TEANECK, NJ (Bergen County) – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) on Monday honored local first responders, veterans, students, search and rescuers, life-saving bystanders, volunteers, teachers, community leaders, and residents who have made outstanding contributions to the North Jersey community at his fifth Hometown Hero Awards, held at Holy Name Medical Center. Fifth District Hometown Heroes Awards were presented to more than forty residents to recognize their dedication to improving the lives of their neighbors, families, and all Jersey residents.
“Today’s Hometown Heroes are what make North Jersey so special. I’m so proud to highlight the contributions made by those joining us today. From volunteering, to mentoring children, to protecting our communities and families, to helping the less fortunate and being exemplary citizens, these individuals come from all walks of life but embody an idea that is particularly special,” Gottheimer said.
“We should focus more on what unites us as opposed to what divides us. More time focusing on service to our country — whether it’s mentoring children at a local non-profit, getting our backs as a first responder, helping to lead your church, synagogue, or mosque — we are always strongest and united when we celebrate all of our differences,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) said at today’s ceremony. “These Hometown Heroes are nominated by leaders throughout our community — including our mayors and faith leaders — as well as by friends, family members, and loved ones who believe that they truly deserve the title. These individuals come from all walks of life, but all share an idea that is particularly special — they embody our Jersey Values and make our community such a special place to live, work, and raise a family.”
“For every single hero today, and to the others across the Fifth District, I want to thank you. I am incredibly proud of each and every one of you, and I know that the countless family members and friends who have joined us today to celebrate you are also brimming with pride and joy. Please keep being a shining example for our North Jersey community. We need it now more than ever,” Gottheimer said.
- Fire Chief Calvin Inscho of Blairstown Township – Calvin is the Fire Chief for the Blairstown Hose Company. Calvin, who is a lifelong Warren county native, husband, and father of two sons, has proven to be an inspiration for young kids as the head coach and organizer for three different youth sports teams and, since 2011, as the head of the Fire Safety and Prevention demonstrations at the local Blairstown preschools. Calvin is dedicated to both keeping his Blairstown community safe and protected from fires, as well as educated young children and students about fire safety and precautions.
- Richard Peter Jr. of Allamuchy Township – On January 23, 2019, the Allamuchy Fire Department was called to a vehicle in a lake with a woman trapped inside. As a bystander, Richard retrieved a boat to assist and was able to help bring the woman to shore. Richard put himself in harm’s way without question and did what was necessary to save the woman’s life.
- Kathleen Dolan of Blairstown Township – In May 2018, Kathleen was responsible for a bus-load of children going to Blairstown Elementary School, when, suddenly, the bus filled with smoke. Kathleen calmly escorted the children off the bus to protection, moments before the bus burst into flames. Kathleen’s calm demeanor and quick thinking in the midst of chaos helped save the lives of each of those children.
- Michaela Hruskova of Andover – Michaela is a K9 Search and Rescuer who volunteers her time – and three Belgian Malinois – to help locate missing people. For the past eight years, Michaela and her K9s have participated in around 50 searches each year across our community — on both water and on land. When she’s not searching, she helps train and educate local scouts. She is also a certified Wilderness First Aid Instructor. When the New Jersey Hospital Association called for volunteers to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Michaela was on a plane within a day and went to help as a nurse and as a search and rescuer.
- Christina Sanchez of Franklin – Christina serves on the Franklin Borough Recreation Committee, which ensures the town pond stays beautiful and which holds events throughout the year for borough residents at no extra cost. She is responsible for running the local carnival, several holiday parades, and events like the Holiday Home Decorating contest, fishing contest, and movie nights at the pond. Her steadfast commitment to the community has made her an invaluable asset to Franklin Borough.
- Glen Meadow Middle School teachers Tyler Oakes, Janice Vaszlavik, Marianne Amato, Nancy Grimaldi, Susan Lopez, Terri Yost, and Janice Schmidt of Vernon Township – Tyler, Janice, Marianne, Nancy, Susan, Terri, and Janice work tirelessly to involve their middle school students in community-based service-learning projects. Tyler organizes and leads volleyball tournaments to raise money for the Harvest House. Janice leads the Green Team, which teaches students about the environment, sustainability, and the impact we have on our planet. Marianne leads students in the Junior Honor Society, and organizes fundraisers to help those affected by natural disasters, roadside clean-ups, and quarterly blood drives. Nancy and Susan lead the Builder’s Club, which creates ongoing community projects to show students the benefits of giving back. Terri leads the Student Ambassadors program, which helps students develop leadership skills and help them serve as an example to other students for citizenship, behavior, reliability, and involvement. Janice organizes quarterly blood drives that help save lives and that bring the Glen Meadow Middle School community together.
- Judy Williams of Franklin – Judy is a lifelong volunteer in Franklin and serves as the Secretary of Franklin Borough’s Economic Development Committee. Through the Forward Franklin effort, she spends time volunteering at the Firehouse, the Franklin Church, the Historical Society, the Main Street project, and in town development. Judy began a town-wide scarecrow contest to bring the community together for some fun, and she helped organize the moving of a historic building, which was set to be demolished, to a new site on Main Street.
- Stanley Dutkus, Sr. of Montague – Stanley currently serves as a member and trustee of Sandyston Township Volunteer Fire Department. He is a retired U.S. Marine and New Jersey State Trooper and has been a member of the Maywood, Hopatcong, Montague, and Sandyston Fire Departments over the past 60 years. Stanley is dedicated to supporting his community in a variety of ways, including also serving as the Emergency Management Coordinator for Sandyston Township and, since 1968, as a member of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. He also works at the Air Attack Base in Andover Township.
- Aldo Sayre of Branchville – Lifelong Branchville resident Aldo Sayre is a 98-year-old resident who has dedicated his life working at the New Jersey State Fair and the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show. Aldo was one of the first volunteers in 1939. Aldo then enlisted with many of his friends immediately after Pearl Harbor, and was the only one of his friends to survive and return home. Since then, he has served as Fair’s Concession Chairman, Entertainment Chairman, and President of the Fairgrounds Association, from 1976 to 1988. Aldo was previously honored as the Sussex County Fair “Senior of the Year.” After fighting so hard for his country, Aldo has continued serving his community at home for decades.
- Mario Inglima of Newton – Mario is a selfless volunteer at the Center of Prevention and he has been volunteering in the recovery community in Sussex County for about five years. He has participated in countless outreach programs for citizens in recovery, including playing his own music at events. Working day in and day out, Mario makes sure that people get the care they need during incredibly difficult times dealing with addition.
- Edward Charles Buruchian of Vernon – Edward was a former Fire Department Chief, founding member and board trustee of the Vernon Police Athletic League (P.A.L.), a former member of the Vernon Ambulance Squad, and a founder and life-member of the Glenwood-Pochuck Ambulance Corps. Ed helped build the Vernon P.A.L. building and served as its building engineer in the 25 years. He passed away after a long illness in October 2019. Edward will always be remembered as caring resident who built so much for the Vernon community, ensuring everyone stayed safe.
- Emery Castimore of Frankford – Emery Castimore is 91-years-old and served in the U.S. Navy as a Submariner. Emery served on the Frankford School Board and High Point High School Boar for more than 12 years. He was a Deacon and Usher at his church. He has also helped fill in Frankford School’s fields so the school could use them for sports. Emery once helped a fellow resident fix two tires in the middle of an ice storm. Emery has served in all these capacities all while being a farmer, working sun-up to sundown.
- Patricia Green of Wantage – Patricia is a seven-year member of the Sussex Elks Lodge 2288 and has been the chairperson of the annual “A Salute to Veterans Ceremony.” Patricia’s family says they are always losing her at the mall, stores, concerts, on vacation, and even Nascar races when she sees a veteran in the distance to go thank. Once, upon hearing about a police and motorcycle escort for a Korean War Veteran whose remains were finally returning home, Patty changed her entire calendar so that she could be a part of the escort to honor them. Patricia always has the backs of the brave women and men who have had ours in service to our country.
Below are more biographies of the Hometown Heroes:
- Ridgewood Police Officers Jack Knudsen and Kyle Finch, Ridgewood, Bergen County – Officers Knudsen and Finch put their lives on the line every single day to make sure their community is safe. In July 2019, Jack and Kyle responded to a call about a vehicle on fire. When arriving at the scene, they noticed an occupant trapped in the vehicle. Without hesitation or question, Jack and Kyle reacted and saved the person trapped inside before anyone was injured. Officers Knudsen and Finch were honored at the Bergen County 200 Club Valor Awards and received the Meritorious Service Award, which recognizes a high level of courage under perilous conditions, and being instrumental in saving a life above and beyond the call of duty.
- Corporal Mike Mattesich, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), Bergenfield, Bergen County – Mike bravely served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps and, after serving, was homeless for a period of time. Mike then received help from the Bergen County Tracers program and Veteran Services, where he utilized their community bikes to get around and saw the need for people who were walking to get to and from work. Mike then founded Bikes for Veterans and Others in Need, where he provides dozens of people with bikes to get around the community and to help those in need of support.
- Reverend Gregory Jerome Jackson, Hackensack, Bergen County – Reverend Jackson began his life as the grandson of sharecroppers in South Carolina and has shared his compassion with the Hackensack community for the last 35 years. Reverend Jackson is the longest serving pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church. Under his tenure, the church built the Logan Family Life Center, a non-profit for emergency assistance, social service, education, and recreation. He has also served with the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Missions, founded the Interfaith Brother-Hood and Sisterhood breakfast, served on Hackensack city committees, and the Bergen County Council of Churches. He has traveled across the world to preach in South Africa, China, India, Brazil, Cuba, and on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Reverend Jackson recently retired to enjoy future years of happiness alongside his wife Barbara and their children.
- Charles Vialotti, M.D., Saddle River, Bergen County – A radiation oncologist for almost 50 years, Charles Vialotti, M.D., was instrumental in establishing Holy Name Medical Center’s Patricia Lynch Cancer Center. From 1996 until 2012, as the Director of Radiation Oncology, he developed and adapted the most advanced cancer-fighting technology. He is a pioneer for hybrid imaging radiation therapy technologies, which have become international standards of care. Dr. Vialotti’s dedication to bringing “life with dignity” resulted in the creation of one of the first hospice programs in northern Jersey. In 2011, Holy Name opened hospice care facility Villa Marie Claire and Dr. Vialotti divided his time between providing radiation therapy and supporting hospice patients. He now lives at the Villa to be available to people during their time of need, even if it’s scooping ice cream for patients.
- Lynn Saal, Fair Lawn, Bergen County – Lynn has been a volunteer for three years at the George Muro Memorial Food Pantry and is a part of a four-person team dedicated to serving those in need. Lynn is also the Secretary for the Happy Seniors in Fair Lawn, which celebrates birthdays and plans outings for a group of around sixty senior residents. Lynn is someone who gives the food pantry new life and makes everyone feel special.
- Jason Lanzilotti, Bergenfield, Bergen County – Jason is a staple to many North Jersey communities. Jason has been a detective with the Cresskill Police Department, a Bergenfield Fire Chief, and has won five marathons for multiple charities. During the holidays each year Jason works with volunteers from the Bergenfield Fire Department and teachers from the Bergenfield School District to wrap toys, clothes, and gift cards for children, making everyone’s holidays a little brighter.
- Adam Hirsch, Teaneck, Bergen County – Adam is the chair of Congregation Bnai Yeshrun’s security committee and keeps the congregation safe. Adam takes the security of the congregation very seriously and is a wonderful guardian. He stays up-to-date on security information to make sure the congregation is protected, all while understanding how to find the balance between safety and ensuring the congregation remains a welcoming environment.
- Seymour Wigod, Fair Lawn, Bergen County – Seymour is a volunteer EMT and mentor in the Fair Lawn Volunteer Ambulance Corps and volunteers as a certified medical clown at Valley Hospital and other facilities to give younger patients some fun. Seymour also funded and dedicated the Edith Wigod Memorial Food Pantry, housed in Fair Lawn’s Town Hall, in memory of his mother, and dedicated the Cheryl Wigod Charity Fund in memory of his late wife. He has also been known to come running, with a first aid kit in tow, if someone nearby is in need.
- Dana White, Waldwick, Bergen County – Dana leads the health and fitness group Jersey Women Strong, which is an all-women’s multi-sport group with the slogan, “Get fit, Give Back, Change lives.” Dana is dedicated to giving back to those in need, and Jersey Women Strong supports OASIS, a support center for women and children, and Project Kind, which creates support systems for the homeless. Jersey Women Strong also partners with the Center for Hope and Safety, and they have raised $7,500 to purchase and deliver 125 meals to Center families who have moved from emergency shelter to transitional housing.
- Judie Gargano, Westwood, Bergen County – Judie has been volunteering as a recreation cheer instructor for over 35 years, leading young girls with team spirit as well as hometown spirit. She is also a 35-year active member of the Westwood Women’s Club and works at the Westwood Library, aiding children and seniors and helping the entire community. Judie treats everyone with kindness and patience and always goes the extra mile to help someone with whatever they need.
- Judy Distler, Teaneck, Bergen County – Teaneck-native Judy Distler is responsible for bringing art and films to our community in a wonderful way. In 2005, after coming up with the idea while on the treadmill, Judy began the Teaneck International Film Festival, with the goal of creating a film festival with a social conscience where the arts could be shared and appreciated by everyone. Today, the festival is a major annual event with a permanent theme of “Activism: Making Change,” and draws 3,000 film lovers to a variety of feature-length movies, documentaries, and shorts.
- Lawrence and Ronnie Levine, Oakland, Bergen County – The Levine family has played a crucial role in beautifying the Oakland’s downtown by planting their summer flowers every year and donating more than 200 flowerpots this past summer. They have also supported the community’s environmental stewardship by creating a butterfly garden and donating 50 birdhouses to Great Oak Park. They have also supported the Oakland Public Library with new computer hardware, art hanging solutions, and library furniture. Ronnie is also involved in two organizations to help raise funds for the library to fund programs for residents of all ages.
- Sergeant Kyle Lezette, Dumont, Bergen County – Sergeant Kyle Lezette has served with the Dumont Police Department for the past 13 years, protecting the community. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Thomas Aquinas College, he worked in the NYPD 30th Precinct before returning to New Jersey. Sergeant Lezette is also a volunteer coach for baseball, softball, and wrestling. While with the Dumont Police Department, Sergeant Lezette has earned the Life Saving Award on three separate occasions.
- Nona Maher, Upper Saddle River, Bergen County – It is safe to say that Nona has done it all for her community and has been a longtime and ardent volunteer. Nona is a longtime volunteer and currently serves as the President of the Upper Saddle River Women’s Club, and as a member of the Friends of the Library and Upper Saddle River Historical Society. She was previously a teacher at Edith A. Bogert Elementary School and served as the Service Unit Manager for the Upper Saddle River/Saddle River Girl Scouts. Thanks to Nona, Upper Saddle River Girl Scouts receive one of the highest number of Silver and Gold Star awards.
- Robert Hyman, Jr., Mahwah, Bergen County – Bob Hyman was a beloved father, husband, and coach, whose posthumous Hometown Hero Award is being accepted on his behalf by his wife, Jen Hyman. Bob was a dispatcher for the Upper Saddle River Police Department for 25 years and served as a volunteer firefighter in Upper Saddle River and Mahwah, until he passed away in October. Bobby dedicated much of his time to volunteering as a youth sports coach. Bob’s ever-present smile on the field, infectious laughter, and dedication to his community will always shine.
- Cynthia Dilatush, Upper Saddle River, Bergen County – Cynthia is an EMT, EMT Trainer, and started a first responders group in Upper Saddle River. She also trains high schoolers in first aid every weekend. She serves as president of both the Upper Saddle River Board of Health and of USR Cares, which is a non-profit organization to help Upper Saddle River residents in crisis. Cynthia is deeply involved in supporting the first responder community and all of Upper Saddle River is safer and healthier thanks to Cynthia.
- Deena Seelenfreund, Teaneck, Bergen County – Deena is a member of the Keter Torah Congregation of Teaneck and is the regional manager of Community Security Service (CSS) of New Jersey. As a member of the congregation and the CSS, she is dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of all congregation members. Deena has spent countless hours with local law enforcement agencies, determining the most effective methods to keep North Jersey congregations safe, as well as ensuring the safety of communities and synagogues throughout the entire Garden State.
- Mary Sudano, Township of Washington, Bergen County – As the Manager of Valley Hospital’s Same Day Surgery (SDS) Unit and Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), Mary oversees the care of nearly 20,000 outpatients a year, most of whom are local residents who are recuperating after surgery before returning home that same day. Mary has been a nurse with the unit for 31 years and has also run a local donation collection for more than 16 years for troops serving overseas. In 2003, nurses serving in the first American field hospital established in Iraq received holiday care packages from their colleagues at Valley. This effort, and others like it, can be traced back to Mary, who coordinated the first shipment and who has continued every year since.
- Conor Shortway, Midland Park, Bergen County – Conor was one of the top youth baseball players at the annual Cooperstown, NY, baseball tournament. He also competed in the Fourth Annual National Power Showcase Home Run Derby — a first for any Midland Park resident. Due to his national success in baseball, Midland Park High School created “Conor Shortway Day.” Conor wants to be a Major League Baseball player when he grows up, and he currently volunteers his time with his teammates at CTC Academy in Oakland to support kids with special needs.
- Andrew Anderson, Haworth, Bergen County – Andy has been an active Haworth community member for 30 years, helping make Haworth a better, cleaner, safer place. As a retired licensed civil engineer, Andy lends his experience in environmental issues and engineering as a chairman of the Solar Task Force. He also serves as the ‘Clerk of Works’ for the renewal and development efforts in Haworth Downtown, is a soccer coach, and a member of the environmental commission. In his spare time, Andy refurbishes damaged bicycles and donates them to local institutions and families.
- Barbara Doster, West Milford, Passaic County – At 89, West Milford Elks Club member Barbara Doster continues working to make the holidays a bit brighter for local families in need. For the last four decades, Barbara has spearheaded a food collection drive that gives out food baskets during the holidays. She collects hams, turkeys and other food products that families can use through Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, the drive will help 26 local families in need, with each getting a box full of food for each holiday. Doster, when asked what keeps her going 40 years later, recalls, a basket delivery years ago when a young boy’s eyes widened with delight upon seeing a bag of M&Ms candy on the top of the box.
- Deacons Robert and Joyce Giddens, Teaneck, Bergen County -Bob and Joyce are the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Teaneck Road Business Community Alliance (TBCA), a network of organizations committed to community wellness through economic development; business and resident advocacy, and accountable government. They advocate for transparent government accountability to all community members. Bob and Joyce have been on the ground for over 15 years helping local businesses and communities strengthen their relationship with government, and to develop Teaneck roads.
- Susan Tryforos, Glen Rock, Bergen County – Sue has served as the Glen Rock Borough Historian since 2009, and is a key member of the Glen Rock Historical and Preservation Society and is a main force behind the History Museum. Sue also was instrumental supporting Glen Rock’s 125th anniversary celebration. She has given the community countless hours in an effort to preserve the history of the town and to educate others about Glen Rock history — from the Lenape tribe’s hunting grounds, to the rock in the middle of town, to those who answered the call of duty during World Wars I and II and other conflicts. Sue is retiring this year and her dedication to preserving local history will continue to live on.
- Chris Macaluso, Oradell, Bergen County – Chris, as a small business owner, owns the America the Beautiful Flag Store at the Oradell Train Station and he is an active member within the Oradell Economic Development Committee. Recently, Chris has been working with the Rotary Club to supply pedestrian flags at crosswalks, to help ensure safe crossings and that the community is protected. Macaluso also works to notify the local Department of Public Works and the Borough when flags are to be lowered to half-staff.
The Full video of the ceremony can be found HERE.