By Elaine Van Develde
It seemed to happen an awful lot in 2014 — the death of people whose faces and lives we’ve grown accustomed to being woven into the fabric of Rumson-Fair Haven area life.
There were times it seemed that the fine people manning the Fair Haven Firehouse marquee couldn’t even keep up. It’s the place in the area where the news of loss is often spread.
In 2014 it seemed that there were all too frequent tiny gasps and self-mutterings of “Oh, no!” as a ride by the firehouse revealed yet another passing. It all seemed to echo as yet another familiar face flashed and a memory was evoked.
We said it in the memorial tribute to Mimi Hughes. We, at Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect, are dedicated to remembering those who have passed.
Why? Because, as the line in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel put it, “As long as one person on Earth remembers you, it’s not over.”
Well, it’s not over for them or us. These people, in one way or another, contributed to life in the area and were part of our lives.
We honor them with a photo and a token of remembrance.
Take the journey with us …
George Giffin, 85, longtime RFH science teacher and dance instructor extraordinaire, May 15
This true area icon could get Attila the Hun to crack a smile.
The man, known for his true appreciation of dance, would pretty much break into a routine wherever he was.
This editor ran into him a couple of times in the recent past — at the Fair Haven centennial and Fairwinds Deli in Fair Haven.
He never forgot a face, either. He knew who I was from 30-something years past in high school when he taught me ballroom dance and I was abysmal.
I asked him then what advice he had for the many teens he taught to dance. He told me he still made appearances at RFH grads’ and their kids’ weddings to get them through the festivities with his special blend of dance instruction.
His motto, he said at the time: “When you get that beat, you gotta move your feet.”
Keep dancing, Mr. Giffin, and rest in peace when and if you take a break.
Pat Topfer, 77, Fair Haven, Oct. 26
Pat, also known in the past as Mrs. Cook, was a 52-year resident of Fair Haven and an 50-year Fair Haven Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary member.
She always had a great smile and zest for life. Her daughters, all RFH grads, inherited her beautiful face and smile.
She shared many a crumb cake and cup of coffee with this editor’s mom. Many years past my teens, she saw me at Marine Park in Red Bank. I was pregnant with my son. She gushed with joy and support and insisted upon snapping a picture of my friend and me. She made sure she got it to me. I still have it — that any many good memories of her friendly demeanor and smile.
Last I saw Pat, she was at the Fair Haven centennial celebration, gussied up in festive red, white and blue sparkles for the occasion.
She was more than happy to pose for my photo of her as a longtime, proud Fair Havenite.
Rest in Peace, Pat.
Lois Brett, formerly of Fair Haven, longtime teacher, Oct. 29
Lois Brett was a teacher in the Fair Haven School District for many years.
The daughter of Lester and Esther England, she graduated from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. “She refused to limit her teaching to the classroom, but rather passed on her knowledge, wisdom, and joy of life, learning, love, and knitting to all those she knew however briefly,” according to her obituary.
Mrs. Brett was a friend of my mom’s. She was known for her kind nature and knack for making those Christmas cookies. There was nary a Christmas in our house without some of Lois Brett’s cookies.
Rest in peace, Lois Brett.
Mary Welling Hunnewell, 54, RFH graduate, Class of 1978, Oct. 17
Mary was a gymnast, equestrian, skier, and just all-around nice girl.
She grew up in Fair Haven and graduated from RFH. She had a soft voice, tiny stature and gentle demeanor.
As high school friend Devon Martin put it, “We shared many great times between Gillespie and DeNormandie…on my dad’s little sunfish…having to be rescued! Through middle school and high school. Gymnastics. She was a sweet, kind, generous and beautiful person. I am glad to have been her friend. She will truly be missed on this earth.”
Rest in peace, Mary.
Nina DeSesa, 88, formerly of Fair Haven, Nov. 23
Nina and her husband Michael raised their family, children Blaise and Stephanie, in Fair Haven.
Both were Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School graduates. Stephanie died unexpectedly in 2011 at 50. In the interest of full disclosure, she was this editor’s best friend.
Nina, known lovingly as “the bull” to friends, was a force to be reckoned with when it came to her family and convictions. She was also pretty darn funny and astute.
She loved the opera, her husband and children more than anything in life.
Many saw Nina as quite a stern character, nonetheless fabulous cook, with a mission to play Bridge and MaJong. But, she was much more than that.
She had a great heart. This is my chance to say thank you to a woman who, though many times criticized me mercilessly, was always there for her daughter and me — front and center at both my parents’ funerals.
I have a few things to say to Nina:
Thank you for that artichoke pie, the best baby shower ever, the beautiful blanket you knitted for Cole, all the fabulous dinners and trips into the city to cool out-of-the-way restaurants, the scoldings, that Gilbert O’Sullivan sweater you knitted for Steph (that we fought over).
And, most of all, thank you, Nina, for moving to Fair Haven in 1967 and bringing Steph into my life. I hope you are together again. Oh, and … Step away from the stuffed stork!
Rest in peace, Nina DeSesa.
Silvio Fabbri, 59, owner of Fair Haven’s Umberto’s and friend to many, Nov. 26
This icon, known for his incredible memory and own brand of love for each and every one of his customers, could be seen tossing pizza dough, chatting with the kids, chiding them with a wink, and telling people to “hanga loose.”
Fabbri died very suddenly; and his death saddened a community very accustomed to hearing his anecdotes and knowing that he knew who they were, what was going on in their lives and what they liked to eat.
It could be months that Silvio didn’t see you, yet he’d remember everything about you when you walked in the door.
I got yelled at for not coming around enough, but he remembered my favorite special sub.
Rest in peace, Silvio, and “hanga loose.”
Fair Haven Councilman Jerome Koch, 63, Nov. 30
Jerome Koch died as the result of a tragic Nov. 29 bicycle accident on River Road in Fair Haven.
Koch was known for his sardonic wit and keen sense of humor while sitting on the dais of the Fair Haven Borough Council for nine years.
On Nov. 29, the councilman took what was described by Mayor Ben Lucarelli as his characteristic bike ride around town. The mayor, an avid cyclist, was out for a ride that day as well. He said that when he had passed Koch, he was doing his customary scouting for errant garbage and tidying up.
Not much longer after that, the councilman was hit by a car not too far from his home on River Road and flown to Jersey Shore Medical Center Trauma Unit. He remained in the hospital’s intensive care unit and, sadly, died the next day.
Rest in peace, Councilman Koch.
Mimi Hughes, 83, Rumson resident and 26-year RFH English teacher
Mimi Hughes, who taught English at RFH for 26 years and acted and sang in many a production in the area, died on Dec. 20 surrounded by her loving family.
This is a tough one for this editor. Mrs. Hughes and her family were like family.
Take a look at our tribute to Mrs. Hughes by clicking here.
John Kondrup, 93, 67-year Rumson resident, Rumson First Aid, Oceanic Fire Company and borough mechanic, Sept. 18
A World War II U.S. Army vet, Kondrup made Rumson his home for 67 years.
In addition to all of his volunteer service to Rumson, he was known for his bright smile, bike riding around town, and his prideful vegetable gardening.
Rest in peace, John.
Craig Bahrs, 45, deputy police chief in Middletown, K-9 officer, Dec. 1
Craig Bahrs did not live in Rumson or Fair Haven. He, however, was well known and respected in his role as a policeman and K-9 officer in Middletown.
He had a sincere smile and gentle demeanor.
Rest in peace, Craig.
If there’s anyone we have somehow forgotten, please feel free to send us a message and photo at firstname.lastname@example.org.