COLTS NECK, NJ – Nineteen Monmouth County residents became certified Master Gardeners at a graduation ceremony Jan. 23 at Hominy Hill Golf Center.

Graduates of the 2012 program are: Beth Bailey, Oakhurst; Joanne Bujalski, Freehold; Marguerite Dalton, Interlaken; Jon Gibbons, Lake Como; Diane Grim, Colts Neck; Dorey Grimes, Howell; Karen Kaschak, Colts Neck; Janet Lyons, Howell; Pat Mahon, Shrewsbury; Susan Matulewicz, Rumson; Jan Mawson, Freehold; Sandi McLean, Farmingdale; Kim Parent, Oceanport; Penny Raffetto, Manasquan; Judy Ryan, Farmingdale; Debbie Sawch, Rumson; Christina Schrank, Fair Haven; Pam Smith, Leonardo; and Christine Testa, Manasquan.

The Master Gardeners are now certified gardening experts because they have completed a course of classroom and hands-on training in plant biology, propagation, soil science and disease and pest control. The trainees then began sharing their knowledge with others by conducting garden lectures, demonstrations, school and community gardening projects, and answering calls on the county’s “horticulture helpline.”

“This year’s Master Gardeners group is resilient,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said at the graduation. “In addition to dealing with Super storm Sandy, this class also had to deal with extended summer-long water restrictions and an unbelievable wind storm that hit Freehold. Yet, they were still able to harvest more than 3,000 pounds of food for the ‘Plant a Row for the Hungry’ program.”

Twelve of the newest graduates won awards for 100 hours of service: Beth Bailey, Joanne Bujalski, Jon Gibbons, Diane Grim, Janet Lyons, Pat Mahon, Susan Matulewicz, Jan Mawson, Sandi McLean, Penny Raffetto, Christina Schrank and Christine Testa. Beth Bailey, Diane Grim, Janet Lyons also won awards for 250 hours of service.

In addition, eleven veteran Master Gardeners also earned 100-hour milestone awards: Fran Ambio, Millstone, Denise Fredericks, Tinton Falls; Cheryl Grant, Rumson; Patty Kemps, Jackson; Alka Lothe, Little Silver; Pat McTighe, Monmouth Beach; Jill Neihaus, Shrewsbury; Maureen Puricelli, Morganville; Jacki Sharpe, Asbury Park; Cyndi Skove, Eatontown; and Len Yoder, Freehold.

For 250 hours of service, 18 Master Gardeners received recognition: Lou Ambio, Millstone; Marilyn Boak, Colts Neck; Maggie Boyce, West Allenhurst; Kathy Davison, Shrewsbury; Terry Gildea, Elberon; Liz Hespe, Middletown; Isabelle Koren, Howell; Marvin Koren, Howell; Kristina Latimer, Shrewsbury; David Levinsky, Marlboro; Michele Mancino, Middletown; Pat McTighe, Monmouth Beach; Dawn Nahory, Lincroft; Jay Schaeffer, Keansburg; Barbara Schinkel, Eatontown; Kathleen Turso, Spring Lake; Brenda Wilson, Aberdeen; and Len Yoder, Freehold.

For 500 hours of service, thirteen veteran Master Gardeners won awards: Ellen Brahney, Neptune; John Connors, Ocean; Carol Farber, Freehold; Kent Fleming, Spring Lake; Bill Gerth, Shrewsbury; George Hemsey, Howell; John Moran, Manalapan; Joan Murtie, Neptune; Jean Saba, Rumson; Clare Skeen, Keyport; Carol Smith, Holmdel; Elaine Alston Whittaker, Asbury Park; and Gayle Williams, Long Branch.

Six Master Gardeners achieved 1,000 service hours honors: Joan Cox, Oceanport; Barbara D’Augusta, Middletown; Carolyn Heuser, Freehold; Helene Schroeder, Manalapan; Wally Seeley, Freehold; and Audrey Sheehan, Rumson.

Another six Master Gardeners reached the 1500 service award level: Linda Balzer, Freehold; Peggy Beck, Millstone; Carol Chandler, Howell; Gloria Gross, Lincroft; Tom Lang, Ocean; and Sue Malmi, Red Bank.

Master Gardeners reaching the 2000 hours mark are: Howard Bodner, Middletown; Bernie Dickman, Middletown; and Ellen Simonetti, Marlboro.  

Karin Poorvin, Ocean and Sandy Wolfe, Howell reached the 4,000 hour award level and Evelin Gaffney, Rumson was recognized for more than 6,000 hours of service.

“This 14th Master Gardener class worked with the best in the horticultural field – faculty from Rutgers University and Brookdale Community College and professional staff at the Monmouth County Park System and the Cooperative Extension while completing their training,” said Bill Sciarappa, Agricultural and Resource Management Agent for Monmouth County’s Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office.

The Master Gardener program, conducted throughout the United States and Canada, is a two-part educational effort in which avid gardeners are provided many hours of intense home horticulture training. In return, they “pay back” local university extension agents through volunteerism.

In New Jersey, the program is a cooperative effort of Rutgers University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the county Boards of Chosen Freeholders. Monmouth County’s program involves the county office of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Brookdale Community College and the county Park System. 

Information about the Master Gardener program is available on the Monmouth County Web site at and from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service at 4000 Kozloski Rd. in Freehold Township, or by calling 732-431-7260.