essex county commissioners celebrate italian heritage month

Essex County Commissioners and the 2022 Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade Committee and Parade Honorees
(PHOTO by Lloyd Holmes)

(Newark, NJ) – On Thursday, October 6, 2022, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its annual Italian Heritage Month Event. This event is held yearly to celebrate the accomplishments of men and women of Italian heritage everywhere, and honor outstanding Essex County citizens for their unique contributions to our county and society as a whole.

This year, the Board recognized Donato DiGeronimo of Verona (Retired Battalion Chief of Montclair Fire Department); Dan Fabrizio of South Orange (Retired School Teacher); Edie Peters Liguori of Belleville (President of the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association); and Maria Pagan of Newark (Retired Special Education Teacher and member of Trike Masters Inc., Motorcycle Club).

Commissioner Vice President Carlos M. Pomares began the program with opening remarks speaking to the diversity of Essex County, while noting the impact that Italian people, culture and the individual honorees have had on our communities. “Today, we celebrate Italian heritage, culture, and the contributions of some of our finest Essex County residents of Italian descent.” Commissioner Vice President Pomares stated, “We salute our honorees for their tremendous efforts, and understand that we have all benefitted as a community because of your contributions.”

District 4 Commissioner Leonard Luciano also brought greetings to the audience echoing Commissioner VP Pomares’ thoughts on diversity. He also touched on 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.” Commissioner Luciano stated, “Tonight, we are thrilled to honor Italian-Americans who have worked hard, are successful and – most importantly – have given back to their communities.”


Donato DiGeronimo, presented by Commissioner Brendan Gill, 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.

Dan Fabrizio, presented by Commissioner Tyshammie Cooper, is a career teacher who spent 26-years educating in the Newark Public School system until his retirement in 2016. He was born and raised in Newark, graduated from Barringer High School, and earned a BA in Elementary Education from Kean University. In 1982, he accepted his first teaching position as a Compensatory Ed teacher with Essex County. He began his teaching career in Newark at McKinley School, then Peshine Avenue School where students, parents and staff truly became his second family. Throughout his teaching career, he has volunteered with organizations benefitting 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 ‘before & after’ school chess club.

Edie Peters Liguori, presented by Commissioner Leonard Luciano, 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 (DDS). During her 35-year career, she worked tirelessly to develop a harmonious relationship with the public, her co-workers, and medical and educational advocates. 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. In addition to her leadership with the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade and Italian Heritage Committee, she assists with the Red Cross and organizes events with the Federation of Italian American Societies of New Jersey.

Maria Pagan, presented by Commissioner Robert Mercado, started her career in 1984 as a Special Education Teacher at Ridge Street School. Educating the children of Newark has always been her passion. Getting to know the students families and the people in the community has led her to become District Leader for the past 30-years. As a community leader, she works together with members of her community and assists them with decision-making and problem-solving processes that benefit the community. Over the course of her career, she received several awards including A+ for Kids; the Governor-Teacher Award; Outstanding Heroes Award; and the Newark Teacher of the Year Award. Her greatest accomplishment, other than raising her two wonderful children, has always been giving back to the community.  By giving back, she has enriched her own life. Her belief is there is nothing more important in this world than helping others and showing kindness and compassion.

Additionally, the Board recognized the 2022 Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade & Italian Heritage Committee for their diligent work in making the Columbus Day Parade an annual success. Also acknowledged were the 2022 Parade Honorees: Tina Cervasio – Grand Marshal; Dr. James Corino – Belleville Man of the Year; Patricia Ferrara Wells – Belleville Woman of the Year; John Monaco – Italian Business Leader; Nick Cozzarelli – Renaissance Man; Jerri Custode – Renaissance Woman; and Michael V. Calabro, Esq. – Heritage Award

Further highlights of the program included opening and closing prayers from Rev. Father Thomas D. Nicastro, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Nutley, and musical selections performed by Daniel Drew – an actor and singer from Newark who has performed in several regional productions, most notably the Vanguard Theater Company and the New York Musical Theater Festival.

Looking for more information on the Essex County Board of Commissioners? The Essex County Commissioners Mobile App is now available for download on the Apple and Google Play Stores.

For Additional Information – Contact:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)
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Board of County Commissioners,
County of Essex
465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,
Room 558 Hall of Records,
Newark, New Jersey 07102