On a quest to honor MHS great Fortunato

As a proud member of Montclair High School's class of 1956, and the class historian, on a committee to celebrate our 64th reunion, I had to step out of the fold to say some special kudos for two very important employees who work in the main office at 100 Chestnut St. All too often words are left unsaid, not so in this instance because both Christa Simon and Monica Smith aided and abetted me, in a daunting reality.

Our beloved longtime football coach Butch Fortunato has not been inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame — hard to believe as coach Clary Anderson was inducted in 2011. My fellow classmates, Rocky Cifalino and former police chief Tommy Russo, and I have put our nose to the grindstone to investigate what is truly "a slap in the face," said Cifalino.

Last year I was able to compile a dossier of over 22 pages of comments lauding coach Fortunato from his former athletes, including our astronaut Buzz Aldrin, which was sent to Montclair High School's athletic director, to no avail. We seemed to not be able to make this happen until the above-mentioned Hall of Fame advised, they are now changing the format for nomination, and a coach must come in now on his "high school record."

When I called my alma mater's office, and spoke to Monica about locating Fortunato's high school record she said, “Come on in.” And when I did, there was the indomitable Christa Simon, waiting with the exact yearbooks that she would be only too glad to photostat and make copies. I had to pinch myself that not only could we be prepared for the nomination, we were immediately able to connect with employees, who knew about him and were shocked that “our hero” was still not lauded. Monica was even wearing an MHS Mountie sweatshirt! To top it off they presented me with the gift of a page from the yearbooks of my uncle (class of 1929), my mother (class of 1930) and my aunt (class of 1930). Now that's class!

Montclair Mountie spirit and caring continues to exist. To top it off, when we were leaving, Monica told us to tip-toe out very quietly as music director and Grammy winner Dr. Boyce Inness (no relation to Montclair's famous artist George Inness) was conducting the Madrigals singing in the lobby. I left to the "sound of music."

Please know greatness exists on all levels of the day in the life of visiting Montclair High School 64 years later.



County is paving over paradise

I’ve spent many happy hours hiking and just relaxing in South Mountain Reservation, one of the few places of natural beauty left in Essex County, and in recent years I have been dismayed by the growing number of “improvements” that have come along with depressing regularity. 

With all the restaurants in Montclair and surrounding towns why would another one be needed in the Reservation? If people really wanted to eat there wouldn’t a picnic on a nice day be a more sensible alternative? Such amenities are hardly in keeping with the intentions of the park’s designers and builders and mean more traffic and more parking lots to accommodate the patrons. 

The park is disappearing under asphalt. 

And now in the name of education some sort of amphitheater is proposed where wild animals will be penned up for the edification of young children. Wouldn’t it be better for kids to be able to see the fauna native to our area in their natural habitat? Let the deer, wild turkeys and grouse roam free and leave the lions and giraffes to their native environment south of the Sahara, while saving the taxpayer a bundle like Jim Price says.



Bus ride reflects faith in humanity

I was in line for the 7:30 p.m. #66 bus last night. A tiny Hispanic woman, about 80-years-old, had an Upper Montclair ticket for the bus but spoke no English, so she couldn't tell where she would be getting off the bus. Two very concerned women were trying like crazy to help her, using a few Italian words they knew, which weren't quite translating. I looked around and didn't see anyone who looked like they might speak Spanish, which was very strange for me since I lived in Los Angeles for the last 30 years. Finally, a young man in line with a backpack and guitar came up and tried to use Google Translate. He seemed to be able to figure out where she should get off the bus. Then another guy comes into the line and hears the language struggle. He spoke good Spanish, but there were still questions about how she was going to get to the address she had once she got off the bus in the dark, so the young man with the guitar decided to sit next to her in the front to help with getting her where she needed to go. 

Then another woman boards the bus, not realizing you need a ticket instead of cash. She was traveling with her son and was stressed about waiting another hour for the next bus. About four people on the bus offered tickets to them and would not accept any cash for them. Then the woman who gave them two tickets was reimbursed by another man on the bus who gave her a $10 bill for being so nice. They went back and forth and finally she accepted the money, still protesting that it was not necessary. During the ride, other people joined in on making sure the Hispanic lady was going to be ok. 

These riders of the 66 restore my faith in humanity.