PATERSON, NJ – During the month of July, many teenagers seek out the nearest swimming pool for relief from the hot summer sun while others may simply avoid being outside. Nick Chromey did neither. The North Haledon resident spent two entire days, supported by a host of family and friends, volunteering to scrape and paint two vintage military tanks at Paterson’s Veteran Memorial Park.
The project served as the final Eagle Scout Service Project for the soon-to-be sophomore at Paramus Catholic High School. The designation of Eagle Scout will place the 15-year old with an elite group of recipients including Neil Armstrong, Gerald R. Ford, and Steven Spielberg. Several flower gardens were also spruced up as part of the initiative.
“I’ve been in Scouts since the 1st grade,” Nick recounted. “The Scouts gave a presentation at my elementary school. It was then, at the age of six, that I came home and told my parents I wanted to be an Eagle Scout by the time I turned 15.”
The two armored vehicles, a Marine M-48 and an Army Personnel Carrier (APC), were both used extensively during the Vietnam War era, according to Tony Vancheri, President of the Paterson Veterans Council. The veteran was transported to his station in Vietnam to serve as a medic in an APC at the height of the conflict. The recent makeover of the pair of military apparatuses is one of many made by the council over the past few years at the park, including a new road and small parking lot which enable disabled vets unfettered access to participate in annual memorial services.
As Nick both participated and supervised in the marine-green makeover, volunteers, which included some of his Scout colleagues and high school football teammates, manned paint scrapers and brushes, climbed ladders, and also stood directly on top of both tanks to complete their mission.
17-year old Louis Frye said he first met Nick last year on the gridiron turf. The 6’1 Frye was the obvious choice to scale a ladder and paint the highest point of the gun turret of the Marine M-48. Both Louis and Nick said they were eagerly anticipating lifting of COVID-19 restrictions so summer football practice could start.
“Nick’s a good kid,” the Teaneck resident said. “He’s always had a good attitude and is fun to be around. Today, I helped with both scraping and painting.” Louis’s mother, Leslie Frye, also participated in the project and said she was happy to contribute after the slowdown of life due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Father and son, Adam and James Nemitoff, also joined the family affair by participating in the project.
“Besides scraping and painting, my dad and I pulled up weeds, including a dead bush,” 14-year old James stated. “I feel good helping get something done for Nick. He has worked so hard. I’m glad to be able to help him accomplish that.”
To secure part of the funding needed for the project, Rosmarie Chromey, Nick’s mother, said her son sold cupcakes from a store, Mr. Cupcakes, in Hawthorne. Other monies were donated by local business owners and contributions were also presented by teachers and administrators from nine K-8 Paterson Public Schools where Ms. Chromey oversees math programs.
“I’m so thankful for all the help,” Nick stated during a lunch break on the second day of work. “At least 30 of my family members, scouts, and football teammates have participated. This is an important project that will last for a long time.”
Nick said that eight years of scouting has helped him develop character traits including teamwork and leadership. The journey to attain the top honor involved earning over 40 merit badges, Nick said. Several of his ancestors fought in the Spanish-American war, his great uncle served Uncle Sam in World War II, and his grandfather did the same in Vietnam, according to Nick.
One of the most energetic volunteer workers was Kimberly Chromie, Nick’s sister. “I am happy to be here today because I got to plant flowers,” the six-year-old stated. “I like helping Nicki because I love my brother and that makes me happy.”
Nick expressed gratitude for the love expressed by his parents, Rosemarie and William, over the years, as well as the mentoring of scout leaders John Tomasi, Cliff Kennerth, and Frank Dvorak.
Near the conclusion of the final day or work, Vancheri addressed the volunteers, thanking Nick and saying that he “showed (his) love for (his) country with (his) work.”
“You have shown love for our brothers and sons who are no longer with us, many of them who gave their lives for our freedom.”