By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Carlstadt builder Ed Russo is looking to expand a residential development project already in progress in a Kearny redevelopment area at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. Russo told The Observer last month he has a contract to purchase an additional 2.25 acres of […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Borough residents should be getting their property tax bills by the first week of December, CFO Steve Sanzari said last Thursday, after the Borough Council finally adopted the 2014 municipal budget. Passage of the budget, introduced back in July, has […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent NUTLEY – This township, which has been in the forefront when it comes to offering support and assistance and recognition to veterans, has launched yet another project to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation. This time, going […]
Photo by Karen Zautyk On Veterans Day, the Township of Kearny added this new memorial to Monument Park on Kearny Ave. It will commemorate local members of the armed forces who make the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. […]
Officer John Fabula was on patrol on the 200 block of Passaic Ave. on Jan. 13 when he noticed two individuals “huddled” in the corner of a building and apparently attempting to conceal something, Chief John Dowie reported.
Approaching them on foot, he reportedly saw one trying to stuff a pair of pants into a backpack that appeared to be already full. The second man initially refused to remove his hands from his waistband and face the officer, but eventually produced two bottles of Dove bodywash from under his shirt, Dowie said.
Backup Officers Sean Kelly and Malinda Esposito arrived, but the individual with the backpack reportedly refused to comply with police requests to examine it.
Esposito went to Kmart, reviewed security video, and observed the same two individuals stealing bodywash and deodorant, police said. Armed with an affidavit signed by store security, the officers took the duo into custody and finally searched the backpack, which allegedly was found to contain the same items that had been shoplifted. (Apparently, bodywash and deodorant are favorite black-market items. Either that, or the suspects wanted to smell really sweet and fresh.)
Danny Morales, 35, of Newark was charged with shoplifting, summonsed and released. His alleged cohort — the backpack guy — faces graver consequences. Bruce True, 28, of Newark, allegedly was found to be in possession of three glassine folds of suspected heroin, labeled “Gravity,” two hypodermic syringes, a crack pipe and wire cutters.
Along with shoplifting, True was charged with possession of burglar tools, CDS and drug paraphernalia.
The merchandise was returned to the store.
Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:
An arrest warrant was issued for a woman who fled Kmart on Passaic Ave. after security attempted to detain her on suspicion of shoplifting. The “combative” suspect “violently resisted” the guards and assaulted one with her handbag before escaping in a car with Washington, D.C., plates, Dowie reported.
Officer Leroy Bibbs responded to the 1:15 p.m. report of the crime, did a plate/driver’s license check, and found a Virginia license for the owner. Police said Kmart security identified the woman in the license photo as the suspect: Jdira Nora, 27, of Washington. Patrol units were alerted to be on the lookout for the car.
Officer Jay Ward took a report from a Forest St. resident who believed he had been the victim of a phone scam. The man said he had received a call from two reputed Internal Revenue Service employees who led him to believe he was more than $2,000 in arrears on his taxes and needed to make a payment immediately to avoid an arrest warrant.
The victim was hoodwinked into providing his bank account PIN numbers, and subsequently more than $1,200 was withdrawn in three separate transactions, police said.
The case has been referred to the Detective Bureau for investigation.
At 9:30 p.m., in the area of Kearny and Johnston Aves., Vice detectives observed a car operated by a Belleville man whom they reportedly knew to be the subject of an active warrant out of Union Township. When they stopped the vehicle, they detected the odor of marijuana and a search revealed a container of a substance believed to be the drug, police said. Issa Waldron, 29, was arrested on the warrant and drug charges and also was issued a summons for driving with a suspended license.
Officers Derek Hemphill and Tom Sumowski were on patrol at 3:30 a.m. in South Kearny when they were alerted to a possible assault at a Hackensack Ave. service station. They arrived to find 23-year-old Plainfield resident Charrod Wilson, who denied knowledge of any assault, but who requested that the officers give him a ride home. Said request was politely refused.
People at the station told the cops they did not want Wilson hanging around, but he refused to leave, police said. Checked for warrants, he reportedly was found to be wanted by Woodbridge and finally got his ride in the patrol car, to KPD headquarters, not Plainfield.
At HQ , he phoned “the love of his life” to get a ride home from her, Dowie said, “but apparently her love did not extend beyond a 10-mile radius because she advised him that Kearny was too far,” so he remained a guest of the KPD.
At 3 a.m., Officer Mike Santucci responded with the Kearny EMS to a Devon St. address where a 20-year-old man has been assaulted. The victim, suffering a head injury, was found in the hallway of the multi-family dwelling and was transported to Clara Maass Medical Center. Following inquiries, suspect Reynaldo Fuentes, 29, of Kearny was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault.
At 3:30 a.m., Officer Tom Pontrella responded to the 200 block of Schuyler Ave., where a car had struck a parked vehicle and then left the scene. While Pontrella was searching the area for the 2003 Saturn with heavy front-end damage, the auto was found by Officer Pat Becker on a grassy area adjacent to the Walmart lot. Pontrella arrived to question the driver, Vanessa Casaretto, 30, of Washington Township, who was taken to HQ for an Alcotest and charged with DWI and leaving the scene of an accident. Casaretto was also found to be wanted by Maywood, Rahway and Paramus PD, police said.
At 10 p.m., Vice detectives at Passaic Ave. and Afton St. observed a gray Mercedes speeding, tailgating and travelling erratically, followed it along Afton and Belgrove Drive and stopped it at Devon and Liberty Sts., where the driver was seen discarding an object onto the passenger-side floor, police said. It allegedly turned out to be a vial of ketamine. During a search incident to his arrest, David Lopez, 31, of North Bergen, was found to have a sceond vial of the drug in his jacket pocket, police said. He was charged with possession of a CDS and drug paraphernalia and issued a summons for reckless driving.
At 8 p.m., Officer Malinda Esposito responded to the 100 block of Devon Terrace when a resident reported that his home had been burglarized sometime during the day. Dresser drawers were in disarray, and an iPod and Kindle tablet were missing. Dets. John Telle and Ray Lopez are conducting the follow-up investigation.
– Karen Zautyk
Someone broke the rear door window at a Kenzel Ave. house, opened the door from the inside, entered and rummaged through drawers in a master bedroom, tossing items on the floor and taking jewelry from jewelry boxes, police said. The incident, logged at 2:14 p.m., happened when the occupant wasn’t home, police said.
At 10:51 a.m., police responded to a report of a dispute at Franklin and Vreeland Aves. One person told police they were driving south on Franklin as a man was crossing and that second party began shouting at him because he felt the driver wasn’t slowing down for him and then broke his windshield. Police charged the pedestrian, Joseph Mifsud, 54, of Bloomfield, with criminal mischief and released him pending a court date.
At 8:29 p.m., police went to a Prospect St. location on a report of a house burglary. The victim told police that after returning home, they found that someone had rummaged through a drawer and may have taken some important documents and also rummaged through a closet and jewelry box in the bedroom. Police said it appeared that an intruder got inside through a basement window.
Police said a motor vehicle stop on Washington Ave., at 10:20 a.m., resulted in the arrest of Terrell R. Gregory, 28, of Jersey City, for two warrants from Jersey City. He was also issued a summons charging him with driving with tinted windows.
While conducting a check of Demuro Park at 4:24 p.m., police said they noticed that the backboard attached to one of the basketball stanchions on the west side of the court had been damaged, leaving a large hole in the middle of it. Police notified the Parks Department.
At 4:35 p.m., police responded to a Franklin Ave. service station on a report of theft of services. An employee told police they filled up a customer’s vehicle with gas but in attempting to collect the amount owed, the customer paid only a portion and drove away. Police said the employee described the customer’s car as a Nissan Armada with tinted windows, driven by an Hispanic man, between 25 and 30, wearing a green hat.
At 9:35 a.m., police received a report of criminal mischief at a Centre St. location. The victim told police they found vomit on the sideswalk and one of the panes from a 12-pane window on the side of their building broken.
– Ron Leir
February has been designated as National Children’s Dental Health Month and is designed to raise awareness about the importance of oral health, The Smile and Implant Center of Kearny reminds us.
Here are some salient facts on the topic from the Center’s staff: Despite the fact that it’s almost entirely preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. More than 40% of children ages 2 to 11 have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth, and more than two-thirds of 16- to- 19-yearolds have had a cavity in their permanent teeth. Although overall rates of tooth decay have decreased over the past four decades, decay has actually increased in preschool age children in recent years.
The good news is there are safe and effective preventive measures that can protect teeth. Good oral hygiene practices such as thorough brushing with fluoride toothpaste can help keep children from getting cavities. In addition, professional dental cleanings, fluoride treatments and dental sealants can help prevent tooth decay.
If you need a dental exam for your child by a caring, warm and gentle dental hygienist, call The Smile and Implant Center at 201-991-1055. Tokie, Clara and Kelly will put both you and your child at ease during your dental visit.
Many insurance companies and now the new healthcare marketplace plans include dental coverage for children. Be sure to take advantage of your dental health benefits for 2014.
The Smile and Implant Center offers early, late and Saturday appointments for your convenience. Please call 201-991-1055 for your appointment or email Alexis@thesmileandimplantcenter.com.
Belleville Public Library and Information Center Children’s Room, 221 Washington Ave., announces a Hibernation Party on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. Celebrate this cozy time with a wintry craft, hot chocolate and other treats. Come in your pajamas and bring your favorite stuffed friend. For more information, call 973-450-3434.
West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group provides an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201- 998-6828, Rosa at 201-246-7750, Fatima at 973-485-4236 or email email@example.com. Together we will fight this disease.
Holy Cross Church sponsors a bus trip to the Taj Mahal and outlet shopping in Atlantic City on Sunday, Jan. 26. The bus leaves at 10 a.m. from Holy Cross School. Refreshments will be served in the school basement starting at 9:15 a.m. The cost is a $30 donation (with $25 return in slot play). For reservations, call Joan at 973-481-2434 or Marie (Spanish) at 973-481-1799. Leave your name, phone number and the number of people attending.
Calvary Chapel of Kearny, 156 Oakwood Ave., will hold a blood drive on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kearny Health Department, 645 Kearny Ave., reminds pet owners to renew their dog/ cat licenses. License fees are as follows: non-neutered/nonspayed, $21 and $18 for animals that are neutered/spayed (with proof). An additional $25 late fee will be assessed for licenses renewed after March 31. Licenses can be obtained at the Health Department, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by mail. Proof of a rabies shot, valid for the entire licensing year, is required.
The Health Department is also offering a free rabies clinic on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Kearny Water Department garage, 570 Elm St. Previously licensed pet owners will be mailed a rabies vaccination certificate that must be filled out and brought to the clinic with their pets.
For more information, call the Health Department at 201- 997-0600, ext. 3506 or 3505.
Kearny UNICO sponsors a fundraising bus trip to the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City on Sunday, Jan. 26. The bus will depart from American Legion Post 99 on Belgrove Drive at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 with $25 in slot play back from the casino. Monies raised by this trip will help fund scholarships and other charitable donations. To purchase tickets or for more information, contact Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at 201- 368-2409.
The St. Stephen’s Seniors will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 21, starting with a board meeting at 10:30 a.m. and refreshments are served at noon.
The anniversary party will be held on Friday, April 11, at the San Carlo Restaurant.
For more information, contact Tom at 201-998-8258.
Registration for the spring semester of the Kearny Adult School will be held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 27, 28 and 29, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the main office of Kearny High School, 336 Devon St. Brochures listing course offerings are available at The Observer, 39 Seeley Ave., Kearny Public Library or the Board of Education office at 100 Davis Ave. For more information, call the Kearny Adult School at 201-955-1392.
Meet a “Rescue Dog”! Mahwah-based New Jersey Search and Rescue returns to the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, on Sunday, Jan. 26, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. All ages are welcome. Learn how the dogs work. Also find out how you can stay safe in the wilderness and what to do if you get lost. New Jersey Search and Rescue is an officially recognized state and county emergency management resource organization. Admission is $5/person; $4/MEC members.
Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register, go to www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec. For more information, call 201-460-8300.
Lyndhurst Police Emergency Squad will hold a Tricky Tray on Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Fiesta, 255 Rt. 17 South, Woodridge. Doors open at 7 p.m. Raffle drawing starts at 8 p.m. Pre-sale prize tickets will be held at the door and can also be purchased from any LPES member. The $40 admission includes dinner, buffet, soft drinks, dessert, tea and coffee, a sheet of 20 regular prize tickets and five medium prize tickets.
Other ticket packages are available through pre-sale only.
Tickets may be ordered online via http://www. eventbrite.com/e/lpes-1sttricky- tray-fundraiser-tickets- 9930115242?aff=efbevent. For more information, call 201-804- 2469 or visit www.emergencysquad.com/tricky-tray.
Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., reminds pet owners to renew licenses for domesticated cats/ dogs by Jan. 31. A $10 late fee is assessed for any animal registered after Jan. 31. Renew licenses in Suite 1 of the Health Department.
The Order of the Amaranth sponsors a Tricky Tray on Feb. 16 at noon at the Masonic Temple, 321 Second Ave. A $5 donation is requested. For more information, call 201-997- 4402.
Lyndhurst Knights of Columbus Casino Night will be held on Friday, Feb. 21, at the VFW Building, 577 Valley Brook Ave, Lyndhurst, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 each, which includes a hot buffet, cash bar and $100 in “play” money. No tickets will be sold at the door. Seating is llimited. For tickets, contact Sal Russo at 201-446 7244 or Nick Garafolo at 201-893-2848.
North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, hosts a Valentine’s Day luncheon on Friday, Feb. 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with be a free bingo special, followed by lunch at noon, the crowning of the king and queen at 1 p.m. and bingo at 1:30 p.m. For more information and reservations, call 201-998-5636.
The North Arlington Seniors, Inc. (Tuesday Club) has scheduled a trip to the Showboat Casino on Feb. 6. The bus will leave the Municipal Building at 9 a.m. Trips are also planned for the following dates (these are not yet booked) – March 6, April 3, May 1 and June 5.
The group will sponsor a trip to LaGreci’s, Staten Island, N.Y., for a St. Patrick’s Fest. The bus will leave at 9:30 a.m. For information or reservations, call Rose at 201-991-2423. Non-members are welcome to attend trips.
The Senior Harmony Club of North Arlington sponsors a trip to the Taj Mahal Casino on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The cost is $25. For more information, call Florence at 201-991-3173. All are welcome.
The North Arlington Board of Health sponsors a free rabies clinic at the Legion Place Firehouse on Thursday, Jan. 30, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Borough residents are urged to make sure that all cats and dogs are vaccinated against rabies.
Dogs are required to have a borough-issued license by the end of January, but a license cannot be issued if a dog has not had documentation of updated rabies vaccine.
Unvaccinated domestic animals can contract rabies from wild animals, sicken and die, as well as endanger humans.
North Arlington Elks sponsors “Beef and Brew” on Friday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 per person and includes tossed salad, pasta, beef on toast, French fries, dessert, coffee, tea, beer, wine and soda. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For tickets, contact Chris Clune at 201-284-8582 or Cheryl Clune at 201-923-3268.
Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., announces the following programs:
• Library Catalog 101 teaches the latest tips and strategies to effectively search for and request items, how to share what you are reading on Facebook and how to manage your online library account on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m.
• The library hosts a discussion of two short stories by Nutley authors, Frank Stockton and Henry (H.C.) Bunner on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 2 p.m. Participants will discuss “The Lady or the Tiger?” and “Love Before Breakfast” by Frank Stockton and “The Pointers” and “The Story of a Path” by H.C. Bunner.
Copies of the stories are available at the library. This special event begins a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the library with monthly events and contests.
For more information, call the library at 973-667-0405.
• Utilizing Yahoo, Y Not? offers a guided tour through the many different services and tools offered by Yahoo, including My Yahoo, Ymail, the blog site Tumblr and the photo sharing site Flickr on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. Participants will not have access to a computer. Call the library at 973-667-0405, ext. 2604, to register no later than one week before each presentation.
The Nutley Parks and Recreation Department will sponsor the winter session of its “Let’s Get Moving” children’s program beginning Feb. 4 and running for eight weeks. The classes, for ages 3 to 5, consist of stretching and balancing exercises, relays, games, karate and dance moves. Parent participation is required. Residents may choose from a Tuesday class at 1 p.m. or a Thursday class at 9:15 a.m. Class size is limited to 15 per session. Register now online at https://nutleynj.my.gov-i.com/ recreation or by application at the Rec Department, 44 Park Ave.
Also starting Feb. 4 and running for eight weeks is the “Fun with Music” program for children ages 18 months to 3. Choose between a Tuesday class from 9:15 to 10 a.m. or a Thursday class from 1 to 1:45 p.m. Pre-registration is required. Class space is limited and will be honored on a first come, first served basis. Register online now https://nutleynj. my.gov-i.com/recreation.
For more information on these or other recreation programs, call 973-284-4966 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Mike Goff is in his second year coaching the Lyndhurst/North Arlington wrestling cooperative program and the young coach is finding things easier to come by during his second go-round.
“It’s definitely a lot easier,” said the 26-year-old Goff. “The kids know me and know how my program works. We were able to step up the tempo this year and progress a lot faster. We’re able to do things differently in practices. They understand my lingo.”
When Goff took over the program last year, he mentioned the understanding of the “lingo,” like he spoke a different language than most wrestling coaches. He wasn’t kidding.
“They understand what I say and what it means,” Goff said.
For example, Goff uses a term called a “sit pop,” which was foreign even to the most knowledgeable of wrestling folk. It’s like a combination of a “sit out” and a “pop-up,” two terms more readily recognizable.
“I think the kids have picked up on my terms,” Goff said. “Like sit pop.”
Not only is the head coach of the program, which combines students from both Lyndhurst and North Arlington, younger than most coaches, the team is comprised of seven sophomores, almost unheard of in a sport where experience reigns supreme.
“Half the lineup is made up of sophomores,” Goff said. “I think they all have a lot more confidence this year than they had last year and I have a lot more confidence in them. I think the year of experience has helped. I think it’s good to have a young team. They’ve had the time to progress and by the time they are seniors, they will have something to show for their hard work.”
The team is already showing major signs of improvement. Lyndhurst/North Arlington owns a 3-2 record in dual meets, after defeating Leonia/ Palisades Park, another cooperative program, 46-27, last Friday night.
The match was held at North Arlington High School, the first time that North Arlington hosted a home wrestling match in more than five years. It was held at North Arlington with the hope that it would draw some interest to the sport and encourage more North Arlington students to get involved in wrestling.
The wrestling mats were transported from Lyndhurst High to North Arlington for the match. A solid crowd attended. It was a great step for the future of the program.
Goff, whose team also defeated Secaucus last week, said that he is pleased with the way his team has responded this season.
“They’ve shown a lot improvement and progression from last year to this year,” Goff said. “I think they’re all a lot more comfortable. I think we have a well-conditioned team and that has helped. We have a lot more kids out and we basically have everyone back from last year.”
Leading the returnees is senior 138-pounder Joey Morreale, who has been a veteran of the Lyndhurst Recreation wrestling program since he was a toddler. Morreale already has 12 wins this season and he’s well on his way to having a spectacular senior campaign.
“I’m counting on him to go pretty far this year,” Goff said of Morreale, who won via a pin over David Lopez in 3:47 Friday night. “I really think he can qualify for the states (in Atlantic City in March). He’s sound on his feet and knows how to ride an opponent. He’s our top wrestler.”
Morreale is also a standout in the pole vault during the spring track season.
Another top returnee is junior 220-pounder Lou LaRegina, who went to the Region 2 tournament a year ago.
“I have high hopes for him,” Goff said of LaRegina, who won via a pin in just 1:05 Friday night.
Sophomore Corey Leclerc is a fixture at 112 pounds. Leclerc already has 10 wins this season.
“He’s been doing pretty well,” Goff said. “I’m definitely counting on him to be a fighter for us. I can count on him to get points to help us. He’s a sound wrestler and he’s very technical.”
Senior Frank Mezzina is the team’s 160-pounder. Mezzina, a standout on the Lyndhurst football team, is one of the strongest wrestlers around. He’s won six matches, including one via pin Friday night.
“He came into the season in excellent shape,” Goff said.
The team is bolstered by the efforts of the Yunis brothers, namely freshman 103-pounder Conor Yunis and 120-pounder Devin.
“Devin Yunis is one of the most improved wrestlers we have,” Goff said. “He’s a lot smarter now and doesn’t give up easy take downs. Conor has been wrestling up a little, taking on guys who are bigger than him. But I definitely like his heart. He has a lot of promise.”
Conor Yunis won via a pin Friday, while Devin earned a win via forfeit.
The middle of the lineup features two wrestlers who are students at North Arlington in sophomore 126-pounder Luis Arzuaga and sophomore 132-pounder Andrew Fernandez.
“I like the way Luis is progressing,” Goff said. “He’s just starting to get it. Andrew is a solid wrestler who can get points when we need them.”
Fernandez won via a majority 18-8 decision Friday night to improve to 8-5 on the young season.
Shayne Cosme is the team’s 145-pounder. Like most of the team, Cosme is a sophomore.
At 152, Miraldo Mora is a freshman who is just learning the sport for the first time. Goff likes the promise of both kids.
Junior Rocco Russamano was slated to be the team’s 171-pounder, but broke his foot in the preseason and is just about ready to return to action.
“He’s a hard worker who will fit into the lineup nicely,” Goff said.
Sophomore Matt DeMarco is the team’s fixture at 182 pounds. DeMarco comes from a long line of wrestlers in his family.
“He has a good background in the sport and has a lot of potential,” Goff said.
Sophomore Michael Cooper is holding forth at 195 pounds. Cooper is another first-year wrestler who is replacing the injured Shane Reed, a junior.
The heavyweight is senior Albert Faiti, another firstyear wrestler.
“He has a lot of pure strength,” Goff said of Faiti. “His muscle helps him.”
So the young coach with the young team provides a ton of promise for a program that brings two neighboring rivals together for one solid cause.
“We were a little injuryprone, but we’re coming around,” Goff said. “Once we get everyone back, I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team.”
One that will make some noise by the end of the season – and then the years to come.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
His life as an umpire in Major League Baseball has taken him all over the country, but there’s nothing that could pull Phil Cuzzi away from his roots in Essex County.
Cuzzi will begin his 15th season as an MLB umpire this season, but he never wanders too far from his native Belleville or his current home in Nutley.
“There was never even a question about it,” said Cuzzi, who has resided in Nutley with his wife, Gilda, for the last 20 years. “I came from Belleville and I moved all the way to Nutley. This is my home. This is where I belong.”
Cuzzi will host his annual fundraising dinner at Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville later this month that will benefit ALS Research and provide scholarships for families grappling with the crippling and fatal disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The fundraising dinner (this year, it’s Jan. 30, but the event is a complete sellout) was set up to help Cuzzi’s childhood friend and Belleville High School teammate Robert Luongo, a standout All- State two-sport athlete at Belleville during his heyday.
“We went to school together since junior high and we were the best of friends,” Cuzzi said. “We were almost related. We shared the same first cousins. We became inseparable growing up through school and sports and were always together at family functions.”
So when Luongo was diagnosed with ALS more than 10 years ago, Cuzzi wanted to do whatever he could to help with the situation.
“We wanted to buy him a computer so he could communicate with his eyes,” Cuzzi said. “That’s where it all started. His eyes were the only thing he had left, other than his mind. When he first had symptoms, he had problems with his arm and his hands. When he was diagnosed, it was a sad reality. He said it was like receiving a death sentence.”
Cuzzi said that he became more educated about ALS since Luongo was diagnosed.
“I learned so much about it,” Cuzzi said. “A lot of people don’t know much about ALS, except that it’s called ‘Lou Gehrig’s disease.’ Once you see someone affected by it, like the way Robert was for over five years, then you learn how devastating it really is.”
When Cuzzi started the fundraising dinner, he made a promise to his friend.
“I told him that we were going to raise money for his daughter,” Cuzzi said. “I told him that she would never have to worry about her college education. Robert was a Harvard graduate and I said that if she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps, then we would send her to Harvard.”
Dominique Luongo was nine when her father was diagnosed.
“I’m proud to say that she just completed her first semester at Harvard,” Cuzzi said. “We know that Robert is looking down with pride. There’s no question he has something to do with this.”
Cuzzi said that he began his pursuit of “his dream job” almost 30 years ago.
“I started out as a school teacher in Union,” Cuzzi said. “I was a graphic arts teacher, but I just knew there had to be more to life. So I left teaching and went into sales, but that didn’t satisfy me. Baseball was always my love. One day, I was with a bunch of friends at Yankee Stadium at a game and for some reason, I found myself focusing on the umpires. I thought to myself, ‘What a great job that would be, to be in the big leagues, working baseball games, being in charge.’‘’
Soon after, Cuzzi went to the Harry Wendlestadt Umpiring School in Florida.
“Once I went, I got the bug,” Cuzzi said. “I was obsessed. That was it. I became obsessed and driven.”
It fueled Cuzzi’s odyssey that started in the New York- Penn League. Cuzzi spent 13 years working games in minor league baseball, hoping for the big break.
Cuzzi got the call to work his first MLB game in St. Louis, a game between the Cardinals and the Dodgers. At first, he was strictly a National League umpire, but when MLB began moving umpires between both leagues, Cuzzi got the chance to umpire games at Yankee Stadium, eventually working some games in the American League Championship Series.
“It really was unbelievable,” Cuzzi said. “People kept telling me how hard it was going to be to make it, but I thought someone had to make it, so why not me?”
During his career, the 58-year-old Cuzzi has worked four playoff divisional series and presided over the National League Championship Series in 2005. He also worked the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in 2008 and was the first base umpire for the firstever game at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.
During his career, Cuzzi has also worked two no-hit games. He was the home plate umpire when Bud Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals fired a nohitter in 2001 and was the third base umpire when Jonathan Sanchez of the San Francisco Giants tossed a no-hitter in 2009.
Cuzzi has definitely seen his share of controversy in his career, including a call in the 2009 American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins that Cuzzi received a ton of criticism over.
“I don’t read the papers, because you never read anything about me doing a good job,” Cuzzi said. “It’s only when it’s bad. A controversial call is what it is. (Legendary umpire) Al Barlick was the one who gave me my chance and years ago, he said that if you read the papers and your feelings are hurt, then you shouldn’t be in the business. So I just don’t read them.”
Cuzzi said that the job as a major league umpire gets tougher every day.
“With high definition television and instant replay, there is all this scrutiny now,” Cuzzi said. “It makes the job more difficult.”
Beginning this season, the role of an umpire will get even harder, because MLB will implement even more instant replay rules. It won’t be just home runs. Other calls regarding fair or foul balls, safe or out calls will be in play.
That’s why Cuzzi will head to Phoenix Sunday for the annual meetings to go over rules, as well as the annual physicals.
“It’s a blessing,” Cuzzi said. “I consider my job to be a blessing. It never gets old. I’m living a dream.”
Cuzzi said that he’s spent the off-season in Nutley doing things around the house.
“When the season finishes, you welcome the off-season, because the season is long,” Cuzzi said. “The season goes fast, but the off-season goes faster. I can’t believe how quickly the time goes. Once we get through these meetings in Phoenix, that’s when I’ll start to get the itch to get back. It gets me antsy and ready to go.”
Cuzzi will go to Florida for the month of March and work a series of spring training games there.
For now, Cuzzi will concentrate on the last-minute preparations for his annual dinner.
In the past, Cuzzi has welcomed such prestigious special guests as Tommy Lasorda, Bob Costas, Larry Holmes, Joe Pepitone and Bucky Dent. Last year, Tony LaRussa, who recently learned he will be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame this August, was the featured speaker.
“This year, it will be a blockbuster, but I can’t say who it is,” Cuzzi said. “I don’t know if people come to the dinner because they respect my work. I think it’s that the baseball community is so small and they all rally together for the cause. There are big hearts in everybody. Through my association with baseball, I’m able to tap into those big hearts and bring those people into Belleville.”
Robert Luongo passed away five years ago, but his memory lives on through this great fundraising dinner.
“Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to be able to basically get the same 600 people to come to the dinner,” Cuzzi said. “It’s a good cause and it’s our local community that comes out. Every year we’ve had this dinner, it sells out. It’s very comforting to know that so many people care. It’s 10 years now and it’s still going strong. When we started it, we never thought it would snowball into this.”
The Robert Luongo ALS Fund is a 501 C-3 charity. In addition to helping ALS research in Luongo’s name, the funds go to scholarships for victims of ALS.
“It really is a great thing and I’m proud to be a part,” Cuzzi said. It’s definitely a home run for a local guy who never wandered far from his roots.
“This is my home,” Cuzzi said. “It’s where I belong.”
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
There was never any denying the immense basketball talents of Jeremy Joseph.
When Joseph arrived at Queen of Peace last year, he was instantly installed into the Golden Griffins’ starting lineup as the top point guard.
There was only one problem. Joseph didn’t know if he was exactly ready for the challenge.
“Honestly, I was a little scared,” Joseph said.
It didn’t help that Joseph happened to break his nose, not once, but twice.
“The first time it happened, I thought it would make me better,” Joseph said. “I knew I could compete, but then I had to wear a mask and that took a while to get used to it. Once I got comfortable with the mask, I took it off and I broke it again.”
“I asked a lot of him as a freshman,” Queen of Peace head boys’ basketball coach Tom McGuire said. “I was asking him to be the point guard and it was a lot. Then, he got hurt.” So when plans were being made for the 2013-14 season, McGuire made a huge change. He took the ball out of Joseph’s hands and moved him to the starting off-guard slot.
“I wanted him to be more of a scorer,” McGuire said. “He was the best player on the team and the best player on the court. I wanted to use him in a better way.”
Joseph knew he had to become a better player. So in the offseason, Joseph became a regular in the QP weight room. He grew, became bigger and stronger.
“He grew to 6-foot-3,” McGuire said. “He put on 15 pounds of muscle.”
Joseph also joined a prestigious AAU program in Whippany in Morris County and played basketball all summer long.
And one more important fact – Joseph never took the facemask off again.
“I was fine with it and became used to it,” Joseph said of the mask. “I figured that if it was going to happen again, it was going to happen. I couldn’t play with the fear of getting hurt again. I just felt more comfortable. It was better for the other players if I didn’t play the point, better for the team. I’m not the best ball handler in the world, so if someone else handled it, it would be better for everyone.”
McGuire said that putting Joseph at the shooting guard slot helped his immense ability to rebound.
“He is an incredible rebounder,” McGuire said. “He averaged about seven rebounds per game last year, but he’s better than that. He wants to get that defensive rebound and then take the ball up the court, dribbling through everyone. He has also improved his jump shot. He’s now definitely more inside-out. He’s a true slashing player. He just gets the ball to the hoop.”
Joseph knows that he has improved as a player – utilizing his speed to the fullest.
“It’s the only way I know how to score,” Joseph said. “I go quick. I get the rebound and push the ball up the floor. I crash the boards, get the ball and play off that fast pace.”
Joseph has also become a more confident player.
“My mentality has changed,” Joseph said. “I’ve become a lot tougher and more aggressive. I can’t wait for things to happen. I have to make them happen. I just have to do what I have to do.”
The results have been staggering. Joseph has become one of the top players in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference, emerging as a two-way force, scoring and rebounding.
Joseph is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Golden Griffins, one of the most improved teams in the NJIC-Liberty Division.
In a recent win over Harrison, Joseph had an astounding 29 points and 22 rebounds. He also had 24 points, 11 rebounds and four steals against Rutherford, added 13 points and 11 rebounds against Lyndhurst, 15 points and 11 rebounds against Secaucus and 15 points and 13 rebounds Sunday night against St. Mary’s of Rutherford in a game played at Felician College.
For his efforts, Joseph has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“He now has the mentality that he can score,” McGuire said. “His decision making is very good and it’s improving. Once he develops a jumper off the dribble, he will become a better player. He definitely has made me look smart, moving him from point guard. You can only tell someone to do so much. When he does the other little things, he’s very impressive. He even impresses me.” Don’t forget that Joseph is just 15 years old and only a sophomore. There’s a lot of room to grow and improve.
“I think he’s doing well, but I still think he can do more,” McGuire said. “He can improve his shooting numbers. He can shoot the three (point shot) better.”
“There’s always room for improvement,” Joseph said. “That’s how I look at it.”
Joseph is a very driven player. His family originates from Sri Lanka, so he has a goal that is related to his heritage.
“I want to become the first college basketball player from Sri Lanka,” Joseph said. “There’s never been one. People from Sri Lanka are usually cricket players. One of my dreams is to become a Division I college basketball player.”
McGuire realizes Joseph has talent, but there’s a long way to go.
“Ultimately, if he grows a little and gets stronger, he can be a legit prospect,” McGuire said. “We’ll see. The potential is definitely there. We haven’t seen the best of him yet. I don’t know where the potential will stop.”
There is one aspect to Joseph’s potential that McGuire doesn’t have to worry about. Joseph is an excellent student.
“He’s No. 2 right now in his class,” McGuire said. “He’s extremely bright. Anything you throw at him, he understands and picks it up right away. He’s extremely smart on the floor and what he sees on the floor.”
Joseph is a native of North Arlington who has always aspired to be a Golden Griffin hoop standout.
“I went to Queen of Peace grammar school,” Joseph said. “My brother (Josh) was a varsity basketball player at QP and I used to go to all his games. I knew that when my time came around, I wanted to do the same thing. He inspired me. I feel I’m right on target in being a good player. I can only improve if I intensify my game.”
It appears as if Jeremy Joseph is definitely right on target and that the future is bright.
The caption accompanying the old photo reads: ‘Eagle Hose Company No. 3 fi re trucks, 1940s, North Arlington.’ We believe they are fire engines, not trucks — yes, there is a difference — but we might be wrong. In any case, they are pretty nifty-looking vehicles, especially the one with the stylish whitewall tires. As noted in ‘A Place in History’ by Merritt Ierley, Eagle Hose was organized in 1922, the third company of the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department. It joined Schuyler Engine Co. No. 2 (formed in 1916) and the community’s first fire unit, Hendel Hose Co. No. 1, which was launched in 1910 after the Borough Council adopted an ordinance establishing the Fire Department. That inaugural Hose Co. No. 1, Ierley writes, ‘had to acquire its own equipment — two well-used pumpers and some hose purchased for $50 from the Kearny Fire Department with the proceeds of dances, raffles and carnivals.’ Currently, the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department has 85 members, 35 of which are assigned to Eagle Hose No. 3, which is still located behind the Borough Hall on Legion Place east of Ridge Road.
– Karen Zautyk
Jason DeFina died on Dec. 21 at home. He was 47.
Born in Jersey City, he lived in Newark for the past 20 years.
Private arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.
Jason is survived by his wife Michelle (nee Santamassino), his children Melissa and Jason, his brothers Tony and Rance and four grandchildren.
Charles William Girgan
Charles William Girgan, of Kearny and Palm Coast, Fla., 89, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 16.
A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held on Thursday, Jan. 23, at 4 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, 663 Kearny Ave, Kearny. Arrangements are by the Armitage & Wiggins Funeral Home, Kearny.
Charlie, as he was known to his many friends, may be remembered for his successes in business and on the athletic field. Those who knew him best, however, will cherish most of all, his spirit of humility, honesty, kindness and generosity.
A resident of Kearny for 65 years of his 89 years, Charlie was born and raised on Johnson Ave., a street affectionately remembered as “Cooper’s Block.” He graduated from Kearny High School in 1942 as a member of both the football and baseball teams. He then enlisted in the United States Navy, where he served as Quartermaster 1st Class on the U.S.S. Huse Destroyer Escort (DE) 145 during World War II. For service to their country, Charlie and his shipmates received four Bronze Stars as well as the Victory Medal. Always a sportsman, Charlie obtained his Bachelor of Business degree from the former Upsala College, East Orange, Class of 1949, where he was captain of the football team. It was there where he met the great love of his life, Evelyn Kemp and asked her to marry him. Married on April 1, 1951, they went on to share a marriage of 62 years, which will forever be an inspiration to all who knew them.
Always with Evelyn by his side, Charlie continued his football career as a kicker for the Jersey City Giants of the American Professional Football League. Later as a chartered property and casualty underwriter (CPCU), he went on to build a respected career in the insurance industry as partner of Mintz and Girgan (currently Mintz, Girgan and Brightly), a position he held for over 50 years.
His love of sport flourished in his passion for golf, which he played alongside lifelong friends at Forest Hills Field Club (FHFC) in Bloomfield, where he served as vice president for many years.
He is survived by his cherished wife Evelyn; devoted daughters Jeanne Naughton and her husband Michael and Jan Girgan and her husband Carl Picillo as well as two adoring grandsons, Michael Charles and William Ellis Naughton. He is also survived by several nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Jon Girgan.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Barnabas Health and Hospice and Palliative Care Center, 95 Short Hills Road, West Orange, N.J. 07052 or charity of choice would be appreciated.
Marilyn Gruchacz, (nee Mc- Corry), entered into eternal rest on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at home in Point Pleasant. She was 71.
Funeral services were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison.
For information or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfuneralhome.org.
Born in Harrison, she lived most of her life in Bloomfield before returning to Point Pleasant in 2008. She worked for Mutual Benefit Insurance Company, Newark, for many years. She was a graduate of Queen of Peace High School, North Arlington.
She is survived by her loving children Brian, Kevin and Jill and her cherished grandchildren Elizabeth, Tyler and Lucas. She is also survived by her ex-husband Michael Gruchacz.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105- 1942 in memory of Marilyn.
Thomas Laidlaw, Patricia Robertson Laidlaw
Thomas Laidlaw, 82, formerly of Kearny, passed away Tuesday Dec. 31, in St Petersburg, Fla., and his loving wife, Patricia (Patsy) Robertson Laidlaw, formerly of Harrison, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 14, in Clearwater, Fla.
Born and raised in Kearny, Thomas married Patricia Robertson on July 24, 1954, at Holy Cross Church in Harrison.
He was the economic development director for Somerset Co., Md., before retiring to Florida with his wife in 1996. Prior to that, he served as corporate vice president and general manager of Ametek, Odenton, Md., division vice president of Sherwin Williams, Cleveland, Ohio, and director of industrial engineering for RCA Corp., Harrison.
Tom was a graduate of Kearny High School, where he was an All-State soccer player and a captain of the Kearny team. He continued to play in college, being awarded a soccer scholarship from Seton Hall University, South Orange, where he received his undergraduate degree. He maintained ties to the Kearny and Seton Hall soccer alumni associations, attending annual banquets and being honored for his commitment to Kearny and Seton Hall soccer. He received his executive MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He served in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956.
Patsy was born and raised in Harrison. She raised their four children prior to becoming the executive secretary for the legal department at the American Shipbuilding Corp, Cleveland, Ohio, before retiring. Previously, she was an executive secretary in the engineering department at RCA Corp.
She was a graduate of Queen of Peace High School, North Arlington, and Washington Secretarial College, Newark. She also attended Seton Hall University and George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
They are survived by their loving children, Patricia, Thomas Jr. (Cindy), Margaret Laidlaw Kelso, and Janet Bertan (Bruce); three grandchildren, Andrew, Christopher and Wyette Bertan; Patsy’s sister Martha Robertson, and Tom’s two sisters, Margaret Lower (Donald), Jean Metcalf, and his brother John (Helen).
Burial services will be held at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington on March 15, at 11 a.m. Please view and sign the online guestbook at www.blountcurrywest.com.
Clemente S. Lopez Jr.
Clemente S. Lopez Jr. entered into eternal rest on Sunday, Jan. 12, at home in Harrison. He was 63.
Funeral services were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison.
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, he lived most of his life there before moving to Harrison, two years ago. He worked as a home health aide for the last two years. Prior to that, he was an auto body painter in the Philippines. In his free time, Clemente enjoyed singing, karaoke and reading.
Predeceased by his parents, Clemente B. Lopez Sr. and Felipa R. (Sarte) Lopez and a brother Edgar Lopez (2013), he is survived by his beloved fiancé Arlene Cecista of Manila, his loving children, Darwin, Elvira, Clemente III, Alexander, Corazon, Elizabeth, Carlo and Aubrey and John Clement, dear brothers and sisters Amelita Lopez, Mercedita Laqui, Alberto Lopez, Maria Clarita Enriquez, Elpidio Lopez and Hermosa Lopez, and 15 grandchildren. Clemente is also survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins.
For information or to send condolences to the family, please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.
Marguerite A. Woods
Marguerite A. Woods, (nee McEnroe), entered into eternal rest peacefully on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at home.
Funeral services were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison.
For information or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfuneralhome. org.
Born in Newark, she was a lifelong resident of Harrison. She worked as an administrative assistant for Hudson County Schools of Technology, North Bergen. Marguerite was a parishioner of Holy Cross Church and a member of the Harrison Senior Citizens.
Marguerite was a very active women who enjoyed bowling, reading on Chadwick Beach, the outdoors and most importantly, spending time with her grandchildren. She was well known for her impromptu homemade pizza parties.
Predeceased by her parents Richard and Julia McEnroe, she is survived by her loving children, Donald, Stephen and his wife Joan, James and his wife Kimberly, Andrew and Patricia and her husband Mark. She was cherished grandmother of Ryan and Conor Woods, Michael and Ashley Woods, and Dakota and Tristan Hatcher. She was the dear sister of Raymond McEnroe, sister-in-law of Carol McEnroe, Harry Woods, Robert and Claire Greene, and James and Elaine Poplaski. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
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