At National Night Out, on Tuesday, Aug. 1, Ben Ali of Montclair demonstrated his karate skills on Church Street.

They are impressive.

In January, Ali, 71, won the Ambassador Award for Martial Arts from National Martial Arts Organization, in Atlantic City. It was presented by Karate Official magazine’s Al Goldberg, who heads the North East Division Senior League of Martial Artists.

Ali took first place in his category.

Whenever there’s a local event, Ben is there to volunteer. He’s a familiar face at holiday events, fundraisers and community events for kids. And he’s always quick to lend a hand when needed. He’s often found shoveling the sidewalk in front of Bloomfield Avenue businesses after a snowstorm. Ben works at Alan’s Avenue Deli, 405 Bloomfield Ave.


He gets up at 6 a.m. to exercise, so he’s up and about before we all open up. Whether it’s a flood, a dead mouse, or an important errand, you know you can call Ben and say, “Help me out of this jam.”

I don’t know what the town would do without him. He’s so good to the community.

In appreciation of Ben’s willingness to help out whenever needed, the community has often stepped up to return the favor: he’s a local celebrity, who makes everyone want to support him.

When he needed a new set of teeth, a local dentist stepped in to donate his services.

And the Montclair business community recently put together a fund to send him to Atlantic City to accept his award. Ben said, “My blessings come when I least expect it. When you’re not selfish and give of yourself, people will recognize you.”

Ben is omnipresent in Montclair. His generosity, discipline and fitness regimen have made him a role model to a lot of young people in the area. He counsels kids in the neighborhood, and he’ll show up at PBA softball games to help warm up the teams.

Ben often can be found working out around town in the mornings, anywhere he can.

“First I say a prayer,” Ben explains. “I do my chin ups. I do my exercise to wake me up outside. I say, ‘now I’m good to go.’”

To me, he’s like Rocky Balboa. He uses anything at his disposal. He can do 115 push ups, and he’s 70.

There’s no indication that Ben is going to slow down any time soon. And with all he’s accomplished, he still has big dreams he hopes to fulfill.

“I want to open a school, a center,” he says. “I’m going to teach women and senior citizens self defense. That’s one of my goals if I ever come into some money, if I won the Powerball.

“And I’m going to take care of children in need until their parents get out of rehab.”

He was born out of poverty, and fell through the cracks of the system. He could have taken another path, but he chose to put that energy toward helping others through martial arts to keep people off the street.

Something in him wanted to channel all that negativity into something positive.

And he’s still going.

—Submitted by Rita Lamar, who is the owner of Lamar Wedding Center, 343 Bloomfield Ave.