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A Birthday John Would Never Forget

red cross is there in north jersey after hurricane sandy
John told Red Cross volunteers that it wasn’t time to give up just yet… he would rebuild and create even more memories.

Story and photo by Alex Villa/American Red Cross

John Crincoli, an accountant in Harrison, had always dreamed of building his home on the shores of New Jersey, particularly in the Lavallette neighborhood. He and his wife began construction on their home days after the worst storm on record, the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 which occurred on March 6–8, 1962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. It was considered by the U.S. Geological Survey to be one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the shores of New Jersey, until now.

John recalls being slightly hesitant to start construction on his home after witnessing the destruction that was brought to the area, but didn’t let that stop him from making his dream come true. The home was finished, and he and his wife moved in by summer of 1963. The following year, his wife gave birth to their daughter Joyce, and two years after, they welcomed twins, Robert and Richard.

The family made Lavallette their home, and as the children grew up and moved out of the house, John and his wife were content with the life they had made for themselves. Two years ago, John’s wife passed away leaving him alone in the house he’d built his life in.

As Superstorm Sandy approached the shore, John took the evacuation warnings seriously and began to pack essential belongings, important documents, and the scrapbooks his wife had meticulously kept over the years. He evacuated to his son Richard’s home on Sunday, October 29, 2012 with his daughter Joyce, who is the librarian at the Lavallette library. This would be a day he would never forget, not only would it be the last time he saw the home he remembered, but it was also his 85th birthday.

John wasn’t allowed to return to his home until November 15th, 2012, 17 days after Superstorm Sandy destroyed homes and claimed lives on the Jersey Shore. As John and his sons drove up Elizabeth Avenue, he was calmed when he saw his home still standing but was not prepared for what was to come. When he entered the home, he saw his entire life gone, furniture he had built decades ago ruined, mold crawling up every inch of the walls, the hard wood floors weak, cracked and unstable, and the roof torn and damaged in several areas.

John and his sons had been working tirelessly all day attempting to salvage any items that they could from the home when Red Cross mental health workers arrived to provide refreshments and a listening ear to the family. John was fortunate enough to have homeowner’s insurance but that would not cover the damages caused by flooding, only the damages to the roof. After sharing his story and reminiscing over the great memories he had in this home, John told the Red Cross volunteers that it wasn’t time to give up just yet, and although it would take a lot of time, and even more money, he would rebuild his home and create even more memories. But the memory of his 85th birthday wouldn’t be something he’d soon forgot.

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About the American Red Cross North Jersey Region:

The American Red Cross North Jersey Region provides programs and services throughout the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren, with a combined population of 5.7 million. The region trains and mobilizes 4,500 volunteers who support the delivery of services in the community. Last year, the Red Cross North Jersey Region responded to 419 local disasters, helping 929 families displaced by home fires; educated more than 15,000 community members about disaster preparedness; collected more than 28,500 units of blood through blood drives and Red Cross Blood Donation Centers; helped 844 military families send emergency messages, receive financial assistance, and get counseling and referrals; assisted 870 military members and their families facing deployment on how to access our services anywhere in the world; and trained 143,344 individuals with lifesaving skills in CPR, AED use, first aid and aquatics. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.