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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 […]


Kearny couple still firing Cupid’s arrows a half-century later

Photo courtesy the Dolans/ JoAnn and Charlie Dolan.


By Jeff Bahr

Since Valentine’s Day is a grand celebration of love, we at The Observer thought it prudent to include one of romance’s local success stories.

Charlie and JoAnn Dolan, of Kearny, have known blissful love for 54 years and counting. Well, blissful may be overstating things just a bit. According to JoAnn, “Longevity in marriage takes a lot of hard work, patience and endurance in good times and bad.”

To add emphasis to her point, JoAnn references the book “Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom. “In the book (the couple) were wed 60 years and the wife said she had about ‘30 happy years,’ ” explained Dolan. “When questioned as to how that could be when they were married for 60 years, the wife replied, ‘well ten minutes here, two hours there, a day here, another day there, it all added up to about 30 years,’ ” said Dolan. “Being happy is not a 100 percent continuous option. But one learns to ‘hang in there’ and the years fly by.”

Husband Charlie says that marriage has been more “fun and games” than not. His father once told him that the “vicissitudes of life come, but they also go.” He tries to stay mindful of that as he navigates the marriage roller coaster.

The couple met at St. Cecelia’s High School. He was an athlete, she a cheerleader. As such, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the two would cross paths. JoAnn says that this dynamic has followed them through the years. It was always, “Yea Charlie, Rah Dolan…Yea Rah Charlie Dolan!” she says.

The Dolans have three grown children: Danny, Mary Jo, and Bernadette, and no fewer than eight grandchildren. If you think these latest additions to the brood play on the couple’s nerves, think again. “If we knew grandchildren were so much fun, we would have had them first!” quips JoAnn.

“As we are aging – much too rapidly – the aches and pains abound,” says JoAnn about the couple’s current challenges in life. “But we are determined to be there for each other – for better or worse.” These last four words represent a simple yet profound promise that has sustained the couple for more than half a century. We should all know such love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Happy Valentine’s Day!

publisher@the observer.com


By Lisa Pezzolla

Love is in the air and as Valentine’s Day approaches, we want to show our love by sending flowers or buying that special gift for the one we love. Nowadays people are getting married and divorcing as if they were returning something at the store that doesn’t fit. It is so beautiful to see older couples who still walk hand in hand after many years together, who have gone through bad times and managed to make it through the worst and still fall back on the vow “for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
These days, couples treat marriage like it’s a disposable institution. Many believe it’s better to quit when the hard stuff comes around rather than work through their difficulties. This sort of mindset lives only for the good in other aspects as well – a move that suggests that today’s couples take wedding vows far more lightly than those that came before them.
What are we looking for? Why do we yearn to love and to be loved? At its best, love is a magical feeling that makes one feel complete. As you mature and go through life you come to realize that the magic is not easy and it takes work and understanding. To love and to give to others, we must respect ourselves first. Always respect others’ feelings and how you would feel if you were in their shoes.
This week we are featuring a special couple, the Dolans, on page 5. They are special people to each other and to others.  The magic between them after 54 years of marriage is beautiful. If you would like to share your secret to a successful love experience please send me a letter.

A man’s view: We do it ‘cause we love you!

Most of us know Valentine’s Day as the annual February 14 celebration of romantic love. That it certainly is. But what many don’t know is how it began or why we still celebrate it. I could bore you with obscure historical details and endless factual minutiae, but that would be about as much fun as standing 50-deep in a line of male “romantics” on February 13 solely for the thrill of forking over a C-Note for cruddy red roses that will prove, beyond doubt, our eternal love for our ladies. Yes, folks, I am about to explore this sugary annual rite through male eyes. Ladies, you’ve been warned.
First a little background. Do forgive me. An unclear number of Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine got to the heart of things (get it?) a few millennia back.  Their loving actions and deeds spurred Pope Gelasius to create a remembrance day for them in 496 AD. As a result Saint Valentine’s Day was born.  In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church officially stopped celebrating the holiday citing ambiguity concerning the original Saint Valentine as their reason.  Hmm…My guess is the change really came at the behest of male parishioners.
“Yo Padre, give us boys a break wit’ dis sissy holiday, wud ya’? Our guylz are spendin’ all our loot on frilly junk and askin’ us to be respectful too. It ain’t right! It goes against natural laws or somethin’!”
It may be true. The money that I’ve spent over the years on lingerie, jewelry, lingerie, fancy restaurants, lingerie, flowers, candy, lingerie, perfume, “Who Loves Ya’ Baby?” airplane-banners, lingerie, sappy mix-tapes, Vermont Teddy Bears, Please-take-me-back-before-I-jump-off-a-bridge cards and more lingerie, could have been far better spent. One example: I could’ve sent my long-suffering fiancé (AKA “The Fair Maria”) on countless weekend trips with suitably handsome and witty male escorts. Instead, my beloved will now spend yet another Valentine’s Day with yours truly; a tedious and unsettling pastime not dissimilar from digging out the last shards of an ingrown toenail.
Such colossal letdowns fail to factor in the epic battles that often occur on this blissful day of manufactured love. Like Christmas, the holiday can build up great expectations in the minds of those seduced by it (women only). This will often lead to an anti-climax, or worse, when the day doesn’t quite work out as planned.
Some years ago I took a romantic phone call from my sweet, loving lady on that heavenly February day. She was purring rather suggestively, affirming her undying love for me while whispering sweet nothings in my ear. At the risk of sounding soft, I must admit that the moment was idyllic, and, if I’m being honest a tear had come to my eye. Then my girlfriend picked up the extension line and ruined everything! Killjoy.
All kidding aside (or am I?) you’re probably asking why we “relationship guys” go through this tiresome ritual each and every year without fail? Ladies, get ready to grab your hankies – or a camera to record for posterity (or blackmail) that which you’re about to read – because I feel more male honesty coming on. We do it for this simple reason: We love you and want to make you happy.
There, I actually said it. Contrary to popular beliefs concerning men and their supposed locker-room Machismo, we troglodytes are really happiest when we know that you – the women that we love – are feeling fulfilled. There are scores of ways to accomplish that goal, and many ways to fall short of the mark. I’m certain I’ve cornered the market on the latter. Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day gives us a grand opportunity to prove to you how much you really mean to us. We’d be absolute fools not to seize it!
Look, I readily admit that the associated shopping can be a genuine pain in the butt, and getting in touch with one’s deepest romantic emotions is tougher for some men than others. Yet despite our gruff protests to the contrary, I don’t suppose there’s anywhere that we big galoots would rather be on a bracing Valentine’s Day eve than in the warm, gentle embrace of the women that we love.
So there you have it. Just don’t tell my gym buddies that I said so. They’d never let me back into the locker room.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Jeff Bahr

Feds helping pay for new fire pumper

Photo Credit by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Happy to hear about the new rig, from l., are Capt. John Hund, Commissioner Alphonse Petracco, Dep. Chief Paul Cafone and Chief Philip Nicolette.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

The Nutley Fire Department will get a much-needed update now that the Department has been approved for the U.S. Assistant to Firefighters grant.
The Fire Department was notified Feb. 1 by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8th District), who relayed the news to Dep. Fire Chief Paul Cafone.
“Without Congressman Bill Pascrell and (Public Safety) Commissioner Alphonse Petracco, this wouldn’t be possible,” said Cafone. “This is a prime example of everyone working together,” added Petracco.
The grant is being used to acquire a new pumper truck to replace the volunteer rig, which has been in use since 1982. The search for a new truck is in the “very early stages.”
Nutley was awarded $290,500 in grant money, 10% of which will be matched by the township in what as known as a 90/10 match. The federal government will max out at $265,950 and the town will pay $29,550. If the price of the truck extends past the $290,500 price of the grant, the town will have to pay the extra amount.
As for the truck itself, Cafone and Fire Capt. John Hund are still in the process of putting a committee together to prepare the bid specifications. According to Cafone, the committee will consist of Cafone, Hund, Fire Chief Philip Nicolette, and two other members of the Nutley Fire Department yet to be determined.
The new truck will either be a brand new model or what is known as a demo truck, a truck that is taken to shows. The demo truck would have more mileage on it, but would only have been used at shows to showcase the model’s options.
The biggest obstacle for the new equipment will be the height of the truck itself. Since the truck will be kept at the Park Ave. fire station, the truck has to meet the height of the garage doors, which currently stand at 9 feet-10 inches.
Committee members will also look to make sure it has room to carry up to six firefighters, including the driver, along with a class 1 pump, and a 750-gallon water tank. The truck will also need to meet certain national standards in order for it to be put in use.
What will happen with the current truck, which has an estimated 61,000 miles, has not been decided.
“This truck has been the pride of this (Engine 3) house,” Nicolette, a 30-plus year member of the Nutley Fire Department.
Since its purchase in 1982 for $72,800, the truck has seen service in many memorable blazes in its tenure, including being one of the responders to the World Trade Center attacks and other big fires and first responding situations in the area.
Nicolette recalled that during one blaze, the pumper pushed out water for nearly 24 hours straight, while using only a quarter of a tank gas.
“We really got some good service out of that truck,” Nicolette said.
Research on a new truck is in its beginning stages and very few specifications have been laid out.
While the Fire Department has already taken bids on the existing truck, no sale has been consummated but the township figures to decide what to do within the next couple of months.

News briefs from the local area

A trouble-plagued bar in East Newark was ordered shut for six months by the Borough Council on Jan. 25 after the council concluded that the  Ambatenita Bar & Restaurant, 415 N. Third St., violated a Dec. 14, 2011, consent order.
The closing runs through June 30, at which point the licensee, Jorge Beltran, will have to apply for a license renewal, according to borough officials.
Police Chief Ken Sheehan said the bar failed to live up to one of the conditions in the consent order mandating a 10 p.m. closing on certain days. Sheehan said police, acting on a neighbor’s tip, visited the bar at 10:20 p.m. on Jan. 8 and found customers still being served.
Mayor Joseph Smith said the licensee, accompanied by his Newark attorney Fausto Simoes, offered no defense against the charge and accepted the penalty of six-month suspension of his liquor license.
Smith said that Beltran has operated the bar since 2007.
The Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Feb. 2 to approve a controversial plan by Peter Garofalo to operate a roll-off container yard at 95-107 Roosevelt Ave., despite opposition by neighbors.
However, at the suggestion of its planner John Madden, the board attached a list of conditions under which Garofalo’s business can function at the site.
Neighbors worried that a roll-off yard would bring unwanted traffic, noise and pollution.
But the zoning board noted that if the site were developed as a trucking terminal – which is a permitted use in this zone – there could be as many as 60 trucks driving in and out of the property – a much more “intensive” use that the one the applicant was proposing.
In any event, the board stipulated that Garofalo could store roll-off containers overnight on the 17,600 square foot lot only if he arranged for vehicles to enter and exit the property in the “forward” position and that they could safety maneuver; kept the containers empty of debris; kept no more than 40 on site; didn’t stack the containers; hauled only construction debris and no hazardous wastes or household trash; used the site exclusively for his business; provided 3/4-inch clean stone gravel surface; conducted no “major truck repairs” on site; vacuumed debris from his dumpsters on a daily basis; installed slat-fencing and landscaping in the rear and front of the property; and put in a guard rail as a buffer to neighbors’ properties.
Garofalo, who was represented by attorney Robert Gaccione, said he’d operate the business from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
The board agreed to defer to April a ruling on an application by St. Mary and St. Mercurius Coptic Church to demolish three homes and another structure and build a dome-shaped youth center with parking at 125 Academy St.
Starting this year, town residents will go the polls in November – the same time as the general election – to choose candidates for the Kearny Board of Education.
The mayor and Town Council voted Jan. 24 to move the school election from April to November (as did the Board of Education on Jan. 17), as permitted by a newly passed state law signed by Gov. Christie.
Residents won’t have to vote on the school budget unless the Board of Education exceeds a state-mandated 2% tax levy cap, said Mayor Alberto Santos. In that event, the budget would face a public vote in November, he said.
Santos said that taxpayers will realize a $30,000 savings in costs for election board workers, voting machine transport, rental of polling places and overtime by consolidating the two elections to one ballot in November and, at the same time, the town should see a bigger turnout for the school balloting, which has, typically, been low. The April 2011 school election, for example, drew only 14% of the electorate, according to Santos.
Candidates for school board must file nominating petitions with the Hudson County Clerk’s Office by 4 p.m. on June 5, when the primary election is scheduled. Those school trustees whose terms would normally expire with the April election will continue as holdovers until year’s end, Santos said.
– Ron Leir

FiKus brings new genre to Donegal

Photo courtesy Hugo Juarez Photography/ FiKus matches their playing style with an unorthodox picture


By Anthony J. Machcinski

As music continues to constantly evolve as years go by, one Bergen County band hopes to keep pace with that trend with their so-called electro-funkadelic hip-rock.
FiKus, a group of five 20-somethings, is one of the up-and-coming bands in North Jersey. Formed while the group was still at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, the band’s members have been together for the past eight years, bringing their new style with them wherever they’ve taken the stage.
“We always have had a problem when people ask us who we sound like,” said percussion player Pete Kozak. “It sounds stereotypical when I say this, but I really don’t believe that we really sound like any one band. That’s why we came up with the genre.”
Despite being together for several years, the band only started to taste real success this past summer when the band was able to play 11 festivals all over the area. It comes as no surprise that when the band first started out, that audiences all over the area were left bewildered at what they just heard.
“We’ve played like VFWs and stuff like that and people don’t know how to react,” Kozak explained. “Our music is very energetic and they get into it, but it creates an interesting dynamic.”
This new energetic music was not something the band had planned to put together.
“It kind of just happened,” Kozak said. “We were fortunate enough to find each other and inspire each other in the way that we do. We enjoy it thoroughly.”
Their love of their own music brought the band to Catskill Chill in Hancock, N.Y., one of the 11 festivals they played this summer.
“Catskill Chill was the best time I’ve had all summer,” said Kozak, who loved the show because of the amount of great acts the band was able to play with.
Their newly-created genre, electro-funkadelic hip-rock, is really that, its own genre. With elements of several different types of music, including jazz, rock, ska, and jam bands such as the Grateful Dead, no one band, so far, really compares to the style in which FiKus has thrived. The best example of this blend is the nearly eight-minute-long composition “Cool Refrigerator.” The song starts with a minute and a half of dark theatrical styling that is reminiscent of Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera,” then simply reverts back to more of a jazz-flavored jam band, with vocals you could find on a 311 track.
It is this collection of styles that the band realizes is one of their strengths.
“We all listen to a lot of jazz, rock, and the whole jam scene,” Kozak said. “It’s a large part of what we do. I feel like that’s the strength of the band. We pull from so many influences that it comes out something very blended.”
As for the future of FiKus, the band hopes to keep growing and expanding its horizons.
“We’re working on getting to other markets,” said Kozak. “We want to do some work in Boston and Philadelphia, the soul spots like B. B. King’s in the city. We just saw Tool at the Izod Center and we were thinking how cool it would be to play there.”
Despite the beginnings of success, the band knows that there is so much more for them to accomplish.
“We feel like we’ve achieved a good amount at this point, but it’s not nearly what we want to be doing,” Kozak said. “We want to be traveling the world and the country, making records and having bigger experiences.”
However, in the meantime, the band has one goal that will signify their success.
“Right now, we’re trying to save up for a tour van,” explained Kozak.
After playing Donegal on Feb. 3, FiKus will play Tap and Barrel in Smithtown, N.Y., before playing Sullivan Hall in New York City. Their album “Plus+” can be found on their website www.fikusband.com.

Around Town

Bloomfield Public Library will present a seminar called “Teach Your Kids About Money” on Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.

The program will be presented by Melissa Jaipal,  the local branch manager at Sovereign Bank in Bloomfield.  She has been with bank for five months, and has over six years experience in banking.

The library will present “Retirement Planning: What You Should Know” on Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. The seminar will be presented by Geraldine Callahan, of Conscious Wealth Building, a financial professional with 10 years experience in financial services. For more information on library programs, please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.


Harrison High School Class of 1972 will have its 40-year reunion on Saturday, March 10, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the Ramada Hotel, Newark Airport, 160 Frontage Road, Newark, for $45 per person. R.S.V.P. by Feb. 22. Lodging at the Ramada is available for an additional $50 per night. To reserve contact Iggy Rangel, reunion chair, HarrisonHighNJ72@gmail.com or 201-320-1414.

The Salvation Army, 28 Beech St., Kearny, is offering computer classes on Monday and Tuesday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon. A $30 fee is charged per 12 hours of instruction. The classes cover basic computer skills (mouse, keyboard, Internet), email, as well as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

The Junior Woman’s Club of Arlington is currently planning Candlelight Couples Bowling scheduled for March 24, at 10 p.m. Women age 18 and over who are interested in learning more about the club and its activities may visit www.jwcarlington.com, or contact Membership Co-Secretary Bernadette Oberndorf, at bdnob@verizon.net, for further information.

The Kearny Public Library Children’s Room announces free events for children in February:

At the Main Library, Play/Story Times for preschool age children will continue on Tuesday mornings from 11 a.m. – noon, and also on Thursday mornings from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Branch library Play/Story Times for preschool age children will continue on Thursday mornings from 10:15 – 11 a.m. The Branch Library is located at 759 Kearny Ave.

The Kearny Public Library Children’s Room is collecting valentines for the senior residents at Spruce Terrace until Feb. 10.  They can be homemade or store-bought, just as long as they are signed.  You can bring as many as you want to the Children’s Room at the Main Library, 318 Kearny Ave.  When you drop off your valentines, you can also pick up a prize to take home to help you celebrate this loving holiday.

Valentines for Your Valentine classes will be held on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 9 and 10, at 4:30 p.m.  No registration is needed. You can call with any questions about the card collection.

The Children’s Room invites ages 3 and a half and older to an art class with Mrs. Mills from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23. Get ready to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday with funny stories and fun art projects. The library will provide the art supplies.

Registration is not needed for any program. The Main Library is located at 318 Kearny Ave. For more information, visit the library on the web at www.kearnylibrary.org or call 201-998-2666.

Kearny library patrons can now set-up a one-on-one half-hour session with professional librarians for help with putting together and typing a resume and applying for a job online. The sessions will be held at the main library. To sign up, call (201) 998-2666.
The Kearny Rotary Club meets every Wednesday afternoon at 12:15 at La Fiamma Restaurant, 440 Harrison Ave., in Harrison. Business leaders from Harrison are invited to attend to learn about the work that Rotary International accomplishes around the world and in local communities. For more information about the Kearny Rotary Club or to join them for a meeting, call Joe D’Arco at 201-955- 7400 or Jose Fernandez at 201-991-1040.
Kearny UNICO has changed its meeting date to the second Thursday of the month.  The February membership meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m.  Anyone interested in attending the meeting and/or learning more about Kearny UNICO should contact Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409.  New members are welcome.
The West Hudson Detachment of the Marine Corps League invites all former and active duty Marines and FMF Corpsmen to attend an open house, which will be held every Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. at 286 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. Guests are welcome.


The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst has placed a decorated Valentine box on each floor of the Lyndhurst Public Library. Please support this project by placing a Valentine card in one of the boxes for a veteran.

The Lyndhurst Public Library invites the community to join in a continuous program titled “Connecting With Your Inner Self.”  This program is geared for those 50+ years old.  The purpose is to get people to talk about topics such as fears, aging, changing obstacles into opportunities, dealing with problems optimistically and appreciating where you are in life.  The next meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.  For more information, please call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7.

Lyndhurst Public Library announces the following activities for children: Walk-in story for pre-k to grade 2 is held on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays evenings. The program will resume in March.
Registration is open to Feb. 15 for the spring session of Storytime for age three and a half to 4. Two sessions are held on Thursdays for three and a half year olds only at 10:30 a.m. and for three and a half to 4-years-old at 1:30 p.m. Space is limited.

The library’s book club, for grades 3 to 5, will meet on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m. “Write Like a Pro,” a program for grades 3 to 5, will be held on Feb. 13 and 27. On Feb. 21 at 3:20 p.m., the library will host “Mardi Gras Mask Making” for grades 3 to 5.

All programs require registration prior to the event. Call 201-804-2480, ext. 221 for more information.

The talented cast and crew of Lyndhurst High School will present “Guys and Dolls,” on Thursday, Feb. 16, Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Lyndhurst High School auditorium.

Tickets are $10 each, and can be purchased in advance through the Lyndhurst High School Main Office, or at the door, each night of the show. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.  Refreshments will be sold at intermission.

Is New Jersey Water Safe? A film, the Highlands Rediscovered,” will be shown on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst. This visually captivating film on the New Jersey Highlands explores the history and beauty of a wilderness surrounded by – and supplying water to – one of the most densely-populated areas in the nation.  Is our water supply at risk?  Find out from the professionals who work and study there. Admission is free. For more information, call 201-460-8300 or www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec.

Andoniram Court No. 22, Order of the Amaranth at the Masonic Temple, 321 Second Ave., Lyndhurst, will have its annual winter auction on Sunday, Feb. 12, at noon.  For more information or tickets, contact 201-998-8248.

Mary Lou Mullins bus trip to Resorts in Atlantic City is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 28. This trip will include a special St. Patrick’s Day party bus. Cost is $25. The bus will leave St. Michael’s Church parking lot at 10:30 a.m. sharp. Refreshments will be served and Bingo will be played on the bus. Please make reservations early. Call Mary Lou at 201-933-2186.

St. Michael’s Church, Lyndhurst,  will have a bus ride to Showboat Casino in Atlantic City. The bus will leave, leaving the church parking lot on Page Avenue at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23. Price is $20 with a $30 slot return. Please call Georgiana at 201-438 7847 for more information.

Sacred Heart School is sponsoring its annual spring auction, a Tricky Tray, on Friday, March 23, at Sacred Heart School, 620 Valley Brook Ave., Lyndhurst. Doors open at 6 p.m. If anyone in your party has difficulty walking, an elevator will be available. No alcoholic beverages are allowed. For tickets, call the school at 201-939-4277 or Patty at 201-803-9580. Tickets are $10 per person and non-refundable. Ticket deadline is March 15.

North Arlington
The North Arlington Woman’s Club holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the North Arlington Senior Center, behind Borough Hall.  Guests are welcome.
Join Dr. Annette Cozzarelli, medical director of the Health and Wellness Center at Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC), and her panel of medical experts, for a heart health seminar, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. at the North Arlington Health Department, located at 10 Beaver Ave. Dinner will be served. There is no cost to attend this event. Wear red to show your support! To register, please call 1-888-724-7123, prompt 4 or visit www.barnabashealthcalendar.org. Walk-ins are welcome.

North Arlington Seniors, Inc. have trips listed for March 1 and April 12 to Casinos at Atlantic City (casinos not determined as of yet). A trip is planned for Thursday, March 15, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Royal Manor, Garfi eld. Cost is $63. For information or reservations, call Marie at 201-998- 6510 or Rose at 201-991-2423. All are welcome.

The Senior Harmony Club of North Arlington has scheduled the following trips: April 17 – Platzl Brau Haus, call Anna 201-939- 2960; June 4 – Bus trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto (fi ve days, four nights). The group will return to North Arlington on June 8. For information or to make a reservation, call Anna at 201- 939-2960.


A Teen Video Game Tourney will be held at Nutley Public Library on Friday, Feb. 10 and 24, at 3 p.m. Play Wii, Xbox or bring your DS to play each other.

A screening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” will be held at the library to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. Valentine’s goodies and refreshments will be served.

Teen Open/Anime Mic Night will be held at the library on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. Check the teen website for further details at http://nutleypubliclibraryforteens.wordpress.com.

Five Lyndhurst natives leading Paramus Catholic ice hockey team

Photo courtesy Dan Sabato/ The Paramus Catholic hockey team is enjoying a sensational season, thanks to the exploits of fi ve natives of Lyndhurst, namely from left, Derek Sabato, Domenick Sellari, D.J. Sabato, Danny Sowinski and Keith Henning.


By Jim Hague

When you think of Lyndhurst and the vast amount of talented athletes that have come from the town over the years, you probably think football first. There has also been a fair share of excellent baseball players to come from Lyndhurst. Wrestling has also produced a solid amount of standouts from Lyndhurst.

But the sport of hockey would be placed far down the list. Hockey players from Lyndhurst? The idea is unfathomable. After all, there is no ice hockey rink in the town and for anyone who plays hockey in Lyndhurst, it’s either the roller hockey variety or perhaps an impromptu street hockey game.

However, there are five young men who are changing that image in a very big way, helping to put Lyndhurst on the ice hockey map with their exploits for the Paramus Catholic High School hockey team.

Paramus Catholic is currently enjoying its best season in recent memory, posting a 13-2-2 record thus far. And the Paladins are doing well because of the five Lyndhurst players, namely senior captain D.J. Sabato, junior Danny Sowinski, sophomore Domenick Sellari and freshmen Derek Sabato (D.J.’s younger brother) and Keith Henning.

“It’s not something you see very often,” Paramus Catholic head coach Keith Bland said of the contributions of five players from the same town. “Lyndhurst isn’t exactly a hockey hotbed, but these kids all grew up together and have played hockey together for a long time. You don’t see something like this anywhere. They apparently got started with roller hockey, then joined travel hockey leagues to get a little more ice time to work on their skating and skills.”

Sabato, a senior forward, is one of the top scorers in all of northern New Jersey. He has scored 28 goals and has 15 assists for 43 points. The 28 goals ranks him third in goals and the 43 points places him fourth among all local scorers.

“I really expected him to do his thing this year,” Bland said of the elder Sabato. “He’s a very talented kid and he’s having a big season. He’s really put it all together and we rely heavily on him.”

Sabato said that the five Lyndhurst players decided to dedicate their season to the memory of another Lyndhurst native, Anthony Leonardo, who died tragically last summer, soon after graduating from Paramus Catholic. Leonardo played on the same line with Sabato last season.

“It was pretty bad losing Anthony and it came so unexpectedly,” Sabato said. “I think his loss hit everyone pretty hard. As a team, we all thought it would be a good idea to honor him and his memory.”

Sabato said that he’s not surprised with the team’s ascent to the elite in northern New Jersey.

“I knew we had the talent,” Sabato said. “We just had to put it all together. We were just a .500 team last year, but we knew we were better than that. We just wanted to make it to the state tournament last year. Now, we’re looking for a high seed. Everyone is more focused and we’re all working hard together. Once we started winning, it brought everyone together more.”

Sowinski is also a top scorer, collecting 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points.

“He’s done everything I could possibly ask of him,” Bland said of Sowinski. “He competes and plays hard every single night. He’s been our most consistent forward and does all the little things.”

Sowinski is also not surprised with the Paladins’ success.

“No, I think this is where we expected to be this year,” Sowinski said. “But I still think we’re exceeding expectations just a little. But we’re right on track to do some great things. We’ve put in a lot of hard work from the first day.”

Sellari is one of the Paladins’ top defensemen.

“He’s been excellent for us and been in our top pair of defensemen all year,” Bland said. “He’s having a terrific year. His hard work has paid off.”

The younger Sabato, a freshman, has played a role right away.

“He’s getting regular ice time,” Bland said. “He’s on our third line as a forward and doing well as a freshman, even though he’s still learning the game.”

“I’m definitely enjoying the fact that I’m playing with my brother,” the elder Sabato said. “It’s the only chance I’ll get to play with him and we’re doing real well.”
Henning is a big defenseman, standing 6-foot-6.

“At times he uses that big body and others, he’s hesitant,” Bland said. “He’s also still learning the game.”

But all five are playing and contributing.

“It’s awesome,” the elder Sabato said. “Lyndhurst is not a hockey town, but to have five guys from the same town all contributing is unbelievable. We have kids in school who hear the name of Lyndhurst and wonder where it is. And hockey? There’s no way. It’s been fun, with people always asking us about Lyndhurst. Maybe we’re helping to put Lyndhurst on the hockey map a little.”

Sowinski agrees.

“It’s very remarkable,” Sowinski said. “We’ve all known each other for such a long time. Whether it’s roller hockey or ice hockey, we’ve all played together before. D.J. was the one who convinced me to come to Paramus Catholic and I’m glad he did. I think it gives us an advantage, because we all know how to play together. There’s good chemistry between us. And now, we all have something to play for.”

As well as honoring a late friend.

“He would be thrilled that we’re doing so well,” the elder Sabato said. “He wanted us to win more than anyone. It’s definitely a great feeling.”

“It’s tremendous,” Bland said. “We only lost two games, both by one goal. We’ve been competing all year and we want to keep it going into the state playoffs.”

Thanks to the exploits of the five talented hockey players from Lyndhurst. Yes, hockey and Lyndhurst can now be synonymous.

Light at the end of the tunnel for NA girls’ basketball squad

Photo by Jim Hague/ The North Arlington girls’ basketball team won two straight games last week after starting the season in tough shape. From left are seniors Kim Mosher, Kristel Buie, head coach Karen Smith, Megan Namnama and Ashley Gandulla.


By Jim Hague

The high school girls’ basketball season wasn’t exactly going as planned for North Arlington. The Vikings, under second-year head coach Karen Smith, were experiencing some brutally tough times, losing game after game.

But never once did the Vikings lose faith and lose their spirit.

“We have a very good group of seniors who kept everything positive,” Smith said. “We all just knew it was a matter of time before we would get a win.”

But the 0-5 start quickly became 0-8 and then became 0-11.

“But I did see a lot of improvement since the start of the season,” Smith said. “We graduated eight seniors from last year’s team (that finished 8-12), so we knew that we were bringing some younger kids into the program. Even though we weren’t winning, I did see progress.”

Smith then decided to forget about the team’s misfortunes.

“We stopped paying attention to the record,” Smith said. “We tried to win at smaller pieces, like trying to win a quarter. By starting small, we saw if we could put three quarters together and then maybe have a chance to win in the fourth.”

Not once did the team’s demeanor change.

“It was always very good,” Smith said. “The girls were always positive. They were always encouraging one another and that really helped the spirit and the morale of the team.”

Smith also remained upbeat and strong.

“I told them that if they kept working hard, they then stood a chance to win,” Smith said. “Sooner or later, we were going to turn things around. I just knew it.”

Last week, the Vikings took on a Newark East Side team that had won five games, but presented an opportunity for a victory.

“I didn’t know much about them,” Smith said. “I knew they had five wins, but I told the girls that if they came out aggressive, good things could happen.”

The Vikings did exactly that, scoring 21 points in the first quarter en route to an easy win. Finally, after 11 losses, the Vikings had their first win of the season.

“It was a big game for us, because 12 girls scored in the game,” Smith said. “It was good to see smiles in the locker room.”

They didn’t wait long to get their second one.

In the very next game, the Vikings played well again and defeated Weehawken, a team in similar dire straits.

“I think the momentum from the Newark East Side game carried over to the Weehawken game,” Smith said. “We knew that they were in the same boat as we were.

But we absolutely knew we could build on the first win.”

Suddenly, the team that hadn’t a single win now had a two-game winning streak. It was a complete reversal of fortune. Things were definitely looking up.

“The wins have definitely helped us,” Smith said. “Things have definitely changed. We’re now looking forward to playing the teams in our league that beat us the first time around. I know we’re going to be a lot more competitive the second time.”

The Vikings lost at least two games early on that could be victories now with the new-found confidence and the younger players gaining valuable experience.
Leading the parade of youngsters is sophomore point guard Brianna Cunanan. The 5-foot-4 Cunanan is leading the Vikings in assists and developing into a good floor general.

“She handles the ball well and controls the floor for us,” Smith said.

Fellow sophomore Cara Dlugo, a 5-foot-8 forward, is also playing well.

“Over the last two weeks, she had two games in double figures, so she’s really coming around,” Smith said. “She’s our team leader in rebounds.”

The team is also bolstered by the play of some senior leaders, like 5-foot-5 guard Megan Namnama.

“She’s a good leader, a vocal leader,” Smith said. “She’s also our best defensive player, our go-to defensive player.”

Fellow senior Ashley Gandulla, a 5-foot-10 center, is another key contributor.

“She’s a good rebounder who has scored some key baskets down low,” Smith said.
The team also has two promising freshmen who are contributing and giving Smith a lot of hope for the future. Taylor Barth, a 5-foot-6 guard, had 14 points in the win over Weehawken. Elizabeth Danco, a 5-foot-5 freshman guard, scored nine points in the win over Newark East Side.

“They have definitely been promising,” Smith said.

So there is light at the end of the Vikings’ tunnel. There’s now a ray of hope when there once was none. Two straight wins will do that for a team, even if the Vikings did drop a tough game to NJIC Meadowlands Division leader Secaucus last Thursday. The Vikings are in much better shape now than they were a week ago or at the beginning of the season.

“We’re definitely looking forward to the second half of the season,” Smith said. “We’ve improved a lot in our fundamentals and we’ve cut down on our mistakes. We had games earlier in the year where we just couldn’t get there, but now I feel we can.”
Chances are there will be more wins down the road now, ever since the Vikings got a taste of the first one. And then the second one.

Kearny’s Gomes has 1,000 reasons for having a solid season

Photo courtesy Stefanie Gomes/ Kearny senior forward Stefanie Gomes holds the ball she received for scoring her 1,000th career point, becoming only the eighth girls’ basketball player in the school’s history to reach that milestone. Pictured with Gomes are coaches Jody Hill (left), Janine Wallace (second right) and Melina Montanez (far right).


By Jim Hague

The high school basketball season was reaching the midway point and the Kearny girls’ squad was teetering just a bit.

After a great start, the Kardinals sputtered to a handful of losses to teams that they should have never lost to. In the process, senior forward Stefanie Gomes, who started off the season with such an explosion that had her ranked among the top scorers in the state, slumped along with the team.

It was time for head coach Jody Hill to have a little heart-to-heart conversation with her star player.

“I talked to her about being more of a leader, that the team was down and the team needed her,” Hill said. “I told her that she needed to step up and be more of a senior leader. That when she got the ball, she needed to be more of a floor presence. She had to take the game on her shoulders. She admitted that she wasn’t used to it, but she was ready to give it a try.”

“She told me that I would have some good games, then I would have some bad ones,” Gomes said. “She said I had to do a better job with my shooting, that my shots weren’t going in. She told me I had to be more of a leader. I never did it before, but I listened to what Coach Hill had to say and I pretty much stepped it up.”

So Gomes took Hill’s words to heart and became more of a leader. She scored 19 points in a win over McNair Academic, scored 19 in a clutch win over an improving St. Anthony team that had won six straight games and capped her week by scoring 23 in a win over Cliffside Park.

This came on the heels of Gomes becoming the eighth girls’ basketball player in the school’s history to eclipse the prestigious 1,000-point plateau for her career.
For her efforts, Gomes has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Gomes, who is also a standout soccer player at Kearny, prepared for the current basketball season by playing almost every day in Harrison with and against a group of boys.

“You can’t shoot with the guys, so you have to drive to the basket,” Gomes said. “That worked most of the time while I was playing there. It gave me so much more confidence, playing with the guys.”

Gomes was a more aggressive player when the season began.

“This year, she’s definitely more of a slasher, getting to the basket,” Hill said. “She used to pull up to shoot. This year, she’s going to the basket and she’s not afraid to draw contact. She’s also equally strong with her left and right hands. She used to be all right-handed, but now, she sometimes goes more left than right. She’s also so fast that it takes her maybe five dribbles to get up the court. She just has that ability.”

Gomes knows that her speed is an asset.

“Sometimes, I get out of control because I operate at two different speeds,” Gomes said. “I’ve learned to slow down a little.”

Gomes obviously has already carved a niche as a top-flight soccer player. She ended her soccer career as one of the top scorers in the school’s history.

There was a time when Gomes would consider herself a soccer player first and a basketball player second.

That’s not the case any longer.

“I consider myself to be both now,” Gomes said. “I grew up playing soccer first, but now, I’m a legitimate two-sport athlete. I don’t know what I’m better in. I think some days I might be a better soccer player, but then I have a good day in basketball. It’s really evened out. Most definitely, I’m a lot better basketball player.”

“She’s learned to love the game more,” Hill said. “I know she’s equally talented in both sports, because she’s improved her basketball game tremendously. She never had that confidence before and now she knows she can be a special player. She’s showing a little bit of maturity now and that has come with the improvement in the game. She’s really put in a lot of hard work to improve.”

Gomes doesn’t know what sport she will play in college. She may try to play both. But at least now, there is a possible choice since basketball has become more of a part of her life.

“I’m not sure about anything right now,” Gomes said. “I may play both. I really don’t know. I always felt that I would probably play soccer. Now, I’m not so sure.”
Gomes also doesn’t have any firm offers, although Montclair State, where former teammate Janitza Aquino plays, has been in contact.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in the course of the past week. The coach-to-player chat worked wonders.

“It’s such a rewarding feeling,” Hill said. “We had a sit down and she absorbed what I had to say and she completely responded. She’s done what was asked of her and now, we got it back as a team.”

Three straight wins and an overall record of 15-5 will do that for a team and its star player.

“I always felt that this was going to be our year,” Gomes said. “We had a little bump in the road, but we’re fine now. I always listen to what Coach Hill has to say. She’s always there to help me. I think that we’re now looking for a home game in the county and state playoffs. The school record for wins is 19, so we’re shooting for that as well. We’re just four away from that. We’re going for it. This has been a great year for me.”

Now it is, after the little heart-to-heart that definitely hit home for Stefanie Gomes.