For Richard Romelczyk, 57, of Bayonne, the 25 years have been quick and gratifying.
It was in August 1990 that the organizing committee for Bayonne’s contingent for the New York City Pulaski Day Parade was faltering, for lack of interest.
If something was not done – and quick – what had been a 53-year tradition of participation would come to a screeching halt.
“In 1990, the previous organizers dropped it; they chose not to have any meetings,” Romelczyk said. “It was just let go, without anyone really knowing what had transpired.”
So Romelczyk, the 1986 grand marshal of the Bayonne contingent and a committee member from the 1970s, got to work, interesting his mother and a couple of others to save a program that was on life support. He knew that if the parade committee could not be resuscitated then, it might never come back to life.
“Whenever an organization dwindles in number and seems to be on the wane, you can be sure Richie is there to step in, take on a leadership role, and mobilize people to revive its activities.” – Dayle Halka-Vander Sande
“Once something like this ends, a tradition like this, it’s very difficult to pick up,” he said.
There were less than two months until the parade that year, and Romelczyk and his small crew knew the city’s participation could be saved. But it would take a lot of work, dedication, and organization, making sure funding was in place, bus transportation to the city could be finalized, and that the contingent’s place in the parade could be confirmed.
Romelczyk and his group were successful, and there was no gap in what has now become 78 years of uninterrupted participation in the annual tri-state event.
Since that year, Romelczyk has been selected parade chairman annually, and Bayonneites year after year continue to celebrate their heritage on the grandest stage of its type; that march down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
“Now it’s 25 years later, and who would have thought it?,” Romelczyk joked last week.
He has given countless hours of his life to make sure the 600 Bayonne marchers assemble on the first Sunday in October, are bussed over to New York, and are at their step-off point on time and ready to roll. And he would not have it any other way.
“It’s one of the things that are necessary,” he said. “It brings people together.”
The organizing committee consisted of four people in 1990 and six people a couple of years later. Now, 30 people volunteer to work on the parade each year, holding fundraisers and other special events, and planning the logistics for the Bayonne contingent.
Romelczyk said he finds time to do all that is necessary for Bayonne’s preparation each year, including representing Bayonne on the New York tri-state committee, attending monthly meetings, and then biweekly meetings, as the parade draws nearer.
He does all this while maintaining his carpentry and home-improvement business.
Being chairman year after year has given Romelczyk the confidence that Bayonne’s effort will continue to be a successful and fulfilling one.
“We plan very well. The only time I worry is the actual step-off time of the parade each year,” he said. “You’re dependent on the amount of people who come before you to march. You don’t want the people to stand around. But you want to make sure they’re there and ready.”
Romelczyk is heavily involved in Bayonne Polish-American organizations. He’s a past-president of the Bayonne Polish Home, a trustee and past president of the Bayonne Polish American Community Center, and a member of the St. Cecelia Choir of Mt. Carmel since 1972.
He has been the secretary of the Bayonne Polish American Citizens’ Club for more than 10 years, and is a founding member of the volunteer Friends of Saint Francis and a trustee of the organization.
‘Holding the pieces together’
“Richard Romelczyk is a Polish-American through and through, having upheld our heritage with dedication and pride his whole life long,” said Dayle Halka-Vander Sande, the Bayonne contingent marshal in 2011.
Vander Sande said that Romelczyk is someone that can be counted on.
“Whenever an organization dwindles in number and seems to be on the wane, you can be sure Richie is there to step in, take on a leadership role, and mobilize people to revive its activities,” she said. “He is the glue that holds the pieces together, the one doing the bulk of the work, and the one who never seeks the credit or some grand recognition.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.