Essex County commissioners celebrate Italian Heritage Month

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

NEWARK, NJ — On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its annual Italian Heritage Month event to celebrate the accomplishments of men and women of Italian heritage everywhere, and honor outstanding Essex County citizens for their contributions to the county and society as a whole.

This year, the board recognized Verona resident Donato DiGeronimo, retired battalion chief of the Montclair Fire Department; South Orange resident Dan Fabrizio, a retired school teacher; Belleville resident Edie Peters Liguori, president of the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association; and Newark resident Maria Pagan, retired special education teacher and member of Trike Master Social Club, a motorcycle club in Newark.

“Today we celebrate Italian heritage, culture and the contributions of some of our finest Essex County residents of Italian descent,” Commissioner Vice President Carlos M. Pomares said. “We salute our honorees for their tremendous efforts, and understand that we have all benefited as a community because of your contributions.” 

Commissioner Leonard Luciano spoke about the pride he feels as a member of the Italian American community. 

“I am honored to be here alongside my commissioner colleagues to celebrate Italian heritage, and recognize the achievements of a few members of the Italian American community here in Essex County,” Luciano said. “We are thrilled to honor Italian Americans who have worked hard, are successful and — most importantly — have given back to their communities.”

DiGeronimo is a retired Battalion Chief and 33-year veteran of the Montclair Fire Department. He is very active in the Montclair Italian American community and has been a member of Montclair UNICO since its inception. He is also a member of the Montclair History Center; the Montclair 100 Club; the Montclair St. Sebastian Society; and, in 2001, he was named Person of the Year by the Montclair Chamber of Commerce. Born and raised in Montclair, he is a graduate of Montclair High School and Montclair State University, the founding board member of the Montclair Business Improvement District, and he has served the community of Montclair and Essex County with distinction for the majority of his life.

Fabrizio is a career teacher who spent 26 years educating in the Newark Public Schools system until his retirement in 2016. He was born and raised in Newark, graduated from Barringer High School, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Kean University. In 1982, he accepted his first teaching position as a compensatory education teacher with Essex County. He began his teaching career in Newark at McKinley School, then Peshine Avenue School. Throughout his teaching career, he has volunteered with organizations benefiting his students, including 10,000 Mentors; Do Something; the Peshine School Leadership Council; and was the founder/coach of the St. Rose Lima basketball team and the Peshine chess club.

Peters Liguori is well-known for her volunteer efforts in the community, specifically her membership and leadership with the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade and Italian Heritage Committee. She is also a retired regional manager of the New Jersey Division of Disability Determination Services. In 2014, she joined the FBI Newark Citizens Academy and quickly became the chapter vice president. She was instrumental in the chapter’s fundraising activities and community outreach and, in 2018, she became chapter president. She also assists with the Red Cross and organizes events with the Federation of Italian American Societies of New Jersey.

Pagan started her career in 1984 as a special education teacher at Ridge Street School in Newark and she has been a district leader for the past 30 years. Over the course of her career, she received several awards, including A+ for Kids; the Governor’s Educator of the Year Award; Outstanding Heroes Award; and the Newark Teacher of the Year Award. 

Additionally, the board recognized the 2022 Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade and Italian Heritage Committee members for their diligent work in making the parade an annual success. Also acknowledged were the 2022 parade honorees.

Photos Courtesy of Lloyd Holmes