SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – The Scotch Plains Republican Committee, led by chairman and mayoral candidate Al Smith, held its fourth annual Geri Smith Spring Conference at the Shady Rest Country Club on Wednesday evening. The evening featured special guest speakers Vincent Curatola, a star from the award-winning HBO series, "The Sopranos," and Holocaust survivor Sami Steigmann. Sirius XM radio talk show host and Fox News contributor David Webb was the event’s emcee before an estimated 100 people in attendance.
“Each year it gets better and better,” said Smith. “When my wife and I first talked about it we thought let’s not just make it a fundraiser, but something that the whole community can participate in and enjoy. That’s what we’ve done.”
Webb commented on a variety of subjects that ranged from the preservation of the historic Shady Rest Country Club to current events in the economy and the importance of "the American way."
“You can’t be tired to fix the issues, whether it’s (the Shady Rest) or the town and translate that nationally,” said Webb, a renowned political activist, challenging those in the audience to help make a difference. “Have fun, vote, but your real civic duty is to keep America’s vision alive.”
Steigmann, a 76-year old Holocaust survivor, who still feels the effects of the medical experiments that were performed on him by the Nazis at a labor camp in Mogilev Podolski, Ukraine during World War II, told his inspirational life story. His experiences moved the audience
“I would like to be remembered as a survivor, but not just a survivor of the Holocaust, but a survivor of many difficult challenges in life,” explained Steigmann before telling his life changing story.
Steigmann overcame challenges that spanned from his formative years to a becoming a homeless man at 57-years old and the ongoing pains that he continues to feel from the Holocaust. “I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to be and I chose to be happy.”
He closed his speech with some powerful words, “learn to never give up because tomorrow is a new day and a new beginning.”
Curatola, best known for his role as Johnny ‘Sack’ Sacrimoni of The Sopranos stressed the importance of maintaining American values during his address to the audience. He also commented on his co-starring in the fictional American crime drama about a New Jersey-based Italian American mafia.
“I’m not an Italian American, I’m an American,” Curatola proclaimed before he went into the story of how his father came to America as a 19-year-old from Italy and got drafted into the infantry in 1942.
“I love to feel that we are united in the fact that we are a relatively young country.”
Scotch Plains Council candidate Ted Spera spoke briefly about his campaign at the event.
“What I’d like to do is put some fiscal responsibility in this town and on the county as well to help keep some of the great residents in town,” said Spera, whose father Gabriel Spera, served as Mayor of Scotch Plains from 1985-88. “There will be some good changes coming down the road.”
The "Geri Smith Annual Republican Spring Conference" is named after the late Scotch Plains Republican Committeewoman who displayed great courage, fortitude, and inspiration in her 22-year battle with breast cancer.
“I’m the luckiest man in the world to have married her,” Smith said in his closing statements to those who attended. “Thank you all for coming tonight to honor her.”
Although he would not say how much was raised at this year’s dinner, Smith claimed that more money was raised at this year’s spring conference than ever before.