Verona And Short Hills Seniors Among Writing Contest Winners

The writing talents of nine Essex County residents were recognized during the Annual Essex County Senior Legacies Writing Contest Celebration Luncheon on Wed., May 25. The Legacies Writing Contest encourages Essex senior citizens to write essays about the people and events that have influenced their lives.

“Our Senior Citizen Legacies Writing Contest is a unique way for our older population to share their life’s stories and describe the people and events that helped to shape their lives,” said Essex County Executive Director Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. “Our seniors’ stories make you laugh and they touch your heart. They provide us with a different perspective on historical events and what our society was like.”

The Director’s Award was presented to Nutley resident Eleanor Slomkowski for “Instant Messages (IMS) to Heaven.” Winning stories were “My Husband the Unspoiled Brat” by Verona resident Irene Bilotti, “The Ragman” by East Orange resident Carol T. Jenkins, “The Night Muhammad Ali Taught Me How to Become a Champion in Life” by Bloomfield resident Alfred Sonny Piccoli and “My Immigration Experience” by Montclair resident Amelia Teo. Honorable mention stories were “Thoughts of Mama” by Newark resident Mary Azagra, “My Aunt Rose” by Short Hills resident Nancy Feigel, “Helping Hands” by Belleville resident Kathryn D. Mackie and “Younger than Springtime Older than Dirt” by Montclair resident Robin Ehrlichman-Woods.

“All our seniors have stories to tell, and our Legacies Writing Contest provides our older adults with an incentive to preserve their memories, and create a living history,” Essex County Division of Senior Services Director Jaklyn DeVore said. “Writing enables our seniors to share their memories with friends and families, allows them to reminisce about old times, and keeps their minds active. This is one of our most popular events because of the emotions and memories that are evoked.”

Irene Bilotti from Verona wrote “My Husband, the Unspoiled Brat,” which was selected as one of the winning stories. Bilotti lovingly writes about her husband of 52 years, Pat. As their family was growing, he changed diapers, taught religious classes and organized Cub Scout activities. When their children were grown and he had grandchildren, he took them for outings in Verona Park and, even today, continues to drive his grandson Todd to Verona High School. When his older brother and sister needed care, he took attended to their finances, did grocery shopping and helped wherever he could. And when his wife wants peace and quiet to do her daily crossword puzzle, he leaves her alone. “I love him, congratulate him and respect him for all he has achieved and given to others, and can safely and convincingly say that he is definitely an unspoiled brat,” she writes.

Nancy Feigel from Short Hills wrote “My Aunt Rose,” which received an honorable mention award. The story focuses on the free-spirited Aunt Rose and some of her exploits. She learned to play the piano by herself, made friends easily and one night went with a group of friends to attend a party at the beach without the permission of her parents – which was unheard of at the time. When she met her future husband, Harry, he was shy and was waiting for the results of the Bar Exam. When Harry learned he passed, Aunt Rose congratulated him. They began dating and she demanded that they marry before the year ended, so they were wed on Dec. 31.

“You don’t have to be a professional writer to participate in our Senior Legacies Writing Contest. Our seniors are very talented and they write from the heart,” Essex County Director of Citizen Services Anibal Ramos said. “Every year, I am impressed with the emotion and quality of stories. I congratulate every one for participating,” he added.

Sponsored by the Essex County Division of Senior Services, the Legacies Writing Contest was started in 1996 and was part of a national contest which encouraged senior citizens to discover the joys of writing while sharing their stories with others. Although the national contest was discontinued in 1998, the Essex County Division of Senior Services continued to sponsor the Legacies Writing Contest on a local level. Each of the winners’ stories are posted on the Essex County website on the Division of Senior Services webpage at


For more information, call 973-395-8375.

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