NEPTUNE, NJ – Thirty-one men and women became certified Master Gardeners at a graduation ceremony today at Jumping Brook Country Club.

Graduates of the 2013 program are: Andrea Abbott, Oceanport; Della Benevides, Shrewsbury; Erin Beuka, Freehold; Lorna Bonner, Point Pleasant; Faye Bruno, Sea Girt; Darin Carovillano, Howell; Larry Cier, Perrineville; Stacy Curro, Atlantic Highlands; Cathy Delhagen, Freehold; Carol Fornwald, Long Branch; Debbie Gries, Cliffwood Beach; Mary Hilscher, Spring Lake Heights; Debbie Lee Kernahan, Red Bank; Elizabeth Lilleston, Atlantic Highlands; Alexander Lloja, Red Bank; Margie Longo, Freehold; Susan Losapio, Freehold; Grace Lowry, Farmingdale; Kathi MacGowan, Belmar; Kathleen McNamara, Keyport; Andy O’Neill, Howell; Eileen Rodriguez, Fair Haven; Meghan Ryan, Tinton Falls; Cynthia Sambol, Brick; Ava Sarno, Aberdeen; Pamela Smith, Tinton Falls; Maya Speelmans, Rumson; Candy Tice, Wall; Andy Valdes, Freehold; Bill Wines, Howell; and Christine Yovnello, Red Bank.

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 has proven to be an exceptional class,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said. “More than half of the graduates have logged 100 hours of service, showing dedication to passion for the program.”

Sixteen of the newest graduates won awards for 100 hours of service: Andrea Abbott,Oceanport; Erin Beuka, Freehold; Lorna Bonner, Point Pleasant; Darin Carovillano, Howell; Larry Cier, Perrineville; Stacy Curro, Atlantic Highlands; Carol Fornwald, Long Branch; Elizabeth Lilleston, Atlantic Highlands; Susan Losapio, Freehold; Grace Lowry, Farmingdale; Kathleen McNamara, Keyport; Cynthia Sambol, Brick; Pamela Smith, Tinton Falls; Candy Tice, Wall; Andy Valdes Freehold; and Christine Yovnello, Red Bank.

Candy Tice, Wall won an additional award for completing 250 hours of service.

In addition, seven veteran Master Gardeners also earned 100-hour milestone awards: Marguerite Dalton, Interlaken; Lilian Finlay, Freehold; Jennifer Freeman, Eatontown; Dorey Grimes, Howell; Kim Parent, Oceanport; Sandi Robertson, Bradley Beach; and Pam Smith, Tinton Falls.

For 250 hours of service, thirteen Master Gardeners received recognition: Fran Ambio, Millstone; Lucille Coviello, Spring Lake Heights; Denise Fredericks, Tinton Falls; Jennifer Freeman, Eatontown; Carolyn Giovanniello, Morganville; Barb Hindin, Marina Kerber, Alka Lothe, Pat Mahon, Sue Matulewicz, Jan Mawson, all of Freehold; Luisa Paster, Ocean Grove; and Penny Raffetto, Manasquan.

For 500 hours of service, eleven veteran Master Gardeners won awards: Lou Ambio, Millstone; Beth Bailey, Oakhurst; Jerrilyn Bean, Matawan; Gordon Boak, Colts Neck; Warren Carretta, Ocean; Joe Chapple, Neptune; Kathy Davison, Shrewsbury; Erika Hogan, Neptune; Dorsey Latza, Belmar; David Levinsky, Morganville; and Brenda Wilson, Aberdeen.

Seven Master Gardeners achieved 1,000 service hours honors: Semmes Brightman, Shrewsbury; Barbara D’Augusta, Middletown; Cliff Fishman, Rumson; Nancy Koenig, Belmar; Rosemary Staba, West Long Branch; Nellie Steltzer, Belmar; and Suzie Zientek, Farmingdale.

Another three Master Gardeners reached the 1500 service award level: Marian Busetti, Middletown; Joan Cox, Oceanport; and Pasha Ellis, Marlboro.

Master Gardeners reaching the 2000 hours mark are: John Bauer, Ocean Grove; Marian Busetti, Middletown; Joan Cox, Oceanport; and Bob Magovern, Wall.

Jeanne Paterson, Freehold reached the 3,000 hour award level and Evelin Gaffney, Rumson was recognized for more than 7,000 hours of service.

“This 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 RutgersUniversity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the countyBoards of Chosen Freeholders. MonmouthCounty’s program involves the county office of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, BrookdaleCommunity College and the countyPark 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 FreeholdTownship, or by calling 732-431-7260.