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Relief for commuters

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  After what Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso characterized as “33 years of starts and stops,” the township – with help from Bergen County – is finally beginning to see the start of improvements to the intersection at Kingsland and Riverside Aves. The changes […]

Convicted in mortgage swindle

A Belleville man was among three defendants convicted earlier this month in federal court for their roles in a $15 million mortgage fraud scheme involving condominiums in New Jersey and Florida, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported. Last month, another Belleville resident pleaded guilty in the same scam. According to […]

Walmart is keeping cops busy

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  The Walmart in Kearny is conveniently located on Harrison Ave., with easy access to Rt. 280, the N.J. Turnpike and feeder roads to Newark and Jersey City. This is a boon for shoppers. However, according to Kearny police, it is […]

2011 layoffs affirmed

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – Four former Kearny workers, including a union chief, have lost the first round of a bid to reverse their New Year’s Eve dismissals nearly three years ago. In a 21-page ruling issued Sept. 3, the state Office of Administrative Law […]

Go pink at St. Michael’s

Don your favorite pink attire and join St. Michael’s Medical Center for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month event — Breast Health & You — on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at SMMC’s Connie Dwyer Breast Center, 111 Central Ave., Newark. Dr. Nadine Pappas, director of […]


Belleville girls’ basketball team has higher hopes

Photo by Jim Hague The Belleville girls’ basketball team looks to improve on its 10-win season a year ago. From l. are seniors Shatia Silas, Alisson Samaniego, head coach Liz Ramirez, Amber Bulna and Chloe Mecka.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Belleville girls’ basketball team looks to improve on its 10-win season a year ago. From l. are seniors Shatia Silas, Alisson Samaniego, head coach Liz Ramirez, Amber Bulna and Chloe Mecka.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The Belleville High School girls’ basketball team won 10 games a year ago. Liz Ramirez, the third-year head coach of the Buccaneers, truly believes that her team should take a step up this season.

“We have a lot of seniors back from last year,” Ramirez said. “The core of the team is back. The girls know the deal. They’re familiar with what we want. We should hit the ground running.”

The Bucs have started the 2013-14 season with a 2-2 record.

“We lost two games (Science Park and Glen Ridge) that we should have won,” Ramirez said. “We’re still growing and trying to get into the swing of things.”

Ramirez said that she wished the schedule was kinder in the early going. Playing only four games over the first three weeks of the season isn’t easy.

“I would have liked to have faced more competition at this point,” Ramirez said. “It’s just the way the schedule worked out. We’re going to see a lot more games in January and February.”

One of the top returning players is junior point guard Arianna Douglas, who averaged nearly 14 points per game last year, earning All-Super Essex Conference honors.

“She’s improved a lot in the offseason,” Ramirez said of the 5-foot-3 Douglas. “I’ve definitely put a lot more on her shoulders this year.”

Another key returnee is senior center Shatia Silas. The 6-foot-1 Silas, another All-SEC honoree last year, averaged 11 rebounds per game last year. Silas has played in only one game thus far – and had 20 points and 10 rebounds in that game.

Photo by Jim Hague Belleville junior point guard Arianna Douglas is one of the top returning players in the Super Essex Conference.

Photo by Jim Hague
Belleville junior point guard Arianna Douglas is one of the top returning players in the Super Essex Conference.

“It was good for our guards to step up and learn that they could play without Shatia,” Ramirez said. “We learned that if we don’t have one of our key players, the others have to step up.”

The Samaniego sisters are also key contributors, namely senior Alisson and junior Samantha.

Alisson is a 5-foot-3 guard, while Samantha stands 5-foot-1. “Alisson is all over the place,” Ramirez said. “She gets points, rebounds. She gets something in almost every statistical category. She gives us an all-around look. Samantha is a good shooter who has developed her shot even more. She’s already made a few from 3-point range.”

Senior John’Nae Williams is a 5-foot-10 inside presence.

“She has crazy leaping ability for a girl,” Ramirez said. “She’s our shot blocker. She is a natural at blocking shots.”

Senior guard Amber Bulna is a 5-foot-5 sharpshooter.

“She’s our best technical shooter,” Ramirez said. “She has the best technique. When she’s on the floor, then she’s behind the 3-point line, because she can make those shots. We have to find her if she’s on the floor. She has a lot more confidence in that 3-point shot.”

Ramirez is ecstatic about the prospects of two freshmen who are seeing action right away.

Gianna Benacquista is a 6-foot forward. She comes from a long family lineage of talented female athletes in her family.

“She really has come a long way,” Ramirez said. “She’s getting a lot more playing time than I first envisioned. I can’t ask for a more dedicated player.”

Benacquista is averaging seven points and eight rebounds per game thus far.

The second freshman is guard Giselle Luna. The 5-foot-1 Luna has impressed Ramirez with her hustle.

“She’s an excellent defender,” Ramirez said. “She’s definitely our fastest player. She’s one of the quickest kids I’ve ever seen. I’m a defensive-minded coach, so I like defensive players. She’s proven she can give people problems with her defense.”

The Buccaneers continue their season this week against Christ the King of Newark and then a local rivalry is renewed Friday afternoon, when neighboring rival Nutley comes calling at Belleville at 4 p.m.

“It’s a good rivalry that we have with Nutley,” Ramirez said. “It’s good that we’re going to get a chance to play against a top team.”

And if Silas is able to play, it should be a fine battle between Silas and Nutley’s fine inside player Blair Watson. Where else can you see two talented players over 6 feet tall going head-to-head against each other?

Ramirez knows that her team still has to accomplish a lot.

“I would like us to be more patient on the offensive end,” Ramirez said. “I think that comes with time and experience.”

Ramirez believes that her team has a chance to capture the Super Essex Conference- Freedom Division crown.

“I really think we have a shot at the division title,” Ramirez said. “Our goals are to make the states, have a better than .500 record and win the division. I believe we can do all three.”

The opportunity certainly is there.

Kearny wrestling: Trying to instill pride

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny High School wrestling team is experiencing some growing pains. Front row, from l., are James Hodnet, Wilker Villacorta and Luis Cornejo. Back row, from l., are head coach Tony Carratura, Giovanni Diaz, Johann Holguin, assistant coach Brian McDonnell and assistant coach Rich Stacey.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny High School wrestling team is experiencing some growing pains. Front row, from l., are James Hodnet, Wilker Villacorta and Luis Cornejo. Back row, from l., are head coach Tony Carratura, Giovanni Diaz, Johann Holguin, assistant coach Brian McDonnell and assistant coach Rich Stacey.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

For 14 years now, as the head coach, Tony Carratura has dedicated his entire life to the Kearny High School wrestling program. Take that one step better, Carratura lives for the sport of wrestling in Kearny. It doesn’t stop with just the Kardinals’ varsity program.

“I want the kids to love the sport as much as I do,” Carratura said. However, it’s not easy. Participation numbers are way down. Not just in Kearny, but all over New Jersey.

“The numbers the last few years have gone down,” Carratura admits. “It’s an uphill battle. We’re starting from scratch again.” That’s why Carratura has enlisted the help of his son, Tony Jr., a counselor at Lincoln School, to help with the seventh and eighth grade programs.

“I think we have an excellent area for wrestling,” Carratura said. “This is just a start.” So having an inexperienced varsity team is something Carratura is not accustomed to.

“It makes you a better coach,” Carratura said. “I’ve been plucking kids out of the hallways and the weight room and trying to turn them into wrestlers. The majority of our team has only two years of experience. We have only four seniors. We’re up against a lot of obstacles. We’re trying to build up the program again.”

It doesn’t mean that Carratura is taking his team this season and hiding in a corner somewhere. Carratura firmly believes that inexperienced wrestlers become better wrestlers when they compete. And Carratura certainly lets the Kardinals compete, taking them on a grappling sojourn all over the state, match after grueling match.

For the last several years, Carratura has booked some of the top wrestling teams in the state – and this year is no exception, even with the inexperience and the lack of quality numbers.

“We’re still going to go after it,” Carratura said. “We want to stay as competitive as we’ve always been. It’s hard to do with the numbers, but we have about 25 kids who are there every day, busting their tail to get better. It’s a dedication sport and you have to be dedicated in order to do it well. We all have to work together to bring all of our sports programs back at Kearny, not just wrestling.”

Carratura believes that the Kardinals are about to turn the corner.

“We want to have kids who love the sport,” Carratura said. “No doubt about it, the kids are working hard. They want to be there.”

Carratura always has the assistance of dedicated coach Rich Stacey, who has been with Carratura for over a decade. But this year, former Kardinal standout wrestler and cross country runner Brian McDonnell (a recent inductee into the Kearny High School Athletic Hall of Fame) has joined the coaching staff.

“Brian is a great addition, because he’s been wrestling with me since he was eight years old,” Carratura said. “Rich has been with me for 12 years. We have a good staff and absolutely, that’s the first step.”

Senior Wilker Villacorta is the Kardinals’ 106-pound wrestler.

“It’s only his second year of varsity wrestling, but he won 18 matches last year,” Carratura said. “He was a soccer player, so he’s a good athlete. When he first came out, he didn’t know what to do, but he’s come a long way. I expect big things from him this season.”

Villacorta has won five matches already this season and placed fifth in his weight class at the recent Bloomfield Invitational tournament.

Junior Diego Poma and senior Angel Rodriguez share the 113 and 120-pound classes. The two are interchangeable, depending upon the opponent and their weight loss before the match.

“They flip back and forth,” Carratura said. “It’s a good option to have there. Poma is long and lanky and good with his legs. Rodriguez is more of a brawler. But they’re both doing a good job.”

At 126 pounds, the Kardinals welcome a newcomer in junior Josh Guerrero, who transferred to Kearny from New York earlier this year.

“He wrestled before, so that’s a help,” Carratura said. “He has good technique. He’s the most technical kid we have. He’s well on his way and I think he’s going to be a big surprise for us.”

Guerrero took third in the recent Kearny Holiday Invitational tourney.

Senior James Hodnet is the 132-pounder. Hodnet is perhaps the Kardinals’ most experienced wrestler, having been part of the team for the last three years. Hodnet finished fourth at the NJSIAA District 16 tournament last February and was fifth in the recent Bloomfield tourney.

At 138 pounds, junior Juan Lamboy returns. Lamboy was a newcomer last year, but he’s made strides already this season, finishing third in the Kearny tourney and fifth at Bloomfield.

“Last year, he was still green and learning the sport,” Carratura said. “This year, he’s improved and doing well.”

At 145 and 152 pounds, Carratura is using freshmen Cesar Fernandez and Justin Baeza are bouncing back and forth, depending on who makes weight.

“They both did well in the Bloomfield tournament and they show a lot of promise,” Carratura said.

Senior Luis Cornejo is the team’s 160-pounder. Cornejo is a complete novice to the sport.

“He’s just coming out for the team for the first time,” Carratura said. “He’s been there every day, as dedicated as the rest. He’s doing well.”

The Kardinals have two youngsters filling the slots at 171 and 182 pounds in sophomores Chase McMillan and Thomas Presblyski.

Senior Gio Diaz returns at 195 pounds. Diaz was a newcomer to the sport last year.

“He told me that he should have come out earlier and he could have been better,” Carratura said.

Junior Piero Ugaza is the team’s 220-pounder. Ugaza is also wrestling for the very first time.

The Kardinals have a busy slate, with more than 30 dual meet dates already set. Carratura always looks to add more as the season moves on.

“We’re competing all the time,” Carratura said. “We have quads (quadrangular meets with four teams participating) every Saturday. It’s a complete schedule. But we’re going to be well prepared for the (NJSIAA) Districts (16, in late February). We’re going to be ready. I just want to see them keep moving forward, keep making progress. We have kids who are there every day, dedicated to the sport, doing what they need to do”

And keep the sport of wrestling alive in a town where wrestling has always been a staple of the community.

Harrison girls’ hoops squad doesn’t skip a beat

Photo by Jim Hague Senior Stephanie Flatley (l.) has been the leading scorer for the Harrison girls’ basketball team, averaging 16 points per game with senior Sarai Rivera (r.) is a two-year captain on the team, averaging 13 points per game this season.

Photo by Jim Hague
Senior Stephanie Flatley (l.) has been the leading scorer for the Harrison girls’ basketball team, averaging 16 points per game with senior Sarai Rivera (r.) is a two-year captain on the team, averaging 13 points per game this season.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It’s not an easy task when your girls’ high school basketball team loses two of its top scorers from last year’s team, including one player who averaged close to 20 points per game down the stretch last season.

Harrison lost Rayven Lucas (now playing at Montclair State) and Ulyissa Pereyra from last year’s Blue Tide squad that went to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs. Those losses might be hard for some teams to overcome.

But the Blue Tide is showing no signs of letting up, exploding out to a 4-1 mark in the early going of the new season.

“The girls have done well picking up the slack,” said Harrison head coach Al Ruiz. “Sure, Rayven did most of the scoring last year. There have been times where it has been tough without her. But the girls knew that they had to pick up the slack somehow and they’ve definitely done it defensively. That’s the key. If we play well defensively, we have a chance to win. If our captains shoot the ball well, it could be a decent night.”

Ruiz said that he is not surprised by the Blue Tide’s solid start.

“With the type of defense we have, I thought we had a chance to get off to a good start,” Ruiz said.

Leading the way so far has been senior captain Stephanie Flatley. The 5-foot-6 forward is averaging 16 points per game.

“She’s doing a little bit of everything for us,” Ruiz said. “She’s like having another coach on the floor. She’s already had a couple of big games for us. She’s stepped up tremendously. She worked hard over the summer to get ready and she’s been a big plus for us.”

Another key contributor is senior forward Sarai Rivera. The 5-foot-6 Rivera is a two-year captain.

“She also has had some big games for us,” Ruiz said. “She hit three 3-pointers against Lyndhurst to help us get a win. She does a nice job of boxing out and rebounding.”

Rivera is averaging 13 points per game thus far.

Junior Amber O’Donnell is the starting point guard. The 5-foot-4 O’Donnell, a standout softball player in the spring, is a defensive whirlwind.

“She puts so much pressure on the opposing guards,” Ruiz said. “She also does a good job of controlling the tempo of the game.”

O’Donnell is averaging five points and five assists per game.

Senior Emmalee Lucas is the team’s starting off-guard. The 5-foot-4 Lucas (cousin to graduated standout Rayven) is another defensive stalwart.

“She takes good care of the ball,” Ruiz said. “She does a good job shooting and scoring.”

Ruiz said that there is no substitute for experience.

“It helps so much,” Ruiz said. “It helps us do a lot of different things. The girls all know what we’re trying to do, so that helps tremendously.”

Junior Kayla Montilla is a 5-foot-3 guard who is another standout on the defensive end of the floor.

“She is our defensive harasser,” Ruiz said. “She puts so much pressure on the opponent just being out there on the ball. Our defense has been unreal. They make stops all the time.”

Freshman Cynthia Ferreira has fit in nicely with the team. Ferreira is a 5-foot-7 forward.

“She works hard down low and has a nice post-up game,” Ruiz said. “She can also score pretty well with a nice midrange shot.”

Heather Harris is a 6-foot junior center.

“She’s a good rebounder who works hard down low,” Ruiz said.

Senior Ximena Lopez is a 5-foot-7 forward who comes off the bench.

“She has nice hands and catches the ball well,” Ruiz said. “She makes good decisions with the ball. She’s pretty smart.”

Senior guard Stephanie Lopez (no relation to Ximena) is a 5-foot-5 guard.

“She outhustles everyone on the floor,” Ruiz said of Stephanie Lopez. “She gets to a lot of loose balls. She does the dirty work.”

Ruiz was happy to welcome Ray Lucas back as an assistant coach. While his daughter Rayven is now at Montclair State, the former New York Jets quarterback and famed television and radio football analyst has remained as a volunteer assistant coach.

“The girls love him,” Ruiz said. “He’s so much more of a father figure to the girls than he is a basketball coach. They look to him for advice about anything. They don’t look at him as a football analyst on television. They think he’s just Ray and that’s why I like having him around and the girls like having him around.”

Ruiz is pleased by his team’s hot start.

“I’m very encouraged,” Ruiz said. “I just hope it keeps rolling, that we can keep riding that wave.”

Meaning, the wave of the Blue Tide.

“One of the main reasons why we’re doing so well is that they’ve all bought into the fact that we have to play defense to be successful,” Ruiz said. “They’re constantly diving on the floor for loose balls for the betterment of the team. They have the will to win and they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for the team. It gives you a nice feeling when you come to practice and they’re willing to work as hard as they are.”


Frank Alonzo

Frank Alonzo, 77, passed away peacefully on Friday, Jan. 3, at his home in Harrison.

The funeral will be conducted from the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave, Harrison, on Tuesday Jan. 7, at 9:30 a.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Church, East Newark, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. Relatives and friends are invited to call from 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. For information, directions or to send condolences to the family please visit www.mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Born in Oak Hill, W. Va., Frank moved to New Jersey as a young boy before moving to Harrison 44 years ago.

He served in the United States Air Force for four years.

He had worked for Raritan Valley Bus Service and N.J. Bell Telephone Company before retiring in 1993.

Frank is survived by his beloved wife, Amelia “Sissy” (nee Belmont); his devoted nieces Maria Belmont and Anita Ferreira and her husband, Tony and their children Anthony, Jenna and Jillian; and by his caring sisters, Jeanne Orcutt and husband Harold, Sue Kolcun and husband Chuck and his brother, Donald and wife Nancy. Frank was a fun-loving and dedicated uncle to his six nieces and nephews, Diane, Chuck, Chrissy, Rob, Joe and Mike; 10 great-nieces and nephews and two great-great-nephews.

Donations may be made to either St. Anthony’s Church, 409 N. Second St., East Newark, N.J. 07029 or to Hospice Care of Hackensack, 25 E. Salem St. 2nd Floor, Hackensack, N.J. 07601 in loving memory of Frank.

Marie Basile

Marie P. Basile, 69, died on Dec. 21 in St. Joseph Villa in Wissahickon, Pa.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Cecilia’s Church, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thielereid.com.

Miss Basile was born in Brooklyn and lived in North Arlington before moving to Kearny in 1972.

She was a clerk for Prudential Insurance in Woodbridge for 35 years, retiring in 1996.

Marie is survived by her brother Thomas A. Basile and his wife Denise Wallack; one niece Yvonne Basile; her uncle Anthony Basile, and her cousin Carolyn Basile.

Mary Ann Bielski

Mary Ann Bielski (nee Brennan), of Toms River, passed away Monday, Dec. 30, at St. Claire’s Hospital in Dover.

Mary Ann was born on March 25, 1949, to the late Martin and Catherine Brennan of Kearny. Mary Ann is survived by her husband Robert Bielski and her daughter Erin Catherine Coller and her husband Matthew, all of Toms River, and also her brother, Joseph Brennan of Bergenfield.

Mary Ann was a devoted wife and loving mother who enjoyed time with her family and spending her summers at Island Beach State Park. Mary Ann was a member of the Fairleigh Dickinson financial aid family for 12 years from 2000-2012. Mary Ann exemplified unselfishness and touched the hearts of those that knew and loved her. Mary Ann was a parishioner at St. Justin the Martyr Church, Toms River.

Arrangements were by the Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals, 995 Fischer Blvd., Toms River. A Mass of Christian burial was held on Monday, Jan. 6, at St. Justin the Martyr Church, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery, both in Toms River. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to the ALS Association: 321 Norristown Rd. Suite 260 Ambler, Pa. 19002 in honor of Mary Ann Bielski. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.ryanfuneralhome.com.

Jorge L. Bless

Jorge L. Bless, of Kearny, passed away on Dec. 31. He was 43-years-old.

Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Jorge moved to the United States with his family when he was 12-years-old. They lived in Harrison before moving to Kearny in 1995. He worked for AXA Financial, Secaucus, as a annuity analyst for the last 11 years.

Jorge is survived by his beloved wife, Maria (Roca), cherished daughters Natalie and Melanie Bless, loving parents, Jorge E. and Ana M. (Santos) Bless and dear siblings, Henry E. Bless and Ana E. Martinez.

Arrangements were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. His funeral services and interment will take place in Peru. For information or to send condolences to the family please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Mary Victoria McDonough

Mary Victoria McDonough, 67, died peacefully at home on Jan. 1 after a lengthy illness.

Funeral services were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. A funeral Mass was offered at Holy Cross Church, Harrison. Her interment took place in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. For information or to send condolences to the family, please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Known to her family as Torry, and to her friends as Vicki, Mary Victoria was born on August 14, 1946, in Newark and lived most of her life in her beloved Harrison. She attended Holy Cross School, Marylawn of the Oranges Academy, and graduated from the College of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, in 1968. Her teaching career included 19 years with the Harrison School District where she taught first grade. She had also taught English at the El Centro Bilingual, Cuernavaca, Mexico. A parishioner of Holy Cross Church for most of her life, Mary Victoria served as a lector and as a Eucharistic minister. She was active in the church choir, the Rosary Society and taught C.C.D. for many years. Her community service included membership on the Board of Trustees of the Harrison Public Library and teaching English as a second language.

Predeceased by her parents, Marie T. (Young) and Raymond J. McDonough Sr., Mary Victoria is survived by her sisters, Maureen Miller of Sparta, and Kathleen Fitzpatrick of Los Angeles, by her brothers and sisters-in-law Thomas and Ann McDonough and Mayor Raymond McDonough and his wife Constance, all of Harrison, nieces Kimberly and husband Alfredo Huaranga, Breena and husband Taku Taira of Glendale, Calif., Kara and husband David Bajot of Palo Alto, Calif., nephews Thomas and wife Tara McDonough and Michael and wife Suzi of Mission Viejo, Calif. and great-nieces and nephews, Anthony and Giuliana Huaranga, Lev and Sei Taira, and Katie and Sarah Fitzpatrick and Alex Bajot.

Mary Victoria will be greatly missed by her family and by her many friends and associates both at Holy Cross and Lincoln School. Memorial donations may be made to the Holy Cross Restoration Fund, 16 Church Square, Harrison, N.J. 07029 or to a charity of your choice in her loving memory.

Anna Mae Pearn

Anna M. (Joll) Pearn, 94, died on Dec. 27, 2013, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. The funeral service was held at the funeral home, followed by interment in Rosedale Cemetery, Linden. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.

Mrs. Pearn was born in Kearny and lived there most of her life.

She was employed for the U.S. Postal Service and served as a personnel supervisor at the bulk mail in Kearny for many years.

Anna is survived by her children Maryann Witherspoon, Fred, Frank and Tom; one sister Mildred Mella; 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

She was predeceased by her husband Frederick Pearn, her sons Robert and John and her grandson Freddie.

Pauline Plaugic

Mrs. Pauline Plaugic, of Kearny, died on Dec. 31. She was 77.

The funeral Mass was held at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery. Arrangements were by the Condon Funeral Home 684 Kearny Ave., Kearny.

Mrs. Plaugic had been an administrative assistant for Bambergers in Newark for many years until retiring.

Pauline is survived by her husband, Donald and her children, Deborah Diglio (Paul), Paula Bardzilowski (Ronald), Donna Pedati (Philip) and Donald Plaugic Jr. (Angelina). Also surviving are her brother, Harry Gerstenmaier as well as her 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider donations to barnabashealthhospice.org.

Mary Wharrie

Mary Wharrie (nee Mc- Nally) died Dec. 9 at her home in North Arlington.

Born in Paisley, Scotland, she lived in North Arlington for the past 48 years.

She was a food service worker at the West Hudson Hospital in Kearny before her retirement. She was a member of the North Arlington, Happy Senior Citizens and the North Arlington Senior Activity Center.

She was the beloved wife of the late William James, the cherished mother of Raymond and his wife Alice and William and his wife Robin, the loving grandmother of William Craig and Steven James, and the dear sister of James McNally of England and Nan Bennett of Australia.

The funeral service was held at the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Rd., North Arlington, on Thursday, Dec. 12. A private cremation followed.

Donations in her memory may be made to the North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Rd., North Arlington, N.J. 07031.

Highlights from the Harrison Police blotter

Jan. 3

At 9:59 a.m., police were sent to Hiram Place on a report of someone threatening a second party with a snow shovel.

Upon arrival, the man claiming to be threatened told officers that the owner of the vehicle parked directly behind his car had started yelling at him that he was too close to his vehicle and told him to move his car.

While continuing to shout, the man was walking toward him while brandishing a snow shovel, the reporting party told police. While waiting for police to show up, the man being threatened tried to defuse the situation, asking the other man to calm down, police said.

At this point, the man with the shovel allegedly told the other man that if he didn’t move his car, he would slash his tires, the reporting party told police.

Police charged the shovel man, Aljo Huseinovic, 49, of Harrison, with aggravated assault and released him on his own recognizance pending a court appearance.

Jan. 1

At 2:42 a.m., police were dispatched to the 600 block of Sussex St. on a robbery report.

When officers got there, the victim told them he was walking east on Sussex past Washington St. when he was jumped by two males who punched him several times in the face and head, knocking him to the ground.

One of his attackers then took his iPhone 5S, valued at $400, and a debit card and both fled on foot, last seen going west on Sussex toward Fifth St., the victim told police.

Police said a witness reported seeing two males jump out from behind a parked vehicle, assault the victim and then run from the scene in the direction of Fifth St.

Both attackers were described only as wearing black jackets, police said.

A search of the area by patrol units proved futile, according to police.

Detectives are continuing to investigate the incident.

– Ron Leir

2013: The year in review



Compiled by Karen Zautyk & Ron Leir
Observer Correspondents


Candles and fl owers placed by friends and strangers at the home of murder victim Alishia Colon (inset).

Candles and fl owers placed by friends and strangers at the home of murder victim Alishia Colon (inset).



The most dramatic local news story of the year was also the most horrific:

The murder of 16-year-old Alishia Colon of Kearny in her Belgrove Drive bedroom Jan. 17. The Kearny High School student, killed by a bullet to the head, was an innocent victim whose slaying, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, appeared to be “retaliation over an ongoing dispute between alleged street gang members and members of the victim’s family.” Alishia, the HCPO said, “was not believed to be part of that dispute at all,” and her death was but “the tragic consequence” of the feud.” Within two days, a Pennsylvania man was arrested in that state in connection with the killing. In early February, three more suspects — from East Orange, Orange and Willingboro — were nabbed and charged with firstdegree felony murder. As of Jan. 1, 2014, all four defendants were still in jail, and no trial date had been set.

In another murder case, this one dating to August 2011, Harrison resident Carlos P. Campos, 23, was judged mentally incompetent to stand trial in the fatal stabbings of his parents and 3-year-old niece in their Hamilton St. home.

Three Kearny firefighters are injured when a ceiling collapses during a fierce blaze in a six-family Devon St. home. It takes three hours to bring the fire under control, but police and firefighters safely evacuate all 24 occupants of the building.

North Arlington firefighters battle both flames and frigid temperatures when fire engulfs a Ewing Ave. commercial building. Frozen hydrants and water lines lead to low water pressure. The crews were on site for 17 hours and were aided by firefighters from 11 other towns.

After six months, traffic finally resumes over the rehabbed Clay St. Bridge in Harrison.

Speaking of traffic, the state Department of Transportation announces plans to shut down the northbound Pulaski Skyway for two years, starting early in 2014, for a $1 billion repair project on the 80-year-old elevated roadway.

Harrison Mayor Ray Mc- Donough, a lifelong Democrat, makes headlines with his endorsement of Republican Gov. Chris Christie for reelection.

The mayor, the gov and members of the Harrison Town Council gather at Tops Diner in East Newark for the announcement.

Speaking of East Newark, that borough takes aim at pigeon- lovers, introducing an ordinance to prohibit feeding of the birds, which it deems a health threat. The law is subsequently approved. Read more »

Sports Year in Review: 2013

Harrison soccer, Lyndhurst baseball top the list


Photo courtesy Ronald Shields The Harrison boys’ soccer team won both the Hudson County Tournament and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II championships last fall, earning the top spot on The Observer’s Top 10 Sports Stories for 2013.

Photo courtesy Ronald Shields
The Harrison boys’ soccer team won both the Hudson County Tournament and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II championships last fall, earning the top spot on The Observer’s Top 10 Sports Stories for 2013.



By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The calendar year 2013 provided plenty of thrilling moments for local sports fans. It’s very hard to organize all those events, then slice them to down to a precise 10 and then finally rank them.

So we will do our best once again to provide The Observer Top 10 Sports Stories for 2013.

Here goes:

Harrison wins state sectional soccer title; Sowe earns All-America honors

The Harrison boys’ soccer team enjoyed a sensational season, tying a school record with 22 wins, losing just once and capturing both the Hudson County Tournament and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II championship. The only blemish on the great season was the loss to Newton, 2-1, in the overall NJSIAA Group II semifinals.

Other than that, it was a year to remember, capped by defender Modou Sowe being selected as an All-American, the first ever Blue Tide player to receive the honor. Sowe had an astounding 19 goals as a defender, a total almost unheard of, except that Sowe tallied 20 goals a year ago. He leaves a legacy as one of the greatest all-around talents at a school with an impressive ledger of great players. Read more »

Christmas Eve bank heist


Photo courtesy KPD Kearny robbery suspect on security video

Photo courtesy KPD
Kearny robbery suspect on security video


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Police are looking for the man who robbed a local bank of $3,000 the day before Christmas and made good his escape before officers could get to the scene.

Police Chief John Dowie said the crime occurred “just after [the bank] opened,” at about 9:10 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 24, when a man entered the Chase Bank, Kearny and Johnston Aves., and handed a female teller a note reading: “I have a gun. Don’t be stupid. Count 3,000 and put it in an envelope.”

“He said he had a weapon but didn’t display it,” Dowie said.

Dowie said the man told the teller he wanted the money in $50 bills, so he was directed to a second teller’s window where those bills were accessible.

That teller then placed the bills in an envelope and gave it to the man who then ran out of the bank and was last seen heading west on Johnston Ave., Dowie said.

It is possible there may have been a getaway car waiting for him at some point, Dowie said, but no one reported seeing the man actually enter a vehicle.

At the time of the incident, there were a few customers in the bank, Dowie said.

Dowie said that Det. John Plaugic has been placed in charge of the local police investigation and will be working with FBI agents to try to find the robber.

Investigators will be reviewing video from the bank’s surveillance cameras in hopes of gleaning clues to the man’s identity, Dowie said.

The robber was described by police as in his 50s, with a pockmarked face and a scar below his right ear, wearing a full-length, gray zipper hoddie and black skull-type cap, black dress shoes, gloves, and white safety glasses.

People with information on the case are asked to contact the Kearny PD Detective Bureau at 201-998-1313.

Thoughts & Views: Have yourself a merry Little Christmas



On Monday, the N.Y.C. Sanitation Department began its annual curbside pickups of discarded Christmas trees.

Monday! Less than a week after Christmas Day. Who gets rid of their tree that fast?

Obviously, a lot of people. But then, in recent years, some folks appear to be putting up their trees around Halloween, so by Dec. 31, the things are nothing but dead stalks holding brown needles.

For shame. This is what has happened because the holiday has become so commercialized that some stores start selling Christmas cards in August. (I will not name the stores; they deserve no free advertising.) The first time I saw this, I complained to the store manager, who explained he had no control over the premature promotion; it had been ordered by “corporate.”

Whatever happened to the 12 Days of Christmas? And I am not talking about partridges in pear trees.

In olden days, happy golden days of yore, the Christmas season did not start until after Thanksgiving. But it lasted through Jan. 6.

If you count them, the 12 Days of Christmas actually extend from Dec. 25 through only Jan. 5. But the 6th, Epiphany/ Feast of the Magi, has long been the traditional final day of Christmastide. This was the day that the Three Wise Men finally arrived in Bethlehem, bearing their gifts for the Christ Child. The importance wasn’t the gifts; it was the manifestation to man that this infant was the Son of God. (If I’ve got that wrong, theologians correct me please!)

In any case, the 6th is what we marked as Little Christmas in my home, a tradition linked to the Ukrainian side of my family. (And, I have just discovered, apparently to the Celtic side, too. Who knew?)

Because my father had long since “converted” to Roman Catholic from Ukrainian Catholic (not to be confused with Ukrainian Orthodox or Russian Orthodox; it all gets very confusing), we had no special Little Christmas celebrations, other than going to church for the Feast of the Epiphany. But the day did mark the official end of the Yuletide season. And it was on Jan. 6 that our Christmas tree and other decorations came down. Never a day before. From the scattershot research I have done on (pass the salt grains please)

Wikipedia, Little Christmas appears to date to the Julian Calendar, which was succeeded by the current Gregorian Calendar, which marked Christmas as Dec. 25. However, also according to Wikipedia, even before the Gregorian Calendar was adopted, western churches had begun celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25. Wikipedia also reports that Little Christmas is traditional in Ireland (Jan. 6) and the Scottish Highlands (Jan. 1). I had never heard of that before. I’d be happy to have that confirmed by any of you Irish or Scottish readers out there.

In the west, Jan. 6 is also known as Three Kings Day, cause for particular celebration in Hispanic communities. And just as children put out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, some Spanish youngsters reportedly put out boxes of grass for the camels of the Magi on the eve of Jan. 6. I had never heard of that before, either, but it is very sweet.

Whatever its origin, Little Christmas is still a tradition in many families, mine included. (The reindeer antlers and red Rudolph nose decorating my car will remain until the 6th, by the way.)

If you have never marked the date before, may I suggest you start, if for no other reason than because it extends the season of peace and joy. For more practical purposes, it gives you an excuse to delay the ornery task of removing the lights on your roof and deflating the giant snowman on your lawn. But, please, try to get them down sometime before Easter.

– Karen Zautyk


In The Observer’s issue of Dec. 11, 2013, a press release for Roosevelt School academic honors misspelled a student’s name. Here’s the corrected entry: Honors: 4th Grade, Ava Lynch.