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!

Belleville Goes to Hell’s Kitchen

Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog knows I grew up in Belleville. It was a great place to grow up. My life consisted of Girl Scouts (Brownie Troop 255, Junior Troop 292), drama club, and of course marching band. My years in band were the best times growing up. I made great friends and, thanks to Facebook, I’ve had the opportunity to get in touch with many of them.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of so many of them. Jennifer recently graduated from Seton Hall Law, Trish is a published author, and Pat Tortorello is an awesome chef and now television star. He will be on the upcoming season 16 of Hell’s Kitchen.

“Tort” as he was known to his friends back then has been an awesome cook for as long as I can remember. His New Year’s Eve parties were epic to say the least. The food was always awesome! He was a drummer in marching band and still plays in a band today. He was a great friend and a lot of fun growing up. He would pick us up in his hot little sports car after school and drive us home. We though we were just awesome. Band football on Sunday. It was the best. We all went through thick and thin together and we are all proud of Tort and can’t wait to see the show!

You can meet Pat in person at a viewing party at Runway 22 in Fairfield on Friday, September 23rd.

We all know Jersey people are tough. And Belleville people? Well, we can hold our own. I am sure Tort can handle Chef Ramsay and will do Belleville, and New Jersey proud!

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!”

December Photo Challenge – Jersey Style!

APhoto challenge friend turned me on to a photo challenge another blogger is doing, so I thought I would join in on the fun. I love these types of challenges – they can really spark your creativity!

While this blogger is from “Down Under,” I am sure she won’t mind if I take her challenge and do it Jersey style! So, make sure to check out my Facebook page daily to see what photos I post. I will openly admit today’s photo will probably be quite lame, since it is already Sunday evening. However, I hope you will all consider joining in on the fun and posting your photos on the Jersey page! Use this as an opportunity to go out and explore New Jersey – you never know what you will find!

Explore New Jersey – Scavenger Hunt Style

geocache-logoWhen I was in fourth grade, I learned about New Jersey history. We learned everything from the history of the state flag, to the different industries New Jersey is famous for, to the state’s importance in the Revolutionary War. Keep in mind, however, that this was all taught from books and being a child, I’m sure I didn’t absorb as much as I should have. Plus, I was terrified of my teacher that year.

Nowadays, there’s a great way to get outside with your kids and explore New Jersey first hand. Enter Geocaching.

I was introduced to this scavenger hunt-style game by a colleague and I must admit I am quite hooked! When you are geocaching, you are chasing down items that are hidden all over the world. Bringing it to a local level, by starting down the path of geocaching, you can learn about areas you may have never given a second glance.

There are several different geocaching enthusiast sites where you learn how to join in on the fun. The rules are simple Geocache-Traditional.svgand few and can vary depending on the group you join.

Some of the caches I have found so far have brought me to a historic cemetery, and a nature trail nearby I never knew existed. You truly open your eyes to what is around you.

I encourage you to check out one of the many groups on line and use it as a jumping off point to learn more about the great spaces in New Jersey!

What My New Jersey Is…

I love those “you know you’re from…” lists you see on sites like Facebook. Well, I came up with my own New Jersey list. I would love to hear if you think I missed anything!

  1. You’ve been seriously injured at Action Park (probably on the Alpine Slide).
  2. You know that the only people who call it “Joisey” are from New York (usually The Bronx) or Texas.
  3. You don’t think of citrus when people mention “The Oranges.”
  4. You know that it’s called “Great Adventure,” not “Six Flags.”
  5. Coffee and a buttered roll is a perfectly acceptable breakfast.
  6. You went to Seaside Heights for prom weekend.
  7. You know what a “jug handle” is and how to properly negotiate one.
  8. You go “down the shore” and not “to the beach.”
  9. Your school cafeteria made very good Italian subs.
  10. You know how to properly negotiate a Circle.
  11. You knew that the last question had to do with driving.
  12. You know where to get a freshly cooked taylor ham egg and cheese sandwich at 2 am.
  13. You don’t think “What exit” is very funny.
  14. Every year, you had at least two kids in your class named Tony, Michael, Vito, and Marie
  15. You know the location of every “clip” shown in the Sopranos opening credits.
  16. You know that “youse” is not a synonym for utilize but for y’all.
  17. You’ve never pumped your own gas.
  18. You can’t stand PA drivers.
  19. You know that there are bakeries which are not part of a supermarket, but actual individual stores.
  20. At least half the people you knew in high school went to Rutgers.
  21. You know that you cannot visit “the boards” in Seaside Heights without stopping by Midway for the best sausage, pepper and onion or cheese steak.
  22. You know that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are IN New Jersey, NOT New York.
  23. It’s a sub, not a hoagie
  24. You call pizza without toppings “plain,” not “cheese” and you have at least one Uncle that calls it a “tomato pie.”
  25. You have paid a toll with a hook shot from the passenger side of the car.
  26. You know there are TWO Jerseys… North and South and they ARE very different.
  27. You don’t understand why people look at you funny when you order fries with mozzarella and brown gravy.
  28. You know what taylor ham is.
  29. There is an ongoing debate between your friends – Jimmy Buffs or Rutt’s Hut.
  30. You consider taking your car to inspection one of the traumatic events in an individual’s life.
  31. You know it’s pronounced “Nork,” not “New-ark” and how to properly pronounce Boonton.
  32. You don’t understand how people eat Sunday dinner after 3:00 p.m.
  33. You remember seeing concerts at the Capitol Theater.
  34. You felt that two of the best places to go were Pizza Town and the Short Stop.
  35. Everyone has an opinion on the best diner in Jersey.