By LINDA MOSS
The Montclair delegation that went to the township’s sister city, Aquilonia in Italy, said last week said that by all measures the trip was a success. And they are already making plans to host a group from that mountainous town, timed to coincide with Columbus Day in October, here in the states.
Mayor Robert Jackson and several council members who were on the weeklong visit earlier this month reported on their experience at the June 20 Township Council meeting.
“We had a wonderful trip,” Jackson said. “We made great friends and I think we started to really create a bond for our communities. And I know I came home from it a better person with a healthier perspective.”
As for Montclair welcoming the Italians this fall, the mayor said, “I don’t know if we can match what they did for us, but we’ll do our best.”
The resident who spearheaded the sister-city relationship and the trip, Raffaele Marzullo, stopped by the council meeting, and Jackson thanked him for making the arrangements for the visit. A number of members of Montclair’s Italian-American community, including Marzullo, trace their roots back to Aquilonia, which is about two hours from Naples, and belong to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Pine Street.
The group from Montclair that traveled to Aquilonia included Marzullo as well as Jackson’s daughter Danielle, council members Rich McMahon and Bill Hurlock, Municipal Clerk Linda Wanat and Township Deputy Police Chief Tracy Frazzano.
The group paid its own airfare, and Aquilonia’s residents provided housing and meals, and took them on tour to various sites.
Jackson and the council members spent a lot of time with their counterparts in Aquilonia, the mayor and council there, and compared notes on topics such as infrastructure and parking issues, according to Hurlock.
“There are a lot of similarities” in the challenges both towns face, he said.
Hurlock also fulfilled his lifelong goal of going to Airola, where his family hailed from, and meeting long-lost relatives from that town. His great-grandfather came to the United States from Airola in 1901.
“That was spectacular. … I got to see the house where my great-great-grandfather lived and where my great-grandfather was born and where they had their barbershop and where the family resided for many, many years,” Hurlock said.
The Americans attracted quite bit of media attention while they were overseas, and were interviewed by local television and newspaper outlets, according to Hurlock.
“It was almost like we were minor celebrities,” he said. “People were running up wanting to have pictures taken with us. I made 40 new Facebook friends.”
Wanat has already placed mementos from the visit, including a plate and a history of Aquilonia, in cabinets that have items on display from the township’s other sister cities, which are Barnet, which is part of London; Cherepovets, Russia; and Graz, Austria. Those cabinets are at the back of the council chambers.
At the meeting, Jackson, Hurlock and McMahon presented Wanat with a bouquet of roses, the flower of Italy, as the “MVP award” for the trip, which involved a lot of walking and climbing as part of the sightseeing.
The group got to eat wild boar, “which was actually very good,” according to Hurlock. And he was surprised to see an object that might seem to be more natural in Holland than Italy.
“There are windmills everywhere,” Hurlock said. “They generate about 40 percent of the power in the region.”