Category Archives: Opinion

Editorials, letters to the editor and other articles reflecting on iconic people, places and traditions related to them in the area.

Retro Knollwood Grad Fashion

Knollwood Class of '74 graduation fashionistas Stephanie DeSesa, Elaine Van Develde (yours truly) and Wanda Becker. Photo/Sally Van Develde
Knollwood Class of ’74 graduation fashionistas Stephanie DeSesa, Elaine Van Develde (yours truly) and Wanda Becker.
Photo/Sally Van Develde

Eighth graders in the Rumson-Fair Haven area have graduated.

Photos are popping up all over social media. And these crews of grade school cronies seem to have a panache we eighth graders of the 1970s lacked. There they all are … posing, arms wrapped around one another, sporting stylish clothes, tans and toothy grins.

Continue reading Retro Knollwood Grad Fashion

A Retro Ode to R-FH Area Dads

We say it every year, and it bears repeating …

Yesterday was Father’s Day.

And, we at Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect are of the mind that the day is really about much more than flipping a burger and patting a good ol’ dad on the back.

It’s bigger than that. It goes way beyond your own dad’s back yard and a grilling or two.

Growing up in a small-town niche like the Rumson-Fair Haven area carries with it that family tie feeling. Some of us were fortunate enough to have great dads. Some not.

But, what we all somehow did and still do have is a strong kinship to the dads of our towns. Even if we just recall a look, a bellowing chide or a chuckle over some stupid kid thing we did, we remember the dads with whom we grew up.

Now, many of those kids are dads, too, and living where their dads raised them. Perhaps, or likely, finding themselves bellowing the same chidings, trying to impart the same wisdom.

So many of these men were volunteers we saw all over town, characters whose nuances or sayings we remember, or that one poor patient guy who ended up being the poor soul to pick us up when we were stupid enough to get caught hurling eggs and toilet paper on Mischief Night — or something equally as dumb.

Yes, we do and should memorialize our own dads. Believe me, I, for one, am still looking for that money tree my dad told me was in the back yard and that gal named Dumb Dori whom he said I emulated when lacking “street smarts” to a pathetic degree.

Yet, I also vividly remember the calm, “I’m going to kill those idiots” smile on my friend Stephanie’s dad when he picked us up at the police station after following through on a really dumb dare. Then there was the “To tell you the truth, my friend, I don’t know” quote that consistently came out of Daryl’s dad’s mouth as he shook his head in wonderment over our mangled teen logic.

There were those dads for all of us — each leaving his own patriarchal imprint in our juvenile minds. For them we are grateful — for raising us here, for coming together to protect and nurture us and for offering a communal scolding or 100, for loving all their village’s children.

They were part of this community’s foundation — everyone’s founding fathers.

Our Retro Pic (or video) of the Day honors the area’s dads of those days for those reasons and so many more.

We don’t have nearly enough photos to encapsulate all the love and all of the dads, but this is a sufficient sampling to get the message across.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in the community who have been there for us and given us lessons and words to live by!

— Photos/courtesy of Rumson, Fair Haven family members via Facebook

Remembrance by Surf, Candlelight: RFH’s Maddy Massabni, 19

Madalyn Elizabeth Massabni
Photo/RFH yearbook

The sun had just set. Darkness fell on Sea Bright beach Sunday night as hundreds of friends, family, loved ones of 19-year-old Maddy Massabni made their way to a spot on the beach where they quietly brought light … candlelight and memories of the light that was known to embody the recent Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) graduate’s spirit.

Maddy passed away on March 30 “following an unexpected and rare bout with septic shock,” her obituary prepared by family said, adding that Maddy was “given her angel wings.”

The soft sound of the surf seemed to cradle those who loved the Rumson girl with the gift of an infectious dimpled grin as they huddled somberly in her memory. They spoke of her with sniffles and smiles. They bowed their heads. They reminisced.

They remembered a gentle, sweet soul … a girl they knew as someone whose “beautiful smile melted the hearts of those who knew and loved her” … whose “sense of humor could always make people laugh,” her obituary said.

They remembered a twinkly-eyed teenager who “lived life to the fullest,” loved basking in the sun at that beach with her buddies, cheerleading, and managing the track team.

“The sunshine of her parent’s eyes,” as her loved ones called her in her obituary, “Madalyn’s life would seem too short to many, but those who were touched by her understood that the quality of existence far exceeds the quantity of time in which one lives.

“With Madalyn’s passing we remind others that her life is one to be celebrated,” it added. “Although we will miss her dearly every day she will forever remain in our hearts. Throughout her life we were able to create wonderful memories and it has been an honor and a privilege to be the parents and brother of this beautiful, loving, amazing and caring young woman.”

Notes of sympathy flooded Facebook in the days following Maddy’s death.

Val’s, where she worked, posted this: “We are heartbroken at Vals. One of the kids that worked for us passed away today at 19. Suddenly tragically unbelievable. She was just starting her life. We will miss her beautiful smile and generous spirit. ‘My tears don’t flow like rivers just a mist that comes and goes and I feel a coldness start to grow deep within my soul’ … Hug your kids a little tighter tonight.”

The Fair Haven Fire Department sent out a note of condolence.

Classmates of Maddy’s mother, Dawn Tilton Massabni, an RFH graduate, hold her in their hearts, hundreds of notes expressed.

Her Uncle Harvey (Tilton), also a Rumson resident, started a gofundme page.

Maddy will be sorely missed, no doubt. Not forgotten.

In addition to her many friends, Maddy is survived by: her loving mom and dad, Dawn and George Massabni III; brother, George Massabni IV; paternal grandparent, Nan Massabni; and maternal grandparents Geraldine and Harvey Tilton; and many loving aunts, uncles and cousins.

Her service will take place on Tuesday, April 4, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad St. Red Bank, NJ. There will be a funeral service on Wednesday, April 5 at 10 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 94 Tindall Rd. Middletown, NJ followed by burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 100 Chapel Hill Rd., Red Bank.

For the complete obituary, click here.

To Maddy’s loved ones: Mom, Dawn, who we know, dad, George, and all …

We, at Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect, offer our heartfelt condolences. We cannot express adequately how deeply sorry we are for your loss. Thank you for bringing her into this world to brighten so many lives in such a short time. We see and hear what a gift Maddy was to so many.

Rest in peace, Maddy. You are remembered.

May the candles keep burning … May her light shine on …

— Elaine Van Develde

Saying Goodbye to Fair Haven’s Lucille Suggs, 100

Lucille Brooks Suggs

It wasn’t all that long ago when Lucille Suggs was still living in the Fair Haven neighborhood that she loved.

Tucked away contentedly in her modest home, neighbors, friends, family were known to stop by for a visit. Then there were the police officers who had grown up knowing her as a loving, welcoming presence in the borough who would pop in to make sure that she was safe and cared for during a storm, bout of bad weather, or “just because.”

Mrs. Suggs not too long ago, after more than half a century there, left the Fair Haven home and community she loved in her 90s to be closer to her son and cared for in a nursing home where he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

She hit 100 in August of 2016 with a big smile on her face, surrounded by loved ones and missed dearly by Fair Havenites who had grown so accustomed to her warm grin, embracing, graceful manner and soulful sense of humor.

Lucille Brooks Suggs passed away on March 23. And she is coming home to Fair Haven tomorrow, Saturday, to be bid farewell at her church, Fisk Chapel AME Church, 38 Fisk St., with a viewing beginning at 9a.m. and funeral services to follow at 11. Interment will be at the Shoreland Memorial Gardens, Hazlet.

Her son, Dennis, posted the following tribute to his mother the day after her death …

“Last night at 11:30, the inimitable Lucille Brooks Suggs decided enough was enough and peacefully took her one woman show ‘to loftier climes.’

“After 100 years and 6 months of being a constant protector, inspiration, non-stop joke machine (I could never figure out where she learned all those, let alone remembered them) as well as an endless source of real POSITIVITY (You should have seen the aides guard her like she was the Queen of England as she declined this week at twin towers), I believe it’s safe to say she felt her time here was well spent, but alas, it was time to go.

“She will be well-remembered and sorely missed. I know if you asked her what to think she wouldn’t want mourning or solemnity, she’d want you to laugh(alot), love people, do kind things and live to the fullest.

“We will be bringing her home next weekend so that she can rest in final peace next to her partner of nearly 50 years, so they can get back to playing pinochle, something I’m guessing is already taking place. Enjoy the day, your friends and loved ones. Cheers!!!”

Click here for Mrs. Suggs’ obituary.

RIP, Mrs. Suggs. You, a forever Fair Haven friend and neighbor to many, will always be remembered as an embodiment of what this small town is all about. 


Retro RFH Hughes Family Showfolk Legacy

When it comes to show biz, sometimes in the RFH area, just sometimes, it’s a family affair. Sometimes it just is.

Continue reading Retro RFH Hughes Family Showfolk Legacy

Retro Knollwood Show Time

“Times have changed,” as the lyrics to Cole Porter’s Anything Goes go …

Yes they have. And they haven’t.

The shows are still going on, but they’re quite different types of productions. The students at Fair Haven’s Knollwood School have staged Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.  The show went on in the beginning of the month.

And, way back in 1974, the school’s second ever musical was staged with the middle schoolers. You guessed it. It was Anything Goes.

Yes, times have changed, and mostly because these days they actually have junior versions of otherwise adult-like shows that aren’t really all that adult.

In fact, in those days, nothing was thought of doing a pretty darn adult musical that starred a, ahem, “lady of the evening” turned evangelist, a gangster and his maul, a stowaway, an heiress and a kooky English gentleman all aboard a ship and involved in madcap farce and love triangles.

Who knew? Well, the 1974 cast  of Knollwood’s version of Anything Goes certainly didn’t.

Continue reading Retro Knollwood Show Time

Retro RFH Gym Class

RFH gym teachers of the 1970s Photo/RFH yearbook
RFH gym teachers of the 1970s
Photo/RFH yearbook

With the sting of the cold and longing for that breath of warm fresh air, thoughts turn to days spent in the young teen sweat-infused gym at RFH. Oh, the ritual of that mandatory indoor exercise.

Ahhh, memories. More like a little PTSD remembrance of the torture the class was for some — especially when stuck inside. When you’re not an athlete and, for that matter, can barely volley a ball (and I mean barely), gym class day was the day of trying to get some sort of note of excuse from your mom to get you out of the embarrassment. Forgery became a talent. Though some moms could feel the uncoordinated kids’ pain and easily relented with prompt penning.

Continue reading Retro RFH Gym Class

Retro Remembrance of a Fair Haven Police Chief

He was just that kind of community guy, old school cop and fireman — the kind people remember.

He that face many remember peering around every corner, offering help, an anecdote or 10 with a wry smile and wisdom-inspired wink. He was George Chandler. It’s been just over a year since George, a former Fair Haven police chief and 65-year fire company member, died at 92 on Jan. 25, 2016.

He grew up in Fair Haven and spent most of his life in service to the borough in addition to serving in the U.S. Navy.

George Chandler was known as a tall order of homegrown gentleman and community kinship filled to the hilt. He loved to fish, dance, tell jokes, offer up lots of anecdotes and just plain be kind to his neighbors by serving the community he loved and treating everyone like family — Fair Haven family.

So, the Retro Pic(s) of the Day honor the George Chandler and his Fair Haven roots and dedicated service.

To ask for an anecdotal story about George’s well-known anecdotes of life (yes, that was intentional) was to hear something like the story that follows from the memory of a young boy growing up in the borough. This guy is one of many who still hears the former police chief’s voice and sees his friendly, old fashioned brand of stern with a caring smile.

It’s a classic from longtime Fair Havenite Thom White.

And it goes like this …

“On a ‘no school snow day’ in the 1960s my friends and I decided we’d throw snowballs at cars on River Road. We were hiding in a church’s bushes across River Road from George’s house. I threw one that smacked the side of a borough bus, and gleefully asked ‘Did you see that?’

“George answered from behind me, ‘Yes I did.’ Stop doing that right now. It’s dangerous. And go home and tell your mom that I caught you.’ He added with a wry smile, ‘I might just come by later and check.’

“Well, I did as I was told, and a couple of hours later there was a knock on our front door … and there was George in his uniform. He spoke to my mom, who told him that I had confessed, and he reminded me how dangerous it was to do what I was doing. Needless to say, I never did THAT again, and whenever I’d see him in later years, he was always friendly and wanted to know what I was up to. A true gentleman.”

From the closest of family members to distant friends who may have only had that one milestone memory of the chief that just stuck like that lingering wad of ABC (already been chewed) bubblegum under a kid’s shoe, he is remembered by many and emulated. OK, so no one chews bubblegum anymore. That’s the point — the sticking point.

RIP George Chandler. You are remembered.

— Elaine Van Develde

Looking Back: A Tale of Tradition and Firehouse Santa Pics

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s that time of the year for a longstanding Fair Haven tradition  — photos at the firehouse with Santa.

This year, Santa’s coming to the firehouse between 1 and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

It’s another Fair Haven tradition you can always count on.

I remember …

Continue reading Looking Back: A Tale of Tradition and Firehouse Santa Pics

Retro RFH Show Time!

It’s opening night for the RFH Tower Players’ fall show.

The fall show at RFH has been a longstanding tradition along with the spring musical.

But, back in the day, of, well, the 1970s, there was also the RFH Freshmen Follies which got the new kids in the halls on stage. It was a way for the youngest in the high school to, let’s say, come out of their shell. And they did.

So, the Retro Pic of the (George) Day literally honors the RFH Class of ’78 President Ward Tietz, who not only came out of his shell for the show, but wore a couple of shells like medals on his chest — coconut shells, in fact.

He agreed to join this editor (right) and her best buddy and don a hula skirt, flower headdress and coconut shell bikini top in the great ol’ stage tradition of doing anything for a laugh. Farce. He got those laughs, including many from his own co-stars, who even lost their own sailor hats and nearly fell over mid-song as he strutted and cried under his breath that the stinking shells were itchy and giving him a rash.

That’s our Honey Bun, in the tradition of belly laughs, RFH camaraderie and a tribute to friends and the power of a fun song from an old musical, South Pacific.

This number just never fails in any era — especially considering the star’s outfit.

Get a load of Honey Bun from an RFH stage in ’74!

RIP my best friend Stephanie DeSesa (left in photo). Thank you. I’m still laughing with you.  

Thank you, again, George Day, for preserving yet another priceless RFH memory!

An R-FH Area Vets Remembrance

Their faces are the faces at the core of a close-knit community.

They were neighbors, dads, and just plain friendly faces around the Rumson-Fair Haven area towns. They were also veterans.

They served. They fought for freedom in World War II and the Korean War.

They lived their lives with hometown pride, honor and respect. They were founding fathers, friends. They were cornerstones of the sense of community that is the Rumson-Fair Haven area.

The gift of their legacies bears no upscale real estate market value. They passed along a love of country and community that is priceless.

Thank you, on Veterans Day 2016, to the veterans of the area who have passed. You are cherished, honored.

Take a look at some of their faces and remember.

— Elaine Van Develde

— Photos, courtesy of families of the Rumson-Fair Haven area.

Retro Fair Haven Halloween Parading

It’s a longstanding tradition — the Fair Haven Halloween Parade.

I remember it well — from my first parade trek back in the late 1960s to the ’70s, 80s, 90s and now.

It all started at age 7 with a wish to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. That little dress-up fantasy was foiled when my mother couldn’t get the gingham outfit together, my pigtails were not so poised for the silver screen look and my sister refused to crawl down Hance Road as Toto. I guess it was bad enough that from the age of 3, she was forced by this pint-sized dominatrix 5-year-old Dorothy to crawl on a makeshift Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedia Yellow Brick Road to Oz in the living room.

Continue reading Retro Fair Haven Halloween Parading