitter!” With one season ending, and another on the horizon, Oliver looks forward to more volunteering, spending family time and another season of line drives. “God was so good to me. He made sure I’d be satisfied with life.”


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Cliftonmagazine.com • November 2019 

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SAVING

COUNTLESS LIVES Major William Marrocco’s contributions during WWII changed how wounded soldiers are treated.

Every Veterans Day, Jim Marrocco, owner of the Marrocco Memorial Chapel on Colfax Ave., remembers his family’s veterans. “I think about my grandfather Vincenzo Genco who was in WWI,” Marrocco said, “my father Henry Jr. in WWII (and past commander of Post 347) and my Uncle William Hassan, a 20-year Marine. “And I think about my Uncle Bill. He was my grandfather’s youngest brother.” Paterson’s William Marrocco (pictured with the officer’s hat in the above photos) graduated from Georgetown University in 1931. After interning in Paterson and New York hospitals, he studied medicine in Vienna for a year.

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By Jack DeVries

He later became a respected ear, nose and throat doctor in Paterson, was city’s police surgeon and even ran for mayor. But like many of the Greatest Generation, there was much more to “Doc Marrocco.” “When you talked about the war,” said Jim Marrocco, “he was like a history book.” That’s because his uncle lived it. And because of his service as an Army Air Corps flight surgeon during the war in the Pacific, many other soldiers survived. Doc Marrocco rubbed shoulders with Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. Lewis Brereton, and served with distinction, winning the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. But his contributions about how to treat wounded


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soldiers and dispatch medical supplies made the biggest impact. Fortunately, his story does not have to be told from yellowed newspaper clippings or second-hand accounts. Instead, it is memorialized in his own words—a 50-page typewritten account of his war years.

SAVING COUNTLESS LIVES

“Two Gun Doc” After being part of the ROTC in school, Marrocco received a commission as an Army first lieutenant in the Medical Corp Reserve. With war clouds darkening in 1940, he applied for Foreign Service. Four months after marrying wife Helen, he was in California heading toward a Pacific destination. While there, he called his high school friend Lou

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Costello in Los Angeles. “He asked me to come down and see him,” writes Marrocco. “I watched him making the movie, Keep ’Em Flying.” He also met star Martha Raye, whom Marrocco describes as “an interesting person.” “On the train back to San Francisco,” Marrocco writes, “there were many Japanese-Americans returning to Japan. They were taking appliances back home with them and also talked of the impending war.” By Nov. 1941, Marrocco, 33, was in Pearl Harbor, watching “natives diving into the water for the coins tossed to them.” He arrived in the Philippine city of Manila on Nov. 20. Gen. Brereton told him he would be his senior flight surgeon and was promoting him to major. The general also stated he wanted to immediately bomb the Japanese in Formosa (on the Island of Taiwan). MacArthur forbid it, saying there would be no “overt act” by Americans. The Philippines were already on high alert, fearing action by Japanese saboteurs rather than by air. As the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Marrocco had an eerie 3 am premonition. “I awoke dreaming of bombs and shooting,” he writes. “When I saw everything quiet, the iguanas walking about the room and on the ceiling as they were our pets, I felt at home and feel asleep again. It was at that time that the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor.” At noon, Clark Field, the airbase where Marrocco was stationed, was attacked. With the American B-17s being readied to fly, the Japanese struck, destroying the grounded planes. They were now an Air Corps without aircraft. During the air raids, Marrocco describes, “Men would run through closed doors in the dark in a hurry to get out of the building.” Marrocco and the troops were moved by ship


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SAVING COUNTLESS LIVES to the town of Mariveles on the Bataan Peninsula. Arriving, he writes, “We saw a large French transport in the bay which had been burned, being hit by Japanese planes the day before.” Marrocco described scarce medical supplies and traveling back to Manila to retrieve them. And he tells of the first of his three lifesaving choices to ride in a jeep or plane rather than a ship the Japanese would later sink. His Air Corps group was then made into an infantry battalion, living in the jungles, though the troops have had little training for such warfare. When meat became scarce, the soldiers shot carabao and catch monkeys and snakes. “Our mess sergeant was a cook in WWI cooking horses so he knew how to cook the animals,” Marrocco describes. Malaria raged, as did Dengue Fever, an affliction Marrocco would suffer from three times. At the Bataan airfield, he was wounded by shrapnel during an air raid, but continued to visit and treat the men. “I had two guns,” Marrocco writes, “a 45 pistol and a revolver. They called me ‘Two Gun Doc.’” Escape to Australia As the Bataan situation worsened, Marrocco writes of men “exhausted and weak,” of Japanese dropping leaflets encouraging surrender (and Americans knowing they will not take prisoners) and U.S. help said to be coming but never arriving. Temperatures reached 95 degrees in the shade, and nights were cool requiring blankets, “which we did not have,” he adds. Air raids came twice daily. Hospitals meant for 2,000 had 10,000 patients (80 percent afflicted with malaria). Marrocco tells of anti-aircraft guns being of the WWI “1917 model” and unable to reach the Japanese planes. MacArthur orders the troops to fight until the end. “When Gen. MacArthur left the Philippines,” he writes, “everyone knew it was doomed. Everyone was depressed.” The Americans sing, The Battling Bastards of Bataan: “We are the battling bastards of Bataan, “No Papa, No Mama, No Uncle Sam, “No Uncles, No Aunts, No Cousins, No Nieces, “No pills, No planes, No artillery pieces, “And nobody gives a damn.” In Jan. 1942, Marrocco and 95 other officers were moved first to Corregidor, then aboard USS Sea Wolf

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In Los Angeles, Lou Costello with Dr. Marrocco.

submarine to travel to the island of Java. “Most of the crew had long beards [and] made us feel we were being ‘shanghaied,’” he writes. Marrocco tells of a harrowing trip in Japanese ship-infested waters. In Java, he describes having dinner with a pilot who would commit suicide that morning, complaining of “futile missions” and “not enough gas to return.” He describes flying on a B-17 to Australia—the last plane out before the Japanese attack—laying on the escape hatch. “Lucky that the catch did not fail,” Marrocco describes, “or I would be in the Indian Ocean.” In Australia, based on his Bataan experience, he develops plans for Army medical hospitals, the forerunner of the MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), and for evacuation and treatment of the wounded by air. Marrocco also creates a special medical package that can be thrown from a plane to soldiers below, as those using parachutes were causing delivery planes to crash. While in Australia, Marrocco flies on planes with MacArthur, saves another flight by throwing his jacket on an electrical fire and convinces First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt not to visit New Guinea as she hoped. He also meets heroes like Col. Paul “Pappy” Gunn and Lt. Rocky Cause, whom Marrocco brought to MacArthur to provide enemy intelligence. And he treats survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. Doc Marrocco, who went on to a long medical career in his hometown, passed away on Feb. 6, 1999, at 92. Some of his papers and photos are housed today in an Air Force museum in Texas. But his typewritten memoirs— ones providing a unique view of WWII—reside with his family in New Jersey.


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By Terry L. Nau In the late 1990s, Bill Van Eck and his brother-in-law, Walt Travers, visited Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Van Eck had served with the 2/32 artillery, known as the “Proud Americans,” during the Vietnam War three decades earlier. The aging veteran, now in his 50s, had a hankering to visit this Army facility that served for many years as an ordinance testing ground. The site contained many outdated weapons from prior wars, making it a place of interest for people like Van Eck and Travers, a World War II historian in his spare time. “We went there to visit the Armor/Artillery Museum,” Van Eck recalled. “We studied all the Japanese and German tanks and the artillery pieces of World War II. We took quite a few pictures. During our tour, I noticed a large artillery barrel rack that was loaded with artillery and tank barrels. There were American, German and Japanese barrels. They were all rusting away in the hot Maryland sun. What caught my eye was an extra-large barrel lying on pole bottom, covered partially with mud. “I walked over to study the stencil writing at the end of the dirty barrel,” Van Eck continued. “I was able to make out quite a bit of the stenciling. Some faint titles said ‘All American’ and ‘Proud American.’ I mentioned to my brother-in-law that I believed this barrel was once a part of A Battery, 2/32 artillery.” Van Eck mentioned his sighting to a few other 2/32 veterans. One of them visited Aberdeen and looked up the barrel’s registration number. The information was then sent to Ralph Jones, the most dedicated of all 2/32 veterans, and Ralph confirmed the barrel was from his old unit.

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This a condensed book chapter from “Proud Americans, Vietnam Artillery Soldiers... Then and Now” by Terry L. Nau, featuring Bill Van Eck, chief grounds keeper of Clifton’s Avenue of Flags. That’s Van Eck as a young soldier in ‘Nam and left on our May, 2012 cover with the late John Biegel. November 2019 • Cliftonmagazine.com


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Armed with this confirmation, Bill Van Eck reached out to B Battery’s John Conway. “We soon made a date to meet at Aberdeen and talk to Dr. William Atwater, the Museum Director. Atwater served with the Marines in Vietnam and had been wounded there. We told him about our ‘Proud American’ gun barrel and said we were not happy with its position on the ground, in all that mud. We asked him what his plans were for the barrel. He said he couldn’t do a thing. The museum did not have the funds or the chassis to mount it on. We told him, first and foremost, we need that barrel lifted off the ground. He answered, ‘It’s staying where it is!’ I then told him that we were going to fight this and get it taken away from Aberdeen and back to Fort Sill. Atwater’s reply was, ‘Over my dead body.’” Ralph Jones, who served with A Battery in 1969-70, then took charge of the project. He tracked down the director of the Military Museum System, Brigadier General Brown. Meanwhile, Van Eck and his fellow 2/32 vets passed around and signed a petition to save the barrel. “We showed up with our handy clipboards at every parade and veterans meeting we could find,” Van Eck remembered. The petition soon made its way to Dr. Atwater and up the chain of command to Gen. Brown’s office at Fort McNair, Va. Ralph Jones picks up the story: “We had a reunion coming up in a few months,” he said. “I got in touch with Gen. Brown. Called him directly, said I was Ralph Jones, from Cincinnati. He replied, ‘Proud Americans!’ And he said, ‘Ralph, you are dead on target with the tube.’ He had sent a team to Aberdeen. They ran the serial number on the tube and confirmed our information that the barrel had been in Vietnam with A Battery, 2/32 artillery. Gen. Brown’s office had already sent a letter to Dr. Atwater and to me, saying the barrel “does not belong to Aberdeen or Fort Sill Museum. It belongs to Ralph Jones, Proud Americans, 2/32 field artillery.” Jones and his fellow Proud American veterans had already decided they wanted the gun barrel returned to Fort Sill, where it had first been used in training before the battalion left for Vietnam in October 1965. Getting it to Oklahoma would not be easy. It weighed 11,000 pounds and measured 37 feet.

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“Ralph got in touch with a trucking company to do the job,” Van Eck said. “It would cost $1,100. We raised money among our group— Ralph Jones, Jerry Granberg, Rich Andrews, myself and a few others. Dr. Atwater and his staff were being difficult about the pickup date for the tube so Ralph Jones again got in touch with Gen. Brown’s staff. “The trucking company called me the next day and said they got a call from Dr. Atwater’s office and the tube was going to be picked up and delivered to Mr. Spivey at Fort Sill’s Museum,” Jones said. Bill Van Eck and John Conway drove down to Aberdeen to see the gun barrel off to Oklahoma. “We wanted to pay our respects, to see it lifted off the ground and put on the truck,” Van Eck said. “We gave the truck driver a Proud American hat and golf shirt. We were lucky to have this driver because he knew something about rigging. The Army provided a giant forklift and a civilian driver. The forklift did not have enough power to pick up the massive barrel. The truck driver saw the forklift operator needed help. He went to his giant tool bag and came back with straps and chains. They managed to get the barrel balanced, enough to pick it up and center it on the flatbed of the truck. The driver then tied down the barrel with straps and chains. All I could think was, ‘Thank God, this driver was a rigger.’ “The entire trip took place about a month before our Fort Sill reunion in 2001. The people at Fort Sill did wonders getting a gun chassis, painting and mounting the barrel, all within three weeks. The Army provided a flatbed for the 175 mm and pulled the gun in their Veterans Day parade. The Proud Americans who attended the reunion marched first, right behind the gun.” On a somber note, Van Eck supplied a story footnote. “Frank Andrews told me a story about his brother, Richard ‘Louie’ Andrews,” Van Eck said. “In Vietnam, the ‘Proud American’ barrel was replaced by ‘Angel.’ That was the barrel that blew up and killed two A Battery soldiers in 1966. Rich Andrews witnessed the event and tried to help the gun crew. The ‘Proud American’ barrel was sent back stateside after the ‘Angel’ incident in order to study the metal composites of the gun barrels. “That’s how it got to Aberdeen.”


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Clifton Cares is “boxing” for Christmas. While the calendar says November, Clifton Cares volunteers are getting ready for the Holiday Season now, packing needed supplies for deployed troops in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Guam and Africa. Since the organization’s founding in 2010, Clifton Cares has sent more than 3,000 packages to troops deployed in 177 foreign countries. In faraway lands, on ships at sea—even on submarines—packages find their way to soldiers, showing appreciation with needed items, food and notes. However, since its start, Clifton Cares has seen postage costs rise from $8.75 per package to $18.45 today. Given that expense, checks for $18.45 are always most appreciated. Clifton residents and businesses have been overwhelmingly generous with supplies and monetary donations, but help is still needed—now more than ever.

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The first step is filling the organization’s supply box at City Hall. Wanted are snacks like cookies (especially homemade), candies, powdered drinks, beef jerky, granola bars, gum and chips. For orphanage visits, the troops like to give out Tootsie Pops, Blow Pops, pencils, pens, crayons and coloring books. Also needed are toiletries, such as hand sanitizer, mouthwash, baby wipes, Visine, deodorant, shampoo, shaving cream, lip balm, razor, and aspirin and Advil. Wanted are white ankle socks (females) and high white socks (males). Thank you notes and cards to the soldiers are also greatly appreciated. Finally, tax-deductible monetary donations for postage are critically important. Make checks payable to “Clifton Cares Inc.” and send to Clifton Cares, c/o Clifton City Hall, 900 Clifton Ave., Clifton, N.J. 07013. Thank you for supporting our troops. Clifton Cares!


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Cup THE

To honor the final Thanksgiving game, we revisit a 2003 fantasy story by Jack DeVries

Which Mustang team was better—

the legendary 1946 squad coached by Joe Grecco or the powerful 1973 team led by Bill Vander Closter?

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CLIFTON


What people remember of that Thanksgiving Day in 1973 was watching a 75-12 rout of Passaic High by the Mustangs. The win capped off Clifton’s second consecutive undefeated season and featured four touchdowns by running back Jim Jenkins and three by Ken Ritoch. That’s if you listen to what the fans, players, and coaches think they saw happened or believe what was written in the newspapers. What took place is a far different story. Thanks to a crack in time or a bit of magic—pick any explanation that fits—the game played in Clifton School Stadium that afternoon was one straight out of the Twilight Zone, involving players as unlikely as Shoeless Joe Jackson gliding across the Field of Dreams. On that day, Bobby Boettcher ran again and Denny Kleber was determined to stop him. Only a chosen few remember the game that was truly played that day. They tell the story quietly, expecting not to be believed. They start by describing a blue sky that began to change as game time approached, and hearing thunder rumble in the distance. Decades later, here’s how they describe what really happened:

It starts as a beautiful fall afternoon, an ideal day for football. Then, from the west, the wind picks up and blows cold across the field, up through the concrete stands and through the press box. Announcer Bob Zschack feels the chill and wishes he had put on the extra pair of socks his wife Marlene told him to wear. The buzz usually preceding a game grows quiet and uneasy; fans sense something strange about to happen. Time stops. The shadows grow darker. Thunder crawls closer, and the Clifton and Passaic players and fans stare at the sky, watching a large dark cloud rush over the old Doherty Silk Mill on Main Ave. and settle over the field. Suddenly, a single lightning bolt shoots through the clouds, striking the middle of the gridiron—scorching the grass at midfield and sending a charge through the long-forgotten sprinkler system buried underneath the grass. Like everyone, Coach Bill Vander Closter is shocked by the lightning—his eyes fixed where the bolt landed. When he raises them, he cannot believe what he sees—or doesn’t see—across the field. “Passaic,” Vander Closter says, gazing across the empty gridiron, “they’re gone—the entire team’s disappeared.”

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Vandy with Richard Waller and Doug Kleber; center, Jerry Andrewlavage; right, Bobby Boettcher and Ray Malavasi.

Visitors from the Past As Passaic vanishes, an old school bus makes a right turn off Route 46 into the stadium parking lot. It slows as it gets close to the stadium’s brick wall, as many teenage faces press against its windows. “Ditch,” sophomore Jimmy Haraka whispers to teammate Ray Malavasi, “somebody built a stadium while we were in Virginia.” “It ain’t possible,” says Malavasi, his eyes wide. “Hey, Jim… I don’t remember driving here after the Oyster Bowl ended.” Incredibly, the entire Mustangs team has been plucked from 1946 after losing to Granby High, 6-0. Though the exhibition game is their first defeat of the season, the players feel like winners—knowing their victory was stolen after an official waived off an obvious touchdown by running back Bobby Boettcher. The bus pulls to a stop near the field house. The bus door opens, and Joe Grecco, the 32-year-old coach of the Mustangs, leads his players through the gate and onto the field. “Stay close, men,” he says to his 1946 team, already in uniform and pads. “I don’t know why were here or how they finished building the stadium, but we’re going to find out.”

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Over the PA system, a stunned Bob Zschack says, “Ladies and Gentlemen… don’t ask me where the Passaic team’s gone, but… a small herd of the 1946 Clifton Mustangs have just taken the field.” The two Clifton head coaches meet at midfield as the players stare at each other. There are 37 Mustangs from 1946; over 100 Clifton players from 1973 face them—a white, maroon, and gray wall. “If I didn’t think I was seeing things,” says Vander Closter, “I’d swear you really are a young Joe Grecco.” “Who are you,” asks Grecco, “and what is that team doing on our practice field? Who built this stadium?” Thunder rumbles in the distance as the storm moves away. The sky brightens again. “I’ll answer your questions, but I think we’re supposed to settle this,” says Vandy, peering over Grecco’s shoulder at Bobby Boettcher holding a football. Grecco looks past Vander Closter, noticing the many players—bigger than his bunch, their helmets shinning and shoulder pads bursting from their jerseys. Big, Grecco thinks, and maybe big and slow. His dark eyes sparkle as he imagines them trying to catch Boettcher. “Nineteen-forty-six has been a hell of a year,” he says, grinning at Vandy. “Why should it end? We’ll kick-off.”


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Announcer Bob Zschack is amazed at what he sees. “Ladies and Gentlemen… don’t ask me where the Passaic team’s gone, but… a small herd of 1946 Clifton Mustangs have just taken the field.” Below, Vandy and a wall of his Mustangs.

The coaches return to the sidelines, gathering their players around them. “They call that team across the field Clifton’s greatest,” says Vandy. “Even now, the old-timers say they would’ve beaten us. Let’s show why we’re the best Mustang team ever and send them back in history where they belong.”

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On the other side, the 1946 Mustangs gather around Grecco. “I don’t how this stadium got here, but I have a feeling what you men did this year—in our conference and in Norfolk, Virginia—has something to do with it. At the banquet before the Oyster Bowl, Mr. Gacy said he’d get you this field—though I don’t know how he got it built so fast.


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Coach Grecco with his Fighting Mustangs of 1946; at right, Ken Ritoch and Jimmy Jenkins of the 1973 Mustangs.

“But I do know this: that team on the other side has a Mustang painted on their helmets. As we take the field of battle, let us show them why only one team should have that honor. When the dust settles, we’ll show why only one team is worthy of being called the ‘Fighting Mustangs!’” The players run on to the field, lining up across from each other. Zschack looks around to the stunned faces around him. Herald-News writer Augie Lio says, “Bob, I think... they’re gonna play.” Over the PA system, Zschack’s announces, “Ladies and gentleman, I never imagined myself saying this but… Bob Cisternino to kick off for the 1946 team. Jim Jenkins back to receive for the 1973 Mustangs.” “Joe,” says assistant coach Juk Porter to Grecco, “we’re in the future—that’s why this stadium is here.” “Then we’ll show them why it was built,” Grecco bellows back. Cisternino’s kickoff is a long end-over-end boot that Jenkins fields on the 25 yard line. He shakes one tackler before Ted Kukowski knocks him out of bounds at the home team’s 36. Dale Oosdyk leads his team out on the field. At 6’4”, he towers over the old school Mustangs. In the defensive huddle, the 5’5” Russ Calo says about Oosdyk, “High pockets is about to get a lesson.” “Watch No. 32,” says team captain George Tahmoosh, eyeing Jenkins, “he looks fast.”

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While the 1946 squad expects a hand-off to Jenkins, Oosdyk fakes to his running back and drops back to pass. The 1973 offensive line holds, giving their quarterback time. Oosdyk fakes once to end Jerry Andrewlavage, freezing defensive back Skippy Del Favero, and then floats a long bomb down the sideline. Andrewlavage runs under it and catches the pass 20 yards from the end zone, racing in for the touchdown. His extra point gives the 1973 Mustangs a quick 7-0 lead. The score ignites the crowd, which temporarily forgets the game’s supernatural conditions and roars its approval. “Del Favero, pay attention out there!” Grecco roars. “No mistakes!” Later, Del Favero tells equipment manager Dominick Cammaroto, “I didn’t believe he could throw the ball that far.” Return of the Single Wing Before kicking off, Vandy gathers his defensive team, knowing how the 1946 team will attack. “Remember last year when Passaic Valley ran the old single wing against us?” he asks. “That’s what those boys will do.” In 1972, PV coach Steve Gerdy had dusted off the ancient single wing offense against the Mustangs, hoping to confuse Vander Closter’s 4-4-3 Notre Dame-inspired defense.


The results were disastrous as Clifton crushed the Hornets, 44-0. “And watch No. 41,” Vandy warns. “That’s Bobby Boettcher—he’ll get the ball most of the time.” The 1973 Mustangs line up, and Andrewlavage kicks off. Boettcher fields at the 11 yard line, shakes a tackler at the 20, and jukes his way to his 29 yard line before being buried under an avalanche of tacklers. “Alright, fellas,” quarterback Jack Lennon says in the huddle. “Let’s run 43.” Grecco’s single wing offense depends on deception and misdirection, with linemen rushing to a single point of attack to block and springing the ball carrier. Vander Closter’s defense aims to disrupt the other team’s attack, blitzing often and striking before the offensive team’s plays develop. On the first play, Boettcher takes the ball and slips between tackle Doug Lawrence and guard Calo. Ritoch flies from his linebacker spot, but Boettcher sees him, moving his hip just enough to slip past. He crosses midfield before being pulled down by Greg Wichot. In the stands, fan Harry Murtha rises, now openly rooting for the 1946 team. “Let’s go, Bobby!” he yells. “Show them what you can do!” He’s joined by others like Lou Poles, who watched the 1946 Mustangs in their youth. The crowd becomes divided in its loyalty.

Though many of the 1973 Mustangs have faced the single wing offense once before, the 1946 squad runs it to perfection—the result of hours spent directed by Grecco’s booming voice. With each play, the line jumps and Boettcher knifes through like a slippery eel, growing closer to the goal line. Though not as fast as Jenkins, Boettcher possess incredible field vision, anticipating the 1973 defenders and avoiding them with a half step or twist. The 1946 Mustangs drive down to the 3-yard-line, with Boettcher carrying the ball each time. On first and goal, he carries right and attempts a jump pass to a streaking Cisternino in the end zone. Boettcher releases and is drilled by a blitzing Ritoch, who pounds the 1946 star into the turf. The pass ticks off Cisternino’s hands, with Bob Bel Bruno defending on the play. Ritoch pins Boettcher to the ground, glaring into his eyes. “You relics are going down today,” he snarls. In an instant, fullback Bob Pityo pulls Ritoch off, joined immediately by Tahmoosh, Calo, and the rest of the 1946 team. “Get off him, bird-cage face,” Pityo screams at Ritoch, taking note of the gray face mask bars the 1973 team wears on their helmets. “You want to go at someone, try me!”

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A ’73 Mustangs reunion with Coach Vandy (center); none recall Thanksgiving Day 1973 and facing the ’46 Mustangs.

As Ritoch starts to leap at Pityo, he’s grabbed by Kleber, who wrestles him away. “Calm down, Truck,” Kleber says. “We need you—don’t get thrown out.” On the next play, the 1946 squad goes back to the run, with the determined Pityo opening a hole for Boettcher, who races in for the touchdown. The extra point by Boettcher is good, and the game is tied, 7-7. The game remains knotted until halftime. Despite two long drives, the 1973 Mustangs cannot score. After a 66-yard run by Dom Fego to the 1946 team’s ten yard line, Oosdyk drops the snap where it is recovered by Kukowski. After stopping the 1946 Mustangs on their next drive—the highlight a bone-jarring hit of Lennon by Paul “Mooch” Millar—the 1973 team is again halted by a tipped pass interception by Del Favero. At halftime, the coaches meet with their teams. Outside of the mistakes, Vander Closter is pleased with his offense, but worries his defense has not yet adjusted to stopping the single wing (Boettcher already has 147 yards rushing). Vandy again explains stopping the offense, his chalk breaking several times on the blackboard as he pounds out where his players must attack. Grecco knows his boys are in for the fight of their athletic lives. He now sees the 1973 team is big, strong, and fast, and knows only a methodical ground attack chewing time off the clock will give his team a chance. “Men,” he says, his voice rising, “when you look across that field, know you are the inspiration for their

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power, their numbers, and this field. But also know there can be only one victorious team. Will it be you? Will you show them why we are the real Fighting Mustangs? The 1946 team lifts their chins, forgetting their fatigue. They rise as one and begin to cheer, running past their coach onto the field. One of the hinges on the visitor’s locker room door gives way, and the door hangs crooked after the team rushes through—as it did in 1946 against Nutley. Grecco whispers to himself, “That’s a good omen.” Unwelcome Guest Word has spread through the city of the strange game going on, and fans rush to the stadium. More tickets are sold during halftime than before the game. The fans fill up the stands and ring the field before the Clifton police finally shut down the ticket windows for the day. More than 15,000 are there now—many to cheer the Mustangs of the past. Outside the stadium, fans ring the stadium, some climbing its brick walls and sitting on top to watch. With the crowd now split almost equally behind each team, the 1946 Mustangs take the kickoff and begin another drive. Spurred on by the fans’ cheers, Lennon directs his team down the field with Grecco and the rest of the 1946 players roaring from the sideline, urging them on.


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The snake-hipped Boettcher is like a ghost— weaving his way through the 1973 line, earning five, six, and seven yards with each carry. Near midfield, he fires a pass to Rope deVido, who eludes defensive back Ed Evers to make the catch and run to the opposing 10 yard line before being caught by Mike Molner. The 1946 offense is stopped on the next three downs, with Kleber and Allan Kanter making big plays to stall the drive. On fourth and goal, believing his team will need more than three points to win, Grecco decides to go for the touchdown. With the stadium roaring as one—half the fans cheering for a stop, the other half cheering for a score— Boettcher takes the pitch from Lennon and runs wide, sprung by a block by Pityo. He slips two tacklers before sprinting to the corner of the end zone. Across the field, Wichot, one of the fastest of the 1973 Mustangs, bolts toward Boettcher, gaining with each stride. With the 1946 All-American about to cross the goal line, Wichot leaps, hurling his body like a missile at the ball carrier. He catches Boettcher at the goal line, driving him down into the turf. The stadium goes silent, waiting to see the official’s call. He stands over the fallen players, staring down

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In 2002, the only back-to-back undefeated Fighting Mustangs teams. From left, holding ’73 jacket is Bob Bais and Greg Wichot with the ’72 jacket. At center with trophy which states ‘Winner, The Clifton Cup 1973 Mustangs 13, 1946 Mustangs 7’ is Joseph McGonigle. Left rear, Charles DiGiacomo, Paul Nebesni, Coach Vander Closter and Dennis Mikula.

at the goal line. For a second, his arms seem to twitch upward… but freeze. Boettcher stares up, waiting for the official’s arms to signal a touchdown. The signal never comes.


Dale Oosdyk

Last Drive But on offense, the 1946 team’s attack stalls, with the larger 1973 defenders adjusting to the single wing’s misdirection and swarming to the ball. Only third-down quick kicks by Boettcher avert disaster by pinning the 1973 team deep in its own territory. With seven minutes remaining in the game, Oosdyk leads the 1973 Mustangs out on the field. A

wind-driven Boettcher punt traveling over 60 yards has pushed the ball back to the 1973 team’s 15 yard line. Passing against the wind will be tough, and Vander Closter knows that his team will have to run the ball to win. As the teams line up for what will be the game’s final drive, 1973 captain Joe McGonigle looks across the line and studies the 1946 players. “They’re tired,” he

In an instant the stadium erupts in howls and cheers. The 1946 team is denied—Boettcher is down at the one, giving the ball back to the 1973 team. As Boettcher rises, the howls get louder. Across his midsection is the white chalk of the goal line. Grecco is livid, screaming at the official, “How can you make that call,” he yells, saliva shooting through the gap is his front teeth. “He was in—look at his uniform!” The official turns and walks away from Grecco. As he goes, the 1946 coach remembers where he has seen the official before. “Looks like our friend from the Oyster Bowl followed us back through time,” Grecco says to his team on the sidelines, pointing at the infamous referee who denied Boettcher and Clifton a game-winning TD against Granby High. The score remains knotted at 7-7 through the third quarter and into the fourth. Though the ’73 team moves the ball well, they are stopped in the red zone twice by an inspired 1946 Clifton defense. Cliftonmagazine.com • November 2019 

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Thanksgiving 2003, dedicating Joseph S. Grecco field (left) Ken Kurnath, Dick Moran, Tom Tieffenbocher, Roger Fardin, Bobby Boettcher, Lou Poles, Coaches Joe Grecco and Bill Vander Closter, Jim Haraka, Bob Papa and Bob Amoruso; top, Grecco and Vandy.

says, “dog tired—they’ve all been playing both ways. Alright, guys,” he yells to the rest of the offensive line, “let’s drive them back into history!” McGonigle’s line mates Charlie DiGiacomo, Chris Conrad, Bob Lucas, and Chet Stuphen nod to their captain and prepare for their final push. On the other side of the ball, Ditch Malavasi settles into his wide stance and growls, “Ain’t gonna happen!” Despite Malavasi’s best efforts, it does. Oosdyk unleashes Jenkins and Fego on the ‘46 Mustangs and only saving tackles by Boettcher, Lennon and deVido prevent touchdowns. On the field, the cold wind picks up, sweeping around the players and chilling the fans ringing the field. The sky turns gray and thunder again rumbles. With two minutes remaining, the 1973 Mustangs are on their opponent’s 25 yard line. The wind blows stronger. On the sideline, Vandy tells assistant coach Emil Chaky, “No field goal with this breeze. We’re going to have to take it to them—right to the end zone.” After a run by Jenkins brings the ball to the seven yard line, Vandy calls time out, setting the 1973 Mustangs up for their final plays. Less than a minute remains. On first down, Oosdyk pitches to Fego, who runs to the one yard line before being tackled by Malavasi. With seven seconds left in the game, the teams walk to the line for one last play.

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Thunder rumbles and the sky turns a dark gunmetal gray. Oosdyk barks signals, and the 1973 Mustangs spring to life. Jenkins takes the hand-off and flies over the line, met by Malavasi and Cisternino, who has sprung from the weak side to hit the ball carrier in midair. The three crash down—a tangle of arms, legs, and torsos. The official runs from the side to make the call. Peeling back Cisternino’s shoulder, he sees Jenkins holding the football, lying across the goal line. The official shoots his arms upward signaling touchdown as the gun sounds. The 1973 Mustangs have defeated the 1946 Mustangs, 13-7. As the teams move to their sidelines—one ecstatic with victory, the other downcast and defeated—Vandy beckons Grecco to meet him at midfield. “Coach,” Vandy says, “your boys played an incredible game. Now I understand why your 1946 team is so special to many people.” “I’ve never seen so many great players,” Grecco replies, pointing to the 1973 Mustangs. “You could field three teams. We never played a better opponent.” “Look around, Joe,” Vandy says, gesturing to his sideline and the thousands packing the stands. “You had a lot to do with this. “It seems someday in the future,” says Grecco, looking at Vandy, “that I’ll leave my team to a good coach.”


After they shake hands and begin and pushing the 1973 players back. walking back to their sidelines, Vander When they look back across the Closter stops and calls out to Grecco. field, the 1946 Clifton Mustangs and “Coach,” he says smiling, “don’t their coach are gone, replaced by a deget discouraged against Montclair. It feated Passaic team. will take time, but we’ll get them.” Grecco, unsure what he means, What the Newspapers Wrote... nods and smiles. The players have no memory of The fans are standing and cheerwhat took place that day. The newsing for both teams. The 1946 players paper stories say Clifton pounded remain huddled around Grecco, not Passaic, 75-12, the perfect end to a knowing what will happen next. Vanperfect season. There is no account dy sees this, and directs his entire team of the hard-fought victory against an to spread across the sideline. The 1973 opponent that gave the undefeated ’73 Mustangs cover the length of the field Mustangs all they could handle. Chuck Ranges from end zone to end zone. Yes, there is no written memory or Vandy begins to applaud, quickly recollection of that day… except a cujoined by his players—a tribute to Clifton’s first great rious note in a Clifton policeman’s record. He writes team of the Grecco-Vander Closter era. Across the of an abandoned bus that looked like it came straight empty gridiron, Kukowski raises his helmet to the sky. out of the forties, which remained parked next to the The rest of the 1946 Mustangs do the same, saluting Clifton School Stadium long after the fans had gone the great 1973 team they would help inspire. home that Thanksgiving Day. The bus was later sold Suddenly, a dark cloud again races over the old by the city after no one claimed it. The buyer, Chuck Doherty Silk Mill and settles over the stadium. Like Ranges, drove it to his junkyard, where it was turned before, a bolt of lightning leaps out of the cloud and into scrap metal. strikes the center of the field—stopping the cheering And a door to the past was forever closed.

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HOT DOG NIGHT

2019 @ Clifton on Thanksgiving Day, 10am

Passaic vs. Clifton A final account of the Indians and Mustangs storied rivalry

1923 Indians

37 Wins 48 Losses 5 Ties

Mustangs 48 Wins 37 Losses 5 Ties

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

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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 1953.....Clifton 21.......... Passaic 20 1954.....Passaic 7...............Clifton 6

1955.....Passaic 7...............Clifton 0 1956.....Clifton 48............ Passaic 0 1957.....No Game 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 1975.....No Game 1976.....Clifton 28............ Passaic 6 1977.....No Game 1978.....No Game 1979.....No Game


1980.....No Game 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

Photos of Turkey Day 2010 at Passaic.

2008.....Clifton 28............ Passaic 0 2009.....Clifton 7.............. Passaic 0 2010.....Clifton 42............ Passaic 0 2011......Clifton 55.......... Passaic 29 2012.....Passaic 29.............Clifton 0 2013.....Clifton 21............ Passaic 6 2014.....Clifton 20.......... Passaic 14 2015.....Clifton 35.......... Passaic 12 2016.....Clifton 48.......... Passaic 20 2017.....Passaic 42...........Clifton 35 2018.....Clifton 33............ Passaic 0 2019.....

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Shannon Stumper

By Charles Timm

For the Stumper family, this year’s Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame induction is a family affair, with sisters Shannon and Kim, and aunt Cindy Kowal all being inducted. The three women, active together from 1978 to 1986, are being honored for their involvement in Clifton’s original Girls Club, first officially housed at 1241 Main Ave. before moving to the corner of Van Houten and Mt. Prospect Aves., where the Stumper sisters and Kowal made so many memories. And it doesn’t end with the Stumper girls. Family cousin Jeff Fortemps, who spent much of the 1980s involved in both clubs, preand post-merger, is also being honored this year with Hall of Fame induction. Shannon Stumper: For Shannon Stumper, 46, it’s fitting that her Hall of Fame induction observes her years in Clifton’s original Girls Club. “I am truly honored,” Stumper said, “to be one of the Girls Club kids inducted into the Boys & Girls Club Alumni Hall of Fame. Especially since the Girls Club was my entire world back then. For me, there was nothing better.   “We just did so much there. So much. They would take us to the park behind the old Plant Store and go crazy on that swing thing I think was called “The Pretzel.” Some kids would spin it so fast you could not even see straight. Not to mention be nauseous for half the day. We would walk to Carvel to get ice cream. Lollapaloozas were my faThe 13th annual “Fall Into the Past” vorite. Not once did you feel bored, not once. They kept beefsteak celebrates the lives and us busy.” achievements of outstanding B&G Club Such a rich environment was just the thing for Stumper, so eager to participate that she seems to have enjoyed alumni­­(each representing a decade), every club activity. former members who have contributed “I learned how to play pool, checkers, and bingo,” she a great deal to the Clifton organization said. “Bingo was great because you would win Swedish and believe in its mission and purpose. Fish and licorice shoe laces from the candy store they would set up in the kitchen. I loved kick ball, dodge ball, Tickets are $40 and include dinner, beer, box ball and musical chairs.  wine and soda. For information or tick“Oh, and that Pac Man machine. I lived on that maets, call John DeGraaf at 973-773-0966, chine. I can still remember running up to it, slapping my Ex. 111. quarter down, saying, ‘I got next!’ Jeez, thinking of all of this just makes me smile.”

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Passaic County Historical Society LAMBERT CASTLE

Holiday Boutique FUN HOLIDAY Assortment SHOPPING Anof Festive Holiday Gifts,

Jewelry, Seasonal Decorations, Crafts, Collectibles, Gourmet Food in the Historic Atmosphere and Ambience of Lambert Castle

November 2~December 1, 2019 WEDNESDAY thru FRIDAY • 10am~8pm SATURDAY & SUNDAY • 10am~5pm Closed Monday, Tuesday & Thanksgiving Day

$6 admission/donation - includes 2 return visits Opening Weekend - November 2nd & 3rd - $7 Admission/Donation

Groups and Buses Welcome!

Please contact the Passaic County Historical Society at 973-247-0085 ext. 201 to coordinate a date, make reservations for your party, and to arrange prepayment of admission for your group to gain preferred entry upon arrival.

Lambert Castle is located conveniently off Rt. 80 and the Garden State Parkway Our address is 3 Valley Rd, Paterson NJ 07503 www.lambertcastle.org VISA/MasterCard Accepted for Purchases • NO Personal Checks Accepted Cliftonmagazine.com • November 2019 

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The safety and security of the club was something like an extended family for Stumper, who benefited greatly from it, especially when her mother was working. “Being a single mother, she needed us to be somewhere she knew we would be safe and occupied all day,” Stumper said. “Summer drops offs were 8:30 and pick ups were 6 pm, I want to say. Honestly, I never wanted to leave. Pick up time always came too soon for me.” Stumper formed many friendships during her Girls Club years—many that continue to this day. “I am most grateful to have made some life-long friends there, too. It’s funny when you see each other now and just know that is your connection, something that was so long ago.” Stumper’s involvement with the Girls Club tapered off after its merger with Clifton’s Boys Club in 1986 and the move to the combined club’s current location at Clifton and Colfax Aves. “I did go to both clubs and honestly wasn’t thrilled when I heard they were merging. I think most of us were unsure how the merger would affect what was our

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Kim Stumper

Cindy Kowal

‘norm.’ The Girls Club was my second home. A safe place for me to be, while my Mom was working.” More changes came when Stumper’s immediate family relocated from her grandparents’ house on Union Ave., and she took a job. “When I was 13, we moved to Wilson St. It wasn’t easy getting to the club anymore. And I was starting to work part-time after school at Barry’s Tuxedos in Passaic. My mom, grandmother, and aunt all worked at Barry’s for years. Having my first job there was


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a no-brainer. My mom was raising two daughters on her own. There was only so much she could give us. If we wanted something more, we had to buy it ourselves.” But Stumper still has so many great memories of her Girls Club years that sharing them is a happy challenge. More than a few include club guides Patty Lavender and Mary Jo Anzaldi. “I have so many great memories being there,” said Stumper, “I wouldn’t even know where to begin. My favorite was walking in those doors after school and hearing Patty shout out “The Stump!” almost every single time.  “FYI, she still does it today and, for that second, I am 7 years old again.   “It makes you feel good to be acknowledged, as a kid, and Patty, as well as Mary Jo, definitely made me feel like I was someone special. They taught me a lot there. All of the counselors did.” Both Lavender and Anzaldi are still guiding children at the Boys & Girls Club today, still offering memories in a place that’s managed to evolve into more of the same richness for the next generation of children. And Stumper is glad for all of this to continue.

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“I am truly happy to know that Patty and Mary Jo are still at the club. They definitely impacted my life and taught me a lot of things. They always gave me the reassurance that I could do anything. I guess that’s why I joined just about every activity they had planned for us. I’m sure they are doing the same for the future alumni. “If those kids embrace every thing the club and its counselors have to offer, I’m sure they will feel the same way I do today.” Cindy Kowal Cindy Kowal’s induction into the Clifton Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame brings her back to the sheer pleasure that she felt by simply being present for what was then Clifton’s original Girls Club, during her precious years there. What a difference it made in her young life. “Just being at the club, spending time with my friends, meant a lot to me,” she said. “I liked taking the gymnastics classes and learning how to walk on the balance beam. I enjoyed the times we played musical chairs and when they would watch movies, like Benji, from the projector. They would close all the lights and


Also being inducted: John Krenicki, Candace Mariso, Frank Kasper, Bobby D’Arco and Dennis Telischak.

put down the gym mats. The movie was on the wall, and it felt like a big screen, just like at the movies.” The benefits to Kowal from club membership included what she received directly from her counselors, among them, Patty Lavender and Mary Jo Anzaldi. “My favorites were always Patty and Mary Jo,” Kowal said. “They would both just make me feel secure when I was at the club. I knew I was safe when I was with them.” In fact, Kowal’s counselors and other children, maybe more than activities she enjoyed, seem to have been how club participation made a difference in her life.

“My entire time at the club, being around all of the counselors and interacting with the other kids, taught me structure and discipline, and I am so happy that I got to be a part of it,” she said. A Clifton resident today, Kowal, 49 and retired, is glad to know that the care and attention that she received from her two favorite counselors continues for the Boys & Girls Club children of today. “I am happy to know that both Patty and Mary Jo are still with the BC. Knowing what they meant to me as a child makes me thrilled to know that they are still impacting the lives of other children.”

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Kim Stumper For Kim Stumper, being inducted into the Clifton Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame brings back memories of when she was a regular at Clifton’s original Girls Club on Van Houten Ave., across from the old Plant Store. “I started helping at night with bingo,” Stumper recalled, “and it taught me to have a little responsibility. I earned a little money from tips running for coffee, etc., for the bingo players; and, that made me feel like I was an adult.” This was only one of the many differences that being a part of the club made in Stumper’s life. So many memories—too many to choose one favorite; though, in them, counselors Mary Jo Anzaldi and Patty Lavender loom large. “Working with Mary Jo and Patty in the kitchen, picking up the kids in the van with Patty after school, going to Brookdale Park...” Stumper could go on about her favorite counClub girls: Shannon and Kim Stumper with Cindy Kowal in 2014. selors. “They were both very outgoing and jolly. All of this flowed from the desire of Fortemps’ mothThey made me feel happy and wanted in the club.” er and father for his continued well-being. Now 48, and a resident of Pelzer, S.C., Stumper is in “My parents,” he said, “both of whom worked full the process of obtaining her GED before pursuing a catime, were in search of a safe alternative, where I could reer as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a helping go after school. They desired an opportunity where I profession where the compassion that the Girls Club could grow socially while having fun in a structured enshowed to her, she will show to others. vironment.” “Based on my experience, I would recommend the Fortemps remembers the location well. club to any parent,” Stumper said. “The love and sup“I attended when there was only one building locatport I received from Mary Jo and Patty, as counselors, ed on Clifton Ave.,” he said, “where the administrative made me feel special.” offices are located. The front of the brick building had a large staircase leading to the front door, but the primary Jeff Fortemps entrance we used for dropping off was located on the Jeff Fortemps’ years with the Boys & Girls Club side along. There was a large gym along with a pool seem to have taken in much of its history during that in the basement. My most vivid memories are playing time. pool in the main lounge area.” “I did not attend the Boys Club prior to the merger,” Fortemps also remembers the chances that the club he said. “I was a member of the Girls Club first, when gave him to experience life outside of its walls. there were two separate organizations, with the Girls “Although I enjoyed daily activities,” he said, “I ofClub also being a co-ed club. ten looked forward to the occasional group field trips.” “And upon the closure of the Girls Club in the early Among people from his club years, Fortemps, who ’80s, I transferred to the Boys Club, which changed to grew up on Jacklin Ct., remembers Bob Foster. “He was the Boys and Girls Club, and continued to be a member a funny, caring, and firm, father-type figure to until the late ’80s.”

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Jeff Fortemps

the children. Bob was a very tall gentleman who always took the time to talk with me about school, sports, and problems that I might be having. He always encouraged me to be positive in the most negative of situations.” A father of 5, today, Fortemps, 44, is a sergeant and a 20-year veteran of the Saddle River Police Department, who credits the club with helping him to find his professional calling. “The Boys Club,” he said, “provided a safe alternative for children from a wide range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. What we had to learn as kids was to become accepting and understanding of others. We learned to play together, work together, and have fun together, which resulted in the development of a culture of family. These experiences guided me toward my current career in law enforcement and has

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helped me be more understanding of others while having a strong desire to help others.” For Fortemps, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology/ criminal justice from William Paterson University and a master’s degree in administrative science from Fairleigh Dickinson University, participation in the club waned decades ago, but his Hall of Fame induction seems to have awakened in him the possibility of renewed interest. “As a result of moving away for college,” he said, “I did not return after graduation and have not been involved with the club since but look forward to future involvement. Learning of this honor, I felt a feeling of pride and appreciation. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is an opportunity to give back and be a role model to the youth that currently attend, and provide for a positive influence.”


After a year absence, the “John Samra Memorial 5K Run & 1 Mile Family Walk,” presented by Clifton PBA Local 36, returned Oct. 20. The Clifton Roadrunners helped with the event. Starting and ending at City Hall, all proceeds went to the John Samra Scholarship Fund. “We had 336 people there, including the Samra family,” said Mike Davey. “It was a great day, great event. We’ll be back next year.”

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Stormy weather chasedcthe Halloween Parade and Harvestfest from the streets of Athenia to the CHS gym on Oct. 27. Clifton Rec employees and volunteers made the parade and family fun stuff happen for a few hours, starting at noon. On the next three pages are photos of some of the folks that took part in the shenanigans and enjoyed an afternoon of fun and games.

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of the e. No chascold ciety.

It’s the first day of St. John Kanty Polish School with a visit by Mayor Jim Anzaldi (center), new director Monika Lewkowicz, along with the teachers from pre-K through ninth grades. The school is in its 18th year at the same location at School 13 on Van Houten Ave. Classes are every Saturday, from September to May, from 10 am to 1 pm. Not only does the school teach the Polish language but also history, geography, and culture. Write to eij20041@verizon.net for info.

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Bobby Boettcher may be Clifton High’s first All-American, but there’s an even bigger American hero in the former Mustangs football great’s family: retired U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Boettcher. An aviator, Boettcher has made 565 aircraft carrier landings, and served as naval attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. Boettcher is pictured with former First Lady Laura Bush, and his dad wants to say how proud he is of his son on Veterans Day. The 32nd annual Lambert Castle Holiday Boutique is open through Dec. 1 at 3 Valley Road, on the Clifton and Paterson border. Open Wednesday through Friday from 10 am to 8 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm, enjoy shopping for festive holiday gifts, jewelry, seasonal decorations, crafts, collectibles and gourmet food in the historic atmosphere and ambiance of Lambert Castle. The $7 tickets allows the bearer one additional visit. For more info, call 973-247-0085 or go to lambertcastle.org.

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MUSIC AND ARTS Friends of the Clifton Public Library present a series of Operalogues conducted by Ed Perretti of the NJ State Opera at the Clifton Main Library at Piaget and Third Aves. Staged at 1 pm, the productions are free, open to the public. and continue Nov. 4 with a selection of arias and Nov. 18 with a potpourri of duets. On Nov. 19, at 7 pm, the Friends have their semi-annual meeting and election of officers. Following the meeting, there is a reception and show by the Real Macaw Parrot Club, open to all. For more information, call the library at 973-772-5500.

James Zuniga (center, holding wallet), in his role as the Artful Dodger, proudly shows young cast members that he’s picked another pocket. They are all part of The Theater League of Clifton’s musical production of “Oliver” which opens Nov. 8 at the Theresa Aprea Theater. Reserve tickets by phone (973-928-7668); online via the theater’s website (www.theaterleagueofclifton.com).

The cast of “Rumors” are, from left, Nevaly Placencia, Angelina Reyes, Sarah Siano, Dayanara Moran and Ian Kearney; standing are Olivia Coronel, Briana Vinci, Rayven Hidalgo, Mauricio Turian, Michael Da Silva and Anthony Zawrak.

The door-slamming, madcap romp Rumors, a comedy by Neil Simon, will be presented by Clifton High Nov. 22-24. Set in 1980s, the play can be described as Simon’s tribute to the misinformation-driven farces of old, in which everyone makes everything worse by jumping to incorrect conclusions. Friday and Saturday show are at 7 pm; Sunday performance is at 2 pm. Tickets are $7 for students and seniors; $10 for adults. Come see the 20th Annual West Milford Highlander Marching Band Bagpipe Concert and Tattoo, featuring the CHS Marching Mustangs. The indoor musical is Nov. 9, 6:30 pm at West Milford High. For info: wmhighlanderband.com

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From stuffed cabbage and pirogies to churros and leche fritas (and many more delicious samples of Arabic, Turkish and Eastern European foods), Christopher Columbus Middle School celebrated its many cultures on Oct. 10 with a diversity dinner. In addition to 180 students and their families, the district’s new superintendent of schools, Danny Robertozzi, and various BOE commissioners were in attendance. “It is wonderful to have their support,” said coordinator Kim Dreher, an 8th grade math teacher. “We also received donations from Francesca’s Bakery and La Piazza.”

Make plans for the 25th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Jazz Festival on Jan. 11. Hosted by Seifullah Ali Shabazz (above), the festival will be held at 6 pm at the Church of the Assumption, 35 Orange Ave. Tickets $40 in advance, $45 at door. See Pg. 73 for info or call 973-478-4124.

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ABOUT TOWN... CHS Class of 1974’s 45th Reunion is Nov. 29 at 6 pm at The Mountainside Inn, 509 Hazel St. For info, contact Karen at karzay@echoes.net or text/call 570-460-0405. Free Breakfast for Veterans, Cops & Firefighters! On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Hot Bagels Abroad, located at 859 Clifton Ave., will offer a free meal and beverage to active duty service members, veterans with IDs, as well as police officers and firefighters, from 5 am to 4 pm. “It’s a way for us to say thanks and show support,” said owner Steve Mao. North Jersey Federal Credit Union is hosting its 9th Business Summit Nov. 6. The event links credit union members with business owners and entrepreneurs. Guests discuss tips on getting ahead of the competition and share effective business practices and strategies. “We created the event to promote our business products and services,” said James Giffin, NJFCU’s VP of marketing. “Many do not know what a credit union offers and most did not know the extent Over 120 attended the 39th Annual Daughters of Miriam Golf Classic on Sept. 16, golfing in support of Alzheimer’s and dementia care. The event attracted 120 and was held at newly-renovated Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell. Pictured are the “Closest to the Pin Shootout” winner Andrew Rosen (second from left) who is presented with a $2,500 check by Golf Committee Co-Chairpersons (left to right) Andrew Kanter, Alex Fleysher, Leslie Levine and David Kessler.

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Boy Scout Troop 21 will serve up their Annual Spaghetti Dinner on Nov. 10 from noon to 5 pm at the St. Philip Auditorium, 797 Valley Rd., Clifton. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for children (4-11). Children under age 4 are free with an adult. Dinner includes “All you can eat” spaghetti with homemade sauce, salad, bread and dessert. Refreshments will be served. Tickets can be purchased at the door. For more information, write to them at: troop21clifton@gmail.com

of services offered—more precisely, that we offer all services that a business may need.” The summit also helps businesses to promote their services in a “relaxed networking environment.” The free event is held from 6-8 pm at 711 Union Blvd., Totowa. For info, go to njfcu.org.

The Young at Heart Club meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Masonic Lodge, 1476 Van Houten Ave. Refreshments are at 11 am followed by a noon meeting. Call 973-779-5581. Upcoming events include Nov. 4, Camp Hope, and a Dec. 13 Christmas Party at Mountainside Inn.


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Sofiya Rivna, William McCoy, Adrian Flores, Mary Claire Davey.

November has arrived for Mustangs of the Month.

The vice principals from each Clifton High wing have spotlighted four students who have gotten a head start on the latest activities on the campus, one from each grade. Sofiya Rivna, Senior Sofiya Rivna is used to overcoming challenges. Twelve years ago, her family left Ukraine and she learned much from her parents’ example. “My parents moved to a brand new country to give my brother and me a better future,” said Rivna. “They work hard to provide for us and, one day, I will be able to repay them for everything they’ve done. They motivate me to do my best in everything.” Last year, Rivna also faced uncertainty when she transferred from Garfield High School. “CHS was overwhelming—big and confusing, and so many students,” she said. “I was worried that I would have trouble getting used to such a big school and my grades would drop. “However, I was quickly able to adjust to the new environment, make new friends and meet amazing teachers, and stay on top of my grades.” Rivna’s favorite subject is psychology. She plans to study nursing in college (her aunt and grandmother are nurses). Her most influential teacher is Ms. Anderson, her junior year English Honors instructor. “She is such a strong person,” Rivna said, “someone I look up to.” Last year, Rivna joined Heroes and Cool Kids and Key Club. This year, she is part of the Pre-Med Club and attending EMT school. “I love working with people,” she said, “and helping those who are sick feel better.”

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William McCoy, Junior Since middle school, William McCoy has had a deep fascination with computers and coding. “I am president of both the Physics & Electricity Club,” said McCoy, “as well as the Coding Club. I have a blast doing both.” Predictably, his favorite subject is computer science, something he plans to study at NJIT or Stevens Institute, looking toward a career in cybersecurity and computer programming. One major hurdle McCoy overcame while at CHS was fitting in after returning to New Jersey as a sophomore after being gone since third grade. Helping him was his mom, whom he draws much inspiration from. “My mom always boosts me up while I’m down,” he said, “and shows me that no matter what life throws at you that you can always get back up and try again.” Mr. Burns also helped him. “Mr. Burns has been the most influential teacher to me,” McCoy said, “because even while I was a sophomore and wasn’t taking his class yet, he was always a teacher who I could go to and talk. “He would always help me strive to be a better person.” Adrian Flores, Sophomore Adrian Flores loves American History, especially discussing different ideas with his peers. “In American History,” Flores said, “there are a lot of topics that are relevant today, and I love talking about


politics. I have a good teacher who makes me want to participate in class.” That teacher is Mr. Fiore. “He likes to discuss today’s topics,” he said, “and gives me a platform to discuss my political views in my class.” Flores’ inspiration is his mom. “She does too much for too little and she never takes a break,” Flores said. “She is always trying to support me—she attends all of my concerts and swimming meets. She takes me to my lessons and swimming practices, and takes my sister to her soccer practices and games.” To be successful at CHS, he relies on good habits, participation and engagement. “I participate in the high school swim team,” Flores said, “and I play in the orchestra. I love music and would love to continue my passion in college. It takes a lot of hard work, practice and knowledge to be a professional musician, and I think I am willing to put in the work. “My dream job,” he added, “is to play in the Philadelphia Orchestra.”

Mary Claire Davey, Freshman Entering CHS, Mary Claire Davey used the power of sports to ease her transition from middle school. “I am on the girls varsity volleyball team,” said Davey. “Volleyball has been a sport I have been playing since I was in sixth grade. This helped me meet new people that I could say hi to in the hallways and even ask about their experiences as a freshman and what I should expect.” Other experiences have also made her freshman year smoother. Davey cites a “positive attitude” instilled by her close family and a desire to make them proud, along with her honors classes taken at St. Philip’s prior to entering CHS as big helps to her. Biology is her favorite subject and she enjoys her teacher, Mrs. Graziano. “She has already taught me so much,” Davey said, “and I can’t wait to learn more in her class.” Mr. Onacilla is another favorite. “I really enjoy his class,” she said. “He helps me to work to my full potential. Davey plans to become involved with the spring musical and is exploring CHS’s many available programs and activities.

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Birthdays & Celebrations - November 2019

Happy Birthday to.... Send dates & names .... tomhawrylko@optonline.net

Kaylianni Fortuna turns 10 on Nov. 6

Wish Rosario LaCorte a happy 73rd birthday on Nov. 16. Nicholas Glodova is 24 on Nov. 12. Nicole Mokray turns 19 on Nov. 7. Bev Lacsina celebrates her 30th birthday on Nov. 8.

Jazzlyn Caba.................... 11/1 Danielle Osellame.............. 11/6 Robyn Jo Paci.................... 11/2 Kristen Soltis...................... 11/6 Thomas Scancarella........... 11/2 Gabriella Marriello............ 11/7 Kelly Tierney...................... 11/3 James Ball......................... 11/7 Paul Guzowski................... 11/3 Kevin Lord......................... 11/7 Lance Dearing................... 11/4 Francine Anderson............. 11/8 Olivia Nysk....................... 11/4 Ray Konopinski.................. 11/8 Andrew Seitz..................... 11/4 Beverly Lascina.................. 11/8 Mr. Cupcakes.................... 11/4 Marie Sanzo..................... 11/8 Victoria Krzysztofczyk......... 11/5 Donna Camp..................... 11/9 Tanya Ressetar................... 11/5 Tricia Montague................. 11/9 Kristina Azevedo................ 11/6 Brandy Stiles................... 11/10 Nicole Lorraine Bonin......... 11/6 Tom Szieber.................... 11/10 Martha Derendal............... 11/6 Stacey Takacs.................. 11/10 88  November 2019 • Cliftonmagazine.com

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 Kathy Schmidt ................ 11/15 Matthew Phillips............... 11/16 Anthony Wrobel.............. 11/16 Michael Zangara............. 11/16 Marilyn Velez.................. 11/18 Joseph Tyler..................... 11/19 Joseph Guerra................. 11/20


Niece Nancy Anne Hawrylko & Ryan Alexander MacCubbin, will be married on Nov. 2. Nancy also celebrates her 34th on Nov. 19. 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 Adeline DeVries............... 11/29 Kaitlyn Graham............... 11/30 Barbara Luzniak.............. 11/30

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QUIT SMOKING Ready to quit smoking? Mike McLaughlin and Bruce James have a suggestion: do it as a team. Of course, if you’ve been a smoker for four or five decades, like these two, you might want to add a nicotine patch to your routine. On Jan. 1, 2019, the duo threw away their two pack a day habits. The team quitting idea began a few weeks earlier when McLaughlin went to his physician. “He said I was in the beginning stages of emphysema and that my blood flow was restricted,” said McLaughlin, a retired Clifton Police Detective, who smoked for at least 40 years. “But he told me it was reversible if I acted right away.” It takes a little bit of getting scared to get you ready to quit, said McLaughlin. So last December, he saw James, who is a Passaic County Freeholder, at a social event. He told him he was planning to quit. “Bruce said, let’s do it together. We could lean on each other.” The team concept worked for James. He smoked at least two packs a day for the past five decades.

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“We figured we could coach each other through the rough times,” James said, adding that the other motivation was “I didn’t want to be the guy who screwed up Mike by smoking.” Both used nicotine patches and suggested staying away from e-cigs, vaping or Juul. “Why replace one habit with another?” said McLaughlin. Within days of quitting, McLaughlin says the 10 minute coughing fits he used to get stopped. “Three months later, I wasn’t wheezing at night. It’s true that your body starts healing itself. I feel it today.” While James stayed the same, McLaughlin put on 30 pounds. “But three months ago I started going to the gym, walking, drinking more water,” he said. “I lost 15 pounds already. My youngest son Brandon always hammered me about quitting. I did it for him and my family.” That’s a though shared by James: “It’s nice to know Mike will be around to watch his grandkids grow up.”


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Profile for Clifton Merchant Magazine

Clifton Merchant Magazine - November 2019  

Clifton Merchant Magazine - November 2019