In years past, MyVeronaNJ.com’s review of the top stories of the year looked only at the most read stories of the year. That was good for capturing the highlights, but didn’t reflect all that had happened in Verona.
So this year, we’ve looked at all the stories we published–more than 1,000–to create a look back on 2018 in Verona, and it is below. We’ll continue to have a separate story on the Veronans, both current and former, who passed away in 2018.
Here’s what happened this past year:
January: The year starts out with a protest against the lack of ice skating at Verona Park despite a long stretch of cold weather. The Town Council announces an acting chief of police, Christopher Kiernan, who will go on to be confirmed as the chief in full later in the year. The Council also kicks off a revaluation of all the homes in Verona. Developers unveil plans to build an assisted living facility on the site of the Richfield Regency, but the project does not complete its Board of Adjustment hearings by year end. And as January draws to a close, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, announces that he will not seek re-election after more than two decades in Congress.
February: With mass shootings increasingly common, the Verona Police Department trains for a response and invites a reporter to witness the active shooter drill. Verona High School sophomore Owen Fogarty breaks VHS’ indoor pole vault record, set in 2011, but has his eyes on the much longer standing outdoor record. Fred Santoro is honored for 40 years of service on the Verona Rescue Squad and the Republican primary for Congress kicks off with a declaration by Verona’s state assemblyman, Jay Webber. The race eventually grows to five Democratic and five Republican challengers.
March: The Board of Education unveils plans for two ballot questions to be added to the November election, one on expanding Verona kindergarten to a full-day schedule and the other on providing additional mental health services. Dr. Kathryn A. Foster, a 1975 graduate of VHS, is named president of The College of New Jersey. VHS students walk out of class to show support for the victims of shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Verona learns that a mosque will replace the Congregation Beth Ahm synagogue and VHS’ first swim team completes its first season.
April: Jump Rope For Heart, a Verona school fundraiser since the 2002-2003 school year, reaches a huge milestone. After a false start, VHS football sets a new course and names former VHS football player Kevin Batty as head coach, while another former VHS player, Bob Kiss, rides a bike across America to raise money for charity. A new resident raises awareness of living organ donation, and an Urban Outfitters store in Scotland is found to be selling Hillbilly merchandise.
May: Things are quieter in May, but there is big news nonetheless. Jack Strippoli, a VHS junior, hits a milestone that no other VHS golfer has achieved. The Town Council approves new commercial garbage collection rules, but is forced to backtrack on them almost immediately.
June: The Council votes to rescind the garbage ordinance and honors Edward Conlon and Michael Zichelli for decades of service to Verona’s planning and zoning boards. The Mane Place salon celebrates a milestone anniversary. And Owen Fogarty finally breaks a VHS pole vault record that had stood since 1974. Verona’s new mosque observes its first Ramadan and hosts an interfaith dinner.
July: Six candidates file to run for the BOE election in November, although two will drop out before Verona goes to the polls. Although Verona is normally fairly crime-free, several cars in the Laning area are entered overnight and the police remind residents to lock there car doors. Verona youth participate in mission trips to Appalachia organized by the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit. A new resident reveals plans to create a lifestyle brand around Claude Monet, the French Impressionist.
August: The youth group at Our Lady of the Lake goes on its own mission trip to Appalachia. A lost homing pigeon is rescued at the Verona Pool. One VHS graduate stars in an unusual production of “Fiddler On The Roof“, while another is named the new head coach of VHS volleyball. A freak rainstorm turns into a damaging flash flood, the former VHS football coach sues the BOE and Verona’s last factory closes.
September: As a new school year opens, the VHS football and volleyball teams play games to raise awareness of ways to prevent suicide, a tragedy that has touched Verona.
October: We learn that there will be no federal aid to help Verona families whose homes and businesses were damaged in the August flash flood. The walk led by Verona residents for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention tops its fundraising goals. Plans for a large apartment building on the Verona-Montclair line take shape. Verona has its first Restaurant Week, but soon after, one of those restaurants closes.
November: The first residents move in to the new apartments at the former Annin Flag factory. A former resident organizes a coat drive for California wildfire victims. Mikie Sherrill handily defeats Jay Webber to be Verona’s new representative to Congress while the BOE election brings two new faces to that body. VHS students win a college engineering challenge, the Town Council discloses plans to buy the former Cameco plant for affordable housing and Verona Police file charges over a party with underage drinking.
December: VHS grad Julia Ashley leads her college team to a national soccer playoff. In a 4-1 vote, the Council votes to buy the Cameco plant, capping a year of effort to meet Verona’s affordable housing obligations. One former VHS student helps VHS freshmen, sophomores and juniors to get a new perspective on the Holocaust, while another answers questions–and dispells fears–about college.