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KPD: TVs or more TVs?

If one were inclined to speculate, one might say that two alleged shoplifters collared at Walmart were planning a heckuva man cave. They are accused of taking eight 32-inch television sets. Plus an inflatable couch.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie said that on April 12, at 3:30 p.m., Officers John Fabula and Rich Pawlowski were dispatched to Walmart after store security reported that two men who had stolen four television sets earlier in the day had returned and attempted to take four more. Plus the inflatable couch.
As Fabula pulled into the parking lot, he saw Pawlowski chasing one man and joined the foot pursuit. Both officers tackled and cuffed 18-year-old Jeancarlos George of Newark.

Pawlowski then confronted and took into custody the second suspect, Edgar Guzman, 33, of Newark.
Police said store security placed a total value of $2,215 on the merchandise. Including the inflatable couch.
George and Guzman were both charged with robbery and conspiracy. In addition,
George was charged with resisting arrest.
Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:
April 11
Police arrested Davante Hamilton, 18, of Union, at 6 p.m. at Applebee’s, where, a week before, the restaurant employee had allegedly used a “skimmer” to steal the credit card information of a customer.
The info theft had occurred the afternoon of April 8, after which Hamilton allegedly went to Walmart and used the card data to purchase an Xbox One and a flat screen TV, worth a total of $588, police said.
Officer Rich Carbone, who had responded to the initial incident, made the connection between the two crimes, and Det. John Telle subsequently identified the suspect on Walmart security video, police said.
Hamilton was charged with credit card theft, forgery, using a stolen credit card and theft by unlawful taking.
April 12
At 4:15 a.m., Officer Patrick Becker reportedly found a 2006 Chrysler stopped in the middle of the intersection of Kearny and Bergen Aves. with the driver apparently asleep at the wheel. Becker and backup Officer Tim Castle conducted field sobriety tests and Keith Jones, 31, of Kearny, was charged with DWI.
April 13
Officer Jay Ward, patrolling at Quincy and Highland Aves. at 4 a.m., noticed that
a parked SUV had sustained recent rear-end damage and been pushed into another parked vehicle. In the roadway were broken glass and vehicle fluids. Ward followed the trail of these fluids down to Davis Ave., where it ended. Searching the area, he found a parked, still-leaking Honda with front-end damage, police said.
Ward located the owner, Homni Parra-Perez, performed field sobriety tests and took him to headquarters for an Alcotest. Parra-Perez, 25, of Kearny was charged
with DWI, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
At 4:13 a.m., Officer Ben Wuelfing was dispatched to the 100 block of Forest St.
on the report of a parked car having been hit by another vehicle. Wuelfing arrived to find the driver of the latter still at the scene, police said. The officer conducted field sobriety tests and was also advised by headquarters that the driver had a suspended license and three outstanding warrants — one from Kearny and two from Jersey City. Rudy Rodriguez-Cabrera, 31, of Bayonne, was charged on those warrants and with DWI, DWI in a school zone, the license offense, careless driving, failure to exhibit an insurance card and refusing to take an Alcotest.
April 14
Officers Derek Hemphill and Chris Medina and Sgt. Pete Gleason responded to a 3 a.m. report of a man, dressed in black and apparently having a weapon, striking car windows on the 200 block of Maple St.
The officers searched the area on foot and spotted the suspect running into a backyard at Maple and BergenAve. and then emerging in a driveway, where Hemphill confronted him. The man was reportedly holding a bow saw, which he was ordered to drop.
The police also checked dwellings and other structures and found an open garage with tools similar to the bow saw on the wall. The owner was contacted and reported that one saw was missing, police said.
Arrested was Fernando Solorzano, 23, of Harrison, who was charged with burglary and theft.
April 16
Officers Jordenson Jean and Brian Wisely, on patrol at 8 p.m. at Davis and Wilson Aves., got a hit on the mobile data computer regarding a suspended
driver and stopped a car operated by Miguel Gordillogonzaga, 34, of Harrison. He was charged with driving while suspended and failure to surrender a suspended license.
– Karen Zautyk

Around Town

Belleville Elks Lodge 1123, 254 Washington Ave., hosts its monthly breakfast on Sunday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $6 for adults; $3 for ages 3 to 10; and free for those younger than 3.
Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., holds a Teddy Bear Tea Party for children on Saturday, May 3, at 2 p.m. Registration closes April 28.
New Jersey Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) hosts its annual Diversity Luncheon on Tuesday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Nanina’s in the Park, 540 Mill St. This year’s theme is “Communicating Across Differences.”
To reserve a seat, register online at www.whoscoming.com/njawbo-region2 or contact the NJAWBO State Office at 609-308-2530. Questions? Contact info@ njawbo-metroeast.org. and for more about NJAWBO MetroEast, visit www. njawbo-metroeast.org.
For more information, contact Deb Martin at deb4426@me.com or 973- 953-7768 or Suzanne Buggé at Suzanne@AFocusedAdvantage. com or 973-951-6258.
Belleville UNICO sponsors a bus ride fundraiser to the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Sunday, May 4. A donation of $30 prepaid or $35 at the door is requested. Before departure at 8:50 a.m., a continental breakfast will be served at 8 a.m. at the Belleville Senior Citizens Center, 125 Franklin Ave. Call 973-759-9259 ASAP to reserve seats. No last minute cancellations are permitted. Mail checks, payable to Belleville UNICO, to: Gene Antonio, 436 Joralemon St., Belleville, N.J. 07109.

Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, 240 Belleville Ave., hosts a Tricky Tray fundraiser on Friday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets, available only in advance, are $25. To purchase tickets, call 973-429-0960.

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

Sacred Heart of Jesus American National Catholic Church hosts “Friendship Sunday” April 27 at 12:30 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, 100 Frank E. Rodgers
Blvd. North. Come together to celebrate a festive Easter season Eucharist with conversation and refreshments following. For more information, see www.SacredHeartANCC.org.

The Kearny Police Department, 237 Laurel Ave., in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, hosts a drug take back on April 26, from 10
a.m. to 2 p.m. Turn in unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions or over the counter medications. This is a no questions asked turn-in. For more information, call Police Officer Jack Corbett at 201-998-1313, ext. 2820.
Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., announces:
• Preschool Play and Story Time for ages 2 1/2 – 4 1/2 is held Tuesdays from 11 to
11:45 a.m.
• Preschool Play and Story Time is offered Thursdays from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
• Baby Steps Story Time with play, music and bubbles for kids up to age 2 is available Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.
• At the Branch Library, 759 Kearny Ave., Preschool Play and Story Time is conducted from 10:15 to 11 a.m. on Thursdays.
The Rosary Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., meets May 1 at 7 p.m. in the church hall. The Rev. John Wassell, church administrator, will speak.
Kearny High School’s Project Graduation sponsors a Volleyball Tournament Friday, April 25, in the school’s gymnasium, 336 Devon St. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the games begin at 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact Melissa Dyl at
201-978-8257. There will be a 50/50 raffle Friday, June 20, after graduation ceremonies.
The winner need not be present. Tickets are $10. To purchase or sell tickets,
contact Sandy Hyde at 551- 265-8969.
Kearny UNICO sponsors a fundraising bus trip to the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City Sunday, April 27, leaving from the parking lot of Kearny Federal Savings Bank at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 and can be obtained by calling Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409.

American Legion Post 139, Lyndhurst, hosts a veterans ward party on Tuesday, April 30, at Chestnut Hill Passaic Extended Care Facility, starting at 2:30 p.m. The family of Ronald and Cynthia Settembrino will sponsor the party in memory of Cynthia’s father Michael Liparulo, a U.S. Marine and Post 139 member who served in World War II, fighting in two major battles in the Pacific, at Okinawa and Ryukyu. For more information on sponsoring a ward party, call John Deveney, rehabilitation chairman, at 201-438-2255.
Registration is required for a Ladybug craft program for grades 1 to 4 to be held
at Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., Monday, April 28, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Call the library at 201-804-2478 to register.
Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Avenue, Suite 1, hosts a free Women’s Health Clinic, in partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, April 25, at 9 a.m. The clinic, which will provide education on breast self-examination and a pap smear, is open to female township residents ages 18 and older. For appointments, call 201-804-2500.
Dr. John Favetta will conduct a free eye screening Wednesday, May 7, at 10 a.m., at the Health Department. He will test for vision acuity, visual field and glaucoma. Call for an appointment.
A senior health fair will be held at the Health Department Friday, May 9, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. This event will offer free screenings, free promotional items and opportunities to learn about estate planning, long-term care planning, and Medicare fraud. For more information, contact the Health Department at 201-804-2500.
A free chair yoga session immediately follows the fair.
Polish American Citizens Club, 730 New Jersey Ave., presents a Polka Mass dinner dance Saturday, April 26, from 6 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. For tickets,
call Alice at 201-935-3830 or Loretta at 201-438-3513.
Lyndhurst Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3549, 527 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a karaoke party Friday, April 25, at 7 p.m. The VFW hall is available to rent for all occasions. For more information, call the post at 201- 939-3080.
Lyndhurst Police Department, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, will participate in Operation Take Back New Jersey, allowing local residents to dispose of unused, expired and unwanted prescription medications Saturday, April 26, at a command post, which will be set up in the shopping plaza parking lot at 425 Valley Brook Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, contact the Lyndhurst Police Department at 201-939-2900, ext. 2770, or consult the Operation Take Back NJ website: www.Operation-TakeBackNJ.com.

North Arlington
North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, hosts these upcoming programs:
• YA Movie Day for grades 6 and up will be held Friday, April 25, at 3 p.m.
• Saturday Afternoon Poets celebrate National Poetry Month April 26, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with a poetry reading and music performance. All ages are welcome.
• Origami for grades 4 and up is held Monday, April 28, at 3:30 p.m.
• Comics Club for grades 6 and up meets Wednesday, April 30, at 3:30 p.m.

North Arlington Health Department, in conjunction with Clara Maas Medical Center and the Lyndhurst ShopRite, hosts a lecture by a registered dietician on “Tips on How to Eat a Healthier Diet” Wednesday, April 23, at 6 p.m. at the borough Senior Center (next to borough hall). A light dinner will be served.

North Arlington Cares About Schools, a newly formed parents organization,
invites the community to a public meeting on education on Wednesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall, 194 River Road. Learn about common
core standards and its impact on students, teachers and schools, PARCC testing technology costs, and more.

Nutley Police Department holds its next Neighborhood Watch meeting April 24 at
7 p.m. on the third floor of the Municipal Building. This meeting will focus on dentity theft and learning about common scams.
Turn in your unused or expired medication for safe disposal Saturday, April 26,
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Nutley Police Headquarters, 228 Chestnut St., as part of Operation Drug Take Back, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., will hold a Friends of the Library book sale, April 24 to 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Stock up on hardcover books, paperbacks, CDs and DVDs. Donations will be collected April 21 to 23.

Abdo named 5-year top listing associate

Maggie Abdo

Maggie Abdo


Maggie Abdo, sales associate with Century 21 Semiao & Associates Lyndhurst office, was named top listing associate for 2008 to 2013.
“Century 21 Semiao & Associates is pleased to recognize Maggie with this honor.
She is a leader and innovator, empowering local homebuyers and sellers with valuable information, helping them to make informed real estate decisions,” said Fernando Semiao, broker/owner of Century 21 Semiao & Associates.
“Abdo has nine years of experience in the real estate industry and has been with the Century 21 System from the start of her career. She has obtained her Graduate Realtor Institute 2012 GRI designation. She is also SFR and CDPE Certified Short Sale and Foreclosure Recourse 2008-2013,” Semiao said.
“Maggie has also been honored by New Jersey Association of Realtors with the 2010- 2012 Circle of Excellence Bronze Level Award and with 2013 Circle of Excellence Silver Level Award. Century 21 Corporate awarded Maggie with the sales production Diamond award 2010 and Emerald Award 2011 and 2012.
In addition, Abdo has earned her Commercial Designation in 2005 and recently earned the Century 21 System’s Centurion Producer Award following her 2013 sales success.  The Centurion Producer award honors Century 21 System sales associates that earn $199,000 in sales production or 58 closed transaction sides within a calendar year,” Semiao said.
Semaio added that, “Performance-based training is necessary to assure that Century 21 associates maintain their competitive edge and offer the best service possible to their clients.”
“Maggie’s competitive intelligence, professionalism and dedication has made her a valued and trusted real estate resource for the Bergen, Hudson and Essex county market area and a major contributor to the overall success of our office
and the Century 21® System as a whole,” Semiao said.
Located at 761 Ridge Road Lyndhurst, Century 21 Semiao & Associates is a full service brokerage specializing Residential, Commercial, and New Construction properties.
Abdo can be reached by calling 201-460-8000, ext. 110, or her cell at 201-892-9933.

Coccia’s Hughes wins NJAR award

Carol Hughes

Carol Hughes


Jan R. Kwapniewski, president of Coccia Realty, with offices in Northern New Jersey, announced that Carol Hughes has been recognized by her peers at the New Jersey Association of Realtors (NJAR) as being recognized as being among the “Best in the Business.”
Carol J. Hughes of Coccia Realty’s Rutherford and Kearny offices has been inducted into the NJAR Circle of Excellence Award 2013 Bronze Level.
Hughes has made a significant contribution to the real estate industry and has been a consistent “Top Producer” at Coccia Realty and is a highly skilled negotiator and real estate agent, the NJAR said.
Initially licensed in 1984, Hughes has been involved in more than 1,000 transactions in her illustrious 30-year career. Applying her experience in valuation and sales in the West Hudson-South Bergen area, she has helped countless individuals and families realize their goal of selling a property or attaining homeownership.
Hughes continues as a full-time realtor and sales associate with Coccia Realty’s
Kearny and Rutherford offices. “She is a wonderful and giving individual and a truly great agent,” said Kwapniewski. “I really have enjoyed working with her all these years and look forward to seeing Carol continue to excel in this business for many more years to come.”
Her manager Randolph Wine said: “I really enjoy working with Carol. She is a top pro and I love her style – she is really good at what she does”.
Hughes is a member in good standing with the Eastern Bergen Board of Realtors, the New Jersey Association of Realtors and National Association of Realtors, and is an active member of the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service and Garden State MLS system. Hughes resides in Kearny and continues to enjoy sales, her
children, Christopher, Jonathan and Jeffrey, as well as her daughters-in-law and grandchildren. She can be reached at 201-997-7000 or by visiting her profile page at cocciarealty.com.

Nutley police blotter: MV stop leads to drunken-driving arrest


April 12

A motor vehicle stop at a Franklin Ave. location, at 1:54 a.m., resulted in the arrest of Sergio Landeros, 26, of Garfield, who was issued summonses charging him with DWI and careless driving and released pending a court date.

April 13

At 4:06 a.m., police were alerted to an unknown man allegedly detonating fireworks in front of a Franklin Ave. residence. Police said the man, who was described as wearing a gray shirt and shorts, was reported seen running west on Sargent St. and driving away in a dark colored SUV. Police searched the area but found no one. Read more »

1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

Photo courtesy U.S. EPA Signs warn not to eat fish caught from the polluted Lower Passaic.

Photo courtesy U.S. EPA
Signs warn not to eat fish caught from the polluted Lower Passaic.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history.

At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said the agency will remove 4.3 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River, from Newark Bay to the Belleville/Newark border.

The lower eight miles of the 80-mile-long waterway that runs through seven counties are “the most heavily contaminated section of the river,” according to an EPA press release, which says that, “The sediment [in the river] is severely contaminated with dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants from more than a century of industrial activity.”

EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the agency has estimated it will cost as much as $1.7 billion to enact a cleanup plan still being assembled but it still cannot predict how long the job will take to do. And it won’t be until early 2015 that the plan will be finalized, after the agency hears from the public, he added.

One reason the cleanup figures to be so expensive is that it calls for “bank-to-bank dredging … followed by capping of the river bottom,” the release said.

The EPA said it consulted with the state Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “with outreach to representatives of the many communities along the lower Passaic River” over seven years to develop the cleanup plan.

The EPA will hold three public hearings to outline the plan as it now stands, the initial one slated for May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Portuguese Sports Club, 55 Prospect St., Newark.

Another May hearing – the date and location not yet fixed – will be held in Kearny and a June hearing is to follow, again date and location to be determined, in Belleville.

People can also submit written comments by mail to: Alice Yeh, Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 Broadway, N.Y., N.Y. 10007- 1866 or by email to: PassaicLower8MileComments. Region2@epa.gov. For more information, call 212-637-4427.

“High concentrations of dioxin, PCBs and other contaminants in the lower eight miles of the Passaic River are a serious threat to the people who eat fish and crabs from this river,” Enck said. (Catching crabs is prohibited and there are “Do Not Eat” advisories posted for all fish in the lower Passaic.)

“The EPA’s proposed cleanup plan will result in a cleaner river that protects people’s health and increases the productive use of one of New Jersey’s most important natural resources and creates jobs during the cleanup. Doing less is not good enough for this river or the people who live along it,” Enck said.

According to the EPA, the Diamond Alkali plant in Newark that produced Agent Orange and pesticides in the 1960s “generated dioxin that contaminated the land and the river.” An additional 100 or so companies “are potentially responsible for generating and releasing” other pollutants into the river.

The lower 17 miles of the river, running from Newark Bay to the Dundee Dam at Garfield, are part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site and from 1983 to 2001, extensive cleanup work was done on land at the Diamond Alkali facility and in the streets and homes near it. In 2012, an EPA-approved contractor dredged, treated and removed 40,000 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated sediment from the river near the plant. And in 2013, EPA oversaw dredging of about 16,000 cubic yards of “highly contaminated sediment” from a half-mile stretch of the river along Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst, outside of the lower eight miles. That work is ongoing.

A long-term study of what to do about contaminated sediment in the 17-mile stretch is still being done by a group of about 70 corporate entities known as the Lower Passaic Cooperating Partners Group with EPA oversight.

Meanwhile, the EPA is focused on the cleanup of the Passaic’s lower eight miles where “there is an approximately 10-to-15-foot deep reservoir of contaminated fine-grained sediment,” of which 4.3 million cubic yards – enough to fill MetLife Stadium twice – “will be dredged and removed” and a protective cap consisting of stone and two feet of sand and will be placed over the 5.4 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment that would remain on the river bottom.

EPA says the dredging would remove nearly 18 pounds of “highly toxic” dioxin, more than 35,000 pounds of mercury, in excess of 15,000 pounds of PCBs and nearly 2,000 pounds of DDT. The toxic mix would be “prepared for transport by rail for incineration and/or disposal in landfills.” An estimated 7% of the stuff “may require incineration at out-of-state facilities in the U.S. and Canada.”

Along the shore, however, the cap will be “one foot of sand and one foot of materials to support habitat for fish and plants.”

After it has a final cleanup plan in place, EPA will undertake engineering and design work “in the following years.” EPA says it will continue to “pursue agreements to ensure that the cleanup work [being proposed for the lower eight miles] be carried out and paid for by those responsible for the contamination at the site.”

The draft plan for the lower eight mile cleanup can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/ region02/passaicriver or at http://www.ourpassaic.org.

– Ron Leir

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

Left photo courtesy Army Capt. Zachariah Fike; right photo by Ron Leir Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst’s lost medal (l.) and the veteran’s name (r.) listed on a list of hero veterans on a bronze table in the Kearny Town Hall lobby.

Left photo courtesy Army Capt. Zachariah Fike; right photo by Ron Leir
Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst’s lost medal (l.) and the veteran’s name (r.) listed on a list of hero veterans on a bronze table in the Kearny Town Hall lobby.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence.

Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned to the soldier’s hometown to be stored in a place of honor.

Bill Sweeney, outreach coordinator for the Kearny VOICE (Veterans Outreach Information Community Education) project, co-sponsored by the local American Legion Auxiliary and American Legion, said the medal was conferred on Army Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst Jr., a World War II veteran killed in action Jan. 19, 1945, in Europe.

Warhurst’s name is engraved on a bronze plaque, along with the names of other Kearny hero veterans, that is part of a permanent display mounted in the lobby of Kearny Town Hall.

Sweeney said that last September, Tony Cappiti, the-then commander of the United Veterans Organization of Kearny, got a call from Army Capt. Zachariah Fike and his nonprofit organization Purple Hearts Reunited, which collects lost medals and seeks to return them to recipients or family members.

Fike told him that a woman in Pennsylvania had Pvt. Warhurst’s medal and had learned through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs that there were no known living relatives of Warhurst and wondered what, if anything, could be done about it.

“We decided it would be nice for us, through the VOICE, to partner with the Kearny Museum and let them take custody of the medal so it could be safely stored there and available for display to the public,” Sweeney said.

The medal presentation is expected to happen sometime during the May 26 Kearny Memorial Day observance, he added.

Mysterious discovery

Keystone State resident Patricia Belsky is credited by Sweeney and Fike for setting things in motion but when reached by phone last week in her current East Greenville residence, Belsky said it was actually her father-in-law Chester Belsky who found the medal as he was walking around the parking lot of the former Lehigh Valley family business in Pennsburg, Pa.

“He used to bring home all sorts of strange things,” Belsky said.

This particular day – which, according to Belsky, happened more than 20 years ago – “he came and said, ‘Look what I found,’ ’’ she said. It was the Purple Heart medal, “in pristine condition, a beautiful tribute.”

Belsky said she called the V.A., only to be told that Warhurst had no known survivors and that she should look after it, which she did. “I kept it in my jewelry box,” she said.

And there the medal sat until sometime in 2013 when she happened to be talking to a friend whose husband was, by coincidence, a Purple Heart winner who knew about Fike’s organization. And Belsky, remembering the mystery medal, decided to reach out to him.

Man on a mission

Fike, 33, a self-described “military brat” whose parents both had military service, is 17-year Army veteran and a Purple Heart winner himself for combat action in Afghanistan on Sept. 10, 2010. He said he’s been involved in returning lost or missing medals to soldiers and/or their families for the past three years.

His organization has become a sort of clearinghouse for those medals. “People who hear or read about us get in touch and we get about three medals a week,” Fike said. “Right now, we have over 200 medals we’ve been trying to find a home for. Most have the name of the recipient engraved on the back, meaning that he or she was killed in combat. We track down the families and return [the medals].”

In cases like Warhurst, “where the family is no longer with us, we find what we consider homes of honor to deliver them,” Fike said. “If at all possible, we try to keep the medals close to the recipients’ hometowns so we keep their history close together. But if that’s not doable, we’ll do a national museum.”

Before dealing with missing medals, Fike was a collector of military antiques. “It broke my heart to see military items being discarded,” he said.

Then, one day, his mother brought him a Purple Heart medal awarded to Pvt. Corrado Piccoli of Watertown, N.Y. “It symbolizes so much,” Fike said. So he set to find the soldier’s family so he could give them the medal. It took a year but he did it.

And so began his quest in earnest.

Now a member of the Vermont National Guard, Fike said: “I do my Army thing from 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] and from 9 [p.m.] to midnight I dedicate to my [Purple Hearts United] foundation and I do [medal] returns on weekends. I’ve done 80 returns so far. On April 12, I’ll be in Kansas City. I’ve gone as far as Los Angeles and, pretty much, all over the U.S.”

Back in the ‘40s, Fike said, “people would tend to hide their valuables and medals in their house and, over time, they’d forget about them. Then the family sells the house and the new occupants would find these missing medals in attics and other hiding places. “

In one case, a soldier got married before going to war where he is killed and is awarded the medal. His wife moves back to her family, she passes on and her kids find the medal – now they’re reunited with it and the memories of their dad.”

In another case, Fike recalled, a multi-generational family didn’t realize their father’s medal was missing. “There’d been a rift and the family members hadn’t been close for maybe 55, 60 years. Then after I was able to bring them the medal, they had their first family reunion day. I got to see three generations come together and now they’re closer than they’ve ever been.”

Initially a one-man enterprise, Fike said he’s now aided and abetted by 10 research volunteers, including a national genealogist, who help locate medal recipients and/or families. Once a contact is made, he schedules a medal return ceremony. “They’re professionally framed for free for the families and we get a guest speaker, like a congressman or local dignitary. We need to do that for the families. It’s what they deserve.” Fike always makes the presentation.

The framing service, travel and related costs typically run “around $1,200,” Fike said. “The first two years, I was funding that but now we rely on donations to my nonprofit.”

Memorial Day return

He said the Kearny private’s medal “will be framed, hopefully with his picture if we can get one, and an American flag,” when he makes the delivery on Memorial Day. “I’ll be doing two returns that day, both in New Jersey,” he said.

To reach Fike’s organization, people can email him care of purpleheartsreunited@gmail. com.

An obituary of Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst Jr. retrieved by Kearny Library Director Josh Humphrey from an old newspaper clipping said that he had lived at 92 Devon Terrace, and was a former student at Kearny High where “he became a member of champion sprint relay teams…” Before entering the service, “he was employed at the Pollak Manufacturing Co. in Kearny.”

The obituary said that Warhurst “was inducted into the Army in January 1943. He trained at Camp Pickett, Val., and at Camp Davis, N.C., before being assigned to overseas duty in February 1944. He was attached to a unit of an advanced anti-aircraft artillery battalion on the Western Front.”

According to Fike’s research, Warhurst was serving with the 320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, which advanced to Arlon, Belgium, Dec. 25-26, 1944, “and took part in the fighting to relieve Bastogne, throwing off the attacks of four German divisions, taking Villers-laBonne- Eau, on Jan. 10, 1945, after a 13-day fight and Lutrebois in a five-day engagement.” On Jan. 18, “the Division returned to Metz to resume its interrupted rest.” Then, the obituary says, Warhurst “was seriously wounded in action in Belgium on Jan. 12 [and] died a week later, Jan. 19, at an Army station hospital in Luxemburg.”

Warhurst, who was 27 when he died, was buried at Luxembourg American Cemetery in Luxemburg.

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters.

Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grants but each was turned down.

For Kearny, it was the third rejection in as many years; for Harrison, the second knockdown.

Kearny had applied for $1,974,525 to pay 15 new firefighters’ wages and benefits for two years; Harrison had sought $6 million to subsidize 36 new firefighters for two years.

In a denial letter sent to Kearny Fire Dept., SAFER overseers said, “In fiscal year 2013, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) received over 1,500 SAFER applications requesting more than $1.67 billion in federal assistance. The large number applications received and the finite amount of available funding resulted in many worthy applicants not being funded and underscores the highly competitive nature of this program.”

The letter said that each application is evaluated and rated on the basis of four review categories: “clarity of the project description, demonstration of financial need, impact on daily operations and realization of cost benefit.”

No specific explanation was provided, to either Kearny or Harrison, as to why their applications were denied.

Kearny Fire Chief Steven Dyl said that the premise of his application was to bring the total number of personnel up to a “full T.O.(Table of Organization) to 102.”

Now, Dyl said, “I guess it’s back to the drawing board. It’s frustrating. We had a set plan for what we intended to do.”

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, who has acknowledged that both the Police and Fire Departments are working under shorthanded conditions, said that going forward “will be a challenge. I expect that if we are successful in getting transitional aid, this is one issue we’re going to look at.”

In Harrison, Fire Director Harold Stahl said the town would, at some point, file a new application.

“The year before [FEMA] told us we didn’t ask for enough,” Stahl said. “So, this time around, I thought we were in line to get funded.”

With current staffing of 29, getting the additional 36 requested positions filled “would have brought us up to the T.O. of many years ago,” Stahl said.

For now, he said, “we’re still alive and well.”

And, on April 9, the town’s governing body voted to authorize the purchase of two 2014 4-Wheel-Drive Ford Expedition SSVs (Special Service Vehicles) from Breyer Ford of Morristown for a total of $74,603 under a 3-year lease/ purchase arranged through the Cranford Police Cooperative Pricing System.

Stahl said the vehicles would be replacements for two 18-year-old jeeps and would be “large enough to move men and equipment, particularly when we have recalls of off-duty men in multi-alarm fires.”

“We expect to take delivery sometime in May,” he added.

– Ron Leir

Tribute to a teacher

Fred Kuhrt

Top photo by Johnny B. Bucsko; bottom photo courtesy Debbie Kuhrt Above, Fred Kuhrt and his beloved 1969 MG; below, Kuhrt working with his automotive technology students.

Top photo by Johnny B. Bucsko; bottom photo
courtesy Debbie Kuhrt
Above, Fred Kuhrt and his beloved 1969 MG; below, Kuhrt working with his automotive technology students.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others.

His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the Fred Kuhrt Scholarship Fund to benefit students interested in advancing in the technical field.

Kuhrt, a 34-year teacher at Kearny High School who had planned to retire this summer, was in his classroom on Jan. 9 when he suddenly collapsed and died. He was 58.

A scholarship fundraiser has been scheduled for April 26, from 6 to 11 p.m., at the Irish American Association, 95 Kearny Ave., featuring live entertainment, raffles and 50/50s, beer, wine and food. A $50 donation is requested. Tickets are available from family members, the bartenders at Snug Harbor or Bob Walenski at Kearny High.

A 1973 Kearny High alum who played football and ran track, Kuhrt always loved tinkering with anything on wheels, his wife Debbie said. He worked for L.J. Kennedy Trucking Co. on Schuyler Ave. and an automotive garage on Dukes St. before enrolling at the-then Kean College in Union to get a degree in industrial technology.

Loved ones, colleagues and friends remember Kuhrt as a renaissance man of sorts.

Aside from his passion for vehicular maintenance which he passed on to his enthralled students, many of whom went on to careers in the automotive industry, Kuhrt’s enthusiasm for sports and the outdoors was also contagious among his young apprentices.

At KHS, he coached freshman football, helped run the rifle team and chaperoned the German Club on several field trips.

A devoted camper – he frequented the Great Divide in the foothills of rural Sussex County – Kuhrt was big into fishing and hunting, deploying bow and arrow and muzzle-loader shotgun, Debbie recalled. He was president of the Oswego Fishing Club of Kearny and Saxton Falls Rod & Gun Club in Warren County.

Walenski, head custodian at KHS and a longtime pal, said his wife Susan was a sharpshooter with Kuhrt’s rifle team. “He came to my wedding and I went to his son’s [wedding]. We used to go shopping together for tools at Harbor Freight in North Bergen. He was more family than friend.”

Former colleague Bill Gaydos, KHS science chairman, said: “Fred could fix anything. And he had great rapport with his students. Often, he would stay and work with them on a class project ‘till 4 or 4:30 [p.m.].”

And he was the family photographer, documenting travel and other adventures, Debbie said.

Yet, as much as he enjoyed being active and interacting with nature, he also made time for books. “He was a history fanatic and he was an expert on big battles in military history,” Debbie said.

But above all else, it was clearly Kuhrt’s attachment to the motor pool that consumed many of his waking hours. He was a member of the Wanderers Car Club of Sussex County and the MG Car Club of North Jersey and he won many trophies in car shows he entered.

“He saved a 1969 MG classic which he restored and which he brought into his automotive class and took the car down to its frame and rebuilt all the engine parts,” Debbie recalled. “He gave the students a broad spectrum of knowledge.”

“The last project he was working on before he died was restoring a BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) motorcycle from the ‘60s for an international festival [this month],” said Debbie. “In fact, it’s still sitting in Kearny High School.”

In late February, Debbie noted, the KHS PTA presented the school library with an automotive book in memory of Kuhrt and several students “spoke about how [their former teacher] inspired and guided them towards continuing their desire to pursue the automotive craft. Each student expressed how they want the school to continue the program for future students.”

One former student, Joseph Ferreira, who now runs New Body Collision on Columbia Ave., credited Kuhrt with being an active mentor in encouraging him to pursue an automotive repair business. “He was a real great guy – he was the one who got me into cars,” Ferreira said.

“When I was going to Kearny High, I lived around the block from New Body and when I was in my freshman year, I worked there part-time,” Ferreira said. “Mr. Kuhrt used to stop by and check up on me to see how I was doing.”

“There’s probably another 50 if not more – including people working for the town now – that Mr. Kuhrt inspired to like this trade,” Ferreira added.

Play ball! (and politics, too)

Photo courtesy Borough of North Arlington North Arlington Girls’ Softball League kicks off its season with a parade Saturday ... and some unexpected political flap.

Photo courtesy Borough of North Arlington
North Arlington Girls’ Softball League kicks off its season with a parade Saturday … and some unexpected political flap.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist.

Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto when Tetto picked Republican Councilman Joseph Bianchi to throw out the honorary first pitch at Allan Park. Bianchi is hoping to unseat Massa in the municipal election in November.

Massa griped that Tetto’s selection process amounted to a “political endorsement” of his opponent. It should be the mayor who gets the honor of addressing the crowd at the home opener, Massa said, “particular when, as mayor, I sign off on resolutions authorizing all the improvements made to the field.”

“And, I supported, along with the other Democrats on the council, giving Mr. Tetto [and other recreation groups] a $2,000 stipend to bolster their program,” Massa said.

Asked about the mayor’s charge, Tetto said he was a registered independent and that the mayor was “upset he didn’t get called up [to speak] because it’s an election year. Last year, the mayor and council didn’t even show up for our opening day.”

Tetto said he picked Bianchi for the honor “because he’s heavily involved with our program, even without having any kids or grandkids playing for us. He returns my calls, he goes down [to Allan Park] to help out and he was in support of lights for the field.”

But Tetto said the Democrats on the governing body reneged on a promise he says was made last year to put in the lights. “We were told the field will be so bright that, ‘you’ll be able to see Allan Park from outer space,’ ’’ he said.

The way things are now, Tetto said, he’s going to be hard-pressed to find sufficient playing and practice time for the 180 girls on the combined rosters of his 18 teams, ranging from the younger kids to high school age.

While Bergen County has provided new fields at Riverside County Park, only Field 1 is available to his girls softball teams and they’ll have to compete for field time with North Arlington Little League, Queen of Peace softball and Queen of Peace baseball.

And, at Allan Park, where the girls’ games are played on weekends, if North Arlington High School is playing there on a weekday and its game runs late, there’s even less time to use the field for practice, Tetto said.

Within a 10-to-15-mile radius, every community has equipped girls softball fields with lights, Tetto said. “We are the only town that doesn’t have lights [for girls]. Our Little League fields have lights. Why only boys?”

Meanwhile, at the request of Councilman Dan Pronti, the Borough Council is debating whether to install lights in the parking lots of Allan Park and Zadroga Field. The borough engineer is preparing a cost estimate.

Pronti, a Republican, said he’s pitching the idea as a crime deterrent, particularly at Zadroga Field where, he said, there are ways for people to enter through wooded areas or openings in the fence and passing cops patrolling Schuyler Ave. have no way to view the field parking lot.

But Democrats Al Granell and Tom Zammatore are skeptical about Pronti’s suggestion. Zammatore said police have reported no criminal activity in those locations since 2011. And, he said, putting in lights could simply encourage more people to congregate there. Pronti, however, said there have been unreported crimes, including two break-ins to the Corsi House at Allan Park.

Granell said a better solution might be to “lock the gate at Allan Park at night to limit access to the parking lot after dark,” but only if it’s warranted for security reasons. Recreation Commission meetings could be held at the senior center next to Borough Hall or the recreation house in front of Allan Park, since both are illuminated, he said.

Zammatore said the borough should “get data from the Police Department that shows where crime is a problem” and then get an estimate for lighting those areas.