One of Elvira Toolen’s favorite songs is “Spanish Eyes” by Frank Sinatra, because her late husband used to sing it to her.
So she was pleased a week and a half ago when it was among the songs played by a disc jockey at North Bergen’s annual free senior picnic.
More than 900 people attended the event on Sept. 17 to dance, socialize, enjoy free food, and meet with local officials.
The event, which Mayor Nicholas Sacco said started 15 years ago, was held in the Schuetzen Park Ballroom from 10:30 a.m. into the afternoon. Seniors were bused to and from the location.
“[The seniors] look forward to it once a year,” said Commissioner Theresa Ferraro last week.
“They all get together, especially at the end of the summer with fall coming in and the cold weather. They don’t get out as much, and they really enjoy this and are really grateful to Mayor Sacco for what he does for them.”
Hudson County Surrogate Donald De Leo said that this event was important for the health of the seniors because it got them out of their homes to socialize, which improves mental health.
Sacco said that while many seniors belong to clubs, others do not, so this event gives those them the opportunities to socialize in different ways.
“It’s wonderful because if I wasn’t up here I would be sitting out there in the audience enjoying myself,” said Sacco.
Toolen, the Sinatra fan, found out about the picnic from a friend and was glad she attended. She said that the music the disc jockey played her allowed her to reminisce about the past, but those memories did not make her sad.
“Most of the time people forget that we still like to have this type of event and to get together socially, dance a little, and remember when we were young,” said Toolen.
Dolores Bauer praised Sacco for the success of the picnic and said that if it wasn’t for him, attending events from her home on 85th Street would be extremely difficult at her age.
Bauer’s friend at the table, who lives at the same building, couldn’t agree more. Michael Lions said that he always enjoys himself at these functions, regardless of his doctor’s recommendations.
Lions said that he was a proficient dancer at the Macarena.
“[I said to my doctor], ‘If you tell me I can go to a party and I can’t dance, I won’t go’ ” said Lions.
Lions’ friend, Pat Spataro, said he always has a good time at these events.
Thankful to the elderly
Vincent Prieto, an assemblyman from Secaucus who also represents North Bergen in the 32nd District, said that he has attended the picnic more and more to “meet the people.”
“[Seniors] have paved the way for us,” said Prieto. “We’ve got to do things for them. It gets them together and it makes them feel better. It keeps the mind working, and to get so many of [the seniors] together is great.”
Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, who also represents the 32nd District, felt the same way. She said that coming to these events allows people to not just see their public offices as a “concept,” but to help the people. She said that sometimes she helps people with issues with their driver’s licenses.
Sacco gave an address to the attendees and talked about their picnic that was held on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was a heartbreaking day for all of us, but you had already arrived,” said Sacco. “It was very somber mood, a very strong and patriotic mood. If you remember, we stood together that day and sang together, and it was a day that really showed what the people of North Bergen were all about.”
He continued, “We move forward, and this year we have a great crowd, and we thank you for all you’ve done for this country and all you’ve done for North Bergen.”
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