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Happy to Be Here: The “breakfast club” is back


Back in February, Terry Kuntz sent a letter to the Herald — a turnaround from his usual defense of Second Amendment rights. A former Army officer, now retired and president of the Bridgeton Township Sportsman’s Association on Lonely Cottage Road in Upper Black Eddy, he’s been a frequent writer to the Herald.

But this winter Kuntz lamented the closing of his favorite Sunday breakfast place.

“My favorite café, Vera’s on Route 412 in Harrow was a great place,” he wrote. “Chefs Tony and Vera, and the staff, Michelle, Jackie, Gloria, Stephanie and Brie, made the experience exceptional, and the food (especially, for me, their Eggs Benedict) was superb.”

Vera’s closed in 2017. That was five years ago, so it took Kuntz a long time to find a place to compare to Vera’s.

“My friends that I only met at Vera’s, usually at Sunday breakfast, haven’t been seen since it closed. Otto, Linda, Santos, Bill, Nancy, Regina, Dennis, Bob, Betty and others I know only by first name, but we greeted each other with waves, big smiles and talked until the excellent food arrived.”

Kuntz wanted to let his friends know he had a found a replacement on River Road in Erwinna, about a mile south of the Frenchtown Bridge. Breakfast at Amanda’s Riverside Café, matches Vera’s, he said. And that’s quite a compliment.

“I’ve made new breakfast friends at Amanda’s, but I would love to see my Vera’s friends again,” he wrote. He set a date in mid-February and reserved space for his friends. The group that morning came for breakfast after Sunday Mass at the Church of St. Edward the Confessor across the Delaware in Milford.

Kuntz was a bit disappointed in the number of friends who showed up for the reunion — only eight — but it was a cold morning and considering he didn’t know his friends’ last names, it was a good turnout. Even the delightful Michelle Nicholas, a favorite waitress at Vera’s, was there. She used to remind patrons, “A bill comes free with every order.”

The group had some interesting stories to tell.

Etta and Don Marrolli lived in North Jersey before moving to Bucks County. Don operated a limousine service in the New York region for many years, back and forth to Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia airports and making hundreds of trips on the East Coast. One celebrity he recalled was author Liz Gilbert, when she lived in Frenchtown. Etta worked for years in Langhorne (Middletown Township) for Willamette Industries, the paper manufacturer.

Maureen and Ron Leonard are also North Jersey transplants. Maureen worked for the National Starch Chemical Company in Bridgewater, N.J., while Ron was a rigger, transporting heavy equipment, sometimes even buildings, from city to city, state to state. He learned rigging and handling of large objects in the Navy and turned the skill into a career of more than 50 years after he left the service.

It was Ron Leonard’s company that pulled a US Airways Airbus 320 out of the Hudson River and transported it to Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C. Flight 1549 made headlines in 2009, when pilots Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles guided their disabled plane to land safely on the river and 150 passengers filed out to stand on the wings.

Towboats took the partially submerged plane about four miles downstream to be moored near the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan. After a barge carried the aircraft to New Jersey, riggers detached the wings and pulled the plane out of the river for the ride to North Carolina.

“We took back roads. The route was a secret but people figured it out,” Ron Leonard said. “Crowds formed along the route. There were 5,000 people cheering us on in Moorestown.”

The trucks with their special cargo crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge and headed south, using back roads and avoiding the Interstates, all the way to Charlotte.

The “breakfast club” diners on the Sunday I visited were mostly St. Edward’s Church parishioners and members of the Golden Agers, “an active senior group,” Maureen Leonard said. The group, which meets on second Tuesday afternoons, arranges bus trips and schedules speakers. A trip to the Poconos was set for St. Patrick’s Day.

Senior citizens they may be but one of their projects has them climbing the roof of their church, built in a Spanish style. The seniors are replacing roof tiles that have broken loose.

Sunday breakfast is the icing on the cake. More are invited for other Sundays in the future.

“Chefs Amanda and Mark, staff — Debbie, Tara, Drew and Luis are looking forward to meeting you and I can’t wait to see you,” Terry and Christine Kuntz said. “Try Amanda’s Eggs Benedict, you won’t be disappointed.”

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