Rita Lemole may have left her lifelong digs in Monmouth County, but her fellow instructors and other friends from the Community YMCA in Red Bank haven’t forgotten her.


Lemole, formerly of Middletown and Atlantic Highlands, taught aerobics, spin, Pilates and more at the Y, where she inspired a number of students to also become instructors.

“She would sometimes bring home-made muffins to share with everyone after a spin class,” says instructor Mary McGrath. “Or she would bring apples in the fall for everyone to take after class. You can see what a wonderful person Rita is.”

Last summer, Lemole moved with her husband and two children to Florida. Soon afterward, she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, and had a double mastectomy in December.

Now she’s going through chemotherapy and faces further surgery.

On Sunday, the Y will hold a fundraiser to help Lemole and her family with medical costs. Cycling, yoga, step aerobics and more will be offered into the early afternoon, followed by a party.

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Ralph Gatta, aka “Johnny Jazz,” did not set out to become an institution. It was never his intent to transform what had been a simple family-owned butcher shop into a working monument to what he considers America’s greatest art form.

All he wanted, really, was to be able to continue experiencing the wonders of jazz after life threw him a curveball back in 1963. With the death of his father, Johnny Gatta, Ralph’s freewheeling Saturday nights at Birdland and other clubs in New York and Newark came to a sudden halt, as he and his mother, Helen, put in 12, 13 hours a day keeping their Shrewsbury Avenue grocery going.

So onto the turntable in the back room went the LPs. And out of the speakers above the shelves of cereal and canned goods and sacks of rice came Bird, and Miles, and Coltrane. All day long. Sometimes at volumes that Helen thought unnecessarily high. But Gatta couldn’t help himself. This is a man who, at 69 years old, still becomes visibly pumped when he hears a great horn riff and sprinkles his speech with references to “top-shelf cats.”

“The bottom line is, without my mother and the music—the music —I couldn’t have done it,” says Gatta. “I just did it for myself, to tell the truth. Because if you’re going to put music in a store, it wouldn’t be real jazz.”

On Sunday, Feb. 18, Gatta will be honored by The Source, an outreach program for students at Red Bank Regional High School.

Why Johnny Jazz? Not because he’s got anything to do with The Source, exactly. But simply for doing what he’s done, which has been to help preserve an art form by infecting his customers, including generations of kids, with his sense of devotion.

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Gone are the days when a plunge into the ocean at the start of a new year was the province of a few wingnuts bent on proving their iconoclastic chops to a conformist world.

No more. Now, it seems, everyone’s doing it.

Yes, it was unseasonably warm Monday, as it has been in recent weeks. Still, that ocean is damn cold. And there was an intermittent rain, which meant there was no guarantee that the deep chill of a dip in the briny would be offset by the warm, dry, snuggly embrace of your favorite pullover.

So how to explain that at least 560 men, women and children registered for the annual Sons of Ireland charity plunge at Donovan’s Reef on Monday?


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As in the past, the fourth annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge organized by the Sons of Ireland will raise money for a couple of worthy causes.


The beneficiaries of this year’s Sea Bright dip are Clean Ocean Action and Challenged Youth Sports, a Lincroft organization that builds parks for kids with disabilities.

But let’s not overlook the very solid, selfish reasons to jump into the Atlantic Ocean on the first day of the year, beginning with the fact that it’s a little insane. If you’re not willing to do something crazy/bold on a day that’s all about fresh starts, when will you, pilgrim? And what’s a better way to prove your commitment to change than to thrust oneself into churning, steel-cold saltwater?

Plus, the experience leaves you with a hard-to-top answer to the workplace question, ‘What did you do this weekend?’

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One of Red Bank’s architectural treasures fell to the sledgehammer this week when workmen demolished the intricate brick fence at the United Methodist Church on Broad Street.


The removal of the wall, apparently prompted by an accelerating state of decay, took longtime Red Bankers by surprise.

“I’m thoroughly disgusted,” said George Bowden, chairman of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission who had written to a church elder more than a year ago urging the church to preserve the wall, without receiving a formal reply. “It’s a tearing of the historic fabric of the town of Red Bank.”

Mayor Ed McKenna, whose law office is a few doors north of the church, said he was “shocked” to see that the wall had disappeared from one day to the next.

Church officials did not respond to requests for comment by redbankgreen, which happened upon the scene as the wall was being taken down Tuesday afternoon.

By late Wednesday, every scrap of brick and mortar had been removed, leaving only the poured concrete foundation several inches below the surface of the ground.

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The Rumson priest who pleaded guilty to swindling the Holy Cross Roman Catholic parish has been let out of prison after serving fewer than six months of a five-year sentence, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

Rev. Joseph W. Hughes, who owes Holy Cross more than $2 million for the pricey cars and other luxuries he bought over seven years using the church’s funds, was released Nov. 29, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections website. The website doesn’t give Hughes’ whereabouts.

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Kim Sambucci was sitting at her desk at Golf Greens Fore U on Shrewsbury Avenue late last Friday afternoon when she heard “an explosion, like a car crashing into the building.”

But it wasn’t a car Sambucci saw when she looked up. It was a deer. And there it was, just 10 or 15 feet away, inside the store, scuttling around amid the broken glass from the metal-framed door it had busted through after crossing one of the busiest streets in Red Bank.

“She was huge,” says Sambucci. “She had to weigh 300 pounds.”

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Something surprising happened when we photographed John Soucheck showing off his championship race walking form at Red Bank Regional High School recently: every series of pictures we took caught Soucheck moving in nearly perfect sync with the motor-driven camera shutter.

The result was the appearance of Soucheck gliding across the pavement—and always with one foot on the ground.

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Pity the poor Certified Public Accountant. Wonkishly dull, they say. Obsessed with arcana. Underdeveloped sense of humor.

And whatever you do, don’t mess with a CPA’s workspace, because everything is exactly where it belongs.

Yeah, well, the folks at the accounting firm Curchin Group LLC hope to take a divot out of the stereotype next week.


Next Thursday, Sept. 21, they’ll put their green eyeshades to new use when they host what they’re calling the first annual Curchin Open, an indoor miniature golf tournament for charity.

That’s right, indoors. In their offices. With holes laid out to look like dollar signs and calculators stuck between the desks. Not to mention the best amenities of a clubhouse. Namely, food and booze.

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The body of Susan Wakelin of Rumson was found early Tuesday morning off Deer Isle, Maine, seven hours after she’d been reported missing from a nighttime kayak outing, according to reports.

The Asbury Park Press, which ran a wire story, gives Wakelin’s age as 60, while the Star-Ledger report says she was 65. The Ledger says Wakelin was visiting for the summer and was enroute to her mother’s home when she failed to appear Monday night.

According to both accounts, Wakelin was wearing a life vest but not cold-water survival gear. The water temperature was 56 degrees. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

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Crews from Red Bank-based Navesink River Rowing are among the more than 3,000 rowers from 36 countries competing in this weekend’s FISA World Masters Rowing Regatta at Mercer County Park in West Windsor.

In 33 years of the Masters competition, this is only the second time the regatta has been held in the United States. The park’s lake, Mercer Lake, is the training site for the U.S. national rowing team that will compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Rudy Larini of the Star-Ledger has a page-one story today focusing on the eldest competitors, some of whom are well into their eighties.

The event began on Thursday and continues today and tomorrow.

Please click on the image above to enlarge.

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Maybe Red Bank-based Navesink River Rowing, which is always looking for a good strong back, should give Bruce Springsteen a call.

The Star-Ledger’s MaryAnn Spoto has a story on Springsteen taking a stab at rowing a lifeguard boat in the ocean off the Manasquan Inlet on Tuesday.

Springsteen was at the ‘Squan beach to help the town celebrate the 75th anniversary of the re-opening of the inlet. Why? Because, well, what else is there to do on a Tuesday in August when both the Seeger Sessions tour and the Monmouth County Horse Show are over?

Anyway, from the article:

Janet Carbin, assistant chief guard for Manasquan beaches, said Springsteen took her up on her offer to try rowing a surfboat in the ocean off Manasquan Inlet beach.

“He thought it was hysterical,” Carbin said after the row. “I talked about my kids, he talked about a couple of things.”

But mostly in the 10-minute ocean venture, she gave him instructions on how to row, telling him to put more of his back into the effort rather than using his arms, she said.

After the row, he wandered around the crowds on the esplanade along the inlet. Wearing a white T-shirt, maroon Birdwell boardshorts and a baseball cap, Springsteen shook hands with those who recognized him and posed for photographs.

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Rumsonite/Colts Neckian Bruce Springsteen accompanied his 14-year-old daughter, Jessica, to a horse-jumping competition in Saugerties, N.Y., recently.


She did well. Even won $780.

Dad had dinner three nights in a row at the same restaurant in nearby Kingston, at least once with the missus, Patti Scialfa. Ate chicken and pasta, if you must know.

The Kingston Daily Freeman has all the details.

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redbankgreen called George Sheehan Jr. a couple of Saturdays ago to find out what he was up to. First words out of his mouth: “I’m in my underwear getting ready to change into my shorts for a run.”

Well, thanks for putting that picture into our heads, George.

So why bring it up? Not to ruin your breakfast, or Sheehan’s, but because on reflection, it seems fitting here. Sheehan, you see, is a running pioneer of sorts, one old enough to have been derided as a “man in his underwear” when he did his training runs in the 1960s. And thanks to men and women like Sheehan who shrugged off such taunts, millions of people could later run through the streets of America without hearing any snide comments about underwear.

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No question, the George Sheehan Classic is still an important event for Red Bank, bringing in several thousand participants and onlookers who spread around some cash and create a festive vibe in town for nearly 24 hours.

This year’s edition, the 13th since the old Asbury Park 10K was moved here and renamed for Doc Sheehan, will be run Saturday morning, augmented as usual by a popular a “runner’s expo” in Marine Park both Friday night and after the race.

It’s still one of the premier road races in this region, attracting world-class runners. And Broad Street takes on a completely different complexion with all those scantily-clad, sweaty runners embracing one another after conquering Tower Hill.

But let’s face it, Old George hasn’t got the freshest legs.

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Alternating drizzles and downpours made the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival a damp and occasionally drenching affair for a good part of the weekend.

But Saturday afternoon’s rain ended just in time for Toni Lynn Washington’s walloping show before a sparse crowd. "I don’t need no doctor," she sang, "cuz I know what’s ailin’ me…."

The sun finally broke through the clouds on Sunday, bringing out throngs and giving the festival a nice upbeat finish.

But oh, what might have been, right?