Retro Belly-Up to an Iconic Sea Bright Bar

The 1970s scene at Sail Inn/Melodie’s Corner in Sea Bright
Photo/collection of Ron Heinzman, courtesy of family

Whoopie! That’s just what the former owner of the iconic Sail Inn and Melody Corner (same place) in Sea Bright would say to this belly-up scene at his bar from the 1970s.

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Prosecutor: 30-Year-Old Arrested on Attempted Murder Charges in 2019 Shooting

A 30-year-old area man has been arrested and charged for his role in a 2019 Asbury Park shooting, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.

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Prosecutor: County Corrections Officer Facing Shoplifting Charges

A Monmouth County Corrections officer is facing criminal charges after allegedly shoplifting in West Long Branch, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.

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Scene Around: Icons’ Teaching Moment

Retired Fair Haven teachers Eileen Kubaitis, Bonnie Crotty and Pat Egan reunited
Photo/courtesy of Eileen Kubaitis

Call it a teaching moment. It was the moment that three retired iconic Fair Haven teachers who kept a close friendship going for years were reunited after a long COVID-19 quarantine time.

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Fish Mortality Story: The FAQ from NJDEP

In response to Clean Ocean Action’s push on the state and federal levels for answers and solutions to the abundant menhaden, or bunker fish, die off along the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued the following released statement and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers …

Photo/Elaine Van Develde 2017

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) continues to investigate large menhaden die-offs impacting the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers of Monmouth County.

These mortality events appear to be only affecting Atlantic Menhaden, also known as bunker, an extremely abundant member of the herring family primarily harvested for bait and non-food commercial purposes. Similar largescale die-offs have been reported since the fall in coastal areas from Rhode Island to New Jersey. 

Tests by the Division of Fish and Wildlife indicate that the bacterium causing these mortalities is Vibrio anguillarum, one of numerous Vibrio species that commonly occur in marine and estuarine environments.

The DEP continues to work on better understanding the disease caused by this Vibrio infection in bunker and is working with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and other states in the region to better understand these mortalities.

Bunker appear to be the only species impacted at this time and it is believed that they may be more susceptible to the impacts of this bacterium. This is likely driven by stressors present during the spring, including fluctuating water temperatures which may suppress the fish’s immune system combined with the abundance and dense schooling nature of these fish, which enhances transmission of the bacterium. 

Menhaden are typically not eaten by people or fished recreationally. There is no indication that any other fish, shellfish, bird or wildlife species are being impacted by this bacterium. It is safe to continue eating other species of fish that prey on menhaden. However, it is always advised to properly cook all fish or shellfish before consuming and to never collect and consume dead fish or any that appear ill.

This bacterium is generally not known to be harmful to humans. However, contact with water in areas where fish die-offs are occurring should be avoided as a precaution. Handling of dead or unhealthy appearing fish should be avoided, including collecting for bait. If handling is necessary for disposal purposes, wear appropriate protection, including gloves. 

Menhaden die-offs are expected to continue in the near term. The DEP will continue to provide information to local governments as appropriate and provide any public advice or advisories as necessary. The fish will naturally decompose and become part of the nutrient cycle in affected waterways. Local governments, at their discretion may remove fish from their riverbanks.

To report a fish die-off, contact the DEP’s hotline at 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).

Photo/Elaine Van Develde 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

Since the fall, New Jersey has seen large numbers of mortalities of menhaden in coastal areas. What is causing the fish kills? 
This mortality has been observed to only affect Atlantic Menhaden (bunker). Based on necropsy and laboratory testing, the fish are infected with a bacterium known as Vibrio anguillarum, which causes the disease known as vibriosis. The DEP is continuing with research to characterize this bacterium and the disease it is causing in the bunker. Histopathology and microbiological testing demonstrated that this bacterium is causing a systemic infection impacting multiple organs of the fish, including the brain. Bacterial infection of the brain and its associated damage is most likely causing the neurologic signs observed in the fish.

These neurologic signs can be seen as fish circling at the surface, swimming erratically or uncontrolled, and sometimes lethargic and unresponsive to stimuli. V. anguillarum is a common bacterium found in marine environments and outbreaks with the disease can be the result of other factors that may stress or compromise the immune system of the fish. In the spring and fall when these mortalities occur, fluctuating water temperatures may play a role in making fish more vulnerable to infection. The abundance and dense-schooling nature of bunker also enhance the transmission of the bacterium. 

Where are the fish kills occurring? 
In New Jersey, reports of the fish kills have come primarily from the Raritan Bay area, including the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers. However, in the fall of 2020, reports of menhaden fish kills were reported in every state from New Jersey to Rhode Island, inclusive. Pathology tests were not conducted for all reported fish kills, but the timing of the kills and similarity of symptoms reported from kills throughout the region suggest they were all likely related. 

What are possible effects on other species of fish and wildlife? 
The mortality events have thus far only been documented in Atlantic Menhaden. No other fish or wildlife species have been documented to be affected by these mortality events. V. anguillarum has been reported in the literature to cause vibriosis in a variety of marine finfish (including but not limited to salmonids, Striped Bass, Winter Flounder, and Atlantic Cod), shellfish (including but not limited to hard clams and oysters), and crustaceans (including lobsters and shrimp).

Though this bacterium is often an opportunistic pathogen in a wide range of marine species, these mortality events have thus far only impacted Atlantic Menhaden. This may be related to a number of factors including susceptibility of fish species to the bacterium, bacterial transmission factors that may be enhanced in dense schooling fish such as Atlantic Menhaden, and that Atlantic Menhaden may be particularly sensitive to some environmental stressors, such as fluctuating water temperatures. At this time, since no other species have been observed impacted, we do not believe that other fish and wildlife are being impacted. 

What are the possible effects on humans? 
Generally, V. anguillarum is a pathogen causing vibriosis in a wide range of marine finfish, shellfish and crustaceans. Though there are rare reports of V. anguillarum infecting humans, particularly when immunocompromised, this bacterium is generally not known to be pathogenic to humans. During bacterial epizootics in Atlantic Menhaden, it is likely that fish with vibriosis are shedding bacteria into the surrounding water.

It is recommended that the public avoids handling the dead or diseased fish. If the fish must be handled for disposal, then proper protective equipment, such as gloves should be worn. Diseased or dead fish should not be consumed by humans and these fish should not be handled to be utilized as bait for other marine species. 

What are the possible effects on the menhaden population? 
Atlantic Menhaden is an abundant species that ranges between Nova Scotia, Canada and northern Florida. A recent stock assessment conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) reports that total biomass of the Atlantic Menhaden stock is over 4.5 million metric tons (, or approximately 10 billion pounds.

Although the number of fish seen washing up on area beaches and waterways may appear alarming, the impact to the population as a whole has so far been negligible. The population model explicitly accounts for all sources of mortality, both natural (such as fish kills) and harvest. Menhaden mortalities have been reported as near annual events in the spring since the 1950s, though the numbers of fish impacted varies from year to year. The next stock assessment is scheduled to be conducted in 2022 and will incorporate information gathered from the ongoing mortality event.

What is DEP doing to monitor the situation? 
Since the fall of 2020, DEP staff have responded to many calls regarding fish kills with visual inspection of the sites and collection of samples for pathology testing. In addition, NJDEP is working with other states and ASMFC to track the duration and magnitude of these events on a regional scale. If you see a fish kill and wish to report it, you should contact 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6332). 

NJDEP has deployed three continuous monitoring buoys in the Raritan Bay/Two Rivers area. These monitoring buoys collect water quality data for numerous parameters including dissolved oxygen and temperature. The buoys are deployed from May through October. The data collected may provide insight to the stressors and environmental factors impacting menhaden. One buoy is located in the Navesink River east of the Rt 35 bridge, the other two are in Keansburg and Keyport. The buoys should be in the water by mid- to late May and transmitting data to our continuous monitoring web page:

What should I do (or not do) and who should I contact if I see a fish kill? 
Generally, the bacterium affecting the menhaden is pathogenic to marine finfish, shellfish, and crustaceans. As with any wildlife, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recommends people do not handle, collect, or consume any dead fish or those showing signs of disease. If you see a fish kill, please contact the DEP at 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6332).

Will rising temps make this situation improve or get worse? 
Water temperature is an important factor in the ecology of disease in aquatic species. The efficiency of a fish’s immune system is temperature-dependent and oftentimes cold-water temperatures will suppress a fish’s immune system. Unlike mammals, fish are poikilotherms, meaning their body temperature fluctuates with the external water temperatures.

In the fall and spring when water temperatures fluctuate, this may be an important stress factor that makes fish more susceptible to disease in these seasons. V. anguillarum has been reported in the literature to be most common in late summer and early fall when water temperatures are elevated.

This is not consistent with observations we see in Atlantic Menhaden when these outbreaks are occurring during colder water temperatures. It is hard to say if warmer water temperatures will worsen the impact of this bacterium in the fish population, but it is suspected that if there are wider temperature swings during the fall and spring, then this could worsen the impact of these mortality events. 

Will concerns cited in the past like oxygen depletion compound the problem? 
Low dissolved oxygen is a significant stressor to fish populations. Atlantic Menhaden are a highly active species and the high metabolism related to this activity makes them sensitive to low dissolved oxygen. To date, vibriosis-related mortality events have been associated with cool water which holds relatively more oxygen than warm water does.

Atlantic Menhaden mortality events linked to depleted dissolved oxygen occur most frequently in the summer months, though heavy congregation of menhaden schools in smaller and/or poorly flushing estuaries during any time of year may cause depleted dissolved oxygen and mortality. If dissolved oxygen is depressed to sub-lethal levels, then this will likely be an additional stress factor to Atlantic Menhaden that can make them more vulnerable to opportunistic infections, such as vibriosis. 

Is it possible the bacteria is more prevalent based on local population densities? 
Atlantic Menhaden form large, dense schools which facilitate the transmission of disease among individuals. This bacterium is likely spread between fish through the water. It is suspected that fish with clinical vibriosis are shedding large amounts of the bacterium. It is possible that some fish are persisting in our region during the cooler months instead of migrating to southern or offshore waters. This may expose fish to cooler water and larger temperature swings, which could suppress the fish’s immune system and leave them more vulnerable to opportunistic bacterial infections. 

Will the decomposing fish affect water quality locally? 
Fish kills occur naturally and generally do not cause any long-term effects on water quality. However, in the short term, it is recommended that bathers avoid swimming, surfing, etc. in areas of active fish kills. Anyone entering the water in an affected area should wash exposed skin and clothing thoroughly with soap and water after contact with the water. The NJ Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring has been informed of the fish kills and is working in conjunction with Fish & Wildlife to analyze potential stressors which may impact the menhaden as well as monitoring water quality.

New Jersey’s beach program partners with the NJ Department of Health, County and local Health Departments to monitor recreational bathing beaches. NJ beaches typically open on Memorial Day and begin preseason testing two weeks prior. There are no recreational bathing beaches on the Navesink or Shrewsbury Rivers, but there are recreational bathing beaches on Raritan Bay. Pathogen testing will occur prior to opening bathing beaches to ensure water quality is within recreational bathing standards and safe for primary contact. Information and beach monitoring data is available at

Who is responsible for cleaning up areas and disposing of fish? 
Small to moderate sized fish kills generally take care of themselves over time, through scavenging by birds, fish, crabs, and other wildlife, and by fish washing out with the tide. Larger fish kills, or areas with low flushing rates where fish may accumulate or persist longer, such as lagoons and marinas, will also eventually clear up if left alone. However, this natural process takes time and may result in aesthetic impacts.

If residents, businesses, or local officials are concerned about possible impacts, the property owner or municipality may take steps to remove the dead fish from the beach and surrounding areas. Residents and business owners should take necessary precautions to limit contact, by wearing protective equipment such as boots and gloves if collecting fish. Fish may be bagged and discarded with other refuse. The DEP is continuing to discuss and work with local government officials on more scaled clean up options. Questions regarding disposal may be directed to the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste at 609-633-1418.

Can you expand on other partnering organizations who are assisting with the research? 
The DEP continues to coordinate with the New Jersey Department of Health. Further, New Jersey has been in regular contact with staff from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regarding fish kills in shared waters of the Raritan Bay, and is cooperating with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission who are coordinating a multistate effort to monitor the situation on a regional level.

Staff from the Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics have also been collaborating with partners from numerous fish health laboratories, such as Cornell University and the US Geological Service to identify and research the underlying cause of mortality. 

Have other species been reported affected? 
V. anguillarum has been observed in other species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans in both wild environments and aquaculture systems. However, at this time, there is no indication that other species are being affected during this mortality event.

Is it safe to eat other fish who may have eaten menhaden affected by the bacteria? 
There is no indication that other fish species are being impacted by this mortality event. It is advised to always avoid eating any fish that shows obvious disease signs and to cook your fish thoroughly before consumption. If following these guidelines, then it is safe to consume the fish.

Retro Tykes’ River Time

Fair Haven river dwellers of the Drake family
Photo/courtesy of Robin Drake Fitch

Quality river time. It’s a rite of passage for any Rumson-Fair Haven area kid.

When the spring air hits, the banks of the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers call to kids like mythological Sirens. And they borough themselves in the sand and tides like hermit crabs.

Some are River Rats learning the sailing ropes. Some kayakers. Some canoe. Some are dock jumpers (don’t tell). Some are strollers, loungers and observers. And some are just happy to hitch a ride with that tide.

In this case, the boat hitching tykes date back to the 1960s in Fair Haven. It’s the Drake family … and friends … and family. One thing’s for sure. This is evidence of the well-known fact that the love of the river time doesn’t change with age. And for those Rumson- and Fair Haven-raised kids, the river always beckons them home. The Drakes always find their way home.

The irreplaceable river love started for most anyone from the area with a millions of moments like this.

Just what they were up to in going with that 1960s tide is a mystery. Crabbing? Taking a dive? Dropping a paddle? Wait. No topsiders? There’s an unmistakeable mischievous look of pure happiness going on here.

It’s pretty typical of the R-FH area kid doing that cherished river adventure or misadventure.

Your favorite river misadventure? Ever capsize and come up flush with jellyfish and seaweed? How about a picnic gone awry? Doritos for the birds? Do tell.

See ya down by the river …

And thanks to Robin Drake Fitch for this classic look back!

Childhood Time Capsule: Fair Haven Fiona & Our Secret Club

“Once there was a way to get back homeward. Once there was a way to get back home … “

Golden Slumbers ~ Paul McCartney & John Lennon

There’s always a way. And for childhood friends, the way is always niched in those time-capsuled moments, until the capsule cracks …

“There is a crack in everything,” musician/writer Leonard Cohen said. “That’s how the light gets in.” The jarring news that childhood friend Fiona Wilson Phillips had died brought me back home with a jolt — a jolt that gaped the time capsule fissure, light seeping through. She had gone there, too, in snippets of her own light. It was all we needed — all any childhood friend needs with that sort of shake-up. The light brings a smile, warmth. Going back home nourishes the soul, after all. If only for a moment.

The truth was that we hadn’t stayed in touch, but we always had our after-school fourth grade club. It wasn’t Paris. It was better. And when we’d see one another at reunions, we’d smile, say the name of our secret kid society out loud and flash back. Our secret. Our way to get back home. Another truth, though, is that we were always there. I think she might like it if I bring her husband and son back to that place from which she came — the club. They’d never been there. It was a secret, after all.

Kid moments. Secrets. The place to which only a few had gone. The places, times we remember, if only for a bright, colorful, warm second. Often people pay no mind to them — the memories. They should. Everyone’s had them. We had ours. The light shines on them.

The pin spotlight veers through those cracks to this …

I don’t know if it was Paul McCartney, the frozen M&Ms or just the kid connection in the random fandom. I do know that one piece of each day from those weekly meetings of the unofficial Paul McCartney Four club (PM4) of 1969 is embedded in my memory like little slivers of glass chards, each having its place in a delicate crystal jigsaw capsule now cracked, a bit shattered. Slivers scattered, stuck, making way to let that light in.

Once those reflective pieces are stuck, they can no longer be broken. They shine. When one person leaves, each splinter stings with the movement away. Fiona had left the Earth, never the club. I certainly hadn’t thought about the PM4 club every day.

I remembered, though — four 9-year-olds deciding to celebrate Paul McCartney as their favorite Beatle weekly with frozen M&Ms, soda, drooling and dancing in one’s living room. It was me, Carolyn, Anne and Fiona.

I can’t even remember why it was Paul McCartney who united us for those weekly meetings and M&Ms, but, for some reason, we chose to grow up in that way together — at that time. I don’t know how it ended up being us four either.

But it was. We were all in Miss Sloane’s fourth grade class at Knollwood in Fair Haven, of course. We thought she was cool. We thought we were cool. She liked us. We were a little obsessed with our young, groovy teacher. We four walked into Red Bank (imagine that, helicopter moms of today!) to “pop in” on her at her apartment. She really must have thought we were a band of nutty little freaks.

But I digress …

We had bonded over our inadvertent stalking of Miss Sloan. When she got married and was expecting a baby, we had to find another target. Somehow, maybe in a conversation on Sportsman’s Field, we decided that we all loved Paul McCartney. What I or any of the four have no recollection of, however, is why it was Paul and not John or even Ringo. No matter. We had bonded over it. We made a pact to meet once a week. And somehow we decided that Ann would be sure to get the M&Ms in the freezer for our meeting day. They were our decided delicacy.

We would meet at Fiona’s on Grange Walk and walk over to Ann’s on Laury. I had no den in my house, so that was out for meetings. Carolyn had a cool house on River Road, but there were too many kids sure to bust up our secret meetings. Ann’s house was by the pond. No one was ever home — or at least we thought not.

We listened to the Beatles, or mostly Paul, because that was our club purpose. We jumped up and down and danced to When I Saw Her Standing There and I Wanna Hold Your Hand — WOOOOOOO!

We swayed and popped M&Ms to The Long and Winding Road, Yesterday and giggled like Gremlin hyenas over You Know My Name. We never knew what to make of that. Way ahead of our pre-teeny bop minds.

We thought, for sure, though, that one of us would marry Paul. Don’t you just love how fine it is for kids to be completely delusional? Still, we secretly waited for one another’s wedding invite.

The memories are static — crackling, jumbled, fuzzy. One thing that’s vivid, though is the light that shone through those cracks, the sound of the laughter, the smiles on those little faces. We were happy. So happy over a bag of M&Ms, Paul and time together. Remembered.

So, for Fiona’s sake, honor your connections to home. Find a way to get back homeward. Let that light in. Stay there for a minute and smile.

Fiona’s high school yearbook quote was “After all, it’s only a weed that turns into a flower in your mind.” ~ Thomas Benton.

Later in life, I learned, she loved Leonard Cohen, who wrote about the cracks. Ironic. But what about Paul?? No mind. He’s still there somewhere. Now and then come together today … Cohen says those cracks let the light in. The light turns that deeply-rooted weed into a flower. Soak up the light in the secret club of your youth … Rest In Peace, Fiona. Thanks for the clubbing, the dance and the sweet.

More about Fiona Lynne Wilson Phillips …

Fiona Lynne Wilson Phillips passed away on Jan. 30 in the comfort and care of her husband and family after a battle with colorectal cancer.  

Fiona grew up in Fair Haven, the daughter of James and Sybil Wilson, who still live in their home there. 

She loved coming home …

“Fiona enjoyed returning to New Jersey to visit family and friends and attended several RFH high school reunions, including her 40th reunion held in August 2018 in Sea Bright,” her family said in her obituary.   

A Fair Haven-raised girl, Fiona, of course, attended Knollwood and what was Willow Street elementary and middle schools and graduated from Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) in 1978.  

After high school, Fiona joined the US Army for a four-year assignment and was stationed in Alabama, Texas, California, and Germany during her service.

Following completion of her military duty, Fiona went on to train in the beauty/aesthetics industry completing advanced training and certifications in cosmetology, makeup, and hair. She based herself in on the west coast and honed her skills in various assignments in professional makeup, hair and wardrobe styling in the entertainment industry.  

“Known for her esthetics expertise and excellent ability to connect with people, Fiona spent over 20 years at Barney’s New York, Beverly Hills, as top performing sales professional in cosmetics, skin care, and home fragrance. 
With a keen eye, vivid imagination, and the ability to envision the end product, Fiona was gifted in creating things, whether artwork, a stylish outfit, or home décor. She leveraged these skills professionally and personally, enjoying decorating her home in the Los Angeles suburbs by creating unique designs from carefully curated items at the local thrift and discount stores.
Fiona enjoyed exploring and taking weekend excursions with her husband, James. She filled the 61 years she was given with gusto and was proud of her Scottish heritage. Her son, Boris, was a constant source of pride and joy.” 

Loved ones of Fiona Wilson Phillips in her obituary

Fiona is survived by: her husband, James Phillips; her son, Boris; her step-sons, Cary and Colin; her sister, Jennifer Jaskowiak; sisters-in-law, Jenny Wilson and Margaret Clayton; parents, James and Sybil Wilson; nieces and nephews, Madeline, Gavin, Sophie, and Kelli; and extended family and friends across the U.S. and internationally.  

Fiona was predeceased by her brother, David Wilson.   

A private military funeral honors service will be held at California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Seaside, CA.  

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation in Fiona’s memory to your local Veterans association or City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, CA.  

Retro RFH Girls Playing Ball

RFH Girls Baseball circa late 70s/early 80s
Photo/RFH Yearbook via Phrita Black Norris

We’ve been talking a good game of baseball lately. Everyone has. It’s the season, after all. And, looking back, decades back, it’s been all about the boys.

That’s because it was a guy’s game decades ago. There was one girl on the RFH team. She was a pioneer. Then the girls got their own team.

That was in the late 70s or early 80s. We’re not sure of the exact year.

But, it’s time we say, “Let’s hear it for the girls!”

So, take a gander back at an RFH girls’ baseball team and coach.

Know these ladies? We spy one from Fair Haven. The coach?

Prosecutor: Teens Sentenced to Combined 15 Years in Newborn Killing

Two teens who pleaded guilty to a March 2019 infanticide in Neptune Township have been sentenced to a combined 15 years in prison, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.

Continue reading Prosecutor: Teens Sentenced to Combined 15 Years in Newborn Killing