Ten new inductees to the Westfield Hall of Fame were celebrated at a dinner held Wednesday evening at the Echo Lake Country Club, which was attended by nearly two hundred people.
The honorees, selected by a committee that included Wallace Brown, Sherry Cronin, Dr. William Foley, Roger Love, Lee Hale, Richard Elbert, Jane Francz, Michael LaPlace, Ed Wittke, Don Mokauer, Virginia Rorden and Lowell Shantz, were recognized and inducted by former Senator and Chief of Staff to Governor Chris Christie, Richard Bagger.
In a letter read by Bagger, the Governor described the inductees as having “demonstrated the highest qualities of achievement and character . . . and set standards for excellence in our community.”
The event was coordinated by Historical Society chairman Lee Hale, who commented that he is very pleased to have made the Hall of Fame not just a matter for the Historical Society alone, and hopes to make it a Westfield tradition.
Cronin noted, “Mr. Hale is a force of nature and has organized a beautiful event . . . It’s a wonderful tribute not only to the honorees, but to Mr. Hale and his ability. I know he’s been working very hard and I’m excited to see it all play out.”
A few opening words were given by Mayor Andy Skibitsky, thanking the Historical Society for doing a wonderful job of “keeping history alive.” He added that he is amazed by the town’s talents and how Westfielders share their talent and resources to help others: “If there’s a need in Westfield, Westfielders fill that need.” He concluded that, “We are blessed as a town to have people who are so caring . . . [the inductees] are truly deserving and role models to all of us.”
Superintendant of Westfield schools Dr. Margaret Dolan told Patch, “It is a great example of the strong community in Westfield and it’s great to see people who grew up and went to school [here] come back and celebrate.”
A number of other attendees also expressed their appreciation that Westfield recognizes its citizens who have made significant contributions to the town. “I think it’s great that Westfield can honor its citizens because they contribute so much to make Westfield the wonderful town that it is,” said Mary Orlando.
Councilman Keith Loughlin agreed, “It’s a pleasure to be here, and congratulations to the inductees. I think it’s a terrific event and showcases the best of the town.”
Each inductee’s recognition was prefaced by a brief musical piece performed by musicians from the Westfield Symphony Orchestra. The 2012 Westfield Hall of Fame Inductees are:
Robert Bauer – Mr. Bauer was founder/chairman of Electrical Installations Inc., founder of an Elizabeth semi-pro football team and once owner of a 10-horse stable of racers. The Bauers were major contributors to Cornell University, Overlook Hospital and the Broad Street branch of the Westfield Y. He stated, “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this, but it’s appreciated.” His granddaughter Kim Howell also said, “Westfield has always been important to my grandparents . . . my Grandpa’s two big loves are Westfield and Cornell and he’s really dedicated to his family.”
Grover Connell – A Columbia University graduate, Mr. Connell spent two years on a destroyer in World War II. Postwar he joined the family firm – Connell Rice and Sugar. The firm grew to be largest rice exporter in the world. In 1975 the company expanded into financial services and leasing and became one of the world’s largest companies.
Charles D. Clark (1753- 1821) – Mr. Clark operated a general store on the corner of Broad Street and South Avenue where important townspeople could discuss local and state politics. Charles was vice-president of New Jersey in the regime of Governor Bloomfield. In the late 1700’s, when the Governor was out of state, he assigned the state seal to Clark - making Westfield the capital of New Jersey, and making him the Governor! “It’s good to be back in Westfield,” he joked. “I’ve been gone for a long, long time.”
Robert L. Rooke (1891 – 1994) – Mr. Rooke was a compatriot of Charles Merrill in Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane in 1919. He was credited with exiting the market before the “crash.” The firm grew to be one of the top financial institutions in the world. He donated the Rooke Pool to the Westfield Y in 1928 and the Rooke Chapel and a chemistry building at Bucknell University. Mr. Hale described him as “an outstanding philanthropist . . . [and a] delightful person to know.”
Gerry Glasser – Mr. Glasser is an internationally recognized expert on sampling and data analysis. He was founder and chief executive officer of Statistical Research, which grew to be a major market research firm with 200 employees. He has been a major philanthropist through the Westfield Foundation, Imagine Greif Support, Overlook Medical Center, the Reeve History and Cultural Center and the Thomas Glasser Foundation, named for his son who lost his life in the attacks on 9/11. He is a WHS graduate of the class of 1949, and was the editor-in-chief of the Hi’s Eye as well as writing for the Westfield Leader. He also attended Washington and Franklin Elementary Schools and Roosevelt Intermediate. He noted that Westfield “means a great deal to me my entire life. I could go on and on about my love affair with [it] . . . WHS prepared me for the real world. I had many wonderful teachers there, many of whom I remember fondly . . . Thank you to my friends and family for being here tonight, which made it even more special.” Steve Stone, chairman of the Overlook Foundation expressed his appreciation for Glasser’s contributions. Additionally, Glasser was described by his friend Vincent Romano as being “A wonderful friend and professional.”
Sam Downer Jr. (1760-1848) – Mr. Downer was a developer. He operated an inn for travelers on the New York/Philadelphia stagecoach line. His store was a central market for bartering farm produce. He was an original investor in the Elizabeth Town/ Somerville Railway and the Bank of Elizabeth Town. Sam was a Revolutionary War hero at the Battle of Springfield. “I am honored to be granted the blessing of being inducted,” he stated.
Bill Clotworthy – Mr. Clotworthy joined NBC as a page. He then spent 20 years in Hollywood where he worked with Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Ronald Reagan. Later he returned to New York as the censor for the Cosby Show, Letterman, and Saturday Night Live. He described Westfield as “a wonderful place to grow up.” “But best of all,” he concluded, “I am an American citizen and a son of Westfield!”
Robert N. Buck (1914-2007) – Mr. Buck began a flying career in 1929 at age 15. He broke the junior intercontinental air speed record in 1930. He was TWA’s chief pilot. During WWII he flew international routes and did thunderstorm and weather research. He was awarded the Air Medal by President Harry Truman and was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame. Buck flew a B-17 and a P-61 into hurricanes for research purposes, brought back a twelve-inch cigar for President Hoover from a flight to Havana, Cuba, and at age sixteen flew from Newark to LA in a biplane with only seventy hours in the air. His cousin Robert Welch, an artist whose work has been showcased internationally expressed, “I’m glad to see him inducted because he is well-respected among pilots.”
Charles N. Codding (1866-1925) – Mr. Codding was the first sophisticated leader of Westfield. He graduated from Yale. He was president of the Westfield Athletic Club and president of the Central Jersey Baseball League. He was a state assemblyman and chairman of the Union County Republicans. He played a major role in the change to “town” government from “city” Government in 1901. “It’s a true pleasure and I’m happy to be here, but as a matter of fact, it’s a pleasure to be anywhere,” he said. Mr. Codding was active in Westfield’s opening of seven schools: Washington, McKinley, Grant, Elm, Roosevelt, and Franklin; “Apparently,” he commented, “all attended by Mr. Glasser.”
The McGinley Family – They are a football and business dynasty. Ed McGinley, 2nd, was an All-American at Penn and played for the NY Giants. Ed McGinley, 3rd, was an All-County tackle on the undefeated 1945 Westfield High School team. Rick McGinley was an All-State running back at WHS, scoring 46 touchdowns (still a school record). Gerry McGinley was an All- State end at WHS, and an All-American center at Penn State. Ed specifically wanted to thank their coach, Joe Freeman. All four McGinley’s had significant business careers. Mr. Ed McGinley III stated that he was greatly honored to be at the event and that he and his brothers felt like the stars of the evening. “We really love this town . . . we really believe it molded us into what we are.”
Clark, Downer and Codding were represented by members of the Westfield Community Players.