“He was a true Kearny legend.” That’s how Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos described the late Norman A. Doyle Jr., who died Dec. 20 at the New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center after a lengthy illness.
The funeral was held yesterday from the Thiele-Reid Funeral Home, Kearny, followed by a Mass at St. Cecilia Church, Kearny, Doyle’s home parish. He was 74.
“Norm Doyle was dedicated, his entire life, to Kearny,” said Santos, “both as a practicing attorney and in public service, as Town Attorney during some turbulent times in the ‘70s and ‘80s and as Municipal Court judge for nearly the past decade.”
As recently as about a month ago, “just before he was scheduled for major surgery,” Santos recalled, Doyle made a point of showing up for work at Town Hall. “He loved his job – he came to serve the people of Kearny.” “In the last conversation I had with him,” the mayor said, “he talked about the docket for that day and the [high] number of DUI [driving under the influence] cases.”
Doyle, who got his law degree from NYU School of Law in 1963, and a master’s in law in 1969, was a lifelong student of his profession, continuing to keep up on his research. Kenneth Lindenfelser, general counsel to the Kearny Board of Education, said Doyle wanted to attend a lawyers’ conference being held in Eatontown several weeks ago so they drove down together.
“When I was opening my practice, he, of course, was already an established lawyer and someone I looked up to,” Lindenfelser said.
“What strikes me about Norman Doyle is his passion and his kindness and his confidence,” Lindenfelser said. “If I had a question about something, I’d call him up and he’d not only fax me the case law but also he’d follow up and see how my case turned out.”
But that typified how Doyle operated, Lindenfelser said. “He treated everyone with compassion and respect. That’s the key to understanding Norman. He was part of the Kearny fabric. His passing is going to leave a big hole that will not be easily filled in. He was an icon. It’s a very sad day for Kearny. I’m going to miss him.”
Aside from his attention to detail as a public servant, Doyle had outside interests, both in and out of the Kearny community. Before its dissolution, he presided over the West Hudson Bar Assn., he was active in United Irish of West Hudson and longtime advocate for the local Knights of Columbus. And he was an avid fisherman, favoring the waters of the Florida Keys.
A Bronze Star recipient for his Army service in Vietnam, Doyle wasn’t one for the limelight, Santos said. When the state Dept. of Military Affairs held a ceremony to honor medal winners, he practically had to be dragged there, Santos recalled, yet, he made a point of religiously attending annual reunions of military comrades with whom he’d served.
“They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” Santos said.
The Doyle family has established a pedigree for public service: Doyle’s father, the late Norman Doyle Sr., was a longtime Kearny Town Council member for whom the Doyle Pavilion in Riverside Park is dedicated; Doyle’s wife, Carol Jean Doyle, has served many years on the Town Council; and the couple’s daughter, Meghan Doyle-Zimmerman, is an attorney with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
Doyle’s tenure as Town Attorney extended through several town administrations, beginning with Mayor Anthony Cavalier in the ‘70s. He was appointed to three successive 3-year terms as municipal judge. He served as Hudson County Assemblyman for several terms. And, for several years, he represented Harrison as its tax counsel, having recently scored a victory over the New York Red Bulls in persuading a state tax court judge to declare both the soccer stadium and the land it occupies as taxable.
As a tribute to Doyle, Santos yesterday ordered all flags on municipal buildings to be lowered to half-staff. The mayor said he would confer with council members to discuss a permanent commemoration of Doyle. For now, various municipal judges in the county will continue to rotate as the acting municipal judge in Kearny, Santos said.
– Ron Leir