Congressman Pascrell welcomes Lyndhurst’s Failace; U.S. Representative moved by grid kicker and his mother’s story

PATERSON —  It all began so innocently, when Lyndhurst High School senior Michael Failace was nominated by the Golden Bears’ coaching staff for the “Heart of a Giant” program, sponsored by the New York Giants, honoring local high school football players for their courageous and spirited activity off the field.

Failace was selected because he was instrumental in his mother’s heroic and amazing battle with colon cancer.

Dawn Failace was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and given about a one-percent chance of survival. But she underwent a radical surgery to attack the cancer cells.

Michael Failace helped with his mother’s care while juggling his responsibilities as the reliable placekicker for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II state champions in the fall, Lyndhurst’s first state championship in 36 years.

The remarkable story of the Failaces was written here in The Observer in the October 16, 2019 editions of The Observer.

Although Failace did not receive enough votes to receive the Giants’ award, just the nomination was newsworthy enough and his plight caught the eye of United States Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson), an avid sports fan who constantly catches up on the local sports scene by reading the local newspapers.

“I read that article very carefully,” Pascrell said. “I was very impressed with the family. It seemed like more than an article. It was a story of inner strength. Michael did what he did with love for his mother.”

Pascrell wrote a letter to the editor of The Observer, praising the dedication of Failace,

After reading Pascrell’s letter in the pages of The Observer, it was suggested that someone should call Pascrell’s office to see if a meeting between the two heroes could actually take place.

That indeed is what happened recently, as Failace and his mother Dawn paid a visit to the Congressman’s office. There was a leisurely 90-minute chat, as Failace got to learn a little more about Pascrell and his background in athletics, as a high school student at a now-defunct high school in Paterson called St. John’s and commuting daily by bus and trains to Fordham University in the Bronx.

For anyone trying to figure out that daily commuter’s nightmare in terms of time on a daily passion, it comes to out to more than two hours each way.

That’s showing the dedication to education that Pascrell had, eventually becoming an educator and administrator before entering the world of politics. Pascrell has been a member of the United States Congress for the last 23 years and has gained a reputation as being a fierce legislator.

So soon after giving testimony in the impeachment proceedings toward President Donald Trump last month, Pascrell returned home to New Jersey and settled some business here, like meeting with the state championship kicker and his brave mom, who has been cancer-free for almost two years now.

“I do things like this often,” Pascrell described. “It all depends upon what town and the availability of the kid. I love to do this. Who knows? It could be the teacher coming out of me.”

Pascrell then took out a poster of the Great Falls of Paterson, a majestic picture of the powerful waterfalls near his office.

On the poster, Pascrell wrote: “You and your mom are like the Great Falls. Persistent and strong survivors. Some days, the stream of the falls may become weak, but you two, just like the Great Falls, come roaring back in strength again.”

Pascrell then presented Failace with a special Congressional proclamation. Pascrell didn’t go as far as to call it “Michael and Dawn Failace Day,” in Paterson that day, but he came pretty well close to doing so.

“My father always taught us to just be a good person,” Dawn Failace said. “You can do the best you can do, but just be the best person.”

Dawn Failace, continuing with the praise of her son, told the Congressman that Michael was involved deeply with the Special Angels program, where young people from the community help to mentor those with special needs in all aspects of sports.

Just watching the athletes from Lyndhurst communicate and teach these special education students and coach them in sports is a joy to behold. Michael Failace is one of those Lyndhurst students, just another reason why he was considered for the “Heart of a Giant” program.

“I can see Michael takes after his mother,” Pascrell said. “The seriousness shows.”

Pascrell then asked Failace about his college plans, which are still undecided.

“Whatever you choose, learn that if you truly want something, go out and do your best to do it,” Pascrell said. “I want to know what’s going on in your life.”

Needless to say, the young man of the hour, namely Michael Failace, came away from the day quite impressed.

“It was very cool,” Failace said. “It was incredible to know that someone like a United States Congressman recognized what I did. Most of what I’ve done goes unrecognized. Not everyone knows what it’s like to have a parent go through what my Mom did. It was all good. You could see that the Congressman was proud of me and what I did may have inspired other people to get involved. Days like this don’t happen every day. It was really incredible.”

And it was all inspired by an interview, an article and a letter.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”