CLARK, NJ — The Clark/Rahway Veterans of Foreign Wars John L. Ruddy Post 7363 in Clark closed in March 2020, due to the pandemic. Income for maintenance and repairs to the building was also needed. In early 2020, the post was initiating a plan to repair the roof, air conditioning system and ceilings. But with no income, building repairs became more serious.
Once repaired, the VFW Post will help veterans have a home to help learn about and maintain their benefits, find support and share common experiences with others.
The Union County Performing Arts Center had a fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 1, to benefit VFW Post 7363. Entertainment was provided by Conner Lorre, an acclaimed Neil Diamond tribute artist who has performed in 39 states, as well as Nova Scotia, Ontario and the Bahamas.
More than 300 people showed up, including many walk-ins, according to Travis Head, UPAC house manager and volunteer coordinator.
Attendee Mary Rios, of Rahway, said, “It’s very important to support veterans. Veterans don’t get enough recognition.”
Veteran John Ryan said, “Our building needs a lot of repairs. The event is for a good cause.”
Michael Hrycak, junior vice commander of VFW Post 7363, said he was extremely happy about the occasion and thankful for the great community support. He said, “Look up at the stars. We’re all looking at the same ones.”
Gail Medina, of Edison, was there to support the veterans. She said her late husband was a Vietnam veteran. “A proud veteran,” she said, adding that her friend Nora Drew’s husband was also a Vietnam vet, as well as a board member of the Clark VFW and in the American Legion.
Nyrna Wesisman, of Clark, said she was there to see Lorre perform the Neil Diamond tribute. She saw Neil Diamond perform many times and calls herself a “Neil Diamond freak.”
Lorre opened the show with a statement that he wanted to “do these songs justice and make the original singers proud.” In addition to Neil Diamond songs, he also performed “Rhinestone Cowboy,” by Glen Campbell; “King of the Road,” by Roger Miller; “I Write the Songs,” by Barry Manilow; and many others. During “That’s Amore,” by Dean Martin, Lorre went into the audience and sang to various couples.
When it was time for the Neil Diamond portion of the set, women were dancing in the aisles to “Sweet Caroline” and “I’m a Believer,” which was a song Neil Diamond wrote and was made famous by The Monkees.
Before ending the show, Lorre paid tribute to the veterans by saying, “Where would we be without these fine people?” Then he performed “God Bless America” and received a standing ovation.
He told the audience that his grandfather served in World War I and dedicated Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” to those who served.
The program was coordinated by Bill Caruso, a Korean War veteran who has been a long-time member of the Clark VFW and a resident of Clark for more than 50 years. He and Jack Doran, VFW Post 7363 commander, both said they are thankful to the community for their support in restoring Post 7363.
Photos by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta