For those too young to remember, or for those who didn’t follow politics in Kearny long ago, Tom MacFarland was a rare breed of a councilman, especially by today’s standards.
That’s because dating back to 1992, when Tom was serving as a representative of the town’s First Ward — and yes, this is true — he was the lone Democrat on a governing body that was controlled by an 8-1 margin by the Republican Party.
Even the mayor at the time was a Republican — Kenneth H. Lindenfelser.
Yes, indeed, it’s hard to believe – Tom was the First Ward’s — and the town’s — only Democratic representative. It’s hard to believe there was actually a Republican serving inthe traditionally Democratic First Ward in the former Councilman Christopher Armitage. But you see, it didn’t matter what political party you belonged to. It didn’t matter who you supported. It didn’t matter where you lived. Tom MacFarland, as a public servant, had just one thing in mind — at all times — and that was serving the good people of Kearny, regardless of their political affiliation.
I remember thinking back then how difficult it must have been for him, as the lone Dem on the governing body, to get anything done. At the time, I was covering Kearny for another newspaper and I was just 17 then, a senior at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City. But the truth is, he transcended political parties and was as hard a worker as you’d ever find.
Perhaps one of his finest moments on the council was when ground was finally broken for Spruce Terrace. Tom was the liaison for the town’s senior citizens and so many times at meetings, he’d lament over the reality that Kearny had no viable senior citizen housing.
So when Spruce Terrace finally became a reality, it was as huge a victory for Tom as it was for any senior citizen anywhere in Kearny. Because he fought hard for it. He would not give up. And when the building finally opened, the town had a senior housing building of its own, and Tom was one of the major reasons why it all happened.
Tom died June 25 at Brandywine Senior Living in Brick. He was 94. But most of his life was spent in Kearny, doing things for others and not for himself. I was fortunate to be a reporter during some of his time on the Kearny Town Council — and he always treated me with the respect a reporter of many years might get, even though I was brand new and only in my late teens.
I suspect if he knew I was writing this, he would have told me to write about something else. But when Tom Mac- Farland departed this earth a few weeks ago, the world lost a gem. Kearny lost a gem.
Because everything he ever did was for the greater good of the community. Never was he self-serving on the council. Never did he aggrandize as he sat up there as the lone Democrat. Every decision he made seemed to have all the people of the town in mind — nothing else.
Indeed, things have changed dramatically in the time since Tom served on the council. Today, he might have just blended in with the rest of the council that has, for more than a decade, not seen a Republican come close to winning a seat.
Perhaps that might not have been fun for Tom, because he loved taking and accepting challenges. Maybe it would have been too easy for him to be one of nine Democrats on the governing body.
But the truth is, Tom Mac- Farland was a great leader. Kearny is today a better place because he served the town so selflessly. And without question, today’s politicians, all of them, locally and nationally, would all have benefitted from knowing and working with Tom.
To say he will be missed is a gross understatement.
Rest in peace, Tom MacFarland.
– Kevin Canessa Jr.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.