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’Til Pink Slip Do Us Part

Illustration: Elwood H. Smith

When Kal Sundar of Succasunna found himself suddenly unemployed after 32 years as a software engineer, he didn’t panic. In fact, with the help of a New Jersey foundation, he celebrated.

Sundar, 58, lost his job when Lucent Technology, his employer of four and a half years, laid off workers in October 2003. Soon after, his wife contacted the Celebrant USA Foundation, a national organization based in Montclair that performs weddings, baby namings, funerals, and other ceremonies that mark life’s milestones. Celebrant USA arranged for a “downsizing ceremony” in Sundar’s honor, one of several that the group has organized in New Jersey. The idea is to treat one’s job loss like a rite of passage.

About 50 friends and former co-workers helped Sundar observe this particular rite during a gathering at Café Metro in Denville. “Downsizing is becoming very common these days, and it is not the end of the world,” Sundar says. “The ceremony gave me the opportunity to say thanks to a lot of people that I worked with over the years.” For between $400 and $1,000, organizers known as “celebrants” create a personalized ceremony. “We celebrate meeting all these people at work, friends you’ve made, and experiences you’ve had,” says Charlotte Eulette, the national director for the Celebrant USA Foundation. “It’s a constructive and fruitful way of looking at things.”

—Meredith Phares


Retribution for Racism in Nutley

Although racial discrimination in public accommodations has been illegal in New Jersey since 1945, not everyone got the message. In May, a $1 million settlement was awarded to Marci Shepard, Philip and Annmarie Giordano, and Michael and Catherine Russo, who filed the lawsuit for racial discrimination against Le Terrace Swim Club in Nutley and its husband-and-wife owners, Patrick and Ray Nardone, and daughter Patricia (“Making Waves,” June 2003). The settlement will be divided among the plaintiffs.

The Russos say they would have liked to see an admission of guilt and a public apology for “the embarrassment and humiliation” that the Nardones caused the family and Shepard. In June 2002, Patrick Nardone refused to admit Catherine Russo, her children, and Shepard, who is an African-American, to the pool. “If he had accepted that what he did was wrong, we would have taken a fraction of the money,” says Michael Russo. Shepard is now entering her fourth year at Jersey City University, majoring in journalism and broadcasting.

The Nardones have retired, sold the swim club, and moved out of state. The club has a new name, Diamond Spring Beach Club—and a new membership policy. “It’s a new beginning,” says new owner Edward Zazzali. “We gave ourselves a facelift.”

—Meredith Phares

nj inc


Photograph: Courtesy of Mary McMaster and Jose P. Torres

Millions of fans worldwide are obsessed with collecting memorabilia of the late Princess of Wales, but Mary McMaster and Jose P. Torres of Vineland have turned their passion into profit. Last summer the couple, card dealers at Bally’s Atlantic City, published Diana—An Illustrated Collection and Price Guide: Porcelain Plates (1stBooks Library, $14.95), now available in 91 countries. “These books will become collectibles among collectors,” says Celestina Policastro, director of marketing for the book’s publisher, now known as AuthorHouse.

Two more books of Diana-ana, due out later this year, will showcase a collection that includes more than 1,400 dolls, music boxes, photos, books, and two glasses, still in the original box, that were given to guests at the royal wedding.

—Alexis Crisman





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