Every now and then, a person comes along with determination so strong it is inspiring. Millburn resident Joe Martino is one of these people.
At 72, after years of letters to publishers and marketing agencies, Martino learned that his poem, "Statue of Liberty History Poem," is on display in the Bob Hope Memorial Library at Ellis Island.
Despite living in the metro area for all of his 72 years, Martino has visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island only once, about 10 years ago. Still, he is incredibly proud to say his poem is on display at the world-famous historical site and hopes to have an opportunity to see it in person.
"I am very flattered," he said. "I'm wondering if, and it would be great, if I'm the only Jersey resident that may have a poem in that reading room. That would separate me from the flock."
Martino already has plenty that sets him apart from the flock. He did a tour with the Army in Korea, was peace officer with the New York State Department of Correction for 10 years and an officer in the New York Supreme Court for 22.
He invented a baseball practice bat that has a hole in the middle of it, where the ball would strike the bat if hit perfectly. It has been tested by professional teams and was featured on the Johnny Carson show. He tells stories of the 45 countries he has visited, listing France and Switzerland among his favorites.
Martino and his wife, Diane, relocated from Brooklyn to Millburn in 2008 to be closer to their niece, who has 2-year-old twin daughters. Already, he has ideas on ways to improve the town, all of which he writes on his Patch profile. He is happy to talk to anyone ready to lend an ear.
Through all of his experiences, writing was never on his agenda. Especially not poetry. He started in 2001 when Diane bought him a laptop.
"I've seen so much tragedy with young people that I started to write a lot of motivational and inspirational quotations," he said. He goes so far as to say he "hated poetry," but pursued the genre when a fellow poet, who had read his quotations, encouraged him to try.
Today, the second-generation Italian-American has authored more than 160 inspirational quotes and poems. His work is published in at least 30 publications as well as countless websites and blogs.
Yet he is determined to keep going. His next project is to convince fast food companies and malls—places where teens "meet and eat"—to print inspirational quotes in the blank space on cups and food containers or on posters hanging in the malls.
Wherever his work ends up, he is determined to continue going until he gets his "big break."
"I've had stuff on the Johnny Carson show, I've had pro teams use my stuff, but I never got lucky enough to get rich off anything," he said. "I think it's gonna happen."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the proper time Martino served in the Army.