New Milford Centennial : Memories ~ Photos ~ Poems

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Q. What’s your favorite street in New Milford?
Written by: Janet Dengel

Of course my favorite street in New Milford is Marguerite Street—that’s where I’ve lived for 47 years. I love it mostly because of the neighbors and the memories. I also love the beautiful mix of sturdy old colonials, newer sleek ranches, and a pretty Cape Cod or two—all with flowers bursting each spring, children playing outside all summer, the brilliant colors on the trees each autumn, and a snowman or two in the winter. Because it’s a dead end, it provided the perfect place for our children to play tag, visit friends across the street, and learn to ride their bikes.

I also have fond memories of Mabie Street where I grew up and met my best friend Judy who lived on the same block. Luhmann Drive and Maple Drive where my friends Ellen, Joan and Eileen lived were often the destination for fun. We have so many memories walking all over New Milford before we got our drivers’ licenses. Walking down the Boulevard past the Brookchester apartments— friendly senior citizens sitting outside and saying hello to us. Bicycling around Webster, Lacey and Shea Drives to race down the hills. Cutting through Columbia Street to spend the day at the New Milford Swim Club, play softball for the Princess League, or ice skate at Hardcastle Pond.

I remember so many wonderful times growing up in New Milford and then raising my children there. Showing my grandchildren my favorite places in town and sharing funny stories about living here make me realize that it’s not really the name of the streets, but the people who make New Milford a special town.

Q. What can you tell us about the New Milford’s Women’s Club?
Written by: Janet Dengel

There’s a tiny tree in front of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church that was planted in 1995 and has thrived for 27 years now.  The plaque by the tree simply reads “Gift of the New Milford Woman’s Club, 1995.”

“The members of the New Milford Woman’s Club wanted to do something to remember us by and commemorate our relationship with the church where we met for so many years,” explained Lucille Knapp, a longtime member of the New Milford Woman’s Club. 

Like the tree, the members of the club are strong, thriving and beautiful.  For close to 70 years the New Milford Woman’s Club has remained true their purpose of giving “gifts” to their town and beyond. In an interview with the late Ann DiGiovanni, president of the club from 1992 to 1994, she said that she joined the NMWC as her children got older.  “There was a good feeling in the club that made you want to get involved.” 

Although the basis of the Club is still community accomplishments, hard work and fun, Ann said it was a little different when she first joined. “The president never came to a meeting without being dressed to a tee.  We also had a reputation for serving at an event with elegance. Not white gloves, but a lot of pride and china and silver when we invited guests.”   

“Alice O’Connell and Edith Klinges (founding members) kept us on our toes.  They weren’t afraid to speak up.” This serious side of the Club yielded some impressive results. “Edith Klinges was responsible for getting the library in New Milford,” Ann said.

Although decorum and bylaws were followed, the Club’s members knew how to have a good time.  Ann remembers a fashion show fundraiser with a twist—it was a spoof on fashion.  One member wore pink curlers and a robe and walked the runway.  Another wore a “pin striped shirt” which was a plain shirt with pins stuck on it in a stripe pattern.  There was an outfit with a tea bag hat.  “I made a slip-over sweater—it was a sweater with a slip over it!” she laughs.  At Halloween the members would hold a costume party. “I came as a French maid and the District Council President said, ‘Nice legs, lady!’”  

The Club’s fundraising events were about fun too—and the food! Ann recalls Marie Oburst’s luncheon for 50 people. “There was manicotti and chicken parm—even the husbands wanted to come.” Ann DeLuca invited the club members each year to a swimming pool luncheon and fashion show.  “She made the sandwiches so it wasn’t very expensive and everyone wanted to come to these.”  Edith Klinges also welcomed the group to use her pool and took care of the refreshments. In the winter, Melissa Robbe invited everyone to her home, which she decorated with four Christmas trees.  “She loved to bake and loved to entertain,” said Ann. “These fun get togethers are how we made money for the Club.” Attending shows and going on trips—such as a memorable one to Atlantic City and a winery for lunch—were other events that made the members grow in friendship as well as raising money for community causes.  “We went bowling once and gave the money to the nuns.  It was worth it for the thank you note alone.” 

Ann spoke with pride about Arts Achievement Day on both the local and state levels.  “Achievement Day was a highlight of the district,” said Ann. “We would enter projects and bring them the night before.  The Gold winners went on to the State.”  Ann won for her paper ribbon basket at the State Level.  Many of the women entered through the years and won for not only crafts, but also talent. “Our Arts Performing Committee did the Electric Slide wearing top hats.” 

Fast forward to 2022: The trips (pre-COVID) to the Finger Lakes, Ohio Amish Country and Ottawa, Canada; our fundraisers to award scholarships to NMHS students; ice cream socials; Operation Holiday Stocking for the Troops; Cookie Packing for local families in need; Arts Achievement Day; summer picnics in lovely backyards, and BINGO—all provide today’s members with wonderful fun times and cherished memories. We all agree with Ann as she sums up the feeling of all the women who have been a part of the New Milford Women’s Club:  “All the ladies who always put in the best part of themselves was what made the Club great.”

Q.  What are some things to be proud of in New Milford?
Written by: Louise Buller

I have enjoyed many benefits from living in New Milford–a town that provides wide-spread activities for all interests. The track is open to the public and makes regimented walking/jogging a pleasure; there are no potholes to trip in; no rocks to stumble over. The high school track is a dream when compared to walking in the neighborhood with up and down curbs, cracks in the sidewalk, and the smell of exhaust from cars speeding past.

Another plus gained by living in our community is participating in the New Milford Senior Center. Enthusiastic director and staff hold exercise classes, speaker programs, Zumba, yoga, bingo, day trips promoting congeniality and a hub of activities. We participated through Zoom and Facebook during the midst of the pandemic when the center was closed. Day trips and holiday celebrations keep many lucky seniors active.

The community of New Milford provides many programs for its residents of every age. Whether it is Family Night Out or library activities and more, our town cares about being a great place to live.


Who is Bertha Reetz and Why Is Her Headstone in the Oldest Cemetery in Bergen County? by Bob Varettoni

Bertha Reetz’s headstone rests behind the chain link fence in the historic French Burying Ground in New Milford.

The site, established in the 1670s, is the oldest cemetery in the county and one of the oldest in the state. Revolutionary and civil war soldiers are buried there, and the last person verifiably buried there was Martha Demarest, who died in 1928.

Bertha’s headstone, just inside the entrance, does not mark her grave site. It faces north, on top of a tree root, while all the older gravestones face east.

Bertha died in 1949, and according to local legend, about three decades later her headstone was found lying by the side of a road in New Milford. Local police tried in vain to identify its owner, but eventually the borough’s Department of Works placed it in the cemetery grounds for safe-keeping.

I’ve tried researching information about Bertha Kruger Reetz (1868-1949) on the Internet, but I’ve yet to find any definitive answers about her life or death.

Bertha remains a mystery.

I’m happy that New Milford has given Bertha a home, and I know she’s always welcome here. But someday, I hope our town can return her headstone to where it truly belongs.

71 Lives Remembered 

New Milford’s first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported on March 15, 2020. Since then, there have been more than 4,000 confirmed cases and 71 fatalities in our community.

Luminaries were placed on the steps of Borough Hall on March 15, 2022 in memory of the residents and neighbors lost.