Nutley Fire Department Trucks are seen from the safety of inside the reporters car as head up Harrison St during The Cholly Parade. Photo by Brian Hester
In keeping with my newly inspired approach to highlight more positive things in my writing so as to bring joy to world in times of trouble I bring you todays dispatch from a wake held this morning in Nutley, NJ. Some of you might be thinking; 1) how could a wake be uplifting and 2) how could it be safe in this time of pandemic?
The answer to the first question lies in the culture of the deceased, of an Irish- American decent, Charles D. Redstone, See Obituary, born in Hells Kitchen NYC, lived to the age of 98, and if not for Covid-19, he may have lived to 110. Hells Kitchen NYC Tough. From that perspective any proper wake would be a celebration of this incredible man’s life and his accomplishments, not the least of which was his family of a dozen children. SO yes, any wake for Mr. Redstone, or Cholly, as he was known would have to be uplifting.
One of Cholly’s 12 children, the youngest, his son, John Redstone, a Ret. Lt from the Nutley, NJ township Fire Department and his wife, Kim, are both very well known in the small NJ community for their good nature and volunteer work, either one would jump to help anyone in need in a heartbeat.
In this, the age of Covid-19, traditional wakes are not only immoral and unsafe but may be illegal as well. Upon hearing of Cholly’s passing good friend of Kim’s, Doreen Ford-Wilde, a classmate from Rutgers University, decided to organize a small drive bye wake in honor of Cholly and his 98 years of life. The idea was to have a few friends and family drive past the house, remaining in their cars at all times and only slowing down for about 30 seconds to extend condolences. They were asked to bring either a picture of Cholly or a picture of cardinal or a boxing glove as one of Cholly’s’ claims to fame was having been a boxing champ at the CYO in Hells Kitchen in his younger days. Safe. Socially Distant. Respectful. Meaningful.
When Doreen first came up with the idea, she said she went back and forth and was trying to decide if this was the right thing to do or what to do as we are all learning to navigate the New Normal. The day after Doreen started sending out emails to surprise the family with this memorial parade, still not sure if this was the right track, Kim, Cholly’s Daughter in law, herself an incredibly talented writer, posted a blog about how sad it would be not being able to have a proper traditional wake to remember Charlie. Once Doreen read that she knew she was doing the right thing. A small, little, drive by, safe, socially distant, memorial.
What happened was an incredible outpouring of love and support from the small tight knit community. One of John’s childhood friends, Artie Dib, set up a facebook group and the plans went from there in a rather spectacular fashion to create a parade and salute to Mr. Charles D. Redstone. As a small detail of bagpipers from the Essex County Emerald Society stood and played, vehicles from the Nutley Fire Department, Nutley Engine 3, Nutley FMBA44, EMS, Nutley PD, Nutley PBA33, Nutley Volunteer Rescue Squad, and the Essex County Emerald Society, along with almost 100 other cars passed slowly in front of the house. The family stood in awe and watched as the procession passed by, each car slowing down for 20 or 30 seconds to stop and remember one man’s life of almost a century.
I have included a few short videos here along with my humble description of these events as written above, to uplift us all in these times with the story of a small town coming together, like we do, like we all should do, to show support and love openly in the streets with all our being. I can not wait to see how my good friend Kim describes this day as her words are truly much more beautiful than any chronology of events I could hope to provide. Please click here for Kim’s website and her incredibly uplifting blog. Peace. Love. Stay Safe.
See Full Parade from Kim’s vantage point below. Warning this is emtional but undersrtand it is emtional in the best possible manner. Allow yourself to be in the moment. Always. Peace. Love. Celebration of life.
Authors full disclosure; I have known Kim Stevens-Redstone since we were both about 15 years old, when we grew up together in our hometown of Newark, When I review her writing and state is is second to none, I want readers to know that I may poses a slight bias. Doreen and Kim meet at Rutgers University where we were all member of the campus radio station, WRNU. Arti Dib and Johnny Redstone are childhood friends from Hackensack, NJ.