Winners of writing contest honored

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Two women from East Orange and a man from Orange were among the winners in the 2024 Essex County Senior Citizen Legacies Writing Contest, which encourages Essex senior citizens to write about the people and events that have influenced their lives.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Division of Senior Services announced the winners and honorable mention recipients during an awards luncheon at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center in Essex County Branch Brook Park in Newark on May 23.

“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,” DiVincenzo said. “Our seniors’ stories make you laugh and touch your heart. They provide us with a different perspective on historical events and what our society was like,” he added.

Selected as winners of the 2024 Senior Citizen Legacies Writing Contest were Carol T. Jenkins from East Orange who wrote “Allen & Emily,” Coni Evans from Verona who wrote “The Sit In,” Glenda R. Mattox of East Orange who wrote “Resting in Fairmount” and Clarence Boseman from Orange who wrote “West Kinney Jr. High School.”

Receiving honorable mentions were Eva M. Ogens from Caldwell who wrote “The Moment of No Return,” Mary Louri Bartola from West Orange who wrote “May Father’s Hands: Crafting a Lifetime of Love,” Pamela Gaston from Maplewood who wrote “My Journey Up from Down the Way” and Catherine Stamm from Nutley who wrote “The Formica Table.”

In “Allen & Emily,” Jenkins reminisces about her grandparents and shares their love story. Allen was 13 years older than Emily; they met through Emily’s sister Ernestine who introduced them at a dance given by the Oriole Social Club of the Oranges in 1908.

The couple married in 1913 and both worked for the Wiss family, which owned a cutlery business, and later a jewelry business, in Newark.

Allen and Emily were able to purchase their first home in 1915 and were the first black couple to reside on Hunterdon Street in Newark.

Allen bought his first car in 1925. Jenkins recalls that when she was a child, her grandfather would give Carol and her sister pennies every Friday, which in those days was enough to buy candy.

In “Resting in Fairmount,” Mattox wrote about growing up in Newark in the 1950s and ‘60s and places she used to frequent, including Fairmount Cemetery.

“It was more a park than a burial ground, and so lovely and peaceful to walk those winding footpaths,” she writes.

Mattox reminisces in the piece about the candy and music stores, the eye doctor’s office, the Tivoli Theater, Dairyland ice cream shop and the summer recreation program at West Side High School.

After spending time with relatives or coming home for the summer during college, she commented that “I didn’t know which way to turn, it seemed my eyes were starved for what I already knew, and everything looked familiar, yet new and strange.”

In “West Kinney Jr. High School,” Boseman writes about driving home after dropping his grandson off at Newark Liberty Airport, Boseman passed by West Kinney Jr. High School and states that what he learned in that school provided the foundation for the rest of his life.

The trade skills he learned enabled him to get well-paying industrial jobs that enabled him to support himself while attending college.

While he was offered several corporate positions after graduating college, he decided he wanted to give back and followed a career path as a teacher and worked as a public school teacher.

He credited his lifelong success to the skills he learned in West Kinney Jr. High School.

In “My Father’s Hands: Crafting a Lifetime of Love,” Bartola wrote about her father, who was a craftsman, though not by trade, and performed a great deal of work in their house.

This included building furniture, enlarging the second floor and construction of an addition.

As he got older, he made wooden toys for his grandchildren, including an easel for a grandson who demonstrated exceptional artistic ability.

Sadly, when Bartola recently returned to her childhood neighborhood, she saw that the house her father crafted had been demolished and replaced with a larger structure.
Her father’s memory still lived on, though, because the backyard shed that he built was still there.