Of the handful of editor's notebooks I wrote during my tenure as Belleville Patch editor, this is undoubtedly the saddest and most difficult.
Because, unfortunately, this is my goodbye to you, my readers, colleagues and friends.
When I shared this news around Belleville, it was met with some sadness. Which, truthfully, shocked me because this was such a brief journey for all of us.
But what it was, was three months of telling some great stories here in Belleville. And there are plenty. Although some choose to narrow their focus towards crime and politics (which have to be covered, sure) and negativity, there is a lot to know and love about Belleville!
At last Friday's Pink Out for Lindsay Giordano, seeing how Bellevillites dissolved their differences, even if temporarily, and came together to support a common cause and form this warm, caring community was truly heartwarming and memorable. Other towns could learn a great lesson from all of you!
There are so many other examples of where I saw Belleville shine, between business owners fighting the good fight in a terrible economy, the students who have proven successful thanks to Belleville schools like honors student Joseph Servideo at Belleville High School, the wonderful work Nanette Rotonda is doing in her first year as principal at School No. 5 … I could keep going.
But saying goodbye is hard enough. Especially to a town who loves the Belleville Patch and, in such a short time, really has come to mean so much to me personally.
Although I hate being the story and the center of attention, I wanted to say a proper goodbye here. So, please, indulge me just a little bit longer because I want to do this right.
I like to think people took to me, even if just a little bit, because I strived to be honest, balanced and, above all else, human. So I will start by thanking some folks in Town Hall, especially our Mayor Ray Kimble and our Municipal Council who were remarkably decent and kind toward someone who sometimes needed to ask tough questions: Marie Strumolo Burke, Steve Rovell, Vincent Cozzarelli, John Notari, Kevin G. Kennedy, and Michael Nicosia.
Elsewhere in Town Hall, Police Chief Joseph Rotonda, Deputy Chief Mark Minichini, PBA President Bobby Kane, Lt. James Giuliano, and Sgt. John Loiacono proved cooperative and made life easier, whether it was a question about a carjacking or telling me about the guinea fowl, Dino, that roams about the parking lot. Then there is Health Department Director Colleen Britton, who knew way more about me than I did her when I first met her but always found a way to make me laugh with a well-placed "Seinfeld" reference — thank you, Colleen.
Then there is the Board of Education, where President Pete Zangari went out of his way to introduce me to others around town and was tremendously helpful. As did other BOE members including: Bill Freda, Patricia Inaugurato, Joseph Longo, Judy Piscatowski, John Rivera, and Vinny Strumolo. And then there is Superintendent Joseph Picardo, who despite initial reluctance because he is not a fan of the press, was a pleasure to deal with. I believe Belleville schools are in good hands because not only of these folks, but because of the countless teachers and administrators who work tirelessly to put our students in positions to succeed, including two great ones in BHS Director of Students Services Barbara Correnti and BHS Athletic Director Tom D'Elia.
I need to wrap this up because if this was an Oscar speech, they would have already been playing music. I thank quality people across town who helped make my time here memorable: Jaye Tarantino at Flowerama, Jeanne Lombardi, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Library Board Director Joan Taub, Library Board President Richard Yannuzzi, Annamaria and Fran at Pepe Sisters Italian American Deli, Sue Rovell, Marleni Muniz, Vic Mafucci, Florence Pentol, John Dubuque, Ted Socharski, John Spina, Liz Ramirez, Anne Marie Pruznak, Dee Hank, Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, and Paula Belotta. Sorry if I'm forgetting anyone — and I am sure I am — this is getting emotional for me.
Finally, in parting, I want to thank my Patch colleagues and writers who provided a great community unto itself: Lia Eustachewich, Shelley Emling, Chris Nesi, Paul Milo, Karen Yi, Linda Federico-O'Murchu, Laura Griffin, Marilyn Joyce Lehren, Teresa Akersten, Mary Mann, Elizabeth Moore, Sharon Adarlo, Steve Sears, Scott Egelberg, Michele Lee, Rose Sartaguda, Anthony Buccino, and Frank Fleischman III (Bellevillites — please support one of your own and his Frank Advice column!)
And please, feel free to stay in touch – I sincerely consider many of you readers my friends. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of all, for having allowed me in to your world and trusting me to deliver the best of Belleville each day — I thank you from the bottom of my heart.