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Ready to define ‘normal’ for you


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 


Those delightfully ghoulish characters created by Charles Addams will be making their way onto the stage at Harrison High School this weekend when the Drama Club presents “The Addams Family.”

But the seeds for this musical odyssey were first planted some four years ago when the high school musical production team traveled to the Minskoff Theatre in Manhattan for “At This Stage Expo” workshops featuring excerpts from currently running Broadway shows tied to an “anti-bullying” theme, recalled producer Matt Boryszewski.

One of those shows was “The Addams Family,” with the plot hanging on a brave effort by the masters of the macabre pretending to be normal for the sake of love-stricken Wednesday, to which notion, Grandma pipes up: “Define ‘normal’.”

And therein, the Harrison delegation learned, lies a parable for helping teach students “acceptance, not judgment” before leaping to attack a fellow student or teacher or anyone else, Boryszewski noted.

So, when the show became available for licensing last theater season, the Harrison team jumped at the chance to put it up on the boards. And, in the process of developing their characters, cast members were encouraged to apply the dictum to “define ‘normal’ ’’ in a non-judgmental way.

Aside from the 27 actors, there are another 23 who are doing backstage work, helping with crew production, props, costumes, lights and sound.

Although there’s no band this time around, musical director Leo DaSilva has blended an off-stage chorus with an electronic computer program of the show’s music, courtesy of Right On Cue Services.


Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski TOP: Addams Family members, played by, from l., Breann Mobus, Jeffrey Solano, Raymond Pineda, Patrick Donayre, JulieCoelho, Flavio Escalante and Karla Vasquez. ABOVE: The cast at rehearsal.

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski
TOP: Addams Family members, played by, from l., Breann Mobus, Jeffrey
Solano, Raymond Pineda, Patrick Donayre, JulieCoelho, Flavio Escalante and
Karla Vasquez. ABOVE: The cast at rehearsal.

The advantage of approaching the music issue this way, DaSilva said, is that during rehearsals – and ultimately, at performances – the actors are consistently hearing the same orchestral accompaniment.

“We’ve re-created some of the original choreography from the Broadway show and added some [Bob] Fosse soft-shoe numbers, along with swing and Broadway vaudeville stylings, and, of course, the tango, so the show is very musically mixed,” he said.

Eighteen-year-old senior Melony Mercedes, who is now choreographing her third HHS musical, has been devoting one of every three rehearsal hours to overseeing the dance numbers and she says the cast “is doing great” mastering the various styles.

“They’ve come a long way since the first day of rehearsal,” she said.

The biggest challenge, Mercedes said, has been perfecting the big tango number. “It’s about developing a core strength in the abdominal muscle. It’s got to be contracted at all times but, at the same time, it has to look pretty.”

Coming off three months of practice, director Colin Shields, who was at the helm of last year’s musical, “Sweeney Todd,” is confident that this year’s effort will be every bit as good as the Sondheim vehicle.

“This cast is more than I could have dreamed of,” Shields said. “They were on stage one day and the very next day, everyone was off-book.”

Among the featured actors are brothers Raymond and David Pineda: Raymond is playing Gomez, the titular head of the family, filled amply by Nathan Lane on Broadway; while David is Lucas Beineke, the outsider for whom Wednesday has fallen, thereby presenting the Addams Family with the dilemma of how to act “normal” to facilitate the match.

Photos courtesy Matt Boryszewski Gomez and Morticia, played by Raymond Pineda and Julie Coelho.

Photos courtesy Matt Boryszewski
Gomez and Morticia, played by Raymond Pineda and Julie Coelho.


A 17-year-old senior, David has taken on father roles twice in the last two years: He was Tonton Julian in “Once on This Island” and Senex in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” so now he’s sliding into a whole different character.

“I’m crazy in love with Wednesday (played by sophomore Carla Vazquez) and that’s a completely different attitude,” he said.

David, who’s also a percussionist, is “definitely” interested in pursuing acting after graduation but he’s keeping an open mind about a possible career in music education.

Sophomore Julie Coelho, 16, who was “a lunatic” in “Sweeny,” now takes the role of Gomez’s partner, Morticia, played by Bebe Neuwirth on Broadway. “I love the character – it suits me,” Julie said.

Julie has been focusing on getting Morticia’s movements down, particularly in her dancing. “She glides,” Julie explained, “while maintaining her balance. She walks like a snake might walk.”

Also concentrating on her character’s ambulatory habits is senior Breann Mobus, 18, who is stepping into Grandma’s shoes. As the family matriarch, Breann said, “I get to be crazier and have lots of freedom.”

To get the flavor of the role, Breann – now in her fourth show with HHS – said she’s been watching “The Addams Family” movies and reading the Addams comic strips. “I make my voice raspy and my posture hunched over,” she said.

So, why not join the family? There’s something for every taste: a love story, creepy ghosts and quirky characters, and lots of music, too. Just leave your inhibitions at the door.

If you go…

What: “The Addams Family,” with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice (authors of “Jersey Boys”).

Who: Presented by Harrison High School.

When/Where: Thursday, Friday & Saturday, March 26, 27 & 28, all at 7:30 p.m., at the HHS auditorium.

Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for students and senior citizens.

around town


Belleville Public Library, 221 Washington Ave., is holding registration, for a Teddy Bear Tea Party set for Saturday, May 9, at 2 p.m. The library will host a puppet show on Saturday, March 28, at 3 p.m.

For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434.


Holy Cross Church sponsors a trip to Las Vegas, April 29 to May 5. The group departs from Newark Airport Wednesday, April 29, at 7:15 a.m., for a non-stop flight via United Airlines and returns Thursday, May 5, at 6:15 a.m. The group will stay at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. The $771 per-person cost covers air, hotel and taxes. A $250 per-person deposit is required to guarantee reservations. Call Gina at European Travel, 973-484- 4023, or Joan at 973-481-2434.

East Newark 

West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets the last Friday of every month, 7 to 9 p.m., at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. For more information, call Emma at 201-998-6828, Rosa at 201-246-7750, Fatima at 973-485-4236 or email emidura2@ yahoo.com.


See a screening of “The Theory of Everything” (PG- 13 / 123 minutes) at Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 27. Eddie Redmayne took home the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of famous physicist Stephen Hawking. For more information on any of the library’s programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

West Hudson Christian Center, 557 Kearny Ave., hosts a Rock n’ Roll Easter Egg Hunt, open to ages 2 to 10, March 28, at 1 p.m. For more information, call 201- 997-7762.


The Humane Society of Bergen County, 221-223 Stuyvesant Ave., has a supply of dog food, both canned and dry, available to anyone due to unemployment, disability or any other financial difficulty who cannot afford to feed their dog. Just stop by or call 201-896-9300 for more information. Hours: Monday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lyndhurst Garden Club will hear township resident Vincent Bello talk about growing citrus trees on Monday, March 30, at 7 p.m., at the Senior Citizens building on Cleveland Ave. Afterwards, there will be raffles and a social period with refreshments.

A benefit dinner for Jennie Gossweiler-Renna, now in her fifth year with ovarian cancer, will be held March 28, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Amvets post hall, 323 New York Ave. The $45 admission includes dinner, dancing and support for a wonderful person. For tickets, more information, or to make a donation, call Melissa Alfano at 201-736- 1584 or visit www.jenniebenefit.myevent.com.

Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst sponsors a children’s Tricky Tray for pre-k to grade 5 Saturday, March 28, at the Senior Citizens building on Cleveland Ave. Admission is $5. Doors open at noon and the raffle begins at 1 p.m. Lunch items will be sold. No outside food is permitted. For tickets or more information, call Janet at 201-935-1208.

Lyndhurst Health Department announces:

  • The department’s bi-annual Women’s Health Clinic is set for Wednesday, April 1, at 9 a.m. This free event, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, includes education on breast self-examination, a PAP test and a pelvic exam. The clinic is open to all female Lyndhurst residents age 18 and over.
  • A free eye screening, including a check for glaucoma, is offered for all Lyndhurst residents age 18 and over Wednesday, April 15, at 1 p.m.

For an appointment for these programs, call 201- 804-2500.

Mary Lou Mullins monthly bus trip to Atlantic City to Resorts Casino is set for Sunday, March 29. Cost is $30. Cash return is $30. For reservations and more information, call Mary Lou at 201-939-2186.

Kingsland Lyndhurst AARP Chapter 4866 sponsors its annual entertainment night, Tricky Tray and raffles Thursday, April 16. Doors open at 6 p.m. The show features music of the ‘50s and ‘60s. No alcohol is permitted. Admission is $20. For tickets and more information, call Jo Oleske at 201-438-2118 or Kay Roberts at 201-438-3611.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., announces:

  • An exhibit by local artist Carol Joy Vérité is on display through April 6.
  • “We’re Talking Baseball,” a slide and lecture program on the golden age of New York baseball, presented by Dr. James P. Kane, is set for Wednesday, April 1, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Learn about the N.Y. Giants, the ‘61 Yankees and more. Space is limited and registration is necessary. Call the library at 201-804- 2478, ext. 7, or email romeo@ lyndhurst.bccls.org.

Lyndhurst Boy Scout Troop 86 has launched its new co-ed Venture Crew for all boys and girls, ages 14-20. The Crew is youth-led, but relies on knowledgeable, experienced and trained adult men and women volunteers for sound guidance and advice. Meetings are held at 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the United Presbyterian Church of Lyndhurst, 511 Ridge Road (entrance off Page Ave.), across from St. Michael’s Church. Outside activities include horseback riding, camping, BBQs, and many more fun activities. Interested youth and parents are invited to call Crew President Joe Shinnick at 201 275-2884 or email him at jmusic171@aol.com. For more information, visit the website: beascout.scouting.org.

The N.J. Meadowlands Commission holds its First- Sunday-of-the-Month nature walk, with the Bergen County Audubon Society, Sunday, April 5, 10 a.m. to noon. This free guided nature walk will take place in DeKorte Park, starting outside the Meadowlands Environment Center. Participants are asked to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/BCAS events throughout the year. To register, email Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@gmail.com or call him at 201- 230-4983.

North Arlington

North Arlington Seniors, Inc. (Tuesday Club) sponsors a trip to Sands Casino in Pennsylvania April 9. The group leaves from Borough Hall at 9 a.m. Non-members are welcome. Call Rose Florio at 201-991-2423.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, has passes available for the Museum of the City of New York. Each pass allows two adults and four children access to this museum. Requirements to borrow: $50 cash deposit and an adult library card in good standing. http://www.mcny.org.

The library also offers a pass to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. This pass allows six people admission to the museum. Requirements to borrow: $50 cash deposit and an adult library card in good standing. http://www.intrepidmuseum.org.

To check availability, visit or call the library at 201-955- 5640.

The North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad hosts its annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday April 4, at North Arlington Middle School at noon.

The event includes games, prizes, and great photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny, so don’t forget your cameras!

If it rains, the event will be held in the gym.


The Women’s Initiative of Nutley presents the Art Exhibit of Women’s History Month at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, throughout March and April.

The exhibit spotlights the oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil and photography of local artists Susan Farr, Jackie Hanlon, Margot Parker, Teresa Ruffo, Edith Sirmons and Dianne Louise Wilson. All have won awards in local, regional and national competitions.

Commissioner Steven Rogers and the Department of Public Affairs are sponsoring a Food Allergy Support Group for Nutley parents with food-allergic children Tuesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m., at the department offices, 149 Chestnut St. A township public health nurse, a school nurse and a parent advocate are the group’s co- facilitators. Call 973-284-4976 for more information.

Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, announces:

  • Preschool Story Time, open to ages 3 to 5, takes place Wednesdays, April 1, 8 and 29, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Participants must be Nutley residents. Registration is required.
  • Wednesday Afternoon Knitters meets weekly at 1 p.m. Participants are asked to bring their own supplies. • Manga/Anime Club meets Thursday, April 2, at 3:15 p.m.
  • Monday Night Book Club discusses “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan Monday, April 6, at 7 p.m. Copies of the book and a discussion guide are available at the library.
  • Babygarten, open to ages 23 months and under, is set for Tuesdays, April 7 and 28, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Registration is required. The program is open only to Nutley residents.

For more information or to register for programs, call the library at 973-667-0405.

Cardenas, Mullen earn state gold at NJ state youth wrestling championships


Kearny Recreation sends 5 wrestlers to medal round

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer 

The Kearny Recreation wrestling program is certainly on the rise once again.

Need proof? Well, how about the fact that two products of the program, namely Jacob Cardenas and Jimmy Mullen, went to the Sun National Bank Arena in Trenton last weekend and came away with state championships in their respective weight classes at the New Jersey Youth Wrestling State Championships.

Mullen won his third state title in the last four years, capturing the 10-and-under championship at 125 pounds. The 10-year-old Mullen is a star waiting to happen.

Cardenas won his firstever state title, bringing home the gold in the 14-and-under 152-pound weight class. That classification is called intermediate because of the age.

“It’s great,” said Kearny Recreation head wrestling coach Tony Carratura Jr., the son of the veteran Kearny High School coach. “They’re all dedicated kids. The coaches and parents are also very dedicated. We had a good year last year, but this year, we exceeded expectations.”

Mullen was the second seed in his class. He took third last year and was anxious to get a chance to avenge that setback.

“After losing and taking third, I thought that was terrible,” Mullen said. “I just wanted to get back and do better. I also did a good job of staying under weight. I think that helped me a lot in all the different sports I play.”

Mullen is an accomplished basketball, baseball and football player, as well as a state champion in wrestling.

“It’s not easy,” said the fifth-grader. “But this was awesome. It’s so rewarding to win again after getting third last year.”

Cardenas lost to the No. 1 seed last year, but was determined to get another crack at state gold.

“I’ve been wrestling for seven years and this is the first time I won a state championship,” Cardenas said. “I’ve been training every day and practicing to reach this goal and I finally did it. Losing last year was a huge point of motivation for me. It’s what I wanted, to get another chance to win and I finally did it.”

Cardenas also plays baseball in the spring, but his focus is on wrestling.

“I really love it,” said Cardenas, who trains on the side with Kearny’s lone high school state champion David Cordoba at the Extreme Fight Club gym in Woodland Park. Cordoba won the 1999 state championship for Kearny and was a two-time state runner-up.

“Coach Cordoba pushes me a lot,” said Cardenas, who wasn’t even alive when Cordoba won the NJSIAA state crown for Kearny. “I have seen his name on the banner in the gym, so I knew what he did. He’s helped me a lot since I started going there.”

“Dave is a big supporter of our program,” Carratura said. “It definitely helps Jacob that he gets a chance to roll around with Dave, another Kearny state champ. Jacob now moves on to high school and we would love it if he sticks with us (meaning Kearny High). Jimmy has a great future ahead of him.”

Carratura said that he had a good feeling about his two wrestlers before they went to Trenton.

“We knew that Jimmy had a good shot,” Carratura said. “He has been wrestling at another level. He’s been wrestling seventh and eighth graders to get ready. So now when he’s wrestling kids his own size and age, he dominates. Jacob was down 5-0 in the finals and came back to win after bringing the match to overtime. It was great to watch.”

Besides the championships won by Cardenas and Mullen, Kearny Rec had several other wrestlers fare well at Trenton.

Third grader Joshua Baeza finished sixth in the 60-pound bantam class and had a fine tournament. Travis Witt was seventh in the Intermediate 160-pound class for eighth graders. Adam Chew, a seventh grader, was seventh in the 120-pound junior class and Artie Smith, a Kearny High School freshman, took seventh place as well.

“All of the kids wrestled very hard and we’re extremely proud of them,” Carratura said.

More than 140 teams with 100 different qualifiers participated in the weekend-long tourney in Trenton, so the achievements of the Kearny wrestlers were certainly noteworthy.

“These kids had to wrestle eight matches just to get to Trenton and some, like Jacob, had to win four there to win,” Carratura said. “That’s impressive.”

Carratura knows that these youngsters represent the future of Kearny wrestling. “No question, this is where it all starts,” Carratura said, as he was preparing his group for another tournament last weekend in Keansburg. “We have a great group of coaches who travel all over. We have great parents who do what we need them to do. The parents are willing to take their kids all over the state. We’re getting Kearny wrestling back to when I was a kid, what I remember. We’re all working hard together and it’s really great to see.”

Cardenas doesn’t know what school he will attend in the fall.

“I just know I want to keep this going, to keep working so I can win another state championship in high school,” Cardenas said. “I want to keep it going into college. It’s such a great feeling.”

Winning a state title is always so rewarding.

Belleville looks to pitching staff to continue winning ways


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

After two highly successful seasons, ones that saw his program win a total of 42 games, Belleville head baseball coach Joe Sorce now brings the Buccaneers to new heights – namely the highly competitive American Division of the Super Essex Conference.

It means that the Buccaneers will face teams like Seton Hall Prep, Livingston, Montclair and neighboring rivals Bloomfield and Nutley in the regular season.

“I look at it as a big challenge,” said Sorce, who guided the Buccaneers to a 19-7 record last season. “We’re the only team to jump up two divisions. So we’re excited about it.”

The Bucs were 23-4 and advanced to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV semifinals in 2013 and posted a 19-7 mark a year ago. “We had a good team last year,” Sorce said. “The returning players are excited about the challenge.” The Bucs lost to Passaic in the second round of the state playoffs last year and fell to Verona in the second round of the Greater Newark Tournament.

Sorce realizes that it has been tough for the Buccaneers to prepare for the 2015 season with the fierce weather conditions that have engulfed the area recently, especially an early spring snowstorm last week.

There’s only so much that a baseball team can do inside a gymnasium.

“We’re doing a lot of fundamental work, doing drills,” Sorce said. “Our pitchers just pitched live to hitters against Westfield. I like where we’re at right now, given the situation with the weather. We will get to know a lot more in the coming week.”

Sorce said that the Bucs have scrimmages slated for every day prior to the season opener next Wednesday against Millburn. The Bucs also have opening week games slated against top teams Lodi and Livingston, so Sorce will know a lot more about his team in the weeks to come.

Leading the way is senior right-hander Steven Basantes, who missed most of last season with a broken wrist.

Basantes will also play second base when he’s not pitching.

Senior left-hander Quazyre Smith is another of the Belleville pitching staff.

Sorce likes the way Smith has been throwing the ball so far this season. When he’s not pitching, Smith will play the outfield.

Senior right-hander Nick Bruno is another veteran member of the Belleville pitching staff.

“He’s done some good varsity work for us,” Sorce said. “I’m looking for those three to lead us.”

Sophomore right-hander Brayan Villar has been very promising and will more than likely be the fourth member of the Buccaneers’ starting staff.

Junior Adrian Alaracon is a left-hander with a huge upside. Sorce believes that Alaracon could serve as the Buccaneers’ main relief hurler this spring.

Senior Gio Vega is another right-hander who will get his chance to pitch this spring for the Bucs.

“We like the depth we have in our pitching staff,” said Sorce, noting that he will need pitching depth once the games begin to back up in late April and early May.

Sorce is fortunate to have the Walicky twins back for another season. The Walicky twins, juniors Dylan and Dustin, have been varsity starters since they were freshmen.

Dylan Walicky is a strong defensive catcher who was the Buccaneers’ leading hitter last year, hitting better than .420.

“He’s also a strong defensive catcher,” Sorce said. “I think he’s one of the best in the county. He threw out 75% of the runners who tried to steal on him last year.”

Dustin Walicky is a mainstay in the infield, playing both first base and third base.

Together, they form one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the SEC.

Junior Allen Cruz will see time at both second base and shortstop. Junior Andrew Baez is a solid second baseman who will fit in according to whoever takes the mound that day.

The outfield also has some depth and quality.

Senior John Castro is a mainstay from last year’s team. Castro batted .500 in limited duty last season.

Seniors Mike Guercio and Gerard Cinolo will also get serious playing time in the Buccaneers’ outfield.

Sophomores Sam Abreu and Branden Basantes, the younger brother of Steven, have been very impressive in the offseason for the Bucs. They both will see playing time in the outfield, but the younger Basantes will also play first base, third base and pitcher.

Senior Luis Florencio is a solid defensive catcher who serves as a backup to Dylan Walicky and will spell Walicky from time to time, allowing Walicky to be the Bucs’ designated hitter.

“I like the makeup of our team,” Sorce said. “We had a good summer (playing American Legion baseball) and we have a good group of kids.”

But Sorce knows that the Buccaneers will have to scrape and claw for everything this season.

“It’s going to be a competitive battle every day,” Sorce said. “We have to bring our ‘A’ game every single day. Every day is a battle. I just have to make sure that each day is a productive day, that we keep moving forward. But I’m really excited about this team.”

The Buccaneers will certainly be a team to watch all spring, provided that the weather eventually warms up and the snow finally melts.

FDU coach Herenda headlines Kearny hoops awards dinner


By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Greg Herenda remembers when he was an aspiring basketball player, growing up in nearby North Bergen, hearing the words of college basketball coaches like Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s and George Blaney of Holy Cross.

“I remember being at banquets and hearing guys like that speak,” said Herenda, now in his second year as the head men’s basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck. “I’m an old-school guy. I know that when a kid hears something from his parents or a coach, it doesn’t always register. But when someone else says it, like a college coach, then he might listen a little bit more.”

Herenda was the guest speaker last Wednesday night at the Kearny High School basketball awards banquet at the American Legion on Belgrove Drive.

And Herenda definitely had a message to the 150 youngsters, from seventh grade through the high school, that had to resonate with all of them.

“I remember going on a recruiting trip when I was an assistant coach at Seton Hall,” Herenda said. “And I went to this kid’s house and his entire family was there, watching a basketball game on television together. And I said to him, ‘The heroes in your life aren’t the guys you watch on TV, but rather the ones that you watch TV with.’”

Herenda told the kids that no one thought his Knights would accomplish anything, but in one week last season, his team went to the Rutgers Athletic Center and beat Rutgers, then came up to the Prudential Center and beat Seton Hall. All in a span of one week. Pretty impressive to say the least.

“I say dream and dream big,” Herenda told the Kearny youngsters. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything. It’s all about working hard, paying attention to your teachers, your parents and your coaches and doing your best. It’s that simple.”

Herenda said that he likes going to talk to high school kids and younger, going to awards banquets and making himself available.

“FDU reaches out and want to be the program in New Jersey that is accessible to the people,” Herenda said. “I want to reach out to the coaching community in New Jersey. I want to be able to have the local community recognize us. You have to be able to tell kids that there are opportunities out there, not just the teams you see on TV, but the local schools, the (NCAA) Division II and Division IIIs. There are all different levels for all different kids.”

Herenda was a standout basketball player at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, then went via scholarship to Merrimack College and started to map his journey as a basketball coach, traveling the nation before getting the chance to come home and head the program at FDU.

Kearny head coach Bob Mc- Donnell applauded the efforts of Herenda, who volunteered his time to come and speak to the players.

“He was fantastic,” McDonnell said. “When the kids found out that a Division I coach was coming to speak, they were all excited. He gave them good insight and advice. He’s a great speaker. He had them listening and they were interacting with him. He spoke directly to a few of them. The kids all talked about him after he left.”


Photos by Jim Hague TOP: FDU basketball coach Greg Herenda was the guest speaker at the Kearny basketball awards banquet and spoke of the relationships the players should have with their parents, teachers and coaches. ABOVE: Kearny head coach McDonnell (l.), senior Zack Latka (c.) and Fairleigh Dickinson University men’s basketball head coach Greg Herenda get together at the Kearny awards banquet last week.

Photos by Jim Hague
TOP: FDU basketball coach Greg Herenda was the guest speaker at the Kearny
basketball awards banquet and spoke of the relationships the players should
have with their parents, teachers and coaches. ABOVE: Kearny head coach
McDonnell (l.), senior Zack Latka (c.) and Fairleigh Dickinson University men’s
basketball head coach Greg Herenda get together at the Kearny awards banquet
last week.

The night was for postseason honors. The Kardinals had a highly successful season, improving from eight wins last year to 13 wins this season and qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

It was important to have a postseason awards program, according to McDonnell.

“In the past, the awards banquet was held inside the high school,” McDonnell said. “This year, we were able to get out and hold it at the Legion, including the seventh and eighth graders. It makes them all feel like they’re part of something special.”

More than 60 players attended the dinner including 10 student/managers.

“I think it was great, especially getting the young kids involved,” McDonnell said. “It gives the seventh and eighth graders something to look forward to when they get to high school.”

There were individual awards presented.

Joseph Baez, the team’s leading scorer, was presented with the Most Improved Player award.

Senior Zack Latka was presented with the Charlie Dolan Award, given to the player who best exemplifies dedication to the program and community service. The award is named after Dolan, the Hudson County Sports Hall of Famer who is one of the biggest benefactors of Kearny High School basketball. Dolan was in attendance to present Latka with his award.

Latka was pleased to have someone like Herenda on hand for the ceremony.

“It means a lot to me, because we don’t get to hear from college coaches a lot,” Latka said. “When he was talking about grades, that was a message that hit home to me. I hope to continue playing on the college level and I know that I need good grades to do that.”

Latka said that he was happy that the team improved so much.

“It meant that we all put in a great team effort,” Latka said. “We all put in the time. It was all about a team goal. We wanted double figures in wins and to make the state playoffs. We knew we’d all get better. I’m very proud of my teammates. I wouldn’t have wanted to play with anyone else. I hope that they can continue to build on what we’re leaving behind.”

The top hustle award went to senior Gus Chemin, while the top defensive player went to Gralen Vereen.

The Coaches’ Award, given to the player who best personifies the philosophy of the coaching staff, went to George Smyth. The award for academic achievement went to Jake Fitzpatrick, who posted a 3.4 grade point average.

“We had a good year,” Mc- Donnell said. “We improved in wins, improved in the county tournament and made the state playoffs.”

And the majority of the Kearny roster returns, other than seniors Latka and Chemin, so the future looks very good for Kearny basketball.

2 nabbed in meth bust


Two Bloomfield men, one of whom is confined to a wheelchair, were arrested last week after police executed a search warrant on their Franklin St. apartment and confiscated 224 grams of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $35,000, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura reported.

Fontoura said the wheelchair-bound suspect, 54-year-old Gary Schuren, had been the target of a two-week investigation.

On the morning of March 17, Bloomfield police officers and detectives from the sheriff’s Bureau of Narcotics executed the warrant and made a forced entry into the apartment, where they found Schuren and his roommate, Marcus Irizarry, 32.

A patdown search of the suspects reportedly found Irizarry to be in possession of one gram of crystal meth and a glass pipe. The sheriff said $343 in cash was discovered in Schuren’s wheelchair.

Officers found an additional 223 grams of meth, a variety of drugprocessing and packaging materials and $2,350 in cash secreted in various locations throughout the apartment, Fontoura said.

Schuren and Irizarry were each charged with possession of a CDS, possession with intent to distribute, intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of Essex County Vocational School, possession of narcotics paraphernalia, and conspiracy.

The suspects were arraigned March 18 and were remanded to the county jail on a cash-only bond of $250,000 each.

– Karen Zautyk 


Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor, 54, died on Sunday, March 15, at home in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, followed by a private cremation. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.

Mr. Gaynor was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and lived in Kearny since age nine. He moved to East Stroudsburg, Pa., 11 years ago.

He was a postal worker at the Bloomfield Post Office for 27 years. Michael is survived by his wife Colleen (Quinn). He was the uncle of Allison Gaynor and Christopher Michael Gaynor.

He was predeceased by his parents Peter and Mary (Coyne) Gaynor and his brother Christopher Gaynor. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the VNA/Hospice of Monroe County at www.vnahospiceofmc.org.

Dolores Jeraldine Hanf 

Dolores Jeraldine Hanf, 85, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., died on March 7 in Walterboro, S.C.

She was born in Jersey City, to the late Mrs. Philomina Berardo and the late Mr. Gabriel Richard Fuschillo.

Dolores served proudly in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict. She later worked in Lyndhurst as an insurance agent and in Hollywood, Fla., as a clerk in the Broward County Court system.

She is survived by one daughter, Deborah Ferrato, of Wallkill, N.Y.; two sons, Richard Hanf (Nancy), of Mount Pleasant, S.C., and Keith M. Hanf (Dawn), of Fairfax, Vt.; six grandchildren, Shawna, Michael, Daniel, Kelsey, Dana and Elizabeth, and nieces, nephews and loving friends. A memorial service was held in Beaufort, S.C., followed by a ceremony with military honors in Beaufort National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in her honor to the Veteran’s Victory House, 2461 Sidneys Road, Walterboro, S.C. 29488, or any veteran’s organization.

Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted online at www.McAlister-Smith.com.

Arrangements were by McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, Mt. Pleasant Chapel, 1520 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

Betty Hinkley 

Betty Hinkley (Layton), 80, a lifelong resident of Kearny, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, March 17. Her final days were spent at home surrounded by family.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. The funeral service was held from the funeral home. Interment was to follow at Nicholson Cemetery in Nicholson, Pa., at a later date.

Betty was born in Jersey City on July 14, 1934, to the late Edward and Dorothy (Park) Layton. She grew up in Kearny and graduated from Kearny High School in 1952. Later, she worked as certified dental assistant for Dr. Edward S. Levy, D.D.S., in Kearny for many years.

Mrs. Hinkley had a passion for knitting and loved visiting her Point Pleasant beach house. The First Baptist Church of Arlington was a special place to her where she was an active member and matriarch. Betty was also a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Joseph E. Frobisher Post No. 99, American Legion, in Kearny.

She is survived by her husband of 60 years Robert G. Hinkley; two children Thomas Hinkley and his wife Joanne of Kearny and Lynda Hinkley and her life partner William Kirchoff of Sag Harbor, N.Y.; one brother Jack Layton and his wife Kathy of Hilton Head, S.C.; and two grandchildren Evan and Neil Cratz.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the First Baptist Church of Arlington, 650 Kearny Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032 would be appreciated.

Rosemarie Klossek 

Rosemarie Klossek, 70, of Kearny, died Wednesday, March 18, at University Medical Center in Newark.

Born and raised in Newark, Mrs. Klossek lived in Harrison for 25 years before moving to Kearny. She was employed by various industries, including Brothers Bakery in Kearny and Mel Gambert Shirt Co. in Harrison.

The daughter of the late Frank and Lucia (nee Iacullo) Silva, Mrs. Klossek was also predeceased by her husband, Ronald Klossek, on Oct. 7, 2006, and three brothers, Anthony, Frank and Peter Silva. She is survived by one daughter, Lisa M. Sarni and her husband, Richard, of Stillwater; four grandchildren, Alisha Nichols and husband, Christopher, and Gabrielle, Alexis and Richard Sarni; one sister, Maryann Silva; and two brothers, Manuel and Joseph Silva. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews, as well as family and friends.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Smith- McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High St., Newton. Online condolences may be offered at www.smithmccrackenfuneralhome.com.

Martin James Sharkey 

Martin James Sharkey died March 21. He was 70.

Born in Newark, he lived most of his life in Harrison. Visiting will be on Wednesday, March 25, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. The service will take place that evening. Private cremation will follow. www.armitagewiggins.com.

Mr. Sharkey loved fishing and the outdoors. He was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Bears fan. He had been a welder for Vac/U/Max in Belleville.

Formerly married to Shirley Sharkey, he is also survived by his children Lisa M., Brian S. and Jamie G. Sharkey; his brother Edward; his grandson Jamie; along with nieces and a nephew.

John Baptiste Solano 

John Baptiste Solano, 96, of Waretown, formerly of Colonia, died on Wednesday, March 11, in Stafford Township.

Born in Kearny on April 5, 1918, he was the son of the late Anthony and Mary Lico Solano. John was an inspiration to all he met. In the words of his great-granddaughter, he was “selfless, generous, hopeful and a lover of everything and anything.” He loved life and lived it fully to the last minute. He was a retired troubleshooter with Elizabethtown Gas Company.

He was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie Davis Solano, in 1997 and his son, Anthony John Solano, in 2004; his brothers, James Solano and Patrick Solano; and his sisters, Marian Solano Holowatch, and Elizabeth Solano Fash. Surviving are his daughter, Sharon Ann Savacool, and her husband, Donald, of Waretown; his six grandchildren, Dawn Taylor, Donald Savacool, Steven Savacool, Kristin Solano, Tony Solano and Brett Solano; eight greatgrandchildren; his brothers, Frank Solano and Joseph Solano; his sister, Sarah Solano Cadorette; and many nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were held on Friday, March 13, at the Holcombe- Fisher Funeral Home in Flemington and he was interred at the Hazel Wood Cemetery, Colonia.

Robert J. Van Volkenburgh 

Robert J. Van Volkenburgh, 71, of Hunterdon County, entered into eternal rest and joined his Savior Jesus Christ on Aug. 26, 2014.

Robert was born and raised in Kearny and briefly in North Arlington. He attended St. Cecilia’s High School and graduated from Kearny High School in 1962.

He lived the last 35 years of his life in Hunterdon County with his wife of nearly 51 years, Marianne, and raised two sons, Dr. Robert Van Volkenburgh Jr. and Dr. Daniel Van Volkenburgh. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather.

He is survived by his wife Marianne, his sons Dr. Robert Van Volkenburgh Jr. and wife Gwendolyn, Dr. Daniel Van Volkenburgh and wife Rebecca; six grandchildren; his sister Carol Costello and husband Angelo; mother-in-law Angie Raimondo; sisterin- law Evelyn Kaiser; and many nieces and nephews.

Robert was a kind, warmhearted and generous man famous for his dry humor and vivacious personality. He will be greatly missed. Mail may be sent to: P.O. Box 5301, Clinton, N.J. 08809.

Former official guilty


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Last Monday, March 9, at his second day on trial in Camden Federal Court for his alleged participation in a $13 million mortgage fraud scheme that, according to the government, used fake documents and “straw buyers” to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos at the Jersey Shore, former Kearny lawmaker/school trustee John Leadbeater, 58, pled guilty to a single count of wire fraud.

In return for his plea, the government dropped a second charge of money laundering for which he had been indicted (along with wire fraud) nearly two years ago.

Leadbeater, a former Kearny Board of Education vice president and a former member of the Kearny Town Council who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2009, will be sentenced June 26 by U.S. District Court Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, as a first offender, Leadbeater could face a minimum of 46 to 57 months to a maximum of 30 years in prison, depending on other factors, plus a fine of up to $1 million. He will also be expected to make restitution for any losses to the lenders.

His Jersey City defense attorneys, Thomas Cammarata and Jeffrey Garrigan, issued a statement last week which said that their client entered his plea “after lengthy negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s office.”

In early October 2014, federal prosecutors had sought – and were granted – a three-month extension of the original Dec. 1, 2014 trial date to prepare their case against Leadbeater on the grounds that it was a “complex case,” because it required more intensive judicial management … involving multiple parties … geographically diverse witnesses … numerous expert witnesses, complex subject matter” and other factors.

In granting the government’s request for more time, Judge Simandle noted that the case involved allegations of wrongdoing involving a “voluminous” case file covering “a period of several years.”

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Matthew Reilly declined to say how many witnesses the government had prepared to call or how many days the trial had been expected to last.

Asked whether Leadbeater could hold public office at some future date, Reilly said he would have to research that question.

Leadbeaters’ defense team, in their statement, sought to narrow the extent of his participation in the conspiracy.

They said their client “pled guilty to conspiracy in that he advanced deposits for buyers in certain transactions involving homes in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest … without disclosing this fact on the closing statements sent to the lenders for the buyers.” But, they added that, “His admission of guilt did not include any involvement in activities of others regarding false loan applications. He regrets his bad judgment and is anxious to put this matter behind him.”

Cammarata said that his client received a “finder’s fee” for each property for which he – not the buyers — advanced deposits and that those fees were recorded in the mortgage closing documents. While Leadbeater is not licensed as a real estate agent, Cammarata said that has no relevancy to the crime to which he has admitted guilt.

According to the plea agreement, Leadbeater was involved in seven property transactions in Wildwood and two in Wildwood Crest for which he wired loan amounts from a variety of brokers totaling $4,711,556.86 between July 24, 2007, and March 27, 2008.

However, Cammarata noted that the total loss to the lenders has been reduced to the extent that the properties involved have been resold, accounting for a reduction in the overall loss to between $1 million and $2.5 million, which will be taken into consideration by the court at sentencing.

Target parking lot for new school

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 


If no significant environmental issues arise, the municipal parking lot across the street from Washington Middle School will become the site for a new school for kindergarten and pre-K students in Harrison to help relieve overcrowding at Lincoln and Hamilton elementary schools.

And the $33 million project will cost taxpayers not one dime to build, school officials insist, because the Board of Education owns the property and because the state has committed to picking up the entire tab.

So reported James Doran, the district’s director of personnel, and Michael Pichowicz, the board attorney, in an interview with The Observer at the BOE office last Thursday.

Doran said the BOE – which has yet to vote on designating the lot as the place where the new facility will rise – nonetheless want to forewarn residents now because during the Easter holiday period – between April 6 and 16 – the parking lot at Washington St. and Harrison Ave. will be closed.

That’s when the N.J. Schools Development Authority has directed the Morristownbased Louis Berger Group to drill holes in the lot, take soil samples and analyze them to see if a school building can be safely supported there, Doran said.

Residents who rely on the lot for overnight parking will have more access to street spaces in the neighborhood during that time because the town will be suspending street cleaning on Washington St. and on Harrison Ave., between Fifth and Sixth Sts., so residents with the required stickers will be able to park during the night on those blocks, Doran said. Looking ahead, Doran said there has been “preliminary discussion” with the BOE about replacing the lot, once the SDA officially greenlights the school project.

“The goal is that before any construction starts, we would have an engineering firm look at relocating the underutilized Shields Park (which is next to Washington School) to an area near Harrison High School and extending the resident parking lot at Patterson St. and Harrison Ave. to the area now occupied by the park,” Doran said.

That reconfiguration would, he said, “double the size” of the existing Patterson St. parking area while also accommodating school staff from Washington School and the new school.

Meanwhile, plans for the new school – (no name has been designated for it yet) – will be unveiled publicly for the first time at a special BOE meeting set for 6:30 p.m. March 24 at the board offices, 501 Hamilton St. [Please note time change to 6:30 p.m.]

“This has been three years in the making,” said Doran, who talked up the idea during his previous service as the district’s superintendent of schools, as a strategy to ease the pressure of growing enrollment, particularly in pre-K to grade 5.

“As of 2008-2009, we were already at capacity in our elementary schools,” Doran said. Since then, enrollment district-wide jumped from 1,866 to 2,096 currently. Lincoln School, which houses kindergarten through grade 3 with the aid of trailers, climbed from 557 to 651 and Hamilton, which has grades 4 and 5, went from 262 to 302, district records show.

In prior years, the SDA had proposed expanding Washington School’s population – which handles grades 6, 7 and 8 – by adding grade 5 which, according to Doran, would have required placement of trailers along the Hamilton St. side of the school. It never happened.

Now the plan is to construct a new two-story school on the roughly one-acre parking lot site to accommodate nine kindergarten classrooms, nine first-grade classrooms and two pre-K special education classrooms. The facility would have an elevator, a combination cafeteria/ auditorium and gym. There would also be some type of outdoor play space. The entrance would be from Washington St. The existing vehicular traffic pattern would remain.

SDA regulations mandated the district to conduct an inventory of potential school sites, with priority given to district-owned property first, then municipal-owned. Pichowicz said the district identified 38 parcels for consideration and “it came down to Roosevelt Park outside the town library and the parking lot.”

The district had acquired the parking lot site some years ago with the idea of putting a new school there at some point, he said.

The new school would accommodate a capacity of 420 students and could be ready for occupancy by September 2018, Doran said. The Berger firm will design and build it, he added.

Of the 360 Harrison youngsters currently in pre-K programs in outside facilities, all but the 15 currently housed at the town Community Center would stay where they are but the 15 would shift to the new school, Doran said.

As part of the district’s grade realignment, both Lincoln and Hamilton would handle grades 2 through 5, he said.

With the reconfiguration of space, Doran said, “We could expand our cafeterias at Lincoln and Hamilton, add a computer lab and music room at Lincoln, add an instrumental music room at Hamilton and possibly make room for additional class sections, where needed.”

Saw pal fatally shot; now he’s shot dead

An East Orange man who was a passenger in a vehicle whose driver was fatally shot by police after a chase ended with a crash at the Lyndhurst-Rutherford border last fall, ended up a fatal shooting victim last week, according to published reports.

The Associated Press and other media sites cited a report by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray that Jemmaine Bynes, 31, was slain after a shooting at a S. 10th St. location in Newark at around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bynes was pronounced dead at the scene shortly before midnight, according to Murray.

Murray was quoted by NJ Advance Media as saying that Bynes had received multiple gunshot wounds in an apartment complex courtyard at S. 10th St. and Woodland Ave.

No further details were readily available about the shooting incident and Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, could not be reached last week.

The Observer had reported last year that the state Attorney General’s office became the lead agency for releasing information on last year’s shooting incident. The AG’s office said that Bynes was riding in a stolen Nissan Armada SUV driven by Kashad Ashford, 23, of Newark, during the early morning on Sept. 16, 2014.

A statement issued by the AG’s office said that at some point, the SUV rolled through North Arlington and one of its occupants tried to break into a vehicle parked in a resident’s driveway. North Arlington Police Chief Louis Ghione said that borough police responded to a Newell Place location at 2 a.m. on a report of a burglary and theft of a motor vehicle but, as cops approached, the suspects drove off.

Soon after the attempted break-in, the AG’s office said, Lyndhurst PD spotted the SUV and tried to pull it over but the SUV driver “proceeded to drive recklessly through Lyndhurst and surrounding towns,” pursued by Lyndhurst and Rutherford PD and State Police.

The AG’s office said the chase ended when the SUV hit a guardrail at the Ridge Road bridge at the Rt. 3 approach and patrol cars surrounded the vehicle in an effort to block it but the driver put the car in reverse, spinning the tires and filling the road with smoke, before backing the SUV into a patrol car.

At that point, the AG’s office said, officers fired at the driver, striking him. Ashford was taken to Hackensack Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 a.m.

(The cliffviewpilot.com website reported that Ashford had a prior criminal record, including having served more than three years on a conviction for aggravated assault and “resisting arrest by fleeing in a motor vehicle, creating a risk of injury.”)

Bynes surrendered and, after officers reportedly recovered a loaded .357-caliber Magnum handgun and a ski mask from the SUV, charged him with unlawful possession of a handgun, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and receiving stolen property. He was taken to Bergen County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

NJ Advance Media reported that according to Bergen County Sheriff’s records, Bynes was released from jail in November 2014 after posting bail.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has asked anyone with information on Bynes’ shooting to call detectives with the office’s Homicide and Major Crimes Task Force at 877-847-7432 or 973-621-4586.

Because an investigation of last September’s fatal shooting was undertaken by the AG’s Shooting Response Team, local police departments involved in the incident refused to provide further details about the circumstances of the shooting and the state appeals court has denied OPRA requests by two media outlets for information about the case.

Results of that investigation have yet to surface.