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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 […]


frank pezzolla tribute 585px

UPDATE: 21-year-old Nutley man charged with breaking into elderly woman’s apartment


Above: Stephen Nemec

A 21-year-old Nutley man has been arrested and charged with burglary after police say he broke into an elderly woman’s apartment.

Stephen Nemec is at the Essex County Jail, where he is being held on $25,000 bail, police say. He was unable to post the 10% cash option after his Oct. 9 arrest, reports say.

Police gave the following account of the Oct. 7 incident that led to Nemec’s arrest:

Police responded to the senior housing on William Street in response to an authorized man in a woman’s apartment. The 93-year-old victim told police that when she entered her apartment, located on the fourth floor, she was confronted by Nemec.

Police say Nemec handed the startled woman a candy bar and fled.

Police called to the scene reviewed video surveillance and determined Nemec entered the building behind an unsuspecting resident. He then proceeded to the fourth floor, and entered the woman’s apartment. Police say Nemec admitted to sneaking in behind the resident.

Nemec told police he entered the wrong apartment as he was looking for a friend who supposedly lived on the same floor, according to police.

— Kevin Canessa Jr.

Our sign has been updated!


Here’s a look at our new sign — at our new location, 39 Seeley Ave., Kearny.

Lyndhurst hosting Columbus Day event


The Township of Lyndhurst will hold a Columbus Day celebration Sunday, Oct. 12, from noon to 5 p.m., at Town Hall Park and Delafield Avenue. Music, food and vendors will be available, sponsored by New Memory Management.

For more information, call 201-966-3579.

Uniform salute


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Currently hanging in the office of Daniel Jacoby at the Nutley Bureau of Veteran Affairs, 149 Chestnut St., are two uniforms. One is Jacoby’s own camo garb, worn during the former U.S. Army specialist’s deployment in Iraq. The other is a bit older. Nearly a century old, in fact. It was worn during the war that was supposed to end all war.

Jacoby has displayed the two next to each other, but with the World War I uniform slightly in front of his, “to show respect for the generations that have gone before,” he explained.

The older uniform has breeches, resembling jodhpurs, that are laced at the bottom, the better to accomodate puttees and boots. The jacket bears a sergeant’s stripes and an embroidered caduceus, indicating that the wearer was a member of the Army Medical Corps.

That wearer was Sgt. Luke A. Kenney, who lived in Nutley from 1959 until his death at age 80 in 1973. It was his daughter, Pat Rush of Nutley, who donated the uniform to the Nutley Museum, to honor not only her father, but all veterans of the Great War. No date has yet been set, but sometime in the coming weeks there will be a special Historical Society ceremony, after which Kenney’s uniform will be permanently on display at the museum, 65 Church St.

Despite its age, the uniform is pristine, no apparent restoration necessary, despite the fact that, over all those decades, there were no special efforts to preserve it. “It was just hanging in his closet at home,” Rush told us.

Rush, who is a very young 83, decided to make the donation after attending a religious retreat, where she learned that a special retreat was being organized for veterans. She contacted Commissioner Steve Rogers about that planned program, and then offered the uniform as a veterans’ tribute.

Rush also has her father’s identity discs (the precursor of dogtags) and a collection of his military papers, but those treasures she is rightfully keeping to hand down to her children (she and her husband Robert had eight) and grandchildren.

The documents show that Luke Kenney of Newark, age 25, 5-foot-4, grey eyes, brown hair and “ruddy complexion,” was inducted into the Army on May 27, 1918, and was honorably discharged (also having been commended for his “excellent character”) on June 25, 1919 — the war having ended the previous November.

On Aug. 26, 1918, he had sailed for France, where he served as a medical technician with the American Expeditionary Forces. He arrived back in the U.S. on June 22, 1919. We don’t know at which port, but we assume it was New York. In any case, the Army noted that he was “entitled to a reduced fare to Newark.”

While in France, he became a corporal, on April 1, 1919, and was raised to the rank of sergeant exactly a month later. (Editor’s note: We don’t know his circumstances, but such rapid field promotions were not uncommon in World War I, the casualties among the troops being massive.)

Photos by Karen Zautyk Uniform details: Buttons bear Great Seal of the U.S.; below the sergeant's stripes is a caduceus, indicating Medical Corps.

Photos by Karen Zautyk
Uniform details: Buttons bear Great Seal of the U.S.; below the sergeant’s stripes is a caduceus, indicating Medical Corps.

“Did he ever talk about the war?” we asked Rush. “Very little,” she said.

“But he did talk about it being very cold. He had just two thin blankets, so he saved all his newspapers, including the Newark News, put them between the two blankets and stitched them all together.”

“He also talked about the Salvation Army,” she recalled. “He said that was the best group for coffee. He said the Knights of Columbus wouldn’t give you anything unless you paid for it.”

“And,” she added with a laugh, “he was a Knight!”

After returning to the States, Kenney and his wife, Marie, and their daughter lived in Newark and then Nutley. He worked for the City of Newark Water Department, retiring as superintendent.

Kenney was also active in veterans’ affairs, particularly the Newark chapter (Newark Barracks #90) of the Veterans of World War I, which had its headquarters in the Krueger Mansion on High St. (now called Martin Luther King Blvd.). Kenney became the commander and later served at the group’s chaplain, attending the wakes and funerals of all the deceased members.

At those wakes, the current Barracks #90 commander would offer a eulogy composed by Chaplain Kenney himself.

In part, it notes that the veterans in attendance were there “to pay our respects to a loyal, patriotic citizen whose service to his country deserves far more than our ability to give.”

It continues: “He contributed his bit, like other loyal Americans in the past, and the readiness to offer his life, if need be, to preserve for us those hard-earned rights of Freedom and Justice. . . .

“He assumed his duties in a strange land and risked exposure to the discomforts of war, hunger, disease and death.

“Yes, our buddy deserves far more than we here can offer.

“While we are but a few because of fast-diminishing ranks, there is nothing wanting in the sincerity of our grief at our buddy’s passing. May his soul rest in peace.”

On the back of this document, which is one of those Rush is keeping, she has penned a note for her family: “This eulogy was composed by your grandfather/greatgrandfather. How sincere, touching and well-written — by a gentleman who had an 8th grade education.”

And to us, she said, “I have always been so proud of my dad.”

Rightly so, Patsy.

Rightly so.

Scouts’ mission continues


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


On March 20, 1960, the Girl Scout House in Kearny opened its doors, thereby kicking off a new era for a then-growing scouting movement among girls in West Hudson.

Today, with membership slacking off a bit locally and nationwide, the Kearny-based girl scouts want to send out a message to the communities of Kearny, Harrison and East Newark that the scouting mission is still operating.

But the home base at 635 Kearny Ave. could use a shot of adrenalin to keep it going so, to that end, the West Hudson Girl Scout Council – revamped in 1963 as the WeHudCo Trust to maintain the building – will hold a “rededication” of the Kearny House and kick off a fundraising drive on Saturday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to noon. Mayor Alberto Santos will preside at a ceremonial ribbon- cutting slated for 11 a.m.

Girls from kindergarten to grade 12 and their parents are invited to attend the open house. There will be crafts for kids and everyone is welcome to pitch in with preparing decorations for the Girl Scouts float for the town’s upcoming Halloween Parade.

As a follow-up activity, the scouts have scheduled a Home Party Vendor Day for Saturday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Kearny House with proceeds of all sales going to the House fundraising drive.

Some background on the evolution of the Kearny House: Archibald Salmond is credited with the introduction of Girl Scouts to Kearny in 1918. The West Hudson Girl Scout Council was incorporated in 1930 to represent Kearny, Harrison, East Newark and North Arlington. Troops met in a rented storefront on Midland Ave. opposite the firehouse.

In Sept. 1955, New Jersey Gov. Robert Meyner signed a bill that allowed municipalities to give or lease property to organizations that previously excluded Boy and Girl Scouts. “Kearny was the first town to take advantage of it,” noted WeHudCo Trust member Teddie Jablonski, who began her foray into scouting as a Brownie in 1950.

In March 1956, Kearny leased the then-vacant lot at 635 Kearny Ave., off Columbia Ave., to the West Hudson Girl Scout Council for 99 years at $1 a year and the Council immediately began a fundraising effort to construct a headquarters. A total of $120,000 – including more than $20,000 from the DuPont Co.’s Arlington Employees Welfare Fund – was collected, of which $80,000 was used to complete the building, with the balance to be used for office staff and future maintenance.

The cornerstone was laid in 1960 and the first troop meeting was held at the House in 1961. Today, it’s is one of the few facilities wholly owned by a Girl Scout unit in the state. Most meet in schools or houses of worship. The Kearny House is open to – and has hosted — girl scout troops from as far as Canada.

The Trust, which is now known as WeHudCo, Inc., has recently been granted 501 (c)(3) tax exempt status. With its contingency fund pretty well depleted, it is gearing up to raise money “to ensure the future of our building, our Kearny Scout House, and the future of the Girl Scout program,” said Jablonski.

For the present, she said, that means repairs to the roof, downspouts, new gutters, flushing out of the main drain, waterproofing the basement, fixing the blacktop in back, updating the kitchen and new drapes.

Today, the West Hudson unit – which claimed nearly 400 members in the late 1990s – has fallen off to 70 scouts and 17 adult volunteer leaders doing cookie sales, learning cooking, sewing and knitting skills, as well as community service projects like food and clothing drives for post-Sandy victims, holiday toy drives for kids in the hospital and darning little wool hats for infants.

And scout leaders are finding new ways to connect with girls. Margy Hill, with 40 years in scouting in Belleville and Kearny, recently moved to Pennsylvania but is still leading a troop of older girls through weekly “video meets” via Google Plus and monthly in-person meets in Kearny.

“Scouting is something I’m very passionate about,” Hill said. “It’s a big priority for me. I grew up in a scouting family and I love seeing what the girls get out of it,” particularly in developing life and leadership skills.

Hill recalled one ex-scout calling her “to thank me for making her participate in selling cookies” because she found later that the experience of going out and dealing with consumers stood her in good stead “when she got her first job in retail sales.”

“That, to me, was high praise,” said Hill.

All creatures great and small


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 


If you were out and about Saturday morning, you know that the rains were torrential — biblical, one might say. But this did not deter pet owners from gathering at the Archdiocesan Youth Center (formerly Boystown) for the annual Blessing of the Animals. (We expected to see some ducks, since it was nice weather for them, but none attended.)

Various events in Observer towns were postponed because of the downpour, but we knew this particular one would go on on rain or shine.

A large canopy was erected on the Belgrove Drive property to protect the pets and people who huddled there.

And despite the deluge, this was a place of warmth and brightness, for it is a joy to be among humans who care so much for their non-human companions.

As he does each year, Msgr. John Gilchrist presided at the ceremony, which took place near the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is Oct. 4.

Many churches, both Catholic and Protestant, hold similar programs on or around that date.

To Catholics, St. Francis has for centuries been known as the patron saint of animals, and in 1979, he got an additional assignment when Pope John Paul II declared him patron saint of ecology/ the environment. (By the way, one of the pets at the blessing was a cat called John Paul. “Yes, he’s named for the Pope,” his human companion noted.)



Photos by Karen Zautyk Top Nozi Chinosi and human Mai (same last name), and Gidget, with human Roseanne Evaristo.

Photos by Karen Zautyk
Top Nozi Chinosi and human Mai (same last name), and Gidget, with human Roseanne Evaristo.

The annual blessing is a reminder not only of St. Francis’ love for God’s creatures, but also that they are, indeed, God’s creatures and that they have been placed in mankind’s care. It is our duty to be their stewards, be they the pets who share our homes or the wild beasts and birds and fish, et al, who share our world.

As the communal prayer preceding the actual blessing noted, God has given humankind rule over His works, including: “All sheep and oxen, yes, and animals of the field, the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas.”

The prayer of blessing notes that God “created the world to serve humanity’s needs” and asks: “Give us the grace to see all animals as gifts from You and to treat them with respect for they are Your creation.”

And then, all the little gifts who were on Belgrove Drive were brought forward by their owners to be sprinkled with holy water. (We have attended several of these programs in the past, and it has always amazed us that even the barkiest dogs went quiet when the ceremony began.)

Afterwards, goody bags of pet food and treats were distributed to the attendees, who then headed home through all the rain.

As we were leaving, we glanced toward the Passaic River at the foot of the hill. We can’t be sure, but we think we saw an ark down there.

Perkins calls it a day


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Seven years after it opened its doors, a popular Lyndhurst eatery sadly bade farewell to its many loyal customers this past Sunday.

Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery, in the Valley Brook Ave. mall across from Township Hall, closed after being unable to come to terms on a new lease with the landlord, Lyndhurst Residential Community 2 LLC of Edison, said owner Patti Moretta.

Moretta said she has no plans to reopen at another location.

“I’m not moving anywhere else – I’m done,” she said.

Patrons who want a Perkins dining experience will have to venture out to Woodbridge, the closest to Lyndhurst.

Her departure will mark the second retailer in the mall to fold. A Mandee shop closed about a year and a half ago and the space remains empty today.

The loss of Perkins will leave 24 employees out of jobs including the restaurant’s acting GM James Mojonick of Kearny who has worked there the past two and a half years.

“I’ll miss the staff and Patti,” Mojonick said. “It’s like a family here. Very few times do you get to work at a place, especially in a cutthroat world of business, and find that the people you’re working with are more like a family, where we can be somewhat laid back but still get the job done.”

Longtime customers like Eileen and Bill Gallagher of North Arlington readily agreed. “It’s been one of our favorite spots for the past six years,” said Eileen. “We like the people, it’s clean, comfortable and the food is good.”

Husband Bill added: “The people who work here do a wonderful job, they’re respectful and we get our food on time. It’s a shame they’re closing. We come here at least once a week, mostly for the turkey dinner.”

It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for Moretta.

When the Totowa resident acquired the Perkins franchise and decided to set up shop in Lyndhurst, “this place was just a cement slab when I came here.” It cost her $1.5 million to build the restaurant, she said.

Once she got going, though, she never stopped. “Each year, we only closed on Christmas,” she said. “And we were the only place open the day after the hurricane, Sandy, hit, in 2012. I brought in a bunch of power surges so our staff and customers could charge their phones.”

Moretta, who grew up in Glen Ridge, has always been food-conscious. After graduating from Glen Ridge High School, she went to Syracuse University where she got her degree in therapeutic nutrition.

She applied her academic knowledge during an eightyear stint as registered dietician at Clara Maass Medical Center and 11 years as public health nutrition counselor and Meals on Wheels coordinator in Passaic.

“I’ve actually been working since I was 15,” she said.

Her dad was a part-owner of a Holiday Inn complex in Totowa and she tinkered with the idea of bringing a Perkins there but, instead, picked Lyndhurst for its easy access to Rt. 3 and other highway transit links.

Eventually, she succeeded in building a customer base that extended to places like Secaucus, Fort Lee, West Milford and even New York.

Mother’s and Father’s Day turned out to be big draws. “Some of my former employees would come in and work for free,” Moretta recalled, “just because they wanted to.” And, every Christmas Day, she’d throw a holiday party for her employees.

Over the years, the Lyndhurst Perkins has sought to give back to the community, Moretta said.

“We’ve donated muffins, pies and cookies to veterans, we allowed them to put their coin box on the front counter. I’ve gotten awards from the local VFW for our loyalty to veterans.

“We sponsored Lyndhurst High School football team towels and, for the past three or four years, we’ve worked with the high school’s developmentally disabled program here at the restaurant.

“Anybody who knocked on my door got a donation, whether it was a Tricky Tray or whatever,” she said.

Still, it hasn’t always been a piece of cake. “In some ways, it’s been an uphill battle since we opened in October 2007,” she said.“There was Sandy, of course, and there were 29 days where my customers had nowhere to park because the mall spaces were taken up by events being held by the township or by police vehicles. Then, on top of that, we had the construction [of barrier walls] on Rt. 3 where people couldn’t use the Lyndhurst exit.”

And there were the annual rent increases assessed by the property owner.

But despite her travails, Moretta says the struggle was worth it and, as proof of the pudding, she showed The Observer a book of tributes logged in by thankful customers – a souvenir of her days in Lyndhurst she’ll always treasure.

3rd mayoral candidate surfaces


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


When North Arlington residents go to the polls Nov. 4, they can choose one of three candidates for mayor but they’ll find only two on the ballot.

Mayor Peter Massa is the Democratic nominee seeking re-election for a third consecutive term and Councilman Joseph Bianchi is opposing him as the GOP representative.

But also vying for the borough’s top elective office is newcomer Anthony Baez, a registered Republican who is running as a write-in candidate under the slogan, “A Brighter Future for North Arlington.”

Baez, 44, a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier assigned to Kearny who has lived in North Arlington for the past five years, said he missed the deadline for filing nominating petitions to get his name on the election ballot so he decided to promote himself as a write-in.

“I figured, ‘Why not take the shot?’ ” he said.

Since he was away on vacation during the June primary balloting, Baez didn’t get to square off against Bianchi for the party’s nomination.

As a sort of dry run, he got a set of petitions and began asking people for their signatures “and I got 200 to sign and I thought that was a pretty good response,” Baez said. Since then, he said he’s been “going door to door” and using social media to introduce himself and hand out fliers to residents.

“I’m running because I don’t like what’s going on here,” Baez said. “When people go to mayor/council meetings, they don’t get responses from the people representing them.”

Asked for examples of nonresponsiveness, Baez – who served in the U.S. military from 1989 to 2001 in Germany and Texas – said, “It’s inexcusable that our 9/11 memorial is still sitting in the public works garage. That irks me. 9/11 was a war with terrorists so the memorial needs to be on a veterans’ plateau, in front of our VFW/American Legion hall on River Road.”

Around North Arlington, Baez said, “There’s a feeling that the town has been forgotten. There’s no July 4 fireworks. No pride in our community.”

If he’s voted in as mayor, Baez said he’d give away his salary as charitable donations to various community organizations. “I’d give $1,000 to each organization, like the Knights of Columbus, the Elks, the Woman’s Club, the veterans’ groups, plus the Fire Department, Police Department and the Board of Education.

“Money isn’t the importance of being mayor – it’s being the voice of the people,” he said.

Local government’s inability to agree on a municipal budget is a disgrace, Baez said. “We all have to come up with a budget to run our home.”

To get more revenues, North Arlington should “promote the use of the baler” by other communities and should do more to attract “franchises” and other tenants for the industrial park in the meadows behind Saw Mill Creek, he said.

Baez grew up in Newark where he attended St. Lucy’s Grammar School and Essex County Vocational High School. He took college classes while stationed in Germany with the military. After his Army service, he was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.

He has served with the USPS for 12 years and has been a shop steward with the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Branch 38 for Kearny and North Arlington.

In North Arlington, he is service officer for the American Legion Alexander Stover Post 37 and senior vice commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Carlos Sass Post 4697. During his time with the veterans’ groups, Baez has chaired the local Boys’ State, Patriots Pen and Voice of Democracy programs, helped organize the Memorial Day Parade, family food drive, dinner program for veterans at the V.A. Hospital in East Orange and the burning of worn U.S. flags and supported the campaign to rename the Passaic River bridge for the late Marine Lance Cpl. Osmany Montes deOca. This year, he was nominated by the Legion for the Veteran of the Year award.

He is also a member of the Liquid Church in Nutley.

Baez, who lives on Roosevelt St., has two daughters, Amanda, 17, and Monica, 16.

Baubles, bangles & bail


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


“It was,” said Kearny Police Chief John Dowie, “like following a trail of breadcrumbs.”

Except that these crumbs glittered in the morning sun and were worth a good amount of bread, being assorted pieces of jewelry stolen from a Windsor St. home. Cops recovered both the bling and the alleged burglar, identified as 41-yearold John Enright of Kearny.

Dowie said that at about 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 29, headquarters received a call from a concerned citizen about a possible burglary in progress at a residence on the 200 block of Windsor.

Dispatched to the address, Officer T.J. Hernandez took up a position at the front of the home, while Sgt. Paul Bershefski went to the rear of property, where, police said, he encountered Enright “leaving via the deck.”

The suspect reentered the home, and the sergeant shouted a warning to Hernandez that a man was fleeing out the front door. Sure enough, he exited there, clutching a bundle — a gray T-shirt that appeared to be full of purloined items, police said.

Ignoring Hernandez’ orders to stop, he took off on foot, pursued by the officer and with the T-shirt reportedly “emitting jewelry as he fled.” She chased him south on Windsor and then east on Liberty St., where he entered an apartment building near Maple St.

Hernandez continued to follow and saw him enter a third-floor apartment.

Other KPD units responded, and Enright was persuaded to open the door and surrender, police said. Inside, they said, were the proceeds of the burglary, still wrapped in the T-shirt.

Hernandez retraced the route of the pursuit, following and retrieving the “breadcrumbs,” those pieces of jewelry that had been scattered along the way.

All the stolen items were inventoried at headquarters, and they included:

• 3 necklaces

• 9 bracelets

• 10 rings

• 10 watches

• 39 pairs of earrings

• 14 single earrings

• 4 charms

• 1 silver jewelry tray

• 1 butter knife

And: 1 gray T-shirt

Police said the homeowner confirmed that the property was hers and that it had all been in her residence when she left that morning.

Enright was charged with burglary, theft, possession of stolen property, and resisting arrest.

He was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $40,000 bail.