CEDAR GROVE, NJ — West Orange resident Vincent Dahmen was one of eight individuals to be honored for his talents in the annual Essex County Senior Legacies Writing Contest hosted by Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Division of Senior Services.
The Legacies Writing Contest encourages Essex senior citizens to write essays about the people and events that have influenced their lives. During a celebratory luncheon, Dahmnen was recognized for his story entitled, "The Myth of Invincibility."
"Our Senior Citizen Legacies Writing Contest is a unique way for our older population to share their life's stories and describe the people and events that helped to shape their lives," said DiVincenzo. "Our seniors' stories make you laugh and they touch your heart. They provide us with a different perspective on historical events and what our society was like."
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The Director's Award was given to South Orange resident Lorrain Kerry Barnett who wrote "Remorse." Winning stories were "A Night at the Opera" by Roger Birnbaum from Montclair, "Little Piggy" by Virginia Cornue from Montclair, "Marian Anderson and Me" by Gwen S. Toub and "Inevitably Invisible" by Robin Ehrlichman Woods from Montclair. Dahmen's story was among the honoable mentions along with "Sumer of '55" by Ronald Merritt and "The Gift" by Belinda Plutz from Montclair.
"All our seniors have stories to tell, and our Legacies Writing Contest provides our older adults with an incentive to preserve their memories, and create a living history," said Essex County Division of Senior Services Director Jaklyn DeVore. "Writing enables our seniors to share their memories with friends and families, allows them to reminisce about old times, and keeps their minds active. This is one of our most popular events because of the emotions and memories that are evoked."
Dahmen was 17 years old and just graduated from high school when he found himself at the funeral of his best friend Bill, who accidentally fell out of a tree while working for a landscaping company. He reminisced about how popular his friend was, the influence he had in high school and the times they spent together. Bill was the "coolest guy in the world," according to Dahmen.
"We all wanted to be like him," Dahmen wrote. "But reality struck at the funeral and "at that moment the idea of invincibility was exposed for what it was, just a myth."
Reading the submitted stories were students from the Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology: juniors Alaysia Coffield, Vishnu Antar and Nyasha Colon and sophomore Nafir Willey.
Sponsored by the Essex County Division of Senior Services, the Legacies Writing Contest was started in 1996 and was part of a national contest which encouraged senior citizens to discover the joys of writing while sharing their stories with others. Although the national contest was discontinued in 1998, the Essex County Division of Senior Services continued to sponsor the Legacies Writing Contest on a local level. Entries are judged on the writer's ability to engage the reader with humor, emotional impact or rich descriptions. Winning stories were selected by a committee of volunteer judges and staff from the Essex County Division of Senior Services.