The Township of Nutley from its beginning has always taken considerable pride in its citizens. As a result, a number of local organizations have given annual awards expecially to volunteers at the local level. These include, among others, the Nutley Jaycees, the Dr. Virginius D. Mattia Memorial Committee, and UNICO. Through informal discussions from time to time among some Nutley citizens active in local affairs, the idea emerged that some way should be developed to recognize Nutley people who had achieved outstanding accomplishments beyond the boundaries of Nutley. The underlying philosophy of these discussions was that recognition of these people would not only be an honor for them, but would also bring additional pride to the community and serve as an example to emulate for our younger citizens.
Accordingly, in 2002, a group consisting of Pat Ritacco, as chairman, Sandra (Sam) Carella, Mike Geltrude, Tony Iannarone, Frank Lemma and Phil White established a formal committee, “The Nutley Hall of Fame Committee,” to initiate action and set the ground rules. In brief summary, these criteria were adopted:
Persons who were born in Nutley, resided in Nutley for a minimum of ten (10) years or who were graduates of Nutley High School who had outstanding achievements at the state, national or international level regardless of their field of endeavor It was also decided that to assure objectivity the Nutley Hall of Fame would have two subgroups: (1) an administrative committee consisting of the persons named above who would run the induction ceremonies, take care of all relevant details such as advertising and the nomination procedure, and determine the eligibility criteria; and (2) a panel of judges who would review the merits of eligible nominees and list them worthy of induction. As things began to develop, it became obvious that non-profit status would be highly advantageous. As a result, the Nutley Hall of Fame was brought under the aegis of the Friends of the Nutley Public Library, a non-profit New Jersey corporation with IRS 501(c)(3) clearance. Also, a close relationship was established with the Nutley Public Library, both as a research source in reviewing eligiible nominees, as well as a home for the Hall of Fame and location for its archive, meetings, and events.
JoAnn Tropiano, former library director, was added to the administrative committee. Doing everything on a first-time basis presented many questions and problems, but the committee, with determination and hard work, pressed on culminating in a highly successful event at the Library on Sunday afternoon, September 28, 2003 attended by well over two-hundred people. This was accompanied by considerable fanfare because among the nine outstanding inductees was Martha Stewart, a celebrity icon, who was much in the news at that time which generated some problems for the committee in controlling television and other media coverage. Nevertheless, the induction cermony was very impressive and was enhanced by the food service and other aspects of the overall event. While all inductees received individual plaques with a very fitting tree theme, since Nutley is designated as a tree municipality, it was decided that a more permanent means of keeping these outstanding people in mind and providing public attention would be appropriate. A large tree was commissioned from Illusions of Grandeur, painted and installed in the Library. Brass leaves inscribed with the name of each inductee were affixed. The kindness of the Nutley Invitational Golf Tournament in providing funding for the tree was noted with appreciation and acknowledged with a plaque in proximity to the tree. In addition, a lectern was provided by the Library bearing a large book with pictures and biographies of all inductees for the enlightment of the public.
On Sunday, November 20, 2005 the second induction event was held in the Nutley Public Library again attended by more than two-hundred people who enjoyed the food, music, and an induction ceremony similar to the first. Ten people were inducted. Subsequent induction ceremonies were authorized for 2007 and odd-numbered years going forward depending upon the number and the qualifications of nominees.
The number and diversity of highly-accomplished Nutley people became a source of amazement even to the Nutley Hall of Fame Committee, not only as to those already and about to be inducted, but also as to the many awaiting their turns in future years. After the 2005 ceremony, the Administrative Committee regretfully lost one of its founding stalwart members, Mike Geltrude. The committee was pleased to welcome his son, Dan, as plans for the 2007 induction were begun.
-Anthony J. Iannarone, Esq., founding member, October 11, 2007