BEHIND MANY SCENES — How Kearny Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle does so much without ever seeking the limelight

Every year — save for the last two, thanks to stupid COVID —scores of Kearny’s senior citizens get one day a year to head down to the Doyle Pavilion along the Passaic Riverside to enjoy what has morphed into one of the biggest undertakings of the calendar year. And, last week — June 15 to be precise — the picnic returned for the first time since 2019 and it is safe to say the atmosphere …well, it was like none before and it came with a feeling we wish we could bottle up for the future.

But unlike previous stories we’ve done on the picnic, where survey the senior citizens, the throng of volunteers from the police and fire departments, DPW, the town council, et al, we decided this time, we’d tell you more about one person who has been running the picnic since its inception decades ago — and how much work she puts into it all.

That woman is Kearny Council President Carol Jean Doyle, who has represented the town’s Third Ward since 1996. She has the picnic each year at a park named for her late father-in-law, Norman Doyle Sr., so it’s somewhat appropriate this huge undertaking has fallen into her hands.

So now, let’s think of all she has to do to make the picnic happen, something we all probably take for granted.

First, she has to reserve the park for a June day, then hope the weather cooperates. It doesn’t always. Just ask her. Then, there’s the food that a good chunk of is donated. Hamburgers, hotdogs, beans, drinks, salads, beverages, more.

Then there’s getting Fred and Mr. Softee to come to provide dessert. Oh and with all that food, there’s a need to get people to cook it. And serve it. And there are tables and chairs that are needed. And of course, there has to be music, so she hires a DJ every year.

Oh and seniors, who don’t always drive, have to get there, too, right? So there’s coordinating transportation with the senior jitney buses.

And you can’t have a a picnic for seniors without raffles and giveaways and goody bags — which included a flat-screen TV donated by Councilman Rich Konopka — and gift cards many others on the council donated, including outgoing Councilwoman Sue McCurrie.

Then once it is all over — and attendees go their merry ways — there’s the huge responsibility of leaving the pavilion the way it was upon arrival. Imagine that task after hundreds of people had a great time?

And let’s add something onto this year’s picnic. After it was over this year, Doyle had to hop in her car with her son, Norman “Bogie” Doyle III, and drive south to Monmouth County, where her granddaughter, Kelsey, was to graduate high school. Oh and later that night, she and her coffee klatch were to get together for some late-night caffeine.

After a day like that, we’d imagine she probably could have used a little more than a cuppa joe, but we digress.

Yeah, we’re 500 words into this story, and we’ve just finished explaining what Doyle does to make this such a memorable day each and every year. And while there are some who will thank her after it’s over, many have probably never realized just how much work, how much time, she dedicates to it ever year.

Fortunately she has her dear friend and co-coffee klatcher, Joann Carratura, right at her side along the way. Truth is, Carratura deserves similar praise for her involvement, too.

So with all this in mind, we decided to speak with some of the other volunteers who Doyle puts to work. The praise for what she does — universal.

We’ll start with Kearny Second Ward Councilman Peter Santana.

“Senior picnic is one of the seniors’ favorites. It’s also like the town cleanup, farmers market and other events in town,” Santana says. “We are fortunate as councilmembers to have people — whether it be employees, residents or even businesses — who want to help out. When this combination happens, this is what you get. An amazing event fulfilled with joy and smiles. Carol Jean puts on amazing event.”

Santana’s Second Ward cohort Konopka echoed similar sentiments.

“The senior picnic is a major event for the Town of Kearny. Only one person could organize this event successfully each year, Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle,” Konopka says. “Her hard work begins weeks before the event and continues throughout the day of the picnic. I’d like to personally thank her for what she does for Kearny seniors not only at the picnic, but during the whole year. Great job Carol! I am proud to volunteer each year to help.

Barbara B. Goldberg, meanwhile, is the town photographer. Her work, in addition to town Web properties, is often featured here in The Observer, so like at many other events, she was at the picnic shooting photos for hours. She heaped immense praise on Doyle for her tireless efforts.

“Every year the Kearny residents are ecstatic when they hear the date of the senior citizen picnic. They mark their calendars and wait patiently for the day to come for a fun-filled midday event. But not our Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle,” Goldberg says. “The Superwoman and ‘Energizer Bunny’ (with her team) goes into high gear planning and organizing the event. Coordinating bus transportation to and from the Doyle Pavilion, reaching out to the mayor, councilmembers and vendors for donations — beverages, food, gifts and prizes —and the highlight of the day, the ice cream truck. Oh, and there’s also a mini healthcare fair and of course entertainment.

“But the councilwoman doesn’t stop there. Hamburgers and hotdogs have to be grilled and side dishes served. So available councilmen and firemen are recruited as chefs. (Compliments to the chefs) Safety is paramount. KPD and the Traffic Division’s services are enlisted. Last but not least, someone has to do the heavy lifting and setup and breakdown — that’s where the DPW staff is organized. One would think that’s the end and that Carol Jean Doyle can relax.

“But no. What if it is going to rain or too hot for the residents? Have no fear, she has that covered, too. The Henrietta Benstead Senior Citizens Center is on standby. Finally, a few minutes after 3 p.m., the last senior leaves and Carol Jean relaxes, right? Wrong. Beside assisting with the cleanup, she is already mentally planning for next year. All the thank yous in the world can’t even begin to express the gratitude for all that you do for the community. Take a bow for a job well done, my friend!”

Lastly, while this story is about a picnic, this is hardly the only “event” Doyle heads. There’s the annual giving tree, the Passaic River cleanup, the senior boat cruise around Manhattan, participation in Project Graduation, and frankly, we could probably fill up about four more paragraphs with the things she does.

We’ll save all that for another story or six.

Learn more about the writer ...

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.