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Remembering Ray McDonough: A reflection from former Observer Editor Kevin Canessa Jr.

ray

By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Former Observer Editor

I first met Raymond J. McDonough in January 1992. He was still a councilman in Harrison, and I was just a high-school senior at St. Peter’s Prep and a rookie stringer at another newspaper that covers Hudson County, let’s just say, at the time. I remember being in awe of him back then, because he’d already served on the council for about 14 years. And I found it pretty remarkable that anyone could be that dedicated.

Of course, sitting in the mayor’s chair at the time was Frank E. Rodgers. Talk about longevity.

I left West Hudson County in 1993 to go away to Rhode Island for college. But in that time frame, in 1995, Rodgers retired as the nation’s longest-serving mayor — and McDonough, almost rightfully — ascended to the mayoralty.

No one was better suited to replace the legend that was Rodgers.

And in his own way, from 1995 to the day he died on Feb. 12, 2014, McDonough was himself a legend who, with a little help, transformed Harrison into the bustling place it’s becoming now.

Canessa

Canessa

In 2006, I landed my dream job — the editor of this newspaper. And not too long after I was hired, I went to Harrison Town Hall on a whim because I wanted to re-introduce myself to the mayor. It had been 13 years since I’d dealt with him professionally — though I did occasionally run into him at Tops Diner some summers when I was back in New Jersey.

When I walked into Harrison Town Hall, surprisingly, he was standing not too far away from the huge doors into the place on the Harrison Avenue side. And astonishingly, I didn’t even need to remind him who I was.

“Kevin!” he shouted from across the hall. “So good to see you. Wow it’s been a long time!”

It was as if I’d left for Rhode Island a week before.

“Come on with me to my office,” he said.

And that’s what we did.

We sat and talked for an hour. We caught up — and didn’t speak politics for a second that day.

But as time went on, we developed a trust for each other that was rare between an editor and a mayor. Numerous times, he called me into his office to inform me of yet-to-be-announced plans for the town.

Whenever anything was happening with Red Bull Arena, there I was.

Whenever there was something new on the redevelopment front, there I was.

When he got word from U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez that Harrison was getting a brand-new PATH station, I was sitting in his office before anyone else — media or otherwise — knew a thing about it.

And it translated into other areas of the town, too — most notably in the police department — where two of the greatest policemen I’ve ever known, Derek Kearns and Michael Green developed into two of the most trusted confidants I’ve ever had as a journalist.

Ray McDonough was a very simple man. Sure, he had his political enemies — just ask Steve or Maria McCormick. Even Councilman Anselmo Millan at one point went from being McDonough’s trusted friend, to bitter enemy, back to a trusted ally.

But for the most part, all he ever really wanted was for the only town he ever called his home town to be a better place. That’s why he worked so hard to get a hotel here. That’s why he fought with every bone in his body for positive redevelopment. That’s why he was almost single-handedly responsible for landing the Red Bulls.

He only really ever wanted good things to happen to the people, too. He genuinely cared about the people of the town, whether they were from the old country in Ireland — or new arrivals from Colombia or Peru.

I’ll never forget when a resident came up to him once and told him he was out of work — and hadn’t eaten in days. They two hopped in the mayor’s car — and a few moments later, they were sharing a meal at Tops.

That’s the kind of man Ray McDonough was. The Jesuits would have loved him, because he was a great example of a “Man For Others.”

I loved Ray McDonough. He was a tremendous influence in my life. And when I left The Observer in 2008, he was one of the few people I really can say I miss to this day.

It kills me that I never got to tell him what a truly great man he was.

But as the tributes flow in from all corners of the globe upon his death, it won’t take much to demonstrate that greatness.

And it won’t be hard to tell just how much he’s going to be missed.

Kevin Canessa Jr. was editor of The Observer from 2006 through 2008. 

Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough dead at 65 (updated at 2 p.m. Thursday)

ray

HARRISON —

Longtime Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough, 65, collapsed at Town Hall and died of an apparent heart attack on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

McDonough had just finished one meeting and was getting ready for another when he was stricken, according to Councilman Larry Bennett. It was President’s Day, so the Municipal Building was closed, but the mayor had scheduled some town business to tackle. He was rushed to St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he was pronounced.

After his passing, the Town Council directed flags to fly at half staff and arranged to have black bunting draped from the front entrance of the Town Hall as a memorial to the deceased mayor.

Funeral plans have yet to be completed, according to Bennett.

McDonough, who had served 17 years on the Harrison Town Council, was beginning his 20th year as mayor and the final year of his current four-year term as chief executive.

– Ron Leir

BCPO arrests 3 more in connection to bar melee

From left, Pate, Venegas and Carrion

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli announced today the charging of three additional individuals in connection with the bar brawl that occurred outside the Twins Plus Lounge located at 2 South Main St., South Hackensack.

During the incident, five people were injured, three critically. The case is being investigated by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Major Crimes Unit, and the South Hackensack Police Department, Detective Bureau.

As previously reported to the press, at 1:44 a.m. on Jan. 27, SHPD and surrounding towns responded to a reported bar fight at Twins Plus Lounge. Read more »

The Observer now available for mobiles, tablets powered by Android

The new Issuu app for Android phones and tablets will allow our readers to check out each week's newspaper on the go.

The new Issuu app for Android phones and tablets will allow our readers to check out each week’s newspaper on the go.

If you own an Android-powered mobile phone or tablet, we’ve got good news for you — you can now read The Observer on the go without having to strain your eyes.

Thanks to the new app “Issuu,” which powers our e-Edition, every edition of The Observer can be read on the go. Simply go to the Google Play Store, search “Issuu,” and download it.

Once it’s downloaded, you’ll be able to read the newspaper on the go — on the train, on the bus … wherever you want. You’ll be able to easily maneuver between pages and zoom in and out to read stories that matter to you.

As always, thanks for reading The Observer, and we hope you enjoy this great new feature.

Hydrants will be tested Jan. 13 in North Arlington

Water pressure could be low and it could be discolored when hydrants are tested Jan. 13 in North Arlington.

Water pressure could be low and water could be discolored when hydrants are tested Jan. 13 in North Arlington.

The Passaic Valley Water Commission and borough fire department volunteers will be testing fire hydrants in the borough on Jan. 13 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Work is expected to be completed the same day.

In a message to residents, the PVWC assures all customers that the water will be safe for use during this period, although water pressure may be low and there may be some water discoloration.   Water customers are cautioned to determine that the water is clear before washing clothes.

The hydrant inspections reflect ongoing efforts between borough officials and the water utility to improve the water distribution system, said Council President Al Granell.  The borough reached a negotiated settlement with the PVWC in October in which the utility agreed give the borough $275,000 and help fund fire hydrant inspections.

“I’m pleased to see that the PVWC is living up to its responsibility to inspect and upgrade the borough’s water infrastructure,” said Granell. Read more »

Red Bulls’ GM to address Harrison business network Nov. 20

HARRISON

de Bontin

de Bontin

Special guest Jerome de Bontin, general manager of the Red Bulls, will address the Harrison business community at an upcoming networking event presented by Harrison Business Connections. The event includes a private tour of Red Bull Arena and refreshments on Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. at the arena.

Harrison Business Connections is a business organization of Harrison Businesses and those that do business in Harrison. Participants engage in building relationships and exchanging qualified leads. Their interests include the mutual success of their local businesses and the Town of Harrison.

Founding Member of Harrison Business Connections, William Abbott said: “The business opportunities in Harrison continue to grow.  Companies both large and small are making Harrison home and Harrison Business Connections is all about bringing those people together to network, share and grow together.”

Full information can be found at www.HBCevents.eventbrite.com.

Harrison Business Connections can be found online at www.HarrisonBusinessConnections.com and www.facebook.com/HarrisonBusinessConnections.

Election results will be posted on our Facebook page tonight around 9

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There are numerous local elections today — and we’ll be posting results on our Facebook page. Not connected to us yet on Facebook? Click here to get to our page — and be sure to “LIKE” us.

Belleville, State police looking for missing 12-year-old boy

castillo

Charlie Castillo, above, has not been seen since 7 a.m. Thursday morning in his Belleville home.

The Belleville Police Department and the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit are seeking the public’s assistance in locating missing Belleville boy Charlie Castillo.

Castillo, 12, is 5’3″, 100 pounds with black hair, and brown eyes and was last seen 7 a.m. this morning at his home in Belleville.

He suffers from allergies and asthma and is known to wear plastic and thread bracelets.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Belleville Police Department at (973)450-3334 or the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at (800) 709-7090.

KHS’ Project Graduation Committee has lots planned, seeks volunteers for fundraisers

khs-14Kearny High School’s Project Graduation committee is already working on fundraising for next year’s drug- and alcohol-free party for the school’s graduating seniors. The average cost is just under $30,000 and each student pays a small stipend of $15 to reserve a seat on the bus.  That leaves a balance of $24,000 to be raised.

In an effort to raise awareness of the group and activities that are planned, a Facebook page has been set up under the banner Kearny High Project Graduation, where the list of events Steve Dyl, Kearny’s fire chief who also serves as the President of Project Graduation committee, was able to provide.  

The first is a Dec. 8 bus trip to Sands Casino and Outlet Mall in Bethlehem, Pa., which leaves from Kearny Federal Savings Bank, 614 Kearny Ave. at 8:30 a.m., and arrives back about 6 p.m. The cost is $30, and you receive $20 slot dollars and a $5 food voucher.

For tickets or more information, contact Judy Hyde at 201-991-5812 or email jh519@aol.com.

Jan. 30 is the first major meeting of the year where the committee looks to have as many underclassman parents join the parents of this year’s graduates. At this meeting, the various sub-committees are explained and volunteers are sought for each.

There is no requirement to attend every meeting or be at every fundraiser, as we can use people for an hour or every hour — whichever works best. Meetings take place the last Thursday of each month at Kearny High School.

Feb. 23 is a bus trip to Atlantic City.

April 25 is a town wide volleyball tournament, which will see the Town of Kearny defend its 2013 title against teams from the Kearny Police and Fire departments, the Kearny Board of Education and the staff of each of the schools.

The single largest fundraiser is a 50/50, which kicks off mid-December with the drawing on graduation night, June 20.  This year’s goal is to raise $10,000 from the 50/50 which would also give the winner $10,000. Tickets are $10 each.

The 2013 winner received just under $9,000.

Project Graduation is a town-wide event that began in Kearny in 1996 as a safer alternative to private house parties. The idea was been prompted by a serious graduation-night car crash on Kearny Avenue, in which several teens were injured.

For more information, send an email to projectgrad@kearnyschools.com.

Nutley police warn of scammers posing as utility workers

NPD

NPD

Township residents are cautioned that two suspects are posing as utility company employees asking to look at the homeowners’ water meters in an effort to gain access to homes.

Once inside, the homeowner is distracted while an accomplice rummages through the home for valuables.

The most recent  incident occurred April 11 at 12:15 p.m. on Ravine Avenue.

One suspect is described as a white man, approximately 35, 5’9” with average build and olive complexion wearing a black jacket and a black shiny hard hat. The second suspect is described as a white man, 35, slightly shorter than the other suspect, with average build and olive complexion.

Mayor Al Petracco urges anyone with information to contact the police department at 973-284-4940.

In addition, residents are reminded not to allow anyone into their home without proper verification.