Hall To Celebrate Halpin, Gonzales, others

Kathleen Halpin and Tomas Gonzales will help make it a Washington celebration when the 8th Annual Warren County Hall of Fame banquet takes place on Saturday night Oct. 21 at Hawk Pointe Golf Club in Washington Township.

In addition to Halpin and Gonzales, businessman John McCann, Sal Simonetti, and leading physician Dr. Robert Friedman will be inducted into the Hall at the gala event which includes live music and a silent auction.

Vice Admiral John Bulkeley, formerly of Hackettstown, and John Blair, who was a leader in Blairstown in the 19th century, will also be inducted posthumously at the Warren County Community College Foundation fundraiser event.

In other special awards, Warren County Community College’s Robert Sintich is to receive the President’s Merit Award, Visiting Homemaker Service of Warren County for its 50-plus years of community support, and the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Crisis Center will get a Special Recognition Award.

The former longtime Chair of Washington Celebrates America, Halpin of Washington epitomizes the word VOLUNTEER.  A true “people person”, Halpin has always been willing and able to help out when she can.

Halpin’s “resume” is incredibly encompassing. Most know her for her efforts with Washington Celebrates America, but that’s only a small piece of what she has done.

Halpin currently serves on the Warren Hills Regional School Board (10 years), the Washington Shade Tree Commission (21 years), on the board of the Washington Business Improvement District (6 years), and is a key member of the WBID’s Festival in the Borough committee. Additionally as a co-chair of the Habitat Auction committee, Halpin most recently was instrumental in helping to raise $35,000 for Habitat for Humanity so that a veteran and her family would have a home to live in.

And there’s plenty more. Halpin spent many years involved with the Junior Washington Women’s Club, Washington’s Play Center, and through her church, has made several mission trips to West Virginia. During Sandy Recovery, she worked with the group, Samaritan’s Purse.

As a dental professional, she worked in Dr. Steven Riesenberg’s dental office for six years, which led to her getting a teaching position at Warren County Community College. Over the course of 13 years she taught Dental Assisting and Radiography at the College.

For many years, Halpin was the chair of the Washington Celebrates America committee, initially at a time when there was concern that the celebration would be permanently cancelled. Years later, she would be honored by the committee as the Grand Marshall of the annual 4th of July parade.

As the story goes, Halpin moved to Washington from Linden on July 2, 1984, with her husband Ray and two children, Matthew and Michael, having no idea of the July 4th tradition. But within two days, she found out. As their house is on Carlton Avenue, part of the parade route, she noticed that on July 4th as she was still unpacking kitchen utensils, that people were outside sitting on her lawn getting ready to watch the parade.

Three years later, in 1987, Washington’s celebration ceased for a variety of reasons. But in 1988, several folks in town were committed to bringing it back. Halpin, who was already active as a volunteer with the Junior Women’s Club and Play Center, answered the call for WCA volunteers. Little did she know at the time that it would be the start of a 22-year run on the committee, culminating in several years as the committee’s Chair.

Gonzales, meanwhile, has been inspirational in many ways in Warren County, particularly with youth.

While known statewide for his incredible carved art work on pumpkins, in the Washington area Gonzales is perhaps most well known for his efforts on behalf of the Karen Nash Memorial Garden at the Memorial School. One of the leaders in making the Garden happen, he also helped with the design of it and continues to be an important part of the effort. He frequently speaks with school children about gardening and art, and over the years has earned numerous awards from various organizations, and has been featured in many publications. When it comes to pumpkins, though, he is often referred to as the Picasso of Pumpkin Carving!

The event, presented by the Warren County Community College Foundation, is open to the public.  Tables may be reserved. Proceeds from the event benefit students in need, as well as special programs at the college.

The establishment of the Warren County Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Warren County Community College Foundation, creates a forum for honoring Warren County’s finest in an array of fields. The Hall of Fame itself is set up at Warren County Community College, where the public is invited to see it. For tickets to the recognition dinner, sponsorship opportunities, journal ads, and any other information, please call 908-835-2334 or email samir@warren.edu.

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