National New Jersey Day

This week we celebrated National New Jersey Day. Yes, that’s right. There’s an official day to nationally celebrate New Jersey.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate New Jersey and I thought I would share some interesting facts about our awesome state, which officially became a state in 1776.

New Jersey State Seal
The New Jersey State Seal (source: state.nj.us)

First of all, we are known as “The Garden State” thanks to Abraham Browning. He bestowed the nickname in 1897, the state was full of garden and farmers, and agriculture was the predominant occupation at that time. While many joke it is better known as “The Mall State” now, if you head to the western part of the state, you will still see plenty of farmland.

The state’s seal was created by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere in 1777 and contains five symbols, each of which represents something about New Jersey. The helmet and the horse’s head crest represent New Jersey’s independence as a state. They also represent New Jersey’s status as one of the first states. In 1787 New Jersey was the third state to sign the U.S. Constitution. The woman holding a staff with a liberty cap on top is Liberty, who represents freedom. In ancient Rome, former Roman slaves saw a liberty cap as a badge of freedom. Liberty caps became popular again during the Revolutionary War. The woman on the right is the Roman goddess of grain, Ceres, and holds a cornucopia, filled with the many fruits and vegetables produced in New Jersey. The three plows on the shield symbolize the agricultural tradition of New Jersey. The state’s motto “Liberty and Prosperity” is written on the scroll.

The eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is native to northeastern North America and being so, was designated in 1992 as the State Fish of New Jersey. Based on results of a genetic-research study conducted in 2008 by NJDFW, it was been determined that wild book trout in New Jersey are descendants of the native species that colonized this area of the northeast following deglaciation about 12,000 years ago. It is an incredibly beautiful fish and my favorite fish of all marine life. It is also known as an “indicator species,” meaning brook trout only survive in the cleanest, most pure water. So if you see a brook trout in the water, known that is some of the cleanest waterway in the state.

The state tree is the Red Oak, a perfect choice for New Jersey because it is just like us. Tough, strong, and durable.

New Jersey is one of the top blueberry producers in the country and blueberries were the top crop in New Jersey for 2020 with a production value of $85 million, according to the USDA. Farmers in the Garden State harvested 46 million pounds of blueberries on 9,300 acres last year.

Farmland on the way to Frenchtown

New Jersey played a pivotal role in our nation’s fight for independence from the British. More than 100 battles took place in New Jersey. In 1776, crossing the Delaware River into Trenton; George Washington fought with, and ultimately defeated the British forces. This was one of the first major victories in the Revolutionary War. Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record. The park also maintains a museum & library collection related to the encampments & George Washington, as well as items relating to pre- and post-Revolutionary America.

We here in New Jersey have plenty to be proud of and love when it comes to our great state. For those who “think” they know us by what they see when they land at Newark Airport or some horrible television show about a bunch of idiots from New York and elsewhere, well, we know better.

The True Story Behind Jaws

Today begins the much anticipated Shark Week on Discovery. I’ve always been fascinated by marine wildlife. Fascination, along with a healthy dose of respect. That respect first came from the movie Jaws; one of my favorite all-time movies.

What many do not know is Peter Benchley’s inspiration for the book upon which the movie is based was a week of terror that took place off the coast of New Jersey in 1916. It is briefly mentioned in the movie as Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) try to convince Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) the shark terrorizing the waters of Amity island actually exists and they should close the beach.

Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton)

Michael Capuzzo’s Close to Shore is an incredible non-fiction account of the harrowing days in 1916 when a Great White shark attacked swimmers along the Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching an extensive shark hunt. This is an incredible read that has been meticulously researched. These attacks were the first documented shark attacks in the country and for individuals who just recently discovered the benefits of “sunbathing,” learning there were creatures in the ocean that could kill children simply enjoying the water was shocking.

So as you are watching Shark Week, I highly recommend you check out Close to Shore and learn how New Jersey played an important part in the history of shark attacks, research, and lore. And maybe as I do, have a healthy respect for marine life while you enjoy your time in the water.

New Jersey: The Cradle of Independence

When many think about Independence Day, they often think of places like Boston or Philadelphia. The truth is, New Jersey played an incredibly important role in the birth of our nation. There are plenty of great events throughout the long weekend of celebrate the holiday! Here are some of events that are taking place over the weekend.

Morristown National Historical Park

Morristown National Historical Park, where America survived, will celebrate our Declaration of Independence with July Fourth activities beginning at Noon on the park’s Washington’s Headquarters grounds, 30 Washington Place, with a “Warm-Up for the Declaration” followed by the reading of the Declaration.

The “Warm-Up” will feature a park ranger in period clothing entertaining the crowd and giving a “kids level” explanation of the Declaration. Eighteenth-century stories, jokes, and riddles are all part of the fun.

At 1pm, the “Public Reading of the Declaration of Independence” will commence. Attendees will be encouraged to cheer along with park rangers and re-enactors as they denounce tyranny and praise liberty. After the reading, attendees are welcome to participate in a mock salute called a feu de joie (musket salute).

Following the reading of the Declaration, the Ford Mansion will be open for self-guided tours with re-enactors in period dress, bringing life to the mansion once again.

Ford Mansion
Ford Mansion, image circa 1930. Credit: National Park Service

Visitors are asked to bring water to drink and a chair or a blanket to sit on the ground and are reminded to dress appropriately for the weather, including wearing a hat and sunscreen. It is a rain-or-shine event. Due to limited parking, guests are encouraged to carpool or walk to the event.

All activities will occur at the Washington Headquarters area and are free. The Jockey Hollow Visitor Center and Wick House will be closed on July 4th, but Jockey Hollow’s roads, grounds, and trails will be open.

Cape May Coast Guard Sunset Parade

U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May; Sunday, July 3 at 7:40 p.m.

Sunset Parades are free military displays of marching troops and the Coast Guard Recruit Ceremonial Drill Team. The recruit regiment will march in the parade and strike the National Ensign from the parade field at sunset.

The gates to the training center will open at 6:30 p.m., and visitors are asked to be seated by 7:40 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to use this extra time for security screening, parking, and seating.

Avalon: Bay Atlantic Symphony Independence Day Concert

Avalon Community Center, 3001 Avalon Ave, Avalon; July 3 at 7 p.m.

This free symphony fills fast, so be sure to get there a bit early if you want a seat! Those who don’t have a seat can still watch in the standing room section. Come see a fantastic symphony play a patriotic set.

Princeton: Morven Museum & Garden Fourth of July Jubilee

55 Stockton Street, Princeton; July 4th — 12pm to 3pm

Check out Morven on Independence Day for their Fourth of July Jubilee, a free celebration of our American heritage at the home-turned-museum of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

This year will will also feature the museum’s current exhibition, Ma Bell: The Mother of Invention in New Jersey, which features the original TelStar satellite and so many other technological innovations made right here in New Jersey that affected the entire world for generations.

Wall Township: Historic American Flag Collection at Allaire

Come celebrate the Fourth of July at Allaire! Allaire’s rare one-of-a-kind historic American flag collection on display this weekend only!

Your ticket includes admission (which by the way is only $5) to the Chapel to see Allaire’s unique and one-of-a-kind American flag collection on display this weekend ONLY! There will be over five historic flags on exhibition (rare and one of a kind!), the oldest flag dating back c. 1850 and authenticated by the Smithsonian Institute!

To visit the historic village, experience early 19th century industrial community life, and explore the village grounds EAST of the Mill Pond, a ticket for General Admission is from 11am-4pm.

In purchasing your General Admission Ticket, you will be able to see our historic trades in action including our blacksmiths and tinsmiths as well as tour our period homes to see how each class in the village lived. All of this in addition to other themed pop up tours and demonstrations are all available to you when you visit The Historic Village at Allaire! There are great events scheduled throughout the month, so it is definitely worth a visit!

Oxford: Celebration of Independence & Museum Day at Shippen Manor

Shippen Manor, 8 Belvidere Avenue, Oxford; July 3; 11am – 4pm

The newly formed United States Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright and sunny day. John Dunlap printed the Declaration (known as “Dunlap Broadsides”). There are twenty-four known copies, two of which are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. One of these was George Washington’s personal copy.

Beginning at 11 a.m., the Colonial Musketeers Junior Fife & Drum Corps of Hackettstown will begin our celebration with music from the era.

At 11:30 a.m., the Bachmann Players of Easton, PA will commemorate our celebration with readings and other activities that preceded the actual reading of the Declaration. The reading will begin promptly at 12 noon (the same time as the 1776 reading in Easton, PA).

Following the reading, the Colonial Musketeers Junior Fife & Drum Corps will entertain our visitors with colonial-era music until 1 p.m., when the museum will open for tours.

And plenty more!

Now let’s be honest; right now we are a divided country. There are probably many out there that don’t feel much like celebrating. I say not true.

Stick with me for a moment.

The founders of this great nation ensured the right for us to disagree with each other, and more importantly, to disagree with our government. To peacefully assemble and voice our concerns. This experiment in democracy has been challenged over the centuries. I use the following example:

The more populous and wealthy the United States have become, and the higher the position to which they have risen in the scale of national importance, with the greater confidence has it been maintained, on the one hand, that our institutions rest on a solid and permanent basis, and on the other, that they are destitute of inherent strength and cohesion, and that the time of explosion and disruption is rapidly approaching.

The previous quote is from New-York Daily Tribune, November 27, 1860.

We’ve been pushed and challenged before and we have survived. Sometimes bruised. But we are still here. I implore everyone to remember that we will do the same again.

Almost every community will have events this weekend, so I encourage you to get out and enjoy!

Memorial Day 2022 Events

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and we all look forward to it for different reasons. For many it is a three day weekend. It is the unofficial kickoff to summer. It’s barbeques, cold beer, and the beach.

Actually, no, it really isn’t.

It is a moment to stop and honor and remember the fallen. To commemorate members of the military that made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can all live free. Who gave that last full measure of devotion.

How it became a weekend for mattress sales, I’ll never know. It is simply appalling.

Northern NJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sussex County
Northern NJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sussex County

There are a variety of different events that take place all over the country. From the wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery, to moments of silence and the playing of Taps at events in every small town, to parades with current military members wearing their Class A uniforms; you can find events near your location.

Here are a few events taking place around the state:

Closter: Memorial Day Parade, march from Closter Borough Hall, 295 Closter Dock Road, through center of town to Memorial Park on Harrington Avenue for services, concluding with food and refreshments at Closter Elks Lodge, 148 Railroad Ave. 10 a.m. May 30.

Garfield: Memorial Day Parade, march from Veterans Monument on Midland Avenue to Garfield VFW Post 2867, 340 Outwater Lane, 11 a.m. May 30. 973-772-4696.

Lodi: Memorial Day Observance, 8:30 a.m. Ambulance Corps ceremony at 72 Kimmig Ave., 9:15 a.m. fire department ceremony at 99 Kennedy Drive, 10:15 a.m. VFW ceremony at 163 Union Ave., 11 a.m. American Legion ceremony at 41 Union St., and 11:45 a.m. police department ceremony at 1 Memorial Drive, followed by “Walkway for Peace” ceremony, May 30. 973-365-4005.

Mount Laurel: Memorial Day Tribute, wreath laying at Veterans Memorial, 6 p.m. May 26, Laurel Acres Park, 1045 S. Church St. 856-727-0595.

Cherry Hill: Memorial Day Service, ceremony at War Memorial cohosted by American Legion Post 372 and Jewish War Veterans Post 126, honoring 75th anniversary of the US Air Force with US Army Reserve Lt. Col. Daniel S. Bash as keynote speaker, 11:30 a.m. May 30, Carman Tilelli Community Center, 820 Mercer St., 856-488-7868.

Voorhees: Kirkwood Memorial Day Parade, march from old Carriage House Restaurant, 1219 Kirkwood-Gibbsboro Road, right on Walnut Avenue, left on Second Avenue, right on Chestnut Avenue, then right on Burnt Mill Road, ending at Kirwood Fire Station Veterans Memorial with wreath laying service, 11 a.m. May 30, Voorhees Township Fire Department, 2002 S. Burnt Mill Road., 856-429-7174.

Memorial Day

Cape May: Memorial Day Ceremony, 11 a.m. remembrance in conjunction with the American Legion Post 193 and VFW Post 386 followed by U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May detachments’ rifle salute and launching of flower boat from Gurney Street Beach, May 27, Soldiers and Sailors Park, Gurney Street and Columbia Avenue., 609-884-9525.

Glen Ridge: Memorial Day Parade, march beginning at Sherman Avenue and Baldwin Street and proceeding to memorial in front of Ridgewood Avenue School, 235 Ridgewood Ave., for memorial ceremony, 11 a.m. May 30, 973-748-8400.

West Orange: Memorial Day Ceremony, observance in front of the township municipal building, 66 Main St., 10 a.m., May 30, co-hosted by VFW Post 376 with WOHS Air Force Junior ROTC Squadron, township historian Joseph Fagan and vocalist Lynette Sheard. Special honoree will be the late Gordon Hansen, a West Orange High School graduate who posthumously was awarded the Purple Heart for his participation in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. His war-time trumpet will be used by Rob Adams for the playing of Taps.

Glassboro: Memorial Day Parade and Flyover, with F16 jet fly-over by the New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City. Procession from Lehigh and University Boulevard to Whitney Avenue and High street, ending at Glassboro Fire Department, with solemn ceremony at Veterans Memorial Plaza, 10 a.m. May 30, Glassboro Town Square, North Main Street and Rowan Boulevard. 856-881-9230, ext. 88322.

Guttenberg: Memorial Day Observance, 11 a.m. May 30, Monument Park, 70th St and Blvd East.

Flemington: Memorial Day Parade, march from Hunterdon Urgent Care down Church Street, right on Main Street to Civil War statue, 9 a.m. May 30, 908-782-8840.

Edison: Memorial Day Parade, march from Plainfield Avenue and Division Street to post home, noon May 28, American Legion Father & Son Post 435, 43 Oakland Ave., 732-287-0900.

Sea Girt: Memorial Day Parade, march from Sea Girt Elementary School, 451 Bell Place, to the Plaza, followed by festivities at Baltimore Park, 8:45 a.m. May 30. 732-449-9433, ext. 130.

Roxbury: Memorial Day Parade, march from Meeker Street and Hillside Avenue in Succasunna to Main Street past library and right on Eyland Avenue, across Route 10 to Veterans Memorial on Horseshoe Lake Island, followed by ceremony presented by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2833, 10 a.m. May 30, Horseshoe Lake Park, 72 Eyland Ave. in Succasunna.

Belleville: Memorial Day Ceremony, May 30, 11:00 a.m.: Dutch Reform Church Cemetery, 171 Main 12:00 p.m.: Veterans Memorial Park, Union Ave & Tiona Ave.

Budd Lake: Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony, May 30, 10:30 a.m.-noon at All Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Grounds at Turkey Brook Park, 30 Flanders Road. Full event including Tolling of the Ascension Bell, Honorable Service Paver Installation, JROTC, and Rolling Thunder.

Oh, and don’t say “Happy Memorial Day.” There is nothing “happy” about it. It is a solemn day we all get to enjoy due to the sacrifice of the millions of military members that have ensured our freedom. And if you see a vet, say “thank you” and buy them a cup of coffee.

Get Out!

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of the surprisingly warm weather and took a ride to an area of Sussex County we’ve been wanting to explore for quite awhile.

I can’t tell you how happy we did.

If you aren’t a fan of the winter (like us), it is easy to just hibernate and wait for the weather to get above your age. When we heard the weather would be above freezing, we decided to make the effort to actually step outside. What we discovered is an area of Sussex County almost frozen in time with open space and houses that predate the Revolutionary War.

1977 map of New Jersey (source: Rutgers Special Collections)

We met someone who was quite knowledgeable about the area and owned an amazing home built in 1791. He freely shared information about the area and his ongoing effort to preserve as much of his property and the town’s history buildings. The town’s historical society works hard to preserve and educate on the area, from the time of the Lenapehoking to present day.

So why am I telling you all this and why am I not saying where we went? Simple. I want you to GET OUT! Grab a map (yes, a printed map) and take a ride. Is there an area in the state you’ve always wanted to visit? Plan a ride into your unknown. Visit the local historical society and ask questions. Patron their locally-owned shops and restaurants. Even consider joining their historical society (or at least make a donation).

I promise you; you’ll be happy you did!

2022 New Jersey Goals

As the calendar turns and we move ahead to 2022, most people make resolutions for the new year. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are usually all the same; lose weight, spend more time with the family, blah, blah, blah. While it may sound like semantics, I prefer to make goals.

According to Merriam-Webster, a goal is defined as, “the end toward which effort is directed.” A resolution (the third definition) is, “something that is resolved.” A goal is much more specific. A resolution is hardly exact.

Anyway…

My goal list here is specific to New Jersey. This is all about the effort I will direct to my own beloved state.

Search for Fossils

You may not realize it, but New Jersey offers a variety of opportunities to find fossils. Creatures that range from tiny cephalopods to huge wooly mammoths called New Jersey home. I have never found a fossil, but I will say I never really looked. My goal is to find one this year.

Hike the AT

No, I don’t expect to hide the entire Appalachian Trail, better known as the “AT.” I want to hike just the New Jersey portion of the Trail. The entire length of the AT traverses 14 states from Maine’s Mount Katahdin to Georgia’s Springer Mountain.

The New Jersey stretch of the Appalachian Trail is 74 miles long and begins at Abram S. Hewitt State Forest in the northern most point and runs west and south through Wawayanda State Park, High Point State Park, Stokes State Forest, ending at Worthington State Forest. Now, I do not expect, nor do I plan, to traverse the entire 74 miles in one clip. I will, however, develop a plan to break it down into several short single-day hikes. A great resource to help get started on this goal is the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. This special organization is powered by a great group of volunteers that build, maintain, and protect public trails.

Fish a New Stream for the Heritage Brook Trout

Long before I knew the brook trout was the state fish, it was always my favorite species. The colors are amazing and they put up a wonderful fight. I absolutely love to fly fish in a stream and listen to the water rush downstream as I stand in the river.

The downside, sadly, is the most popular rivers in New Jersey are very well known and generally over-fished. An added frustration for me is that I see plenty of anglers fishing aggressively without a proper license. I regularly encourage those anglers to purchase their license. I explain those license dollars are put right back into the resource. Unfortunately, those anglers usually walk away laughing. It is personally frustrating.

So I want to find a new stream for fishing. But not just any old stream. I want to find a stream that gives me the opportunity to fish for the Heritage Brook Trout. According a study on brook trout genetics, wild populations of brook trout have unique genetic identities. Some Garden State brook trout populations are descendants from the original brook trout colonizers present after the last glacial ice sheet receded more than 10,000 years ago. The existence of these ancestral populations, dubbed heritage brook trout, is important for conservation efforts of this native species (learn more about brook trout genetics by reviewing the original 2008 article).

Advocate for my State’s Open Spaces

Mount Hope Park, Morris County, New Jersey
Mount Hope Park, Morris County

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am an advocate for the ecology and preservation of the Garden State’s open spaces. Places like the water that the heritage brook trout have liked for thousands of years are threatened on a daily basis due to pollution, encroachment, and other modern-day challenges. From protecting the red knot to attending Environmental Commission meetings on the local level, we all have a responsibility to make sure our natural resources are protected. I plan to continue to advocate and take a more active role to protect those special spots.

Attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

In all my life, I am sad to say I have only attended mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, better known as Newark Cathedral, only once. If you have never been, it is a true piece of art built by the immigrants of Newark; many from the First Ward, the original Italian section of the city. Construction began in January 1898. While the Cathedral began holding mass in 1928, that labor of love was not completed until October 19, 1954. In 1974, the Cathedral was added to the New Jersey Historical Society. Two years later, it gained national recognition when it was listed as a National Historic Site.

On Wednesday, October 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II visited the United States. During the visit, Pope John Paul II conferred the title of Minor Basilica to Sacred Heart Cathedral, giving it its current name, Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I attended mass at the Cathedral the following Sunday.

This year I will attend mass at least once and sit in prayer and reflection, knowing the history and exceptional effort and craftsmanship that built that wonderfully artistic home of faith.

Head Back Down the Shore

The S. S. Atlantus, also known as the “concrete ship,” at Sunset Beach, Cape May

If you are from Jersey, you know that trek down the Garden State Parkway is known as “going down the shore.” It has been two years since my husband and I smelled the sea air or walked on a beach. It renews my soul and clears my mind. One of my favorite spots is Sunset Beach in Cape May. I love digging for Cape May diamonds and walking on the shoreline turning horseshoe crabs upright. After the last two years, I say it is important to head down the shore to replenish my soul.

Visit the Pine Barrens

The New Jersey Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands, is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem. It stretches across seven counties and is over 1.1 million acres. In 1978, Congress created the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) through the passage of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The Pinelands National Reserve is the first National Reserve in the United States. It is also home to the elusive Jersey Devil.

I am ashamed to admit, but this is another part of the state I have yet to experience in a meaningful way. I would like to plan a hike in the Pine Barrens and maybe get some fly fishing in as well!

Shoot More Film

A large majority of my hobbies are quite analog. I fly fish and tie flies. I crochet, spin yarn, felt, and weave. I really enjoy Geocaching. I also enjoy film photography. I regularly listen to a podcast called the Film Photography Project hosted by two guys from Jersey. Their entire gang of regular guests and commentators offer great advice for photographers at every level. Over the last two years, I have developed a terrible case of GAS (otherwise known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and am now the proud owner of a variety of film cameras. I plan to get out more and use them. With all my planned outings, I should have some wonderful opportunities to shoot more film!

Be Happy

Most importantly, I want to be happy. The last two years have been hard on all of us. For the most part we have been stuck in our homes. Maybe you lost your job, or worse, even lost a loved one. I shared the story of someone very dear to my husband and me, Dr. Michael Giuliano, who lost his life to the Coronavirus early in the pandemic when he continued to treat patients despite the risks.

It is time for all of us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and see our loved ones. New Jersey is a wonderful state and we are lucky to have so many different ways to enjoy it. So, get out and take a hike, go grab a ripper at Rutt’s Hut, or take a ride down the shore. Get back to living and be happy.

St. Lucy’s Loses a Giant

In the past I have written about a long-time giant at St. Lucy’s Church in Newark, NJ, Monsignor Joseph Granato. He served the parishioners of St. Lucy’s for 54 years; his entire time of service. I am sad to report the Monsignor went home to the Lord a few days ago.

Monsignor Joseph J. Granato

Born in New York, then Joseph Granato, moved with his family to Newark in his infancy. He attended Sacred Heart Cathedral Grammar School in Newark and graduated in 1943. He then attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, also in Newark, and graduated in 1947. When he entered the seminary, he once again stayed local, attending Seton Hall University and Immaculate Conception Seminary.

Upon Ordination Father Granato was assigned as an assistant to Rev. Gaetano Ruggiero, Pastor of St. Lucy’s Church, Newark in June of 1955. Upon Father Ruggiero’s death, Father Granato was named Administrator to St. Lucy’s in 1971 and was named Pastor in 1977. In 1979, Pope John Paul II bestowed the sacred honor of being named Monsignor. Instead of taking credit for this great honor, he gave credit to the people of St. Lucy’s.

Monsignor Granato remained Pastor of St. Lucy’s until his retirement in 2009.

As I have said in the past, the Monsignor bordered on rock star status at St. Lucy’s. He was a kind man who kept his flock always in the forefront of his mind. But he was far more than a simple parish priest. He was a civic leader and advocate for the First Ward his entire life. He fought back when the First Ward was labeled a “slum” and attempted, sadly to no avail, to prevent the bulldozing of almost the entire original First Ward and replace it with low-income housing, displacing tens of thousands of Italian immigrants. This project of the city resulted in Italian immigrants leaving Newark and turning the area into a level of urban blight, the likes had never been seen before. Suddenly going to St. Lucy’s was a dangerous gamble. Still, Monsignor Granato persevered.

In 1994, the housing projects were imploded. Monsignor Granato led the charge to acquire the land across from St. Lucy’s in order to develop an Italianate Plaza. Additionally, he supported the construction of Villa Victoria Senior Citizens Residence and the subsidized low-rise family housing across from the rectory.

Monsignor Granato championed the continued century old devotion of the Italian immigrant population to St. Gerard, Patron of Motherhood, with the declaration of St. Gerard’s Chapel a National Shrine in 1977.

Thank you Monsignor Granato for your unwavering dedication to St. Lucy’s, her parishioners, the First Ward, and the tens of thousands of Italian immigrants, and their families, your have counseled over the decades. God has certainly gained a loyal servant.

Giving Tuesday in New Jersey

It is no surprise to anyone that COVID-19 has affected everyone in the Garden State. Some people lost their jobs. Some people lost their businesses. Some lost their lives.

Many non-profits in the state lost important funding from private donors, as so many were barely able to feed their families and keep a roof over their head.

Enter Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to help those who have helped so many throughout our state. I’ve highlighted a few of the great organizations I have supported and will continue to support to the best of my ability. They represent a cross-section of areas, from the arts, to food insecurity, to cultural support, and more.

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts

The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is one of my favorite museums in the state. It was founded in 1970 by Agnes and Edgar Law Land and is located inside the building that was the first public library in Madison. The museum began with a display of the Land’s personal collection of 18th and 19th century artifacts representing the lives of the early immigrants to New Jersey. Since then, it has grown to an amazing permanent collection as well as special displays that are presented on a rotating basis. The best part is everything presented in the museum is associated with life and work in New Jersey.

Italian American One Voice Coalition

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am very proud of my Italian heritage. So is the Italian American One Voice Coalition. They work to protect and preserve the Italian-American culture. You see, our culture has made a major mistake over the years. We let the mob jokes roll off our back. In an effort to prove our allegiance to our new homeland, we Americanized our names and did not teach our language to our children. We were proud to be Americans. Those very values we have held for generations are no longer valued by many. As a result, people are looking to eliminate what is left of our heritage. The Italian American One Voice Coalition is fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen. That we won’t be cast aside or ignored.

Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter

Sadly, over the last 18-plus months, victims of domestic violence have been victimized twice; once by their abuser and again by the system that is in place to protect them, as these victims have been kept hidden from the eyes of those agencies. With rumor of a new variant on the way and worries of another lockdown loom large, women may be desperate to escape their situation. The Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter has been on the front lines of aiding victims of domestic violence since 1978. JBWS is all about empowering victims to end the cycle of violence and gain control over their lives. The services include 24-hour helpline; safe house; counseling for adults, adolescents and children impacted by abuse; transitional living, including life skills education and more.

Salvation Army of New Jersey

Another issue the COVID pandemic brought to light is how many of our fellow New Jerseyans suffer from food insecurity; especially children and the aged. The Salvation Army of New Jersey offers food pantries, mobile feeding programs, and soup kitchens throughout the state to those in need.

Peters Valley School of Craft

Another organization I regularly highlight and support is Peters Valley School of Craft. For the last fifty-plus years, Peters Valley has enriched lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts, all nestled in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. If you have ever wanted to experience blacksmithing, weaving, or anything else, Peters Valley is the finest place in New Jersey to learn. They also have a wonderful gallery and gift area and present an amazing collection of artists every fall at a two-day event.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

While most people think New Jersey is nothing more than Newark Airport and the Turnpike, we all know better. Three of my favorite species, the heritage brook trout, the red knot, and the horseshoe crab, are all important parts of the biodiversity of New Jersey. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey works to protect that rich biodiversity. There are over 70 endangered and threatened species in New Jersey. Supporting the Conserve Wildlife Foundation helps protect all the different animals and mammals that swim, walk, and fly in the Garden State.

And Many, Many More

These are just a few of the many different non-profits that need help in New Jersey. They all do important work and it requires money for them to continue to do their important work. Everyone has something they are passionate about. My two passions are protection of open spaces and access to fine and performing arts, especially in public education. Find what fuels you and become an ally. If you aren’t in a position to donate funds, consider donating food to your local food pantry, clothes to a local shelter, or volunteer with an organization that feeds your soul and does good in your community. If you aren’t sure about the history of a specific organization, check them out on Charity Navigator. You’ll be able to see how they spend their donations as well as their history. You can also look at Community Foundation of New Jersey. This is a well-regarded organization that helps to manage the financial aspect of many different funds, scholarships, and organizations in a legal and ethical manner.

So get ready to give!

Learning the History of the Lenni Lenape

When I was in fourth grade the entire year focused on New Jersey history. As much as I disliked Mrs. Stackfleth, I will say she was great at teaching the history of the Garden State.

We spent a great deal of time learning about the Lenni Lenape, whose traditional territory spanned what is now eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Lower New York, and eastern Delaware. “Lenni-Lenape,” literally means “Men of Men”, but is translated to mean “Original People.” The two tribes we focused on the most were the Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation; both from New Jersey. Just like most things in Jersey today, one was in what is now considered South Jersey and one was in what is now considered North Jersey.

Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation is made up of descendants of Algonquian-speaking Nanticoke and Lenape peoples who remained in, or returned to, their ancient homeland at the Delaware Bay. Within the larger South Jersey tribe, there were three main groups; the Munsee (People of the Stony Country) lived in the north. The Unami (People Down River) and Unalachtigo (People Who Live Near the Ocean) lived in the central and southern part of the homeland.

The Ramapough Lenape Nation were a Munsee-speaking band, an Algonquian language-speaking people. Although the Ramapough Lenape Indian ancestors have resided in the Ramapough Mountains for thousands of years, there is little documentation in New York or New Jersey that refers to the nation. This is most commonly believed to be due to a lack of written language by the Ramapough people. As a result, most information has been passed orally from generation to generation, much of which has been lost to the ages.

The Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation are both recognized by the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs.

Throughout the year all the Tribal Nations in New Jersey as well as the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs offer programs on their histories and original ways of life. It is a great way to learn about the original residents of Jersey.

Hoffa & Jersey: Perfect Together

“New Jersey and you… perfect together.” ~Governor Tom Kean

I remember seeing that commercial often growing up. It was a wonderful sentiment. Unfortunately, it turned into the tail end of a lot of jokes. From taxes to traffic, Jersey was perfect with a lot of things. Includes Jimmy Hoffa.

I grew up hearing the rumor he was a speed bump at Giants Stadium. That he had to be moved when the original stadium started to be built. Then, according to the book “I hear you paint houses,” Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran claimed to be the bagman who rubbed Hoffa out. However, when the house where he claimed the murder took place was searched, the DNA found did not match that of Hoffa.

Most recently, Phillip Moscato, Jr. said hitman Salvatore “Sally Bugs” Briguglio was the one who killed Hoffa. Moscato Jr. is the son of Phillip “Brother” Moscato, Sr., a Genovese crime family powerhouse in New Jersey who died of liver cancer in 2014 at the age of 79. Moscato, Sr. took the Fifth while testifying before the federal grand jury after Hoffa’s disappearance. A 1972 FBI Report described Moscaro Sr. as “one of the top loan sharks in Hudson and Bergen counties.”

A 1964 photo of Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa outside the federal courthouse in Chattanooga. (Credit: Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP, File)

Federal investigators have long stated that Hoffa was murdered in Detroit when he disappeared on July 30th, 1975, and was reportedly transported to New Jersey by the Genovese crime family. It is believed that he was buried in the large dump that Moscato’s father owned in Jersey City, the PJP Landfill, known as “Moscato’s dump.” But Phil says that after one of his father’s mafia cohorts flipped and cooperated with the FBI in November of 1975, four months after Hoffa vanished, the body was moved so that authorities would not discover it.

That claim seems to have new life as the FBI has recently searched the PJP Landfill below the Pulaski Skyway. This search is related to interviews given by Frank Cappola, who was a teenager in the 1970s and worked at the old PJP Landfill in Jersey City with his father, Paul Cappola. Cappola said his dying father explained in 2008 how Hoffa’s body was delivered to the landfill in 1975, placed in a steel drum and buried with other barrels, bricks and dirt, according to reports from The New York Times and Fox News.

Frank Cappola spoke to Fox Nation and journalist Dan Moldea before he died in 2020 and signed a document with his father’s detailed story. So, out went the FBI… again. In late October of this year, the FBI searched the landfill. There’s no confirmation whether or not the FBI removed anything from the location.

So it seems Hoffa and Jersey will be perfect together for a little bit longer.