Park Ridge Pays Tribute to James Gandolfini
James Gandolfin's hometown paid tribute to the late "Sopranos" star by naming the street he grew up on in his honor and to recognize his commitment to Park Ridge even after he was a star.
Park Avenue way was re-named "James Gandolfini Way" in a ceremony on Sunday that drew a huge crowd of family, friends and cast members of the HBO series that made him famous as Tony Soprano. Steve Schirripa, Vincent Curatola, Tony Sirico, Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore, John Ventimiglia and director Timothy Van Patten were all on hand according to the Bergen Record along with Gandolfin's wife Deborah Lynn and 14-year-old son Michael to see a sign installed in front of the Park Ridge Diner.
Word of praise for the the 51-year-old actor, who died of a heart attack while vacationing in Italy, came from all facets of his life. His son Michael recalled visits to Park Ridge and hearing "every story about every place here."
Lori Joachim Fredrics, Gandolfini's classmate from the Park Ridge High School Class of 1979, who was behind the idea posted on her Facebook page that the ceremony "was a celebration of James Gandolfini's life and a great day in Park Ridge." She noted that Gandolfini remained active in the town after he became famous and that "James Gandolfini Way" is a way that Park Ridge can "communicate this pride in a visible way”.
Co-star Chianese was encouraged to take the stage by the crowd. “All I can say is I thank God that Jimmy Gandolfini was in my life,” said the actor who played Uncle Junior on the"Sopranos."
Park Ridge's former mayor and neighbor to the Gandolfini's when he was growing up remember him as a "skinny" seven-year-old and did not expect him to be famous.
Mike Meidanis, the owner of the Park Ridge Diner told the Record that Gandolfini came back often even after his mother died. “He was a humble man. He was so kind to everyone.You could never tell he was a big star.”