It began on Academy street in my grandmother's
little grocery store converted into a one, small ground floor room
with a plate glass front in 1924. A few years later, after dad got
a a little money, he moved just around the corner on what was then
Bank Street just in from Colden St.to 201 bank Street. Again, there
was only one room on the ground floor with another plate glass fronting
the side walk. We
lived upstairs in two rooms and the back porch converted into a
bedroom for my mother and father. My brother and I slept in the
living room on a pull out studio couch (and waited for company to
leave so we could go to bed).
I was about five years old and during my sister Marie's Christening
party, I developed an acute case of appendicitis and was rushed
to the Presbyterian Hospital in a rainstorm for midnight surgery
by Dr. R. Hunter Scott. That was in 1934. By this time the street
name was changed to 53 West Market St.
A short time later, we moved across the street to 32 West Market
St. It was a three family house. The funeral home on the first floor,
our six room flat on the second floor with a tenant on the third.
That was really luxury.
We remained there until September of 1945 when we moved up to
279 Roseville Avenue where my brother Phil and I were both licensed
as funeral directors and joined our father. Now, it was Charles
J. Rotondo and Sons, Funeral Directors and we proceeded to enlarge.
We added a magnificent and spacious addition to the existing mansion,
acquired the house next door and tore it down for additional parking.
Then in 1982, because of the degeneration of the neighborhood
(three burglaries, obscene graffiti on the lawn and building and
attack on my sister) and the escape of our loyal clients to the
suburbs, we closed the family business after 58 years. My dad had
passed away in 1967 and , at least, he didn't have to see what had
happened to a lifetime of struggle and achievement.
A side note: Phil had become first a Freeholder
then the Director and eventually County Executive of Essex County.
After closing the funeral home, my brother Phil retired and moved
to Florida while I continued to free lance as funeral director.
Having lost the magnificent and elegant Funeral Home complex that
we had continually developed over the years, I was discontented
being without a home base.
Perusing the State Civil Service newspaper, I noticed that a state
wide test was being given for the position of chief executive officer
of the newly established veterans cemetery in Arneytown. I thought
that this might be an opportunity to start out in a career change
and so I sat one evening, together with a couple of dozen funeral
director colleagues, and took the test.
I was pleasantly surprised to be notified that I had scored number
one in the state and was to report to the Department of Veterans
Trenton. I had no idea where Arneytown was and checked the map.
It was located down near Ft. Dix and the McGuire Air Force base,
approximately 70 miles away. An article in the Newark Star Ledger
called the new cemetery a "veteran's mud hole." Nevertheless,
in September of 1987, I assumed the role of chief executive officer
of the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
The cemetery, established by the legislature in 1986, had opened
prematurely and needed extensive developing and that was what my
new titled required. Over the years, the cemetery's name was changed
to the Br. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery and
I commuted approximately 140 miles a day retiring in 1999 after
almost 12 years, guiding the cemetery to become the leading State
cemetery in the United States at that time.
As a side note, I would like to point out that any New Jersey
citizen, who is an Honorably Discharged veteran, may be buried there
at no cost.