Arts & Entertainment

Fairfield Golden Agers Celebrate 50 Years; Luncheon Honors Mary Scangarello

Township leaders honor Mary Scangarello, Golden Agers foundress, at Golden Agers 50th anniversary luncheon. Full caption in article. Credits: Gail Bottone

EAST HANOVER, NJ — The Fairfield Golden Agers club celebrated its 50th anniversary with a luncheon held at the Hanover Manor, where club members honored their foundress and 60-year Fairfield resident Mary Scangarello, who died last year at the age of 95.

In speaking about the Scangarello family, Golden Agers president Joni Doncoes read a statement she and former mayor Ted Nalesnik had written many years ago.

“In 1957, a young, idealistic couple named Tom and Mary Scangarello moved into Fairfield with their three children,” she read. “They did so in anticipation of leading a typical, quiet, suburban life. But Mary’s housewife role was not to be. Her desire to volunteer her services led her down another road and in many directions.

Sign Up for E-News

“The mayor at the time, Steve Szabo, recognizing her abilities, appointed her to the recreation commission. The year was 1962. That very act launched her into a 33-year career of service to the municipality.”

Smallheer added that Scangarello’s husband, Tom, was the “greatest assistant” and “always there to help.”

“He assumed many roles, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny,” said Smallheer. “So there goes the old adage: ‘Behind every successful woman is a successful and supportive man.’”

Fairfield Mayor James Gasparini, council members Thomas Morgan and Michael McGlynn and council president John LaForgia attended the luncheon along with township administrator Joseph Catenaro, Police Chief Anthony Manna, recreation director Anthony Pompei and township clerk Denise Cafone. Paulette Calasibetta, Scangarello’s daughter, was also present.

Gasparini congratulated the Golden Agers and wished them many more years of success. The mayor also presented Smallheer with a proclamation and a plaque with the history of the organization engraved.

It stated that the first meeting of the Fairfield Golden Agers was held on April 24, 1968 in the basement of the municipal annex, and was attended by 25 senior citizens. The first installation of the club was on May 23, 1968, and the first officers were ER Jones, president; Tricia Jansen, vice president; Jennie Wolski, treasurer; and Cecilia Lagatare, secretary.

The first rule adopted by the club was that the Lord’s Prayer would be recited at the beginning of every meeting—a rule that remains today.

The Golden Agers’ mission statement is “to provide a venue for senior citizens of Fairfield to meet and participate in various, interesting activities, including but not limited to, a social, recreational atmosphere. To provide a meaningful, fun experience and entertainment for seniors and to keep them informed of activities in the town and other information of interest to seniors.”

In the early years of her career, Scangarello worked as a volunteer recreation commissioner. She spent countless hours in the role of superintendent of parks and recreation.

Under her leadership, recreation grew to a 39-acre park at Hollywood Avenue, five satellite parks, plus utilization of school properties for summer programs and sports. She developed programs that reached out to every member of the community from Busy Hands, a preschool program, to the Golden Agers and to all those in between.

The Golden Agers’ tribute to Scangarello included the following statement:

“The recreation program Mary established was so successful that it became a model for surrounding towns. In addition to the amazing array of sports, cultural and community recreational programs and events she instituted, she also achieved many singular awards and distinctions. Although her remuneration was minimal, her integrity was impeccable.”

Rita Arata was among those who spoke about Scangarello, saying that she “was a lovely woman.”

“My father, Vito Androccio, known as Mr. Vito to the students, was a custodian at both Fairfield schools,” she said. “My father and Mary worked a lot together. Mary did a lot for our community.”

Peg Johnston remembers her boys going through the recreation program.

“Mary had a very calming influence on them,” she said. “We have programs in town today because of her. She gave us much and did it willingly.”

Scangarello’s daughter said she was moved by the Golden Agers’ actions of honoring her mother. When addressing the audience, she stated that her mother had a favorite quote, “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others lives in immortality.”

Smallheer acknowledged this quote in relation to Scangarello’s life.

“We tried to estimate how many individual lives Mary has touched,” said Smallheer. “We estimated about 50,000 people have directly benefited by her efforts. How many of us will leave this type of legacy?”

“Mary epitomized the truly giving person,” said Marie Gilbert, Scangarello’s assistant of many years. “She unselfishly gave of herself for the good of her fellow citizens and especially gave her love to our children.”

Calasibetta said that her mother had another quote saying, “May the best day of your past, be the worst day of your future,” a quote that Calasibetta said she adopted and still uses today.

“I remember Mary singing 'God Bless America' and 'The National Anthem' at the Fairfield fireworks when they were held at Churchill School,” said Manna, who stated that he remembers Scangarello well.

Barbara Corbo, a 46-year Fairfield resident, added that “Mary was very good to our town.”

Arlene Minardi, Golden Ager treasurer, described Scangarello as “an elegant lady.”

“She was a lady of class,” said Judy Niedz.

Justin Lizza, whose five children went to recreation, said that “Mary was a lady’s lady, and “was always very proper.”

Fran Bikoff, a long-time Fairfield resident and member of the Golden Agers, said that the the Golden Agers are asking the mayor and council to publicly display a painting of Scangarello by Nancy DeBlasis, the present-day Golden Agers’ second vice president.  He said the Golden Agers would like the painting to be displayed in the new recreation building near the Busy Hands’ room in remembrance of all that Scangarello did for the community.

Other Golden Agers’ present day officers include Geri Helou, first vice president and Loretta Lowe, secretary. Music for the event was by provided by Mark and Ted.

Fairfield residents must be 55 years or older to join the club.

Pictured above:

Township leaders honor Mary Scangarello, Golden Agers foundress, at Golden Agers 50th anniversary luncheon.

Bottom row (L-R): Denise Cafone, township clerk, Anthony Pompei, director of recreation, Councilman Michael McGlynn, Council President John LaForgia and Township Administrator Joseph Catenaro.

Top row (L-R): Police Chief Anthony G. Manna, Nancy DeBlasis, Golden Agers’ 2nd vice president, Arlene Minardi, Golden Agers’ treasurer, Joni Doncoes Smallheer, Golden Agers’ president, Geri Helou, Golden Agers’ 1st vice president, and Loretta Lowe, Golden Agers’ secretary. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Essex

$100 OFF per Week for Summer Camp Now!

July 12, 2018

Guerrero Marital Arts is now offering an 8-week summer camp for summer 2018!

Pick which weeks you want!

Camp Weeks are:

July 16, July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13, August 20, August 27

Includes the following:

Fun (through Sports, Play and Games)
Field Trips (may cost extra)
Life Lessons
Reading Time
Martial Arts
A great place to ...

Bucco Couture Summer Sale on All Custom Suits, Shirts and Casual Wear

NUTLEY, NJ — Save while looking sharp! 20% off all summer wear an extra 10% savings for Military, Veterans and all first responders at Bucco Couture, 187 Franklin Avenue in Nutley, with the launch of some new products such as our tracksuit line, crushed cotton drawstring pants and jeans. 

We also carry Bugatchi and Rober Graham casual wear as well as stretch high V-neck ...

Newark Lures Amazon With $1 Billion Payroll Tax Incentive

July 14, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Amazon will get a payroll tax break at a cost of $1 billion to the city should the company open its second headquarters in Newark, according to one of two ordinances approved by the Newark City Council council to sweeten the deal for the corporate giant and stand out among other locations vying for Amazon’s so-called HQ2.

“The City Council has brought Newark a ...

Upcoming Events


Mon, July 16, 10:00 AM

Roseland Free Public Library, Roseland

Walking for Fitness

Health & Wellness


Mon, July 16, 4:00 PM

Roseland Free Public Library, Roseland

Lego Mindstorms


Mon, July 16, 6:30 PM

West Caldwell Public Library, West Caldwell

Great American Read Book Discussions

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Public Invited to Essex County Opioid Use Prevention Task Force Meeting

July 15, 2018

CALDWELL, NJ — All Essex County residents, mayors and councils, law enforcement members, school officials, clergy members, civic organizations and more are invited to join in the next Essex County Opioid Use Prevention Task Force meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss how the Essex County communities can join work together to eradicate this epidemic.

The meeting will be held at the ...


Mar 23, 1932 - Jun 2, 2018
Obituary - Donald J. Cooney, March 23, 1932 to June 2, 2018 Donald J. Cooney, 86, of North ...
Read more

Education: A Bedrock of Democracy, Civic Engagement and Economic Prosperity

July 5, 2018

More than 240 years ago, our nation’s founders envisioned a country where individuals could forge their own destinies and not be constrained by the circumstances of birth. The essential concept was that people could govern themselves and participate in democracy, or what Benjamin Franklin and others called “a great experiment.” The vision was bold and has flourished as the ...

Extra Time

It was close to 70 minutes into the match and I had to go to the bathroom.  Badly.

As fans watching the World Cup know too well, bathroom breaks are a serious dilemma, especially for those who don’t have a TV in the loo.  This biological necessity is exasperated by beer, which during World Cup matches also fuels a strong propensity to throw chairs and instigate riots.