Time to Celebrate Mount Olive Dads

By Steve Sears

When June rolls in in Mount Olive, the air becomes warmer, flora is more in bloom, and it’s time for the annual celebration of Father’s Day.

Mount Olive Life rolls out the red carpet for a few of our township dads who, in the long run, represent all loving fathers.

Andrew Tatarenko is “a Dad of two beautiful girls, Brooke (4) and Alexa (2).”

“I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for what’s to come (as a father) but I was as ready as I could’ve been.  The room was painted, the crib was made, and I went to some parenting classes. My wife, Colette, and I were in stages of our lives when we thought we were prepared with stable jobs, a new house and we always knew we wanted to start a family.  We had friends and family who were also starting families which gave us a glimpse of what was to come. I knew it was going to be a rollercoaster, but I was excited for the next adventure. Luckily, we also had a great support system in place with our family which we knew would be a tremendous help.”

Tatarenko’s Dad,  “Tato” ( dad in Ukrainian), was a huge role model. “I strive every day to be as good of a father as he was to me.  He was always there for me, providing love and support throughout my life. He worked hard, had a successful career in sales and local politics, but always had time for us, teaching us how to golf, use a power tools and was home every night to have dinner.  He motivated me to be my best and encouraged me to create my own path but wasn’t shy of telling me when I made a mistake. He was a loving father, yet tough at the same time.”

As a father of two girls,  Tatarenko has learned to be more patient and have become more sensitive. “I’ve also learned how to make ponytails and have become an expert at giving manicures and pedicures.  Being a dad has also reminded me what’s important in life, to enjoy every day and not stress out over the little things.”

As the Business Administrator for the Township of Mount Olive, Tatarenko reports directly to the Mayor, handling the day-to-day operations associated with all Township activities by working closely with the other Department Heads and Elected Officials as well.  The juggling of a career and family is a challenge but being able to work and live in the same town has made it easier. “Part of my responsibilities include attending nightly meetings which pulls me away from the family, but I’m fortunate that my wife does an amazing job caring for them when I’m not around.”

“The most challenging aspect to me of being a Dad,” he says, “is trying to say no and sometimes being the bad guy.  One second everything is smooth sailing and in a blink of an eye there’s chaos. Trying to let your kids have fun and have certain things but at the same time teaching them to be grateful for what they have can be difficult.  The most important aspect is to savor each moment. Everyone tells me they grow up fast and before you know it, they are off to college. I don’t want to look back wishing I could have done anything different.”

“What makes me most proud is watching my girls playing, laughing, learning and having fun every day.  I love watching my girls being sisters, Brooke teaching Alexa how to count, say the alphabet and Alexa already knowing what buttons to press to get Brooke aggravated.  Being a Dad has been the most rewarding experience, being able to raise a child, teaching them what you know and watching them use what you taught them is fulfilling to see. They make me want to pull my hair out one minute and then they give you the sweetest hug and say, “I love you Daddy” makes it all worth it.”   

John Ferrante has three children: Angelina (12), Nicholas (10), and Joseph (6).

“For nearly 20 years I worked for a large corporation in New York City.  As my kids began to get older and more involved in after school activities, it became more and more difficult to assist my wife and being there for my kids’ activities.  I decided a change was needed and in 2016 I joined MetLife Investment Management in Whippany. Working much closer to home was essentially life changing for myself and my family.  I’m now home at a decent hour, coaching several of my kids’ teams including soccer and baseball. The flexibility was life changing.”

Ferrante feels you can never be fully prepared for fatherhood; however, he credits his own dad, his grandfathers, and his Father In-law for being great role models.  “I’ve been blessed to have them close to me in my life and seeing the type of role models they were. I’ve learned everything from them.” He says his dad was his role model. “My father.  He was and still is, always there when I need him. When I was younger, he was employed for the New York Telephone Company. He commuted back and forth to the Bronx each day yet was always there for my practices and games.  Knowing that he was always there for me, was important, and part of the reason why I am the type of dad I am.”

Ferrante has learned that his kids will always come first, and everything he does revolves around them.  “I enjoy teaching, coaching, and just being around them every day.” He adds, “I want my children to make good decisions, whether it be in school, sports, or everyday life.  Knowing that I’m a role model in their life, it is important that they see myself doing the same.”

He is most proud knowing that his kids are growing up to be smart, independent, and loving children.  “See how they are succeeding in school, have great friends, and knowing they are enjoying life.”

Office Mike Russell is a member of the Mount Olive Police Department.

“I believe being a police officer and also being a dad can be challenging at times, especially when you are obligated to work nights, weekends, and holidays,” he says. “You sometimes feel like you are missing out on important events in your children’s lives such as birthday parties or holidays. As a younger officer it was tough to juggle the two, because my wife is also a police officer.  I remember working all day and my wife would be working nights so we would have to coordinate a custody exchange in a gas station parking lot so my wife could drop off Greydon to me as I left work and she was going to work. I am lucky enough now to have an inside position within the police department with steady daytime hours, but my wife still works shift coverage, so it is my responsibility to keep the house in order and also be with the kids while she works.  It can be tough but that time with my children, I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Russel is a dad to two boys, 6-year-old Greydon, and 3-year-old Carson. “I don’t think you can ever be ready to be a dad, especially when it comes to your first child.  I was terrified, nervous, and excited the day Greydon came along. I kept questioning if I was ready, but the thing is it doesn’t matter if you are ready because this small child who depends on my wife and I for everything is here and they aren’t waiting for you to figure it out.  My wife is the rock of our family and I would have been lost without her. When my children arrived, I truly leaned on my wife for strength and I was able to witness my wife being a great mother. It made it easier for me to step into my role as a new dad.”

Becoming a father was a huge change for Russell. “My two children mean everything to me.  Sometimes growing up you try to put yourself first or do things to benefit you, but after kids they are the only two things that matter and your focus shifts to only making sure they are happy, safe, and have a good life.”  Russell was very blessed to have a great dad growing up. “My dad did everything for our family including working multiple jobs to ensure we had a great life. My dad continues to be a big influence on me and also my children as he and my mother often help us out when it comes to childcare issues because my wife is also a police officer and works full time.  I love being able to watch my dad with my kids and to see the relationship my kids have with their grandpa.”

“I believe the most important aspect of being a dad is unconditional love.  There will be times when your children upset you, or do something that may hurt you, or on the other end of the spectrum do something that makes you extremely proud but through all of it I want my kids to know that they are loved, it is something I never want them to question, and I try to show them every day that they mean the world to me and that I love them.”

There is an everyday pride which emanates from a dad’s heart, and it certainly does from Officer Russell’s. “I am blessed to watch them treat each other with respect and love.  I am proud of the love they show to our family and how they behave around others. They are so full of love and always appear grateful for the lives which they live, and it makes it all worth it.”

Paul Ottavinia is also a Mount Olive Police Officer.

“It makes you change priorities,” he says regarding fatherhood. Ottavinia is a proud dad of two sons, Dalton (4) and Grayson (2). “I feel I was very prepared (to be a father).”

Ottavinia, who often finds with his work schedule it makes it difficult to juggle family and work, cites his dad as the perfect example of a good father. “We spent a lot of time together, especially hunting and fishing.  He helped coach me in youth sports also.”

“The most challenging part is staying engaged with them,” he says regarding his two sons, “especially at the ages they currently are.”

And for Ottavinia, he cherishes time spent together most of all. “(I am proud of) How much they want to be around me.”

Fred Berrios Jr. made a change seven years ago. He found a way to curtail his work schedule and make more time for is children.

“I work for Corona; I’m a beer sales guy,” he says. “When the kids were young, my job took me on the road a lot, up to two and three days a week, I’d be out overnight in different cities.” He made a conscious decision to create a better work life balance for he and his family, taking on a new role that finds him home every night. “It was the best thing I ever did. Being able to be there for all the little things, like the clarinet concerts, National Honor Society induction ceremony, all the soccer games and drama practices. It’s about being there. You don’t get those things back. It goes so fast. My oldest is in high school, looking at colleges. Before you know it, she’ll be off to college and it seems like yesterday she was born. Time is flying by.”

Amanda is 17, Julia is 14, and Ava is 9. “They’re all unique, definitely unique.”

For Berrios, the most challenging aspect of being a dad is managing the different personalities of his daughters. “They’re all very different; they respond to things very differently. Being able to navigate those waters – I often joke and say I have a wife, three daughters, and a female dog, so I’m the only man in the house –  it’s challenging sometimes.”

“Not very,” Berrios responds when he was asked if he was prepared for fatherhood. “I think my wife and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we made a bunch of mistakes along the way, we learned, and by the time we got to the third one, we were breathing pretty good.” He pauses, then continues. “With the kids, it’s all about them, making sure that they have everything they need to be successful. They come before I do.”

Berrios’ grandfather was a huge influence on him when he was younger, and he in turn ingrained the lessons learned and use them to help raise his daughters. “He was just always present in everyone’s life, and he was someone who I looked up to when I was a kid and wanted to emulate. To be honest with you, I can’t wait for my children to get married and hopefully, God willing, have their own kids, so I can be the grandfather that he was for me.” Most important to Berrios is to be a good role model. “Someone they can look up to and be proud of. “

“It’s interesting,” he says, “but I like a lot of the little things. They’re all very diverse, they like different things, they’re very well rounded.”

Ernie (Ernesto) Buonincontri owns Enzo’s Pizzeria in Budd Lake section of Mount Olive. He is dad to Susie (33), Raffaellina (31), Emilio (28), and Alessandra (25). He also has one granddaughter, Graziella.

“You look at your parents, the way they brought you up.,” says Buonincontri, recalling his own childhood. “I really picked up a lot from my mom and dad, you know. I was pretty much prepared to become a dad and take on the responsibilities.”

Speaking of “responsibilities,” Buonincontri has owned the popular Enzo’s Pizzeria on Route 46 in Budd Lake for 43 years. “It – working at the restaurant and raising kids – was a lot of challenge, but when you do it with a passion and you love what you’re doing, it just comes easy. You spend a lot of time in the restaurant, and I lived very close and had my kids in the restaurant all the time, and my parents would watch my kids, too.”

Fatherhood has changed him in many ways. “You love your kids, and you love our grandkids even more. I can literally say I grew up with my kids. I get my blessing every day.”

Buonincontri’s father and grandfather showed special qualities that he does his best to emulate. “They showed a lot of love for the kids, a lot of respect for others besides family members. They taught me a lot. My mom and dad and my grandparents were like the foundation for me, and it was a structure they built up, and I tried to do the same thing with my kids. I started the foundation and my kids, and my wife built a beautiful structure. I’d love to see that continue. With my son and daughters, my sons-in-law and my daughter-in-law, there’s a lot of love in the family.”

Yes, love and indeed pride for Buonincontri, as he watches his children become accomplished. “Me and my wife are proud that our kids are solid, they’ve started their own families, and they can bring it to the next level. It makes you really proud that they do that. “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.