Thursday, March 12, 2009

Azzolina, Scaduto families bid farewell to Courier


For the past 11 years, as of April, I have been employed at The Courier: first as its editor and then, later, as its publisher.

Three obvious signs of time passing have been the graying of my hair, my need to use reading glasses to peruse anything in print, and the steady expansion of my waistline. But, the less obvious signs of my service at the paper includes my deep appreciation to the owners of The Courier, the Azzolina and Scaduto families, for their great support over the years; as well as my many friends and well-wishers in the Bayshore. So often during difficult times, these friends have meant so very much to me and have sustained me. Thanks.

When I came to Middletown to edit Courier, from Greater Media Newspapers (when it was still headquartered in East Brunswick), I knew absolutely nothing about the Bayshore. Truth be told, I’d been in this area maybe once or twice in my life.

It was ironic to end up at Courier for so long, though, because, as a child, Keansburg was the first place my parents brought me home to from the hospital. Born in Newark, Mr. and Mrs. Purcell had rented a house in the borough (along Beachway), so the first place I put my feet on the ground was a stone’s throw away from the Boardwalk. In essence, my tenure at Courier has educated me about my first home, the place the family moved away from before I even began kindergarten.

Three decades later, I was back. During my time at Courier, I had the privilege of reporting the good and the bad, the happy and sad. I am immensely proud of our work at the newspaper. There have been highs and lows, without doubt. Yet even with the “lows,” there has been a sense of family and community.

I will forget very little of my time at Courier. But no moment will be quite so vivid as the time when I witnessed and reported upon the darkest moment in U.S. history from the scene of the World Trade Center attack, on Sept. 14, 2001.

I had the privilege of writing about some of the bravest men and women I have ever witnessed. I did this while in the company of a contingent of steadfast police officers, firefighters and public works employees from Keansburg, led by Chief Raymond O’Hare and Deputy Chief James Pigott. In my book, if one were to look up the word “courage” in the dictionary, they should find these men’s photos there.

The Bayshore has never been in short supply of character or courage, though, and that is reflected in the daily lives of the men, women and even children that call this wonderful, special place their home.

While strength is a virtue, so is quiet service, and in no place have I seen so much of that either. Whether it is Jan Vassar, who dutifully serves as a volunteer for the eye center she and her family built at Bayshore Hospital (she can always be found there until 3 on Wednesdays) or Sister Garvey, at the Bayshore Senior Health, Education and Recreation Center, in Keansburg, it is these people who exemplify the best in people here and everywhere.

There are many incredible chapters to my time at this newspaper, and all special. The last one I wish to share, though, was not just an area resident but was a member of our own Courier family. Kristin Kinlin was a Monmouth University graduate who was physically disabled from the time she was born, but overcame so much to lead a life that many of us take for granted.

I saw this young woman, who was so full of promise, grow during the five years I knew her. She first came to Courier as an intern in 2001. Being so spirited, bright and hard working it was impossible not to hire her as the legals and classifieds coordinator for the newspaper right out of college. Sadly, she died April 10, 2006 from a long-standing ailment while vacationing in Chicago. She is still remembered by those of us who knew her, and myself especially. If for no other reason, my tenure at Courier allowed me the opportunity to know this incredible person.

The Courier does have a new owner, who will announce the re-opening of the newspaper during early April. I wish that person all the luck and good fortune there is and encourage our readers to support this new person’s ownership. The Courier is, after all, not just the property of one person, but, in a larger sense, the entire Bayshore. Owners come and go, yet this newspaper is as tied to this area as the beaches at Sandy Hook.

The Courier’s last edition as a property of the Azzolina and Scaduto families will be on the newsstands April 3. It has been an honor serving this company and the Bayshore. All my best.

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