By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – After months of wrangling with his employer, the Kearny Board of Education, Frank Ferraro has tendered his resignation as Kearny superintendent of schools, effective Nov. 1. Ferraro, who was facing the threat of being fired after the board had brought tenure charges […]
KEARNY – A 13-year school employee has been promoted to vice principal assigned to Kearny High School. Paul Measso, 37, was appointed to his new job Oct. 20 at an annual salary of $128,163 (pro-rated), pending receipt of his principal certificate of eligibility from Trenton. He completed a master’s degree […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – The town’s first affordable residence for senior citizens at 774 Harrison Ave. is getting ever closer to reality. As construction of the 15-unit building nears completion, the sponsor, Domus Corp., the housing arm of Catholic Charities of Newark, has begun the process […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – When Kearny Vice Squad detectives busted a Newark man for drug possession/distribution Oct. 17 on Maple St., they reported recovering 135 folds of heroin. While the suspect was languishing in the Hudson County Jail on $40,000 bail, the KPD […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent EAST NEWARK – A court ruling has cleared the way – over objections by Harrison – for a Nov. 4 nonbinding referendum asking borough voters, “Should East Newark high school students be sent to Kearny High School instead of Harrison High School?” Harrison Board […]
There is one blessing most us take for granted almost all the time and that is breathing. And if we do think about it then it is primarily because we are having difficulty with it. To breathe right means we are allowing our mind and body to grow, to rejuvenate, and to be healthy. Any form of activity or exercise can help you achieve the right balance in life. But there is one form of exercise that is both physically and spiritually rewarding. Yoga, The age-old practice of maintaining a given posture while taking deep, deliberate breaths, helps in cultivating patience, alertness, and energy. It also keeps the body fit and refreshes the mind. The ancient science of Yoga is an ever-evolving activity that offers innumerable forms and different types of practices to suit every need.
The most important element of Yoga is its meditation. The word “Om” is very common in yogic meditation. Its loose translation is, “the light within me which enlightens my world salutes the light within you.” While chanting this mantra it is equally important to shut your eyes, relax your nerves, breathe right and let go of your worries. This will elevate you above your stresses and bring you mind, body and soul in perfect balance to work harmoniously with each other.
Science has seconded the opinion of the saints and masters who maintain that meditation benefits a person physiologically, psychologically and spiritually – thereby enriching one’s life with the power and knowledge to think clearly and act accordingly.
In India, Yoga is taught to school children from a very early age, because it is believed that this practice promotes flexibility of mind and body through signature body positions, breath and focus of intention – all of which are important in living a balanced life. So whether you are young or old, a seasoned practitioner or a newcomer, I urge you to embrace this process of transformation as you blossom into the best expression of your own self.
Visit Shweta Punjabi at her website solutionsbyshweta.com for more information or email her at email@example.com
Teresita Hernandez, of Harrison, died on Feb. 8. She was 76.
Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral service was held in the funeral home, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.
Teresita is survived by her son Ruben and his wife Suly, along with two sisters and five grandchildren.
James C. Kunkel, Jr.
James C. Kunkel, Jr., of Kearny, died on Feb. 6 in the Belgrove Post Acute Center in Kearny. He was 69.
Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held in Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, followed by private cremation.
Jim served in the Army from 1964-66 and was a warehouse manager at Kleer Kast in Kearny.
Surviving are his wife Dottie (Cicchino) Kunkel and his children and their spouses Joseph and Erica Cicchino, Valerie and Gary McCauley, Linda Ford and Daniel and Kathy Cicchino. Also surviving are his grandchildren Cara, Nicole, Gabi, Jesse, Patrick, Joseph, Kaitlyn, Timothy, Matthew, Jack and Gillian.
In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to the D.A.V.
Ismael E. Lafarga
Ismael E. Lafarga, 74, died on Feb. 11 at his home in Kearny.
Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral liturgy was held in Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, followed by entombment will follow at Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.
Ismael was born in Cuba, moving to the United States in 1962 and has lived in Kearny for the last 37 years. Mr. Lafarga earned his B.A. in Spanish from Montclair State College in 1975. He owned and operated Kearny Business Machines for 39 years retiring five years ago. He was a member of the Elizabeth Cubanos Lions Club as well as the District 6 – E Past Governor and a former member of the Kearny Afternoon Optimist Club.
Ismael is survived by his wife Leysi (Jaume); children Richard Lafarga David Lafarga (Rose) and Karen Matuch (Chris). He was the beloved grandfather of Isabella, Phoebe, Reid and Griffin Matuch and David and Chloe Lafarga. He also leaves behind his beloved dog Sophie.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to ALS Association Greater New York Chapter, 42 Broadway, Suite 1724, New York, NY 10004 or at alsny. org or to the Elizabeth Cubanos Lions Club, 440 Westfield Ave., Elizabeth, N.J. 07207.
Nettie (Kaminash) Lebofsky
Nettie (Kaminash) Lebofsky, 88, died on Jan. 30 in University Hospital, Newark.
Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A service was held in the funeral home on Sunday, Feb. 12. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.
Nettie was born in London, England, on Feb. 18, 1923, the daughter of the late Harris and Rose Kaminash. On April 18, 1943, she married her hus – band Alfred Lebofsky and in 1948 they immigrated to the U.S. and lived in North Arlington. They moved to Kearny in 1975.
She was employed as the office manager at Temperature Processing in North Arlington for 20 years before retiring 26 years ago. She was an active and beloved member of the Arlington Players Club in Kearny as well as a member of the B’nai B’rith Sisterhood.
She is survived by her husband of 68 years Alfred, and her two sons Dr. Martin Lebofsky and his wife Ellen R. and Bernie Lebofsky and his wife Ellen A. She was the grandmother of Eric Lebofsky and his wife Jenny, Naomi Lebofsky, Tara Webb and her husband David and Janine Lebofsky.
Alexis Mendez died on Feb 5. He was 28. Born in Newark, he lived his life in Belleville.
Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at the Basilica in Newark. Entombment was in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.
He is survived by his parents and his sister Karina. He was a tow truck operator for Dente Brothers and was an avid Giants fan.
Dorothy A. Millar
Dorothy A. Millar, 86, of Oswego, N.Y., passed away on Feb. 8 at her home.
Born in Kearny, she was a daughter of the late Patrick and Catherine (Doherty) Harte and had attended St. Cecilia’s School in Kearny.
She was employed with the Blue Cross Blue/Shield in Newark for 20 years.
Dorothy was a member of the Catholic Daughters at St. Mary’s Church in Oswego and the Rosary Society at St. Cecilia’s Church in Kearny.
Surviving are her three daughters, Kathleen (Bob) Heintz of Tampa, Fla., Mary Kerr of Oswego, Dorothy (Steve) Cole of Kinderhook N.Y.; four sons, Robert Millar of Indian Land, S.C., Kenneth Millar of Oswego, Patrick (Paula) Millar of Gilbert, Ariz., Michael Millar of Houston, 20 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren; and her devoted caregiver, Carol Beach of Oswego. She was predeceased by her husband Kenneth Millar in 1988 and three sisters, Katherine McDonald, Margaret Bochenko and Marie Bullock.
Funeral services were held in St. Cecilia’s Church, Kearny on Monday, Feb. 13.
Burial was in Gates of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover.
Arrangements were by the Dowdle Funeral Home, Oswego.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Cecilia’s Church,120 Kearny Ave. Kearny, N.J. 07032.
Anna V. Ozzano
Anna V. Ozzano (nee Ruggiero), 94, died on Jan. 24, at her home in North Arlington.
Born in New York, N.Y., she lived in North Arlington since 1948.
She worked for 15 years as a cashier at Thom McCann in North Arlington before retiring in 1974.
She was a member of the Arts and Crafts Club and the Tuesday Senior Citizens Club of North Arlington. She was the president of the North Arlington AARP 3969 from 1993 to 1995, during which time she was happy to have had the honor of presenting the North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad with their first defibrulator and eye screening machine.
She was the beloved wife of the late Joseph “Joe”; the cherished mother of Dorothy Ford and her late husband, Jerry of North Arlington; Ann Square and her husband, Harry of South Plainfield; the adored grandmother of Lori Matuszek and her husband, Stephen; Doreen Ford-Wilde and her husband, Gary; Edwin Johnson and his wife, Rhoda; Jaime Golda and her husband, Eugene; the loving great- grandmother of Katherine, Joseph, Ryan, Kaitlyn, Dominic and Jake and the dear sister of Dorothy Palella of Florida.
Funeral services were conducted by the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Road, North Arlington, on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a funeral Mass in Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington. Interment followed in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Compassionate Care Hospice Foundation, 11 Independence Way, Newark, Del. 19713.
Frances Ross (nee Cairney), died Feb. 5 at home. She was 73.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, she lived in Kearny before moving to North Carolina three years ago.
Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held in St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny. Entombment was in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. To leave online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com
Frances is the wife of the late John “Scotty” Ross. She is survived by her children and their spouses John and Tina Ross, Stephen and Alice Ross, Celene and Kevin Riley and Jacqueline Ross; her brothers Thomas and Hugh Cairney and her grandchildren Amanda, John, Andrew, Alyssa, Cameron, McKenna and Grace.
In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to University of North Carolina Cancer Center.
Lyndhurst Police are looking for two men who robbed a local gas station of about $1,000.
Police said the incident took place at 11:20 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Delta Gas Station on Riverside Ave., just north of Jauncey Ave. off Roosevelt Ave.
Two men entered the station’s convenience store where they ordered the clerk to open the register and turn over the proceeds.
The pair, one of whom displayed a handgun, ordered the clerk to the floor while they searched under the counter for money cash.
Then, the holdup men directed the station attendant, who was in the store at the time, to give them his money.
Both bandits then left the store and sped away in a silver vehicle north on Riverside Ave.
Neither the attendant nor the clerk was physically harmed, police said.
Police described the man with the gun as dark-skinned, medium build, between 5-feet-10 and 6 feet, wearing a black jacket, checked shirt, blue jeans, black gloves, black half-mask and winter fur hat with side flaps.
The other man was listed as dark-skinned, heavy build, between 5-feet-10 and 6 feet, wearing a gray sweatshirt and pants, black gloves, black mask and black winter skull cap.
Police said they are reviewing the store’s surveillance video as they continue their investigation. – Ron Leir
An argument between Kaien Jenkins, 32, of Newark, and his girlfriend was just the beginning of trouble for Jenkins. Police said the pair parked along Rt. 21 and, after quarreling, Jenkins left the vehicle and started walking along the highway. After stopping him, police discovered Jenkins was wanted by Newark on an outstanding warrant. Jenkins was turned over to Newark authorities.
Martin Errico, 20, of Clifton, was busted on drug possession charges following a motor vehicle stop on Oakley Terrace at 11:40 p.m. Police said they saw a small wax envelope containing suspected narcoticsWHAT DRUG? inside the car. Further checking disclosed several more packages, also believed to contain drugs.
Police are investigating a case of more than $1,000 in fraudulent charges, including some from Ohio, being placed on an Evelyn Place resident’s credit card. The resident reported the suspected fraud at 8:19 p.m.
Police went to a Washington Ave. car wash at 1:02 p.m. to check out a customer’s complaint that their car’s side view mirror had been damaged during a cleaning.
At 3:53 p.m. a motorist drove away from a Kingsland Ave. gas station without paying for gasHOW MUCH? received, police said.
Police stopped Joseph Tinsley, 23, of Paterson, as he was allegedly making an illegal left turn on Park Ave. at 8:28 a.m. Police learned he was driving with a suspended license and was wanted on a $250 outstanding warrant from Paterson. He was issued motor vehicles summonses and released after posting bail pending a court appearance.
A motor vehicle stop of a blue Chevrolet with a non-operating headlight, at 9:26 p.m., resulted in the arrest of Joseph Curcio, 34, of Bloomfield, wanted by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. Curcio was taken to Essex County Jail.
A 911 call brought police to a Winthrop Drive home at 8:22 p.m. After not being admitted, officers forced their way inside where they found blood on the floor. Investigation disclosed that the resident was dealing with a “pet emergency” and had taken the pet to an area animal hospital.
A 68-year-old Nutley man lost $2,300 after an apparent scam artist sent him counterfeit money orders as a “Secret Shopper” and then asked that he return the money via Western Union. The resident later learned that the individual he was dealing with was a fake. Police are urging residents to avoid sending money or wiring funds to anyone without first verifying the recipient’s authenticity.
A dog escaped from a cage and attacked another dog being walked by a woman along Kingsland Ave. at 9:51 a.m. The victimized dog suffered puncture wounds. Police gave the attacking dog’s owner a summons for having an unlicensed dog.
A hit and run driver who crashed and left the scene damaged several parking meters and planters along WHAT? roadway. Police are investigating the 2:15 a.m. incident.
A 59-year-old Franklin Ave. resident suffering from a MEDICAL CONDITION ? was reported missing at 9:30 p.m. Police contacted other agencies around the state in an effort to locate the woman and also appealed to the public for help. The next day, police said, the woman returned home, unharmed, and was taken to an area hospital for evaluation. Police are still trying to determine her whereabouts during the time she went missing.
Several motorists phoned police after 4 p.m. to alert them to a man repeatedly stumbling and falling in the area of Washington and Grant Aves. Arriving at the scene, police noticed the man’s hand was bleeding from his several falls and took him to an area hospital for treatment and evaluation.
At 8:47 p.m. police were called to a Washington Ave. residence after a 17-year-old had ripped a wide-screen TV off the wall in a fit of rage. Police calmed the teen and took him to a crisis center for evaluation. Charges are pending.
Police stopped a speeding vehicle near Sheppard Place, at 11:44 a.m., and learned that the driver had an expired registration. The driverWHO?was issued summonses and the car was impounded.
A Faber Ave. homeowner whose car was being repossessed had a shoving match with the repossesser and police were called to the scene at 10:58 a.m. Police persuaded the repossesser to release the vehicle and advised both parties of their rights to sign cross-complaints.
A police negotiator managed to defuse a potential hostage situation that developed at a Hancox Ave. home at 1:50 a.m. Police and EMS arranged to transport a 50-year-old resident to an area hospital for medical evaluation and the other individual involved in the incident was unharmed, police said.
A report of gun shots brought police to Hancox Ave. at 9:02 p.m. Officers were unable to account for the origin of the noises and speculated it may have been fireworks.
A driver backing up on Franklin Ave. near the post office, at 1:50 p.m., accidentally knocked a pedestrian to the ground, police said. The victim, who complained of leg pain, was taken to an area hospital.
Someone used a Brookline Ave. resident’s credit card to charge nearly $1,000 for the rental of a vehicle between Arizona and California, police said.
Police executed a traffic stop of a 2007 Audi on Park Ave. at 12:17 a.m. and determined that the driver’s registration had expired and that the driver’s license had been suspended. Police gave the driverWHO? summonses and impounded the Audi.
Police were called to a River Road apartment complex at 2:22 p.m. to investigate a burglary. Someone forced entry through the front door and ripped out a large-screen TV from its wall mount brackets.
Police, firefighters and EMS responded to a motor vehicle accident at Kingsland and Terrace Aves. at 10:12 a.m. Nainaben Patel, 49, of Nutley, was extricated from her overturned vehicle and taken to an area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Patel was charged with DWI.
Ricardo Powell, 24, of Perth Amboy, was arrested after he was reported to be trespassing in Red Bull Arena. Powell was released on his own recognizance.
Juan Placenia, 28, or Kearny was observed sleeping in his vehicle on Sussex St. Upon investigation, police discovered Placencia to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. He was then arrested, charged, and released.
Police observed two men fighting in the street in the area of Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Sussex St. at approximately 3:30 a.m. An investigation revealed that the two had just been involved in a motor vehicle crash. Onesilmo Rivas, 22, of Harrison who was bleeding from his mouth and his nose claimed that he was punched by Alvaro Gonzalez, 50, of Dover. Rivas was then arrested for Driving While Intoxicated and Gonzalez was arrested for assault. Further investigation revealed that Angel Nieves, 20 of Dover, who was a passenger in Gonzalez’ vehicle, had also assaulted Rivas. Nieves was then too arrested for simple assault. All three were later released on their own recognizance.
Theodore Clark, 52 of Newark, was arrested for attempting to pass a forged prescription blank at a Harrison pharmacy. He was released on a summons.
A Bergen St. resident observed his roommate’s vehicle being burglarized. The resident then informed his roommate and the two chased and apprehended the individual. After police were notified and responded, Manuel Ignacio Gonzalez Santos, 21 of Harrison, was arrested. Santos was also found to be in possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose prior to being shipped to the Hudson County Jain with a $12,000 bail.
Three vehicles were broken into while parked on Bergen St. beneath Rt. 280. A GPS unit and some loose change were stolen from the vehicles.
Matthew Dennison, 19 of Woodbridge, was charged with theft after he was accused of stealing a cell phone from an acquaintance. A warrant was issued for Dennison’s arrest.
Darryl Owens, 55 of Newark, was arrested for attempting to pass a forged prescription blank at a Harrison pharmacy. He was released on a summons.
Juan Maldonado, 43 of North Bergen, was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated after he was observed driving at a high rate of speed on Harrison Ave. Maldonado was also found to have outstanding warrants from North Bergen. After processing, he was released on his own recognizance.
A 1990 Honda Accord that was stolen from Newark was recovered in the parking lot on Hamilton St. beneath Rt. 280.
A 2002 Ford Econoline van was stolen from the parking lot on Hamilton St. beneath Rt. 280. The vehicle contained approximately $13,000 worth of tools.
Two vehicles were broken into while parked on Warren St. beneath Rt. 280. A portable GPS unit was stolen from one vehicle.
A 2002 Volkswagon Passat was broken into while it was parked on Hamilton St. beneath Rt. 280. At the time of the incident, it was unknown if anything had been stolen from within.
A 1994 Mitsubishi Galant that was reported to have been stolen from Kearny on January 15 was recovered on Manor Ave.
On February 2 at 4:33 p.m., units were dispatched to Pathmark at 115 Belmont Ave. on a shoplifting call. Store detectives gave police a description of a woman who had left the store without paying for her purchases. A woman fitting the description was spotted on Jeraldo St. and transported to the store for identification. After being identified by store detectives as the woman who had moved through the self-checkout line without paying, the woman said, “Look, I paid for my goods” and produced a receipt for $6.10. Since the receipt didn’t match the $56.96 worth of goods that the woman was seen leaving with, police arrested 42-year-old Aracelis Yamuca on a shoplifting charge. It was subsequently discovered that Yamuca had two outstanding warrants; one from Newark for $750, and another out of Belleville for $250. She was transported to the county jail and held in lieu of $1000 bail.
On February 2 at 5:09 p.m., units responded to a Liberty Ave. address on a sick person call. Police entered the house and found Anibal Rodriquez, 37, of Newark unconscious. They also found a syringe commonly used for narcotics. The man was taken to Clara Maass Hospital and charged with possession of a hypodermic syringe. He was released on his own recognizance.
On February 2, a vehicle was reported stolen from the 300 Block of Little St. The man said that he parked his car at 4 a.m. and when he returned at 7: a.m. it was gone. The missing vehicle is a 2001 Mercury Marquis color silver.
On February 2 a 15-year-old Belleville youth was apprehended on a stolen car charge at Belleville High School. The youth said that he “found the keys (to the car) on the sidewalk” and took the car for a joyride. The juvenile was arrested for motor vehicle theft and released to his mother.
On February 2 at 10:42 p.m., police responded to an apartment complex at 16 Bellevue Ct. on a report of a man spotted with a handgun. Once there, they encountered four males but couldn’t locate a weapon. While running an I.D. check, one man stated that his identification was in his car. Police escorted him to the vehicle and found a black bag containing a flashlight and greenish vegetation – possibly marijuana. A K-9 unit was summoned and the dog “hit” for narcotics. The vegetation was later identified as marijuana. The car’s owner, Jose Martinez, 26, of N. Arlington was arrested for possession of marijuana over 50 grams and possession of marijuana over 50 grams with intent to distribute. His bail was set at $50, 000 and he was transported to the county jail. Joseph Geraldo, 22, of Nutley was arrested for an outstanding warrant out of Wayne, for $264, and another from Nutley for $250. He posted $514 bail and was released.
On January 31 at 9:47 p.m., a plainclothes detective went to the 500 block of Union Ave. to serve a warrant. When he arrived at the residence, he spoke with a man and asked him if he was the man that he was looking for. The man answered, “He’s upstairs.” When the detective checked out the second floor, he discovered a lit joint and paraphernalia usually used for the distribution of marijuana. He also found a white powdery substance thought to be cocaine (which was later confirmed), small plastic bags and a money ledger. The three males present in the home were arrested for possession of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of cocaine within 1000’ of a school, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The men are: Angel Santiago, 30, of Belleville, who also carried a warrant for $500 out of Belleville; Eduardo Ortega, 25, of Belleville, and Javier Illera, 26, of Newark who carried a $1000 warrant from Belleville. No bail was set.
On January 31 at 7:40 p.m., a Belleville High student reported that his car had been vandalized. The student said that he parked the car at 7:45 a.m. that day. When he returned after school, he noticed that a blue line had been scribbled on his 20007 white Ford Focus from “bumper to bumper.” Police are investigating.
On January 30 at 10:34 p.m., an undercover unit responded to Overhill Ave. and Celia Terrace on a report of a suspicious vehicle circling the area. They stopped a Mercury Marquis that fir the description. Inside the vehicle, they uncovered a large amount of pills that they tentatively identified as Xanax, clear baggies and a total of $1,197 in cash. Neither occupant had a prescription for the pills. 18-year-old Marc Senatore, of Nutley, and 20-year-old Robert Thiele, also of Nutley were arrested for possession of a C.D.S., possession of a C.D.S. with intent to distribute, and possession of a C.D.S. within 1000’ of a school zone. Both parties were held at county jail in lieu of bail.
On January 28 at 8:40 p.m., narcotics officers driving on Rt. 21 observed a silver BMW traveling very slowly in the center lane near mile-marker 7.2. When they stopped the car to investigate, they noticed that the female driver was dropping small objects wrapped in rubber bands on the floor. The items were identified as wax folds that are commonly used to package heroin. The folds later tested positive for the substance. Cynthia Barroso, 26, of N. Bergen was arrested for possession of C.D.S. and released on her own recognizance.
On January 28 at 1:01 a.m., an anticrime unit spotted an individual acting suspiciously while looking inside vehicles at the 40 block of Belmont Ave. The man, Vernon Koslow, 29, of Sussex was found with wax folds that are often used to package heroin. The folds later tested positive for heroin. In addition to a possession of C.D.S. charge, Koslow was found to have two outstanding warrants – a “no bail” warrant out of Kinnelon and an $858 warrant out of Newark.
By Jeff Bahr
An anti-bullying Public Service Announcement (PSA) video produced by Nutley High School students begins rather deceptively. It’s a disarming stroke that makes the short fi lm immensely powerful. As the video opens, viewers are introduced to a typical student – scarcely different from the multitudes that have come before him and will come after him – stepping up to a lectern to deliver a happy commencement speech. We’ve all seen this scene a thousand times. But this one is different.
At any moment you expect to hear the young man giving thanks to those who helped him on his journey, while taking a few humorous jabs at friends and faculty for good measure. But “Tom’s Story” omits the standard salutations and light-hearted quips that have become part and parcel of such speeches. Instead, it tackles an insidious problem – a pervasive, deliberate, manmade cancer that targets its intended victims persistently and with great malice aforethought.
In the fictional video, Tom is introduced by a teacher as Nutley High’s 2012 valedictorian and summoned to the stage. The young man opens his speech by alluding to the standard “trials and tribulations” of the student experience. Typical stuff, really. But then, things take a wholly unexpected turn.
Tom, you see, has spent his school days not in happy contemplation of a rosy future, like other students, but in an abject hell – feeling hurt, alienated, unloved and worthless as a direct result of the incessant bullying that he has long endured. As scenes of Tom’s torment are shown in the background for effect, the young man ominously declares, “ At one point I never thought I’d make it here.”
The meaning behind Tom’s comment is apparent. At that moment, a person would have to have ice water running through their veins not to feel genuinely moved by the young man’s pain and crushing sense of hopelessness.
Sadly, there are many who know such pain and torment intimately. According to ABC News, a recent national survey found that 30% of U.S. students in grades six through 10 are involved in moderate or frequent bullying. For members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT), things are even worse. A 2010 survey undertaken by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) showed that 90% of LGBT youth experience harassment at school.
The National Education Association estimates that some 160,000 children miss school each day as a direct result of their fear of bullying and/or intimidation at the hands of other students. If viewed in sheer numbers, the bullying problem has now reached epidemic proportions. According to the National School Safety Center, American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million victims.
These statistics, as worrisome as they are, fail to factor in the increasing problem of cyber-bullying. This impersonal form of online character attacks and reputation sullying may seem less harmless to the uninitiated, but not so to the millions of individuals who have found themselves on the receiving end of such vicious cyber-barbs.
Tom is clearly not alone.
The idea to shoot the anti-bullying video arrived in conjunction with the “Week of Respect,” a statewide observance that directs school districts to provide age-appropriate instruction focusing on the prevention of harassment, intimidation and bullying of students.
According to teacher and video director Jim Kelly, the students “used storyboards, wrote the script, and put together a shooting agenda,” to get the project off of the ground. They then assessed and evaluated the film, scene by scene, until everything fit properly in place. The emphasis during each step of production was to “make it real,” said Kelly.
The finished product elicited a “very positive response” from the student body, according to Kelly. “It hits home when students see other students (in such trying situations),” explained the teacher when asked about the video’s overall impact with its intended audience.
For those who wonder precisely how “Tom’s Story” ends, suffice to say that one single schoolmate with courage and compassion steps up to make the difference in Tom’s tortured life. Hopefully, after viewing this thought provoking film, others similarly enlightened may wish to step into his shoes.
By Ron Leir
Carlos P. Campos, accused of committing a triple homicide in Harrison last summer, has been indicted by a Hudson County grand jury on three counts of murder.
The indictment, which also charges Campos with possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, was handed up to the Hudson County Superior Court on Jan. 24, following a presentation to the grand jurors on Jan. 10 by Asst. Hudson County Prosecutor Michael D’Andrea.
Campos is charged with the stabbing deaths of his parents, Carlos A. Campos-Trinidad, 57, and Ruth Pereira, 58, and his 3-year-old niece, Gabriella Morales, on Aug. 16, 2011, in their home at 216 Hamilton St., Harrison. Campos, who is being held on $1 million cash only bail at the Hudson County Jail, Kearny, is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 21 before Superior Court Judge Mary Costello in Jersey City. However, since Costello is soon to be transferred, from criminal to civil court, the county assignment judge may have to name another judge to hear the case.
D’Andrea will handle the case for the state while Campos will be represented by the county’s deputy public defender Joseph Russo.
If found guilty, Campos could be sentenced to three consecutive life sentences and would, technically, have to serve a bit more than 63 years on each murder count before being considered for parole, according to D’Andrea.
After his arrest soon after the crime, Campos was first taken to the Jersey City Medical Center for evaluation by a hospital psychiatrist but was subsequently transferred to the Ann Klein Forensic Center, a psychiatric facility run by the state Dept. of Health Services’ Div. of Mental Health Services to determine his mental fitness.
Last week Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said that state doctors have concluded that Campos “is competent to proceed (with trial) at this time.”
However, DeFazio said, they’ve offered no opinion as to “his mental state at the time of the crime.”
On the day of the crime, police said Campos, wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants, walked into Harrison police headquarters at 12:18 p.m. and had a conversation with officers that prompted police to descend on the Hamilton St. home, just across the street from the Hamilton Intermediate School.
Inside, on the first floor of the 3-story residence, police found the bloodied, lifeless bodies of the three victims.
Campos-Trinidad, found in a bedroom, died from a stab wound to the back of the head/neck area, possibly inflicted from behind him; Pereira, discovered in a hallway linking two bedrooms, was killed by a single stab wound to the neck/chest area but also had many “defensive wounds,” an autopsy showed.
The baby, found lying in its crib, died from numerous sharp force stab wounds to the neck and upper chest, according to the autopsy.
A knife, believed to be the murder weapon, was recovered at the scene, authorities said.
The baby’s mother, who works for a nonprofit agency that combats substance abuse and who runs the Roselle Family Success Center, a United Way-sponsored program, was in Haiti on a charity mission at the time of the crime. She returned to attend a private funeral for the victims.