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Have you seen this alleged Nutley burglar?

NUTLEY — Police say they are investigating a diversion burglary that allegedly occurred on Fischer Ave. on Dec. 9. An elderly resident told police that a man banged on her front door at 3 p.m., Dec. 9, claiming there was […]

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Help sought in cold case

By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Somebody knows something. Six years ago, an 87-year-old man was deliberately run down by a car in a South Kearny parking lot and robbed while he lay helpless on the ground. He died of his injuries the next day. Authorities ruled the death […]

100G for Arena tax case

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  Now that the state Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the New York Red Bulls professional soccer team should pay taxes on the stadium and the land it occupies in Harrison, the town has hired an outside law firm to […]

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Staffing Skyway fire-watch

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – For the first time, members of the Kearny Fire Department will have a shot at off-duty pay, much like their counterparts at the Police Department have enjoyed for many years, although there is a sunset provision for the privilege. This opportunity […]

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New No. 2 has seen it all

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  The Lyndhurst Board of Education has revived the position of assistant superintendent, albeit on an interim basis, with the hiring of 50-year educator Jeffrey P. Feifer. Feifer, who came aboard Sept. 25, was appointed to serve “no more than 120 days,” to […]

 
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Maroon Raider wrestlers more than ready

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

The Nutley High School wrestling team is getting the opportunity of a lifetime as the season begins this weekend.

The Maroon Raiders will head to the Grapple at the Garden tournament this weekend at Clarkstown South High School in Nyack, N.Y.

The top two finishers at the tourney Saturday will then head to Madison Square Garden on Sunday to be part of the Grapple at the Garden festivities.

“I was approached a few years ago about this tournament,” said Nutley head coach Frank DiPiano, who has elevated the Nutley program to elite status in recent years. “It’s a little different, but it’s a great opportunity. It’s a great day of wrestling at Madison Square Garden and it’s a great day for the sport.”

There will be collegiate wrestling going on that day at the Garden, as well as the introduction of professional wrestling – and not the kind seen at the WWE Smackdown. But traditional wrestling is now being moved into the professional ranks.

In any case, Nutley will be a part of it.

“We’re really fortunate to get this chance,” DiPiano said. “It’s a great start to the season.”

DiPiano is excited about his team’s chances this season and whether the Maroon Raiders can add another NJSIAA District 14 team championship. Nutley has captured the last three district titles.

“We have more depth than we’ve ever had,” DiPiano said. “It’s a good problem to have. We’ve never had numbers before. We’re almost two-deep at every weight class. It’s the most experienced team we’ve had in the past several years. We only have two kids with zero experience.”

The Maroon Raiders will use either freshman Frank Gabriele or freshman Jimmy Quinn at 106 pounds. At 112, Quinn might get a shot, along with freshman Kyle Conca.

At 120 pounds, freshman Frank DeMaio is showing signs of developing into a solid wrestler.

“He has some experience on the rec (recreation) level and knows how to wrestle,” DiPiano said. “He’s going to do well there.”

Senior Tom Hickey is also a solid wrestler at the lighter weight classes. Senior Joe Ferinde is the team’s mainstay at 126 pounds. Ferinde finished eighth in the entire state last year in Atlantic City, winning 32 matches.

“He’s ready to have another solid year for us,” DiPiano said of Ferinde, who has a chance to be at the podium once again in Atlantic City come March.

Senior Kenny Pena is another solid wrestler in the lighter class. Pena finished second in the districts last year.

“I have to be creative how I use them,” DiPiano said of Ferinde and Pena. “I need to move one up and one down.”

Junior Robert Duxbury is a solid wrestler at 130 pounds. Duxbury won more than 20 matches last season and was a District 14 champion.

The 138-pound duties will be shared by senior John Zarro and sophomore Joe DiPasquale.

Junior Darwin Pena (cousin to Kenny) is the team’s 145-pounder. Darwin Pena was second in the district last year and competed in the region tournament.

The 160-pound class is being shared by seniors Andrew Aiello and Kevin Goudie, the latter coming off a solid football campaign.

Senior Jason Castellanos is a solid 171-pounder.

“He was hurt last year, breaking his hip,” DiPiano said. “But he’s healthy now. He was having a good season when he got hurt.”

The 182-pound class will be shared by junior Gerard D’Alessio and junior Lou Long.

At 195 pounds, the battle will be between senior Vin Scherer and junior Justin Bivona. At 220 pounds, sophomore Brian Mercado, a transfer from Illinois, will hold fort.

The team’s heavyweight is senior Adam Touah.

The Maroon Raiders were 10-17 in dual matches last year. DiPiano scheduled some tough teams because he thought he had the makings of a great group, but was hurt by some transfers.

“We went through the ringer a little last year,” DiPiano said. “But that got us ready for the District (14) and we saw them get at it a little and win. It was our third in a row and I was very pleased with it.”

DiPiano likes the makeup of this year’s team.

“I think we’re going to be better,” DiPiano said. “From what I see, we have a good group of hard working guys. I think that’s going to make us better come tournament time. We’re going to be much more competitive than we were last year.”

That’s good news for Nutley wrestling followers. From start to finish, it should be an exciting year.

Chiropractic treatment of back pain

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Dr. Louis Stimmel, D.C. – Harrison Spine & Rehabilitation

Chiropractic is a health care profession dedicated to the non-surgical treatment of disorders of the nervous system and/or musculoskeletal system. Generally, chiropractors maintain a unique focus on spinal manipulation and treatment of surrounding structures. Many medical studies and research journals have concluded that manual therapies (spinal manipulation) commonly used by chiropractors are generally effective for the treatment of lower back pain, as well as for treatment of cervical and lumbar disc bulges and herniations, neck pain, arm pain and sciatica.

Among people seeking back pain relief alternatives to traditional medical treatments, most choose chiropractic treatment. About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually. Of these, 7.7 million, or 35%, are seeking pain relief from back pain from various causes, including motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and muscle strains. Other complaints commonly treated by chiropractors include pain in the neck, arms, legs, pins and needles and headaches.

Chiropractors typically use spinal manipulation and other alternative forms of treatment to properly align the body’s spinal bones (vertebrae) thereby enhancing the body’s ability to help heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. Spinal manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints caused by a traumatic event such as a slip and fall or motor vehicle accident, repetitive stress, or a sports-related injury. Chiropractic is primarily used as a pain relief alternative for injuries to the muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissue, such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. It is also sometimes used in conjunction with conventional medical care. A chiropractor initially takes a thorough medical history, performs a physical examination, and may use lab tests or diagnostic imaging to determine if treatment is appropriate for your pain and discomfort caused by nerve irritation or inflammation. The treatment plan may involve one or more manual adjustments in which the doctor manipulates the joints using a soft and gentle amount of pressure to improve range and quality of motion to the spinal bones and joints. Many chiropractors also include nutritional and weight loss counseling along with a specific form of exercise/rehabilitation. The goals of chiropractic care include the restoration of function and prevention of injury in addition to immediate and long-lasting pain relief. Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care are now widely accepted within the medical community as a safe, gentle and effective treatment for various types of musculoskeletal pain. Many chiropractors today are now included on the medical staff for both college and professional sports teams as well as the Olympic team medical staff.

Dr. Stimmel of Harrison Spine and Rehabilitation Center is a board certified chiropractic physician with over 25 years of clinical experience. Dr. Stimmel has been board certified as a chiropractic sports physician and is certified in hospital protocols and privileges. Contact our office today at 973-483-3380 for a free consult and evaluation.

Obituaries

Frank Choffo I 

Frank Choffo I passed away peacefully at home Dec. 2 surrounded by his loving family. He was 64.

Funeral services were under the direction of the Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. A funeral service was held at the funeral home.

For information or to send online condolences to the family go to: www.mulliganfh.com.

Born in Newark, Frank lived most of his life in Harrison. He worked as a bartender at the Odd Couple Bar, Harrison. He was an avid soccer fan.

Frank was the beloved husband of Theresa (nee Campbell). He is also survived by his devoted children Melissa, Nicol and Frank II and his wife Leanne, his step-children James Wood Jr. and his wife Kirsten, Joseph Wood and his wife Stephanie and Mary Giglio and her husband Victor, and nine cherished grandchildren.

He is also survived by his dear brothers Joseph and his wife Barbara and Michael, and many nieces and nephews who loved him, and his lifelong best friends Eddie Raimo and Joe Thompson.

In lieu of flowers, to help defray funeral costs, please make donations to his family in memory of Frank in care of the funeral home.

Frank C. Docherty 

Frank C. Docherty, 83, of Lakewood, passed away on Dec. 10 at Tallwoods Care Center in Bayville. Born in Scotland, he lived in Kearny prior to moving to Brick in 1979. He owned Scotty’s Deli on Bergen Ave. in Kearny. He was also a self-employed painter and decorator in New York and North Jersey before his retirement. Frank served in the British Royal Air Force.

Frank was preceded in death by his wife Catherine in 2004. He is survived by his son Frank Docherty and his wife Jennifer of Brick and his daughter Carroll Cahill and her husband Tim of Lanoka Harbor; four grandchildren and their spouses; Dan and Nicole Carey, Sean and Caitlyn Docherty, Kevin and Celeste Docherty and James Carey III; and two great-granddaughters Catherine Docherty and Avary Rose Carey.

Arrangements were by the Colonial Funeral Home, Brick. A funeral service was held at the funeral home, followed by a private cremation. Condolences can be sent to the family at www.colonialfuneralgroup.com.

Charles Daniel Lazar 

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Charles Daniel Lazar of Toms River died on Dec. 12, surrounded by his family at the age of 68.

Husband, father, and grandfather, he was raised on Jersey St. in Harrison. He settled in East Newark after marrying his love Patricia where they established their family and raised four children. He honorably served the borough of East Newark in many facets including councilman. His most valued position was a 20-year member of the East Newark Volunteer Fire Department, earning his way through the ranks, retiring as chief. He provided for his family through his talents as a electrical draftsman, for progressive companies throughout the state of New Jersey. Charles’ love was for his family, and the many he leaves behind.

Surviving him is his beloved wife of 50 years, Patricia Jayne Lazar, as well as his loving children, U.S. Navy Cmdr. (Ret.) Charles and Donna of Charlottesville, Va., Wendy and Rocco Pace of Kearny, Christopher of Ocean Gate and Patrick (PJ) Lazar of Kearny and his 10 loving grandchildren, Alexa, D’Artagnan, Stefanee, Samantha, Sydney, Brooke, Brendan, Cody, Riley Patrick and Kali Jayne.

Arrangements were by the Silverton Memorial Funeral Home, Toms River. A prayer service was held at the funeral home, followed by a private cremation.

Florence P. Rossi 

Florence P. Rossi passed away peacefully on Dec. 12. She was 85.

Born in Newark, she had lived in North Arlington for the past 20 years.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny (www.armitagewiggins.com). A funeral Mass was held at Immaculate Conception Church, Newark, followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington.

Florence worked in the accounting department of N.J. Bell in Newark and sang in the Immaculate Conception Choir for many years.

She is survived by her sister Anna Rossi and many nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to autism research: www.autismspeaks.org.

Robert ‘Bob’ James Stunger 

Robert “Bob” James Stunger, 71, of Kearny, passed away on Monday, Dec. 8.

Beloved husband of Barbara Ann Stunger (nee Kalinchak). loving father of Heather and her husband Val Sendon and the late Lori Ann and her husband William Heyer, he was the adored grandfather of granddog Lola. Dear brother of Roseanne and husband Donald Smith, Alan and wife Barbara Stunger, Ellen Stunger and Walter and wife Laurie Stunger, he is also survived by many relatives and friends.

Mr. Stunger was senior purchasing agent at Novartis Pharmaceutical before retiring in 2001. He was a member of the North Arlington Elks. Bob is now reunited with his favorite girls Missy Lee and Molly Rose.

Arrangements were by the Ippolito-Stellato Funeral Home, 425 Ridge Road, Lyndhurst. A funeral Mass was held at St. Stephen Church, Kearny. Cremation was held in East Ridgelawn Crematory, Clifton. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Liberty Humane Society, 235 Jersey City Blvd., Jersey City, N.J. 07304. Send condolences to stellatofuneralhomes.com.

Then & Now

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Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

This stately home, known as the Gen. Alexander Macomb House, stood at 125 Main St. in Belleville, fronting on the Passaic River just a couple of blocks south of the Belleville Pike bridge. The photo dates from the 1930s, but the home was much, much older. It was built in 1798- 99, with the two-story addition at the left constructed about 1870. Despite its name, it wasn’t built by Gen. Macomb, who was only 17 years old in 1799. 

According to the Historic American Buildings Survey, the original owner was his aunt Sarah Macomb, who was later to become his mother-in-law. Alexander ‘probably lived with her while attending the Newark Academy’ (which was then located in that city, not Livingston) and continued residing in the house after his marriage to Sarah’s daughter Catherine in 1803, though for how long we do not know. 

Gen. Macomb became a hero of the War of 1812 and went on to serve as Commanding General of the U.S. Army from 1828 until 1841, when he died in Washington, D.C. 

Sarah Macomb is believed to have sold the house in 1821, and it subsequently changed hands many times, until it was demolished in March 1940, ‘on account of tax burden.’ 

Today, the site is an apparently derelict industrial/commercial property and any river vista it once had is blocked by Rt. 21. 

– Karen Zautyk

Take precautions if you’re expecting a delivery, HPD says

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HARRISON –

The Christmas Grinch has been busy in Harrison this season.

Police said that during the last five weeks or so, they’ve received reports of more than 20 package thefts from town residents.

Here’s an accounting of days and locations: Read more »

Nutley PD: Beware of Yuletide scammers

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NUTLEY –

It may be holiday time but gremlins are out to spoil the festivities of the season.

Mayor/Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco and Police Chief Tom Strumolo are cautioning Nutley residents to be wary of scammers posing as government agents, utility workers or whatever, out to plunder families’ hard-earned cash.

On Dec. 9, a Fischer Road resident contacted police with this hard luck story:

At 3 p.m., a man who, the elderly woman resident believed to be a construction worker, pounded on her front door and told her there was a chemical spill the next block over and he needed to check her basement water supply. Read more »

Mazur’s Bakery reopening under new ownership on Dec. 12

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Steven Leyva, president and CEO of the Sugarflake Bakery chain, operating in Westwood, Wyckoff and Fair Lawn, announced the grand re-opening of Mazur’s Bakery on Ridge Road in Lyndhurst.

Mazur’s is a South Bergen County landmark, having originally opened in 1937, and operated by the namesake family for 66 years until 2003. In September 2013, the business, acquired 10 years earlier by another proprietor, closed after health and business problems were discovered.

Leyva, himself a second-generation baker with vast experience in the industry, is excited to be acquiring the business and the space it has occupied for nearly eight decades.

“To acquire an iconic spot like Mazur’s Bakery is a wonderful opportunity to bring the quality and product line that is synonymous with the name back to the Lyndhurst, Rutherford and North Arlington area. I truly believe that with my experience and the hard work of my staff, we can restore Mazur’s to its rightful place as one of New Jersey’s most renowned and successful bake shops,” Leyva said.
The store will have a grand reopening on Friday, Dec. 12, with a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Local government and business leaders have been invited to kick off the renaissance of Mazur’s Bakery and launch it into a new future as a fixture in the community.

“The timing is opportune for us as the upcoming Christmas holiday will give us the opportunity to deliver fantastic breads, cakes, pies and other dessert products for celebrations by families and businesses, alike, and to reintroduce Mazur’s to the local people,” he said. “I welcome the challenge of serving the knowledgeable and discerning consumers of this wonderful neighborhood.”

Belleville suspending alternate-side parking Dec. 15 until further notice

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BELLEVILLE –

Interim Township Manager Kevin Esposito’s office is advising residents that, as of Dec. 15, alternate side of the street parking regulations are suspended, until further notice.

When temperatures fall below freezing, the township’s mechanical sweepers cannot function, the manager’s office said.

Stranger than fiction

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By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY–

For nearly eight decades, Theodore Zetterlund of Kearny lay in an unmarked grave in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. This past Sunday, 79 years to the day that he was killed by a bandit, he finally got his headstone.

His widow had bought it a few months after his death. But it was never installed. And for most of those intervening years, it was missing.

How it came to be found and at long last placed where Zetterlund rests is an incredible tale — a fantastic story involving a kayak and killie fish and an island that once was not an island and weeds and mud and water and a Kearny Police Department murder file and a case of the right person being in the right place at the right time.

That person is Bruce Dillin of Bayonne, a man who says he was “on a mission from God.” (Lest you think Dillin is some sort of religious fanatic, please note that he is using a quote from “The Blues Brothers.” This also was the explanation he gave a cop who spotted him prowling around the South Kearny swamps. Luckily, Dillin has a friend on the force.)

Now, as intriguing an individual as Dillin is, we will not start this saga with him. We start with Theodore Zetterlund, who owned a butcher shop/grocery store on Davis Ave. at Tappan St. in Kearny. (See ‘Then & Now,’) 

According to the news account in the New York Times: Shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, 1935, the 58-year-old Zetterlund and his wife, Kathryn, were closing up shop for the day when a man armed with a sawed-off shotgun entered the premises, told the merchant to raise his hands, and demanded he turn over his money.. Zetterlund would not comply with either order. Without saying another word, the bandit fired, at close range, fatally wounding the victim in the stomach.

The killer then fled, empty-handed, and was reportedly seen running into nearby West Hudson Park. Police cordoned off the area and searched, but did not find. That night, anyway.

An investigation led to the arrest in August 1936 of a Vincent Millinavich, who reportedly was tried, found guilty, sentenced to life and died in prison. We have no further details since we have not yet had a chance to examine the 800-page file.

In any case, Zetterlund was interred at Holy Cross, and the widow ordered a headstone, inscribed with his name and date of death. The price was $115 — quite a substantial sum during the Depression. (An inflation calculator indicates that amount is the equivalent of $1,993.05 in today’s dollars.)

She was making installment payments in small amounts — $8, $5, $2, $10 — and then they abruptly stopped. The headstone was never put on the grave.

Fast forward to May 2014.

Fisherman/hunter/ outdoorsman Bruce Dillin was kayaking on the Hackensack River near Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus, looking for killies to use as bait for fluke, when he saw a small island in a Meadowlands pond. “I landed my kayak and walked about 60 feet through 8-foot-high weeds, and I found myself looking straight down at a tombstone,” Dillin recalled. It bore Theodore Zetterlund’s name and the date of death. (At the time of discovery, Dillin had no idea who this person was, much less knowledge of the murder backstory.)

Photo by Karen Zautyk At Sunday’s ‘Rest in Peace’ service at gravesite in Holy Cross Cemetery (from l.): The Rev. Gary Grindeland, headstone hero Bruce Dillin, and John Burns of Hopper Monuments.

Photo by Karen Zautyk
At Sunday’s ‘Rest in Peace’ service at gravesite in Holy Cross Cemetery (from l.): The Rev. Gary Grindeland, headstone hero Bruce Dillin, and John Burns of Hopper Monuments.

 

His mind began racing: “How did it get here? Is this guy buried here? How did they bring him here? In a boat?”

Dillin is not one to leave questions unanswered.

One of the first things he did was to call a friend, Timothy Doolan, an environmentalist with the N.J. Turnpike Authority, who directed him to online topographical maps and aerial photos of the meadows in the mid-’30s, from which he learned that the island had not been an island then. It was dry land accessible by a road.

“And through the power of the internet,” Dillin said, “my secretary, Barbara, found out that Zetterlund was buried in Holy Cross.”

“This is a man with two tombstones,” Dillin thought. But in June, he went to the gravesite “and . . . no tombstone!”

“The plot thickens, I thought.”

How much, he couldn’t guess. Word of his find, and quest, eventually reached his friend on the KPD, for whom the name “Zetterlund” rang a bell. The officer did some research and found the murder file. (Interestingly, that sawed-off shotgun used to kill Zetterlund was also fished from the Meadowlands, where the killer had thrown it.)

To solve the headstone mystery, the cemetery suggested that Dillin contact Albert H. Hopper Monuments “since they’ve been around the longest” — more than 130 years. And it turned out that Hopper, located on Ridge Road in North Arlington, directly across from the cemetery entrance, was the same company that produced Zetterlund’s headstone.

Dillin learned this after enlisting the help of Hopper’s current owner, John Burns of Burns Bros. Memorials, Jersey City, who hunted through old files in the basement and found Zetterlund’s. Burns learned that when the widow’s payments stopped, she had a balance due of $28.

Burns surmises that the stone simply sat in the company’s yard “for a long time.” “At some point,” he said, “they must have cleared out the yard.”

In those days, there was road access to the place in the Meadows where it was found, so Burns assumes it was just dumped there. Perhaps with some granite leavings from other work, since Dillin said there seemed to be a few chunks of uninscribed stone on the same island.

 

KPD Police photo, taken Aug. 18, 1936, shows Walter White of Jersey City, employee of the Hudson County Mosquito Exterminating Commission, with shotgun/murder weapon he found in a creek in the meadows.

KPD
Police photo, taken Aug. 18, 1936, shows Walter White of Jersey City, employee
of the Hudson County Mosquito Exterminating Commission, with shotgun/murder weapon he found in a creek in the meadows.

 

“Normally, we do everything possible to get a stone on the grave,” Burns noted. (But he wasn’t around back in the ‘30s or ‘40s.)

Burns offered to refurbish the Zetterlund stone and add the name of Kathryn J. Zetterlund, whom Dillin learned had been lying in the same unmarked grave as her husband since her death in 1975.

But first, someone had to get the stone out of the swamp.

Last month, Dillin (who had been more or less possessed by this project, this “mission from God”) returned to the island with his kayak and a raft, two 10-foot long posts, bricks to use as levers, a pry bar, steel cable and other tools.

He worked at the task for an hour and 45 minutes and was finally able to move the stone onto the raft.

And it immediately slid off and sank.

“You were in the Marine Corps!” Dillin told himself. “You can do this!”

To get the thing out of the swamp, he worked in and under the November-cold water for six more hours, four of them while stark naked. He had stripped to make the underwater work easier. (He organizes an annual Polar Bear Plunge, so you could say he had some preparation for the frigid conditions.) Luckily, no police were around to witness this part of the operation.

The submerged headstone was recovered. But Dillin couldn’t lift it onto his truck. He started towing it along the ground, but the cable broke. So he left the stone in the middle of a rarely-used road, intending to return with a hoist.

When he came back the next morning, the stone was gone. Seems a Turnpike maintenance crew had moved it. Dillin searched the weeds, and for the third time Zetterlund’s headstone was reclaimed from the meadows.

Dillin, who had been losing sleep over this quest, delivered it to the monument company, contacted Holy Cross and then the Archdiocese of Newark, which had to approve of the placement of the stone on the grave. The Archdiocese also managed to locate a distant relative of the Zetterlunds, since family approval also was needed.

And at 2 p.m. this past Sunday, Dillin, Burns and a few others gathered at the grave for a brief dedication ceremony conducted by the Rev. Gary Grindeland, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Bayonne.

Theodore Zetterlund can now rest in peace.

And so can Bruce Dillin.

Church will be restored

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

BELLEVILLE – 

A local landmark church that was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is getting government aid for a major fix. In fact, it received slightly more than double the amount it requested.

The New Jersey Historic Trust has awarded La Senda Antigua Church, which owns and occupies the former Dutch Reformed Church of the Second River in Belleville, awarded the church a Sandy Disaster Relief Grant for Historic Properties of $250,000.

Although there is a $150,000 cap placed on historic-related grants to religious facilities – and that’s the amount for which the church applied – Larry Hajna, spokesman for the state Dept. of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Trust, said that the state issued a “waiver.”

“It was felt by our reviewers that it wasn’t reasonable to expect that the local congregation could raise the balance of the money needed to facilitate the repairs,” Hajna said.

“We want to thank God — it’s a miracle,” said the Rev. Miguel Ortiz, the church’s pastor. “Everybody kept closing the doors on us until now. We hope that with the restoration, this will bring a good feeling to the community.”

A cross at the top of the church steeple was loosened from its perch by Sandy’s gusts and while it continues to dangle, it was secured there, thanks to a $40,000 emergency repair job financed by the township in the aftermath of the storm.

“We want to fix the steeple and, below that, several floors, all the way down to the basement, are damaged – beams and flooring,” Ortiz said.

But, the pastor noted, the interior and exterior structure has been compromised not only by Sandy but in past years, from water infiltration from rain and snow conditions.

As outlined by a summary furnished by the state, “Hurricane Sandy’s high winds and driving rain ripped the steeple and bell tower apart, literally. The metal cross at the pinnacle of the steeple was displaced, the steeple’s copper cladding was torn and peeled back and windows in the masonry tower were blown in.”

Photos by Ron Leir The Rev. Miguel Ortiz and his wife Lillian are grateful that the N.J. Historic Trust is providing funding to repair and restore their historic church which has been ravaged -- inside and out -- by wear and tear and Sandy.

Photos by Ron Leir
The Rev. Miguel Ortiz and his wife Lillian are grateful that the N.J. Historic Trust
is providing funding to repair and restore their historic church which has been
ravaged — inside and out — by wear and tear and Sandy.

 

 

A report by state reviewer Jennifer Stark said the grant “will fund emergency steeple stabilization completed immediately after Hurricane Sandy and more exhaustive restoration of the steeple and tower including masonry repointing, structural heavy timber repair, new copper cladding and roofing, exterior wood repair around windows and exterior painting.”

The structure, Stark reported, dates from 1853 and was designed by William H. Kirk of the Newark architectural firm Kirk & Kirkpatrick “and is the only Gothic Revival style religious building in Belleville. The church is a good example of early Gothic architecture constructed by a master builder.

“Never seriously altered, the church maintains its orginal architectural integrity.”

And it was one of about a dozen such churches in New Jersey employing primarily the Greek Revival form designed by the Kirk & Kirkpatrick firm between 1839 and 1858, Stark noted.

Because the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 21, 1978, and on the State Register on July 12, 1978, (and dedicated as a local landmark by the Belleville Historic Preservation Commission on July 4), the owner must comply with certain architectural guidelines during the restoration process.

This the owner is apparently prepared to do, as noted by Stark, in her comments that, “The owner has had an engineer with historical project experience survey the church and evaluate the condition. It is recommended that this professional continue to further document the current conditions, identify and prioritize preservation and repair phases, and costs, for future planning and fundraising efforts. The scale … and complexity of the work also warrant the services of this professional to provide construction documents for the brick and mortar project ….”

Stark estimated that the project could run “between $300,000 and $400,000.”

Ortiz said he’s exploring whether the church can apply any of the grant money towards repayment of the $40,000 lien placed on the property by the township. “So far, we’ve been paying it off at the rate of $500 a month,” he said.

Asked how soon the repair work could begin, Ortiz said that probably won’t happen until around March, due to the obstacles presented by the winter weather conditions.

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