Shields gala upcoming

NORTH ARLINGTON –

The North Arlington Knights of Columbus, Queen of Peace Council 3428, holds its 21st annual Shields Awards dinner Saturday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the Columbian Club hall, 194 River Road.

Tickets are $30; $10 for youngsters ages 6 to 12. To purchase tickets, call 201- 463-2151. Grand Knight Bill Mackey is chairman of this year’s gala which is being catered by Slice of North Arlington.

“We normally draw between 120 and 140 people to the affair,” Mackey said.

Guests are asked to consider donating non-perishable, unexpired food items for the Council’s “Food for Families” project. During the past two years, the project collected 2,000 pounds of food, all of which was donated to the Queen of Peace Food Pantry, according to Mackey.

The 2015 honorees, who – as Mackey put it – are being feted “for wanting to make a difference in their community,” are: Barbara Arena, Public School Teacher of the Year; Patricia Cordero and Kathleen Petrocelli, Parochial School Teachers of the Year; Agostino Feola Jr., Police Officer of the Year; Jack Fladung, Firefighter of the Year; Danielle Chiaro, CCD Teacher of the Year; Betsy Trunzo, Senior Citizen of the Year; Michelle Carvalho, EMT of the Year; Mary Swedeski Biro, Veteran of the Year; and Anthony Blanco, Citizen of the Year.

Barbara Arena is a 30- year teacher in the North Arlington public school system, including 20 years as a first-grade instructor at Roosevelt School where she implemented a garden project, used as a hands-on learning experience for her students. She has also been a volunteer, with her students, for “Alex’s Lemonade,” which raises money for children’s cancer research. She and her husband Anthony, a retired teacher, have raised twin daughters Gabrielle and Shari Ann, who graduated from the Universities of Delaware and Susquehanna, respectively, in 2014.

Patricia Cordero, an East Orange native and a Jersey City State College alumna, has served as a devoted middle school educator with a specialty in math. She has emphasized the development of faith and character in her students by combining her own Catholic faith, compassion and a belief in high expectations to ensure they strive for success. She also volunteers as a CCD teacher at Our Lady of the Valley Church and with the Wayne Little League. She and her husband Bob are the proud parents of a son Bobby.

Kathleen Petrocelli, born in Jersey City, where she graduated from St. Peter’s College, now lives in Kearny with her husband Vincent. They are the proud parents of Daniel and Maureen. She has taught for the past 27 years at Queen of Peace Elementary School where she has sought to build positive relationships with her students grounded in respect and trust and has encouraged them to follow in the teachings of Jesus. She has, in the past, volunteered for HANDS, a local organization that cares for the special needs community.

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Agostino Feola Jr. credits his mother Julie and father Agostino Sr. and his uncle with stressing the sense of community and serving and protecting it. After graduating from Don Bosco Technical High School and Passaic Community College, he entered the Paterson Police Academy in 2003 and became a patrol officer. In 2010 he joined the North Arlington Police Department and has received the Excellent Police Duty Award, DWI Top Gun, MADD Award, Honorable Service Award and Lifesaving Award, and was promoted to detective. He and his wife Tara are the proud parents of Justin, Agostino Jr. and Gianna.

Jack Fladung, a Weehawken High School alumnus, moved to North Arlington from his native Secaucus in 1963 with his wife Roseann Lamberti. For 35 years, he was self-employed as a Thumann’s distributor. In 1965, he joined the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department as a reserve and, a year later, became a regular member. On March 7, 1981, he was part of the crew who rescued an elderly tenant from a fire at 220 Gold St. for which he received a lifesaving award. He has served in various ranks including chief of the department. His son John Vincent is also a firefighter. Jack is now a borough crossing guard at Prospect Ave. and Hedden Terrace. He and his wife also have a daughter Laura Louise and four grandchildren, Glenn, Marina, Rachel and Jonathan.

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Danielle Chiaro, raised in Jersey City, moved to North Arlington a decade ago. She has a B.A. in English literature, a minor in women’s history, a master’s degree in education with a concentration in literacy and holds an educational specialist degree in curriculum and instruction. As a volunteer catechist, she shares Catholic lessons of love, justice, charity, caring and compassion with her fifth-grade CCD students and, at the same time, aspires to enable her students to become independent thinkers who can improve the world. She is devoted to her husband Aquilino and her daughter Gloria.

Betsy Trunzo, an alumna of Barringer High School, Newark, has lived in North Arlington since 1969. After working 36 years for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of N.J. and five years for the Archdiocese of Newark, she retired to care for her elderly mother. After her mother’s passing, she was a medical receptionist for five years. At Queen of Peace Church, she is a Eucharistic minister, lector and a member of the parish Life Committee and works at the rectory once a month. She is treasurer of the Rosary Society for which she organizes a fundraising casino trip. For the past 20 years, she has administered Communion to the sick at Clara Maass Medical Center. She is secretary of the Queen of Peace Ladies Bowling League. She has served on the borough Board of Health and Shade Tree Commission.

Michelle Carvalho joined the North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad in October 2010. After attending the Bergen County EMS training center, she became certified as an EMT in June 2011. With NAVES, she has served on the executive board, vice president, Saturday day crew chief and a member of the interview committee. She also helps train new members. She has volunteered thousands of hours of service to the borough and is ready to take on additional tours of duty at special events, meetings and snow watches.

Mary Swedeski Biro attended Queen of Peace Elementary and High School where she played softball and basketball. After working in the private sector, she joined the Army and was assigned to the operation and maintenance of vehicles and aircraft. She volunteered to serve in Kuwait in 1996 and received an Army Achievement Medal for outstanding performance under very stressful circumstances. After her honorable discharge in 2002, she became lead line service technician at Teterboro Airport. In North Arlington, she is chaplain of the VFW and is junior vice commander of the American Legion. She is also a faith formation teacher in Verona. She and her husband Joe live in Bloomfield with their children Joseph, 6, and Loretta, 2.

Anthony Blanco, 84, moved in 1945 with his family from Newark to North Arlington where he graduated from North Arlington High School. After getting his teaching degree from Montclair State Teachers College, he began his career in February 1995, teaching history at NAHS where he served as baseball coach, vice principal and principal. He also served in the Army. Eventually, he became the borough’s superintendent of schools before retiring in 1991. Since then, he has served as president of the Lions Club and is now in his third term as a member of the North Arlington Board of Education. Currently, he is the mayor’s representative on the Public Library Board of Trustees. He is married to Aidee and is the proud father of Paul and Philip.

– Ron Leir  

The Observer Staff