A work pumpkin sits in the office of the Montclair Local. DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF


Thanksgiving is a time to take stock, look around, pay attention to what’s good. Here are some of what Montclairites are thankful for this year. What are you thankful for? Let us know at culture@montclairlocal.news!


Renée Baskerville, Fourth Ward councilwoman: I am most thankful for the JOY that I feel each day. I am thankful for my family and friends, good health, energy and faith. I am grateful for the new hope and infinite possibilities that we are blessed with each day. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve! I am grateful to be able to provide services for children and adolescents, families and communities that mean so much to me… and their love, honesty and support. I am grateful for HIS enduring love.

Bob Russo, at-large councilman: I am just thankful to be living in the most diverse, progressive community in New Jersey, which it has been an honor to serve for 18 years, and to have my wonderful wife Christine, who allowed me to give back to this great town of Montclair for so long! Oh, and to still have my mom with us approaching her 99th birthday!

Bill Hurlock, First Ward councilman: I’m always thankful for my two children. I’m very grateful that I have two wonderful children who put up with a father who is doing so many things on different boards and government and legal and law. I’m not around as much as maybe I’d like to have been.

Mayor Robert Jackson: I’m thankful for the way our town is developing … I just think as an overall community, I think we’re maturing in a great way. I see people participating, giving input on issues in a very positive way. To me, that’s a good feeling. I think that we are maturing as a community. I’m very thankful for that.

Sean Spiller, Third Ward councilman: I think like most, thankful for family, friends, health, just general happiness. I think that I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of people with a lot of love, and just an opportunity to get together. One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving because we can all get together. It’s not wrapped around with a lot of other things, whether it be gift-giving or anything else. It’s just wrapped around just get together with loved ones, share your time together, share those special moments, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to pause on everything else and do just that.


Laura Hertzog, Board of Education president: I’m blessed that in a few weeks, my house will be bursting at the seams with those friends and family at our family holiday party, and that the party is bigger every year as we add more members to the “village” we’ve created. I’m deeply grateful to be able to live in and serve the town where I grew up, that gave so much to me. I’m thankful for the energy and diversity that I find in my classes at Zura and the Y, and for the grace and peace that I gain from St. Cassian parish. I’m thankful for organizations like the Human Needs Food Pantry, and the kindness and care that they show to our community. I’m grateful for parents who taught me always to look forward rather than back, and to remember that life is more joyful when you keep your sense of humor- especially about yourself.I appreciate the wisdom and generosity of spirit of the teachers here who taught my siblings and me, and those who are teaching our children now. And last, but certainly not least, I am thankful that my fellow citizens and I chose a governor who is committed to fully funding our public schools, and I look forward to next year being thankful for that commitment having been met. 

Joe Kavesh, member, Board of Education and Civil Rights Commission: My father recently turned 90 and my mother recently turned 87. Every day I have with them is a blessing.


Tarrin Earle, senior quarterback and captain, MHS football: I am thankful for my three sisters, mother, and father for being my support system in all aspects of life, not just football. Without their guidance and unconditional love I wouldn’t be the young man I am today. They way they carry themselves are a model for me to aspire to be I am also thankful for the sport of football. The life lessons I have learned from playing the sport are more valuable than anything anyone could teach me. The sport has given me an opportunity to further my education at a high academic university as well which will impact the rest of my life. Finally the people I have met in the process, especially my coaches and brothers I can call my teammates, will give me relationships that will last a lifetime.

Elias Ottens, senior tight end and captain, MHS football: I’m thankful to be a Mountie for life.


Virginia S. Block, ex officio board member, Studio Montclair: I have been attracted to the creative process for as long as I can remember — sewing, gardening, cooking, knitting, and of course making fine art. Along my life’s path, I have been pulled in many directions, both joyful and sorrowful; however throughout all, I am grateful that I have always been able to return to the joy of creativity.’


RitaMarie Cimini, president, Studio Montclair: I am thankful for the kindness shown me be friends and strangers (someone holding a good for me, a driver letting me pass). I am grateful for the ever changing clouds and colors in the sky gazing at the sky enables me to quiet the chatter in my mind and be present in a moment of peace and provides me with endless inspiration for my painting.

Dorothea Benton Frank, novelist, “Same Beach, Next Year,” “All the Single Ladies”: I am grateful for the invention of paper towels, aluminum foil, the gift of unnecessary pies and certain relatives who are too far away to travel. 

Tom Hall, executive director, Montclair Film: In this age of living so much of our lives online, I’m thankful that my job allows me to work with artists to help them engage with audiences personally, putting people in the same room to exchange ideas face to face. I am incredibly lucky that my job is built around fostering empathy and compassion between people, and I am always thankful to be able to build bridges and to help people find connection. And also, for pie. Any kind. And more of it, please.

Christina Baker Kline, novelist, “The Orphan Train,” “A Piece of the World”: 1) Kids who are old enough to peel and mash potatoes, 2) A community of friends and family who are determined to process, analyze, resist, and even sometimes cheer the state of the nation!

Sharron Miller, founder/director, Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts: After 22 years of teaching dance in this community, I’m truly thankful I’m still here and doing what I love. I guess dance keeps you young, healthy and happy!

Elaine Molinaro, president, Montclair Arts Alliance; artistic director, Culture Connection Theatre: I’m thankful to have a loft over my garage where I can rehearse theater. I’m thankful to have attended an academic conference and heard about a vast array of issues that affect women, including immigration and many other things, and thankful for this group of transnational women that I met from all over the globe. I’m thankful for the support of over 30 groups of artists in Montclair who’ve come together to do the Montclair Arts Festival.

Donna Scro, artistic director, Freespace Dance: I am thankful for a day off! I am thankful for my life just as it is in all that it is.

Lora Urbanelli, director, Montclair Art Museum: I’m grateful that I’ve been able to spend my entire career in the arts, surrounded by inspiration, great beauty and wonderful people every day! I’m also grateful not to be a politician.

David Witten, head of piano studies, MSU: I am grateful for Mozart, who leaves each new generation breathless with the staggering beauty of his musical phrases. I’m also grateful to the Red Hawk Diner (on campus of Montclair State U.), which has become one of the few locations in New Jersey to serve onion-free tuna fish sandwiches.

Some answers to our Thanksgiving survey have been edited for style and clarity.