BELLEVILLE, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. routinely singles out individuals of various ethnic communities for special recognition. Recently, in honor of Italian Heritage Day, which focused on those of Italian descent, three individuals were cited as deserving of praise.
“During our Essex County Italian Heritage Celebration,” said DiVincenzo, “the Star of Essex Award was presented to three people who have contributed to the well-being of their towns, and lived in Essex all their lives.”
The honored individuals were Carmel “Red” Portuese, Eleanor “Butterfly” Guarino and Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia. These three were awarded a Star of Essex Award for their achievements.
Eleanor Guarino is a community activist from Belleville and previously served as a personnel assistant in human resources for the U.S. Postal Service. Her life is a tale of two cities: in Belleville, where her immigrant parents settled and she grew up in a six-family house, and in Nutley, where she and her late husband raised their four children.
Back in Belleville for the last 32 years, she became active in town activities, bringing attention to situations that impacted children and the neighborhoods in which they lived. She began by successfully opposing a 21-unit condominium development behind her house. Next came the “clean-up” of Branch Brook Gardens housing, which today is in outstanding condition. Then came her pursuit of improvements to Essex County Belleville Park in Belleville, where she ultimately partnered with County Executive DiVincenzo to modernize the playground and the senior building.
“My respect and love of my hometown has never left my heart. I appreciate the County Executive putting up with my nagging and pushing to get a better playground for Belleville Park and upgrade the seniors’ clubhouse. When I see something in the community that can be fixed, I do it because the outcome benefits us all,” Ms. Guarino said.