“Down the Shore” – Part One in a Series

There are many places I would love to live in my beloved state of New Jersey. Some of them include Morristown, for its connection to our nation’s history; Frenchtown, for its lovely town center full of historic buildings; of course my home town of Belleville; Denville, for its quaint shopping district and small lake communities; and Layton, for its proximity to fly fishing on the Flatbrook and the art center of Peters Valley School of Craft. Well, you can now add Wildwood Crest and Cape May to my list.

Going “down the shore,” as it is referred to by Jersey residents, is a right of passage for the state’s teenagers. Like many high school seniors, I headed to Seaside Heights prom weekend to “walk the boards.” When I was dating my now husband, we would take day trips to Sandy Hook and Island Beach State Park. Other than that, however, I didn’t spend much of my youth enjoying the Jersey coastline. My parents preferred going a little further south – Captiva and Sanibel in Florida.

This past week, however, we took a vacation to Wildwood Crest and took a few day trips to Cape May. I can now say I officially “get it.” It was a glorious few days.

Beach-Seagull

A lone seagull on the beach in Wildwood Crest.

We spend the week at Water’s Edge Ocean Resort in Wildwood Crest. Each morning, I sat out our oceanfront deck and enjoyed the sound of the ocean while I sipped my morning coffee and took walks on the beach in the late afternoon. If you watch the families in the area, the electronics we are all so attached to are put away most of the time and are exchanged for ping pong, playing cards, and swimming in the pool or the ocean.

I hope you enjoy this multi-part series about the Jersey Shore, Wildwood Crest, and Cape May.

Stay tuned…

Remembering the Heroes: NNJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery

Since I was a kid, I liked going to the cemetery. I know it may sound strange. I grew up in a big Italian family and, unfortunately, as each family member passed, they would go to the cemetery. Once I was old enough to go a little further away from home on my bike, I would ride to the cemetery on weekends when it was nice. I would sit on the ground, clean the headstones of my loved ones and talk to them. When I was able to drive, I went more often.

Now that I live almost an hour away from Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, I don’t get there as often as I would like, but I am still fascinated by cemeteries. They hold not just our loved ones, but the history of our country.

nnjvmc-logoEnter the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

If there is one group of individuals who should always receive our respect and care, it is our nation’s veterans. And those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us deserve our highest level of respect. The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery’s focus is to make sure vets receive a respectful resting place in Northern New Jersey nearby their families.

It took a long time, lots of planning, and plenty of effort to get this cemetery in place. It is the only veteran’s cemetery that is privately owned and receives no funding from the State or the Federal governments. It relies on their small burial costs and donations to stay in place and available for vets and their families in Northern New Jersey.

This cemetery is the brainchild of John Harrigan, president of Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 in Vernon, New Jersey. He took on the mission of creating this cemetery and enlisted the help of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, VFW organizations, Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Sussex County, and services from individuals like Attorney Kevin Kelly, and businesses and organizations Mark DeVenezia of Mulch Concepts, Gardell Land Surveying, Pompton Lakes Elks Lodge 1895, and from the Sussex County Technical School. Local veterans’ organizations also have supported the effort.

The New Jersey State Legislature has approved the addition of the cemetery non-profit on the state income tax check-off list.

Now add my partner-in-crime Lisaann.

She is an amazing individual – a breast cancer survivor, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Chinkchewunska Chapter; the National Society Daughter of the Union 1861-1865, and the cemetery’s Administrator and she can trace her blood line to many veterans who fought during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It wasn’t until she attended a good friend’s Father’s Military Funeral at the Veterans Cemetery in Goshen NY, that she decided she wanted to be part of the mission of the new cemetery in Sussex County. She takes her position seriously and does all she can to make sure the vets who are buried at the cemetery receive the care and respect they deserve.

They do fundraisers periodically, but rely heavily on donations from individuals. This iscemetery-enterance an important place in New Jersey for vets and their families. If you are able, I hope you will consider making a donation to this important location in New Jersey.

If you are interested in planning a service at the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery, please reach out. I am sure Lisaann and John will help you plan a service fitting of a vet!

Going Home: Seton Hall Weekend

Seton Hall Class RingIn September around the country, colleges have their own versions of “Parent’s Weekend” to show off the best of their schools. This weekend was Seton Hall’s turn. When I received the announcement about all that would take place on the campus, I felt a longing to take a ride to visit my college home.

My day started with taking something out of the jewelry box I hadn’t worn in quite a while – my college ring. It still fit perfectly and was a good reminder of my college years. I took the ride like I just did it yesterday. Parkway South to 280 West. South Harrison Street to South Centre Street to the Farinella Gate. Just as it was when I was a student, parking was tight. I found a spot behind Xavier Hall. I headed to the walkway. I was home.

Fahy HallI wasn’t an alumnus visiting her old campus. I felt like an undergrad again. The first thing I saw was the was the new sign in front of Fahy Hall announcing the new name of the College of Communication and the Arts. I was very excited when I received the announcement about the College earlier this year. I felt like it was a great acknowledgement of all it adds to the University.

I headed into Fahy and went downstairs like it was yesterday. I went right to what was then known as the “Mac lab” and saw a Electronic Publishing and Pagination Labsight that just warmed my heart. It was the sign for the Pagination and Publishing Lab. I peered through the window into the dark room and it looked a lot different than I remembered. Gone were the 15 Macintosh computers with two laser printers. It now looked like a high tech classroom with the best technology available today. I spent more hours in that area than I can remember. It was the heart of my education. I looked at the names on the doors and many are still the same. Hoffman. Kuchon. Plummer. Yates. Zizik. While I was College of Communication and the Arts at Seton Hallthere, these were many of my mentors. I saw Professor Reader in his office. We chatted for a few minutes. He told me Professor Rosenblum had retired and is now living in California working for Google from time to time. Dr. McKenna has also retired. Those two men, along with Professor Gottlieb, were the core of my education at Seton Hall and I am forever grateful for their care and guidance.

Seton Hall PiratesI left Fahy and walked alongside Xavier to “The Green.” Along the way there were great welcome signs; another reminder of the warm welcome I felt the first time I walked on the campus as a senior at Belleville High School. The moment I walked on the campus, I knew this was where I belonged. When I walked into the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, I knew I would get married here; about six years later, I did.

I then turned right and went in the side door of the Student Center and up to the second floor. The office of The Setonian was in the same place. I was the News Editor for one year and Professor Gottlieb was the advisor. As I have mentioned in a post on another blog, when she would compliment me on an article and approved it for The Setonianpublication, it was true “Pirate Pride!” Every Wednesday would start at the Setonian office reading and editing articles for the paper. Later in the evening, we would head over to the Pagination and Publishing Lab to run galleys to put through waxers (yes, I am dating myself) to complete the layout. I learned not just about good journalism, but print production and publishing. The evening would often technically finish early Thursday morning. Two of us would drive to the printer with the boxed up flats so they were there as soon as they opened in the morning so the paper would be on campus Thursday afternoon. I’m not going to lie; it was brutal and there were sometimes I wanted no part of it. There came a Dr. Tracey Gottliebpoint when I had to say goodbye to the work on the paper. I was sad, but knew it was how it worked. You entrusted the work to the next class. I did discover a nice surprise as I walked around the corner; my mentor, now “Dr.” Gottlieb’s office! She is now Vice President of Student Services. A very well-deserved position.

Chapel of the Immaculate ConceptionI took a walk through The Green and looked at all the events they had set up for the kids. It was a perfect weather day and the kids were having a great time. I was sorry to see there weren’t any tables for all the different activities, but it was OK. I enjoyed meandering around the campus. The old library has been replaced by a new building for the Stillman School of Business. The Chapel is just as beautiful as always. There were several weddings taking place throughout the day. Happy couples beginning their lives as husband and wife, just as I did with my husband Glenn in 1994.

I walked alongside President’s Hall and Marshall Hall to the new library. It is truly a marvel. A great university deserves a great library and this is definitely it! I walked up to the reference desk and asked if there are old copies of The Setonian still kept in the library. I explained thanks to Hurricane Irene, I lost all my clippings. The woman was very sorry and gave me the contact information for someone who could help me. I plan on calling him during the week.

Alpha Gamma Delta Seton HallJust as I finished at the reference desk, I saw a student walk by wearing her Alpha Gamma Delta shirt. I hurried after her and told her I was in pledge class Alpha Xi. She was so nice! She brought me over to the table where she was sitting with her other sisters and we all had a nice chat. They are lovely and intelligent young women. They told me about all that is going on with the sorority. I loved how they would refer to their sisters as “Gams.” I was happy to hear the college had finally taken a hard stance against hazing; the primary reason I drifted away from the sisterhood when I was an upperclassman. It sounds like the college has gone a little too far in the other direction, but I am happy to hear students today are well protected against such nonsense. I gave them my email address so they could keep in touch with me. It was a great visit!

I then walked over to Duffy Hall to the bookstore. Just like many other spots on campus, it is in the same place with a nice updated look. Of course I had to pick up a few new things. I almost picked up an AP Style Guide but decided against it in case students still need to make purchases. I still have my Style Guide I purchased when I first started taking my journalism courses.Mother Seton

My last stop of the day was inside the Chapel after one of the weddings. I knelt and prayed just as I had done many times before. It was nice to have some quiet reflection. As always I prayed for my family members that have gone home to God, for those who are here, for strength, for wisdom, and offered my thanks for allowing me to be part of the Seton Hall family. I offered a prayer at Mother Seton before leaving.

pirate-smI headed back down the path alongside Xavier to my car. I put my new Pirate magnet that was handed out on The Green on the back of my car. I began to head out of the lot back to South Centre Street. My transition from undergrad to alumnus took place as I passed the column at the gate. I was thankful for such a wonderful day. I enjoyed walking around the campus and meeting some of the current Gams was great! It was a day full of great memories. As I age, I try to forget the bad and remember the good. And I have a lot of good memories at Seton Hall University.

Independence Day – Jersey Style

Many may not realize the significance of New Jersey in the fight for Independence. Morristown National Historical Park is nationally significant as the site of the 1779-80 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. This amazing place represents patriotism and sacrifice during this pivotal period in our nation’s history.

There are multiple locations in the area of Morristown that are worth a visit in the summer. From Fort Nonsense, to Jockey Hollow, to Ford Mansion – you can easily spend a few days experiencing all this area has to offer.

RevTimes-2016-logoThere are plenty of great events taking place during the upcoming Independence Day Weekend. Known as “Revolutionary Times Weekend,” the event will also salute the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 200th anniversary of the Trustees of the Morristown Green.

Saturday, July 2nd
The Hanover Township Landmark Commission kicks off the weekend with a free tour of its 1718 Burying Yard located off of Route 10 East in Whippany. This one-hour tour will highlight people who first settled Morris County and are buried in the cemetery.

Sunday, July 3rd
Morristown National Historical Park will host a Revolutionary War encampment at the Ford Mansion. Costumed re-enactors will be on hand demonstrating a soldier’s life in the Continental Army. As a special event, between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. the park welcomes the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps for a concert, on the lawn between the Ford Mansion and the Washington’s Headquarters Museum.

Als0 on the 3rd, check out a fireworks display. Fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m. at Central Park of Morris County, off West Hanover Avenue. Central Park of Morris County will be open for picnicking beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 4th
Events will begin at the Ford Mansion where the Continental Army re-enactors will march to the Morristown Green at 11 a.m. At the Morristown Green there will be family activities beginning at noon. Members of the Morristown National Historical Park’s ranger corps will provide the annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence, a long-standing Morris County tradition, at 12:30 p.m.

Following the reading there will be a musket salute and free guided tours of the Presbyterian Church of Morristown‘s church and Colonial-era graveyard.

So make sure to party this weekend like it is 1776!

Protecting the Great Notch Inn

Growing up, I went to businesses with names like “Esposito’s,” “Rosebud’s,” and of course, “Rutt’s Hut.” Little did I know as a child, supporting a small business is an important part of keeping alive a community and contributing to what continues to be the history of New Jersey.

20160420_202914Thankfully, The Great Notch Inn will continue to be part of the living history of New Jersey. The owners of the Inn have been fighting against an expansion of Rt. 46 that would have flattened the bar that has been in business since 1939.

Originally opened by Gregory and Florence DiLeo, it was run by Mr. DiLeo until his death in 1988 and the torch was passed to his daughter Florence, and her kids, Rich and Gail. This bar has been in the same spot since before Rt. 46 was even in place! The Notch’s origins can actually be traced to 1924, when the original owners opened the Green Chateau right nearby the Inn’s location.

Is it fair that Rt. 46, a road that didn’t even exist when the Great Notch Inn opened, send the bar to the bulldozer? Absolutely not!

A written statement from NJDOT reads in part: “NJDOT goes to extensive lengths to minimize the impact to residents and businesses when it designs projects, particularly when it relates to acquiring property.”

20160420_203117Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have never actually been inside the Inn. I have passed it while traveling Rt. 46 more times than I can count, but it was one of those places I was told since I was a kid, “you don’t belong there.” This does NOT mean I have an issue with bikers! Everyone just needs their own place. The Great Notch Inn is a place for bikers to take a break from their ride and relax. When I stopped by a few nights ago to take pictures for this post, I had the opportunity to speak quickly with a couple getting ready to get back on their ride and they couldn’t have been nicer!

20160420_202942The Inn did, unfortunately, lose about 30% of their property via eminent domain, but that one battle loss gave them the opportunity to win the bar preservation war!

Now I will say I hate eminent domain, but that is a complaint for a different blog.

The important part of this story is that the bar owners have been assured by the DOT that the Rt. 46 expansion will go around them so they can continue to serve their customers on that awesome front porch.

It is businesses like the Great Notch Inn that make New Jersey the wonderful place it is! Now that I am an adult, I understand fully the importance of patronizing our locally-owned businesses. Given the choice, I will always go to the local diner instead of a chain restaurant and use the local pharmacy instead of a big box store. You get a feel for the area and support a small business owner and town.

I am very happy to see that this special place will continue to offer a front porch to all who decide to stop “Inn!”

Proud to be a Pirate

ProudToBeAPirateI went to college at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. My freshman year was when the team went to the NCAA Championship. The team didn’t win, but they really gave a great effort.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I hate basketball. Actually, I hate when schools (high school or college) put a ridiculous amount of emphasis on sports. I firmly believe students should be a school for an education – not to support a sports program. But that’s a post for a different blog.

In all the years since my freshman year at Seton Hall until now, I have watched a total of two games. The Championship in the student center and a game at the Brendan Byrne Arena (yes, I am showing my age). Both times it was with a large group of people and it was fun.

Anyway, what is most important to me is the education I received at Seton Hall.  Founded on on the Catholic faith, the school began its fabled history in 1856. It is named after Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. When I was visiting colleges my senior year in high school I knew it was the right place for me as soon as I walked on the campus. It felt like home. I received my Bachelor of Arts in 1992 and I can honestly say that I use my education every day. I still even have some of my textbooks that continue to provide valuable information. At some point I hope to go to graduate school and I hope that I can go to Seton Hall. Any time I have a friend that is looking at colleges for their child I always recommend my alma mater.

So “March Madness” is in full swing and Seton Hall University won the Big East tournament last night. As far as I understand that means they should be included in the NCAA tournament. Will I watch any of the games? Maybe. It is fun to talk to my pirate buddies from college and see their pride  that our school is getting some national attention. But whether or not I really care about basketball is besides that point. I am PROUD TO BE A PIRATE!

“The Swamps of Jersey” – The Meadowlands

“And my tires were slashed and I almost crashed but for Lord-have-mercy. And my machine she’s a dud, all stuck in the mud, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey” ~Bruce Springsteen

NJ Meadowlands

Photo credit: nj.com

Those swamps of Jersey are known as The Meadowlands, just outside MetLife Stadium and the Izod Center (what was referred to as Giants Stadium and the Area growing up) and despite their bad rap  in movies and by the NFL’s negative opinions regarding the upcoming Super Bowl, the ecosystem has made great strides in recent years and deserve great respect.

It was referred to as “The Meadows” by original Dutch Settlers in the 1600s and was full of white cedar, the Hackensack River flows through the area the Lenape people called the land Lenapakoking and they called the river Atchensehaky – the “River of Many Bends.”

Since then, there have been many changes to the area, including the creation of dam systems and pollution, which pushed the area to the brink. Luckily, the in 1980s, conservation groups came together to try and save what was left of this natural resource. Today, the Hackensack Riverkeeper and other organizations work hard to continue to preserve and improve “The Meadowlands.”

Right now, all eyes are on the upcoming game that will take place in frigid temperatures. However, there is much more to this special area that offers eco-tours, estuary education programs, paddling tours, birding, and more. I hope you check out this amazing wetlands that is making a great comeback!