WEST ORANGE, NJ - The 17th annual West Orange Chamber of Commerce Awards were a mix of humor, pride, and sentiment as lifetime residents and long-time community leaders were acknowledged for their contributions to West Orange.
West Orange Chamber of Commerce co-president Paul Petigrow and event organizer Tekeste Ghebremicael wecomed guests and introduced awardees following an opening prayer by Rev. Todd Shumpert of Pleasantdale Presbyterian Church.
Mayor Robert Parisi noted, “As I get older, I realize age is a privilege…you only go around once, and you’re never too old to learn new things...we need to keep the world in perspective”.
The guest speaker for the evening was legendary former Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill, who throughout his career saw 72 of his players sign professional contracts. “You need to get to know your players,” he said. “Be fair, earn respect, and communicate. Put the problems on the table and deal with them”.
Hill finished by saying, “In all my years of coaching I never talked about winning. I talked about the team giving me 100 per cent in every game”.
Awardees were then recognized for their contributions to the community.
Interim Superintendent James O’Neill introduced WOHS award-winning Physics teacher Michael “Doc” Lawrence, who is retiring in June after 40 years. O’Neill noted, “Doc Lawrence has had an immeasurable impact on his students. He has inspired many of them to love physics, and many of them have gone on to study physics in college. He has helped to change the culture and climate at West Orange High School”.
Lawrence’s legacy will come full circle in September, when John Chai, one of his former students, takes his place at West Orange High School. Lawrence thanked the school district, and, most importantly, his students.
Fire Chief Pete Smeraldo introduced Firefighter Richard Smith, who grew up in West Orange and was always involved in sports, from Pal to being quarterback at WOHS. Said Smeraldo, “The recipient of this award is voted on by the firefighter’s peers, and Richard Smith contributes to this community in so many ways.” He is EMT certified, mentors new firefighters, and has been active with the Wounded Warriors program, 6 on 6 Flag Football, and other charities.
Chief James Abbott, along with Deputy Chief Mike Corcoran and good friends of Officer Tim Groves, Will Jiroux and Michael Keighler, received Groves’ posthumous award in an emotional moment. Reading a list of Groves’ accomplishments and community involvement, Abbott invited the public to a ceremony at the Watchung sub-station on June 14, which will be renamed the Timothy Groves Substation. Groves passed away after a long battle with cancer on September 8, 2013.
“Tim Groves left us far too young,” said Mayor Parisi. “He lived a life we should all aspire to…we miss you, Timmy”. Parisi was a lifelong friend of Groves.
Ralph Spango, longtime volunteer with the West Orange First Aid Squad, was recognized as Volunteer of the year as he was introduced by the Masullos. “Ralph is the embodiment of volunteerism,” said Masullo.
After Thomas Edison National Historical Park was recognized for their efforts in town, spearheaded by Tom Ross, Park Superintendent, and Theresa Jung, Assistant Superintendent, Susan McCartney received the award for Business of the Year. First Mountain Preschool has been in operation since 1995, and, noted Ms. McCartney, “2014 will mark the college graduations of the first class of First Mountain Preschool”.
McCartney thanked her husband of 39 years, Joe McCartney. “He was and continues to be my business partner that has kept us solvent for almost 20 years”.
She then acknowledged her staff: Allsion Caprio, Maryellen Fleming, Eileen Groome, Danhya Stokes, and daughters Hannah and Kate.
“I am blessed to have each one be such an integral part of my life,” McCartney stated.
In conclusion, she remarked, “And please let me give a special thank you to all of our parents who have shared their children with us over the years. Their trust and faith -- and special community awards such as this one -- helps keep our incentive strong”.
Mayor Parisi observed of McCartney, “Sue is the model public servant.“She will do anything she can to help people and make their lives better”.