To the Archdiocese of Newark. And the people. I am writing this message to the Archdiocese of Newark and to all the parents, children and relatives of those who had loved ones who have died to say how I feel about the cemeteries being closed for so long during this terrible pandemic.
Growing up in North Arlington, there was not a lot of things to do when sports and summer playgrounds arts and crafts were over. My friends and I would go to a place called Eddy’s, or Borelli’s on Crystal Street and Ridge Road. There, we would all meet. My friends, a few grades up from us, used to meet there and guys who already graduated and locals already out of college would meet and eat Missy’s Taylor Ham and cheese and have a Coke to wash it down.
The juke box seemed to always being playing “Walk This Way,” by Aerosmith and things were good.
After meeting up, my friends and I would cross the street and go through the b iron bars we would bend open and go in everywhere we wanted. Bending the bars took strength and the will of an inmate, to in this case get in.
We would play tackle football all day and almost every day, for some for four years straight .We would get kicked out several times a day by one of the cemetery workers and we would split through our holes we made in the fence and across the street we were gone until they left.
We would watch the workers try to bend the bars back, but there was a technique used that we knew or forget it. We would laugh at them and be back an hour later. That was where everyone met. That was our hangout, and we owned it .We would go in at night and walk all over the place from Dairy Queen to Bartlett’s Hole by Park Avenue, from one end to the other many times a night, meeting several different age groups as we roamed.
We had handmade forts in the jungle area along Noel Drive and had all kinds of fun as young teenagers.
I remember one summer when I was about 15, we all met up at Eddie’s for a football game and had 14 kids ready to play. As we crossed the street and started through the bars, to our surprise, there were a lot of new six-foot pine trees planted scattered strategically to stop us from playing in the open field on Ridge Road.
We never disrupted anything there ever. It was sacred grounds to us. It was our refuge and we all felt accepted by all the thousands of spirits around us as we roamed around at night. I personally felt they accepted our live spirits and welcomed us as unafraid youthful spirits among them It sounds creepy, but it was how I and we felt and the vibe we were receiving.
My family has had a fund for graduating seniors for many years at Queen of Peace where I went to school, and now that the high school is closed, it goes to a high-scoring, in-need eighth-grader now. We own two plots in the cemetery — one with my grandparents who came over from Italy to Ellis Island and the other one with my mom who I go see two or three times a month.
We own those plots and land.
The main reason why I am writing this story, is because I want to see my mom.
I find it outrageous and spiteful of the church and the Archdiocese of Newark to deny us our right to visit our loved ones at a time like this on our land. I don’t go to church anymore for many reasons I experienced, but my dad still goes. He tells me, there are very few people attending anymore.
I wasn’t surprised.
Open the gates!
I know I can get in there any time I want being that the new fence is cheap aluminum now and it won’t stand a chance, but I am older now and things are very different. I worked for the Archdiocese of Newark as a construction instructor for several year, teaching people from around the globe who spoke no English but were fleeing their countries for many reasons.
After several years, my boss at the time slipped a newspaper ad in my mailbox for a new and better job at a nearby college that was looking for an all-around building instructor to train men trying to get out of a halfway house after doing their time in prison.
I was surprised by who put this ad in my mailbox, and I thought, “Does someone not want me here? Did I do something wrong?”
Turns out I did find out who it was — it was the director who, when I told him I was offered a new and better job, smiled and said, “I know.” It was he who slipped the ad in my box. He said they need you there and you deserve to share your skills to others in need of a new life.
The point I’m trying to make is people need to grieve and that is a sin to take that away from of us, those for whom that is all they have at this point.
Open the cemeteries, Cardinal Tobin! We need them now more than ever.
The writer, Philip Talone, is a resident of North Arlington.