John was born on June 3, 1958 and moved to West Orange in 1967. He was educated in the public schools graduating from West Orange Mountain in 1976. John was involved in the community as a member of the Bicentennial Committee and a Mountain Top League Coach. He served as an L.B.J. Congressional Intern for two summers in the Washington DC offices of the Honorable Joseph G. Minish. John graduated cum laude from Muhlenberg in 1980 continuing his education at Seton Hall School of Law earning a J.D. in 1983. Following a judicial clerkship in JM Superior Court he joined the predecessor firm of what is now Hardin, Kundla, McKeon and Poletto a 50 attorney litigation firm with offices in Springfield NJ, NY and Pennsylvania. John is a senior partner with the firm, designated by the Supreme Court as a Certified Civil Trial Attorney and has been fortunate through the years to be recognized by his peers as Young Lawyer of the Year by the State Bar Association and a Top 100 Litigator by New Jersey Monthly.
After serving for 3 years as a counsel for the W.O. Board of Adjustments John was elected to the Township Council in 1992 twice serving as President as Chairman of Joint Meeting, a p[position he resigned when elected Mayor in 1998. He served for 3 terms as mayor retiring in 2010. The highlights through those years included founding a Downtown Charity race which is in its 21st year, partnering with the education community seeing the schools facilities, athletic fields and parks become the best in the state, sponsoring a variety of Art projects as a source of community pride, seeing the business and religious communities invest millions in the township and preserving hundreds of acres of open space. The crime rate was cut in half, commuter shuttles along with a number of public private partnerships began and he was even able to host a weekly cable show highlighting accomplished citizens. Although there will always be those who could disagree on policy the greatest source of pride in service was the administrations reputation for honesty and integrity.
In 2004 John was elected to the NJ general Assembly and is currently serving his 6th term. John has served in a variety of capacities including Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee on the Environment. He is the prime sponsor of the Highlands Preservation Act recognized as the most significant environmental law in a generation protecting thousands of acres to preserve affordable drinking water for more than half of our states population. His political life began as a volunteer on one of the first campaigns of Governor Richard J. Codey, a former Grand Marshal of the WO Parade. John is proud to call Mayor Robert Parisi a dear friend who played the most critical role in any success regarding John’s Township endeavors.
John is the eldest son of John and Anita McKeon. His siblings Marilee, Alfred and Alba are all WO public school graduates. John will soon be married for 30 years to his wife Ann, an attorney. They are the proud parents of 3 daughters, Lacey, Melissa and Jaclyn all WO High graduates who contributed to their school communities in many ways. John grandfather, John “Jack” McKeon, Sr. emigrated from Ireland at age 3 with his mother Ann McNulty. She passed shortly after their arrival he was raised in an n orphanage in Newark. When he married at age 18 into a large Italian family he took great pride in being the Irish brother in a law, a pride in Irish heritage he passed to his grandchildren. John can recall seeing him march in St. Patrick’s Day parades with the Knights of Columbus and is certain he would take great pride as would his father knowing he is Grand Marshal.
Circa 1990 with the encouragement of Jack Sayers, Kevin Dillon and Fran McEnerney, John become involved with the West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and has remained so ever since. John has been co-hosting the Parade Comcast cable coverage for 25 years and serves as the Committee’s Parliamentarian. He is affiliated with the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick having been honored as their young Irishman as well as served as their principal speaker at the March 17th celebration of Irish pride. He also has coordinated the State Legislatures, public ceremony honoring the Grand Marshals and Deputies from around the State.
Barbara’s Irish roots are long established in Essex County. A fifth generation member of the Hughes Clan, she was born and raised in Montclair. She is the daughter of the late Paul Hughes and Barbara Flanagan Hughes of Montclair. She is the great granddaughter of Annie McDonald who came to Montclair an infant from Roscommon in 1852. Her great grandfather William Hughes came to Montclair in 1867 from Ballymoran, County Armagh and her mother Barbara Hughes, hails from the Queen of Peace Parish in North Arlington and also has a rich Irish heritage tracing her roots back to Roscommon and Fermanagh, County Ulster. She is the sister of Elizabeth Hughes of Belleville and the late Quinn Hughes. She will be the godmother to the newest member of the seventh generation Hughes Family to be baptized at Immaculate Conception Church, Montclair.
Barbara, following the footsteps of her father, uncles and many cousins, attended Immaculate Conception grammar and high schools in Montclair before obtaining a degree in fashion marking and retail management from Berkeley College. After 12 years working in New York City’s Garment Center for various dress manufacturers as a piece goods and trim buyer and production manager, Barbara returned to New Jersey to pursue a career in real estate. A licensed realtor since 1997, Barbara is currently working out of Re/MAXX Village Square Realtors in Upper Montclair, since 2004. In 2009, she was named “Realtor of the Year” by the West Essex Board of Realtors. Barbara has also been awarded the Re/Maxx Village Square Community Service award twice since joining the company. Barbara also has earned many designations in her field: Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR), Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES); Short Sale and Foreclosure Specialist (SFR); GREEN, ePRO and 203(k) Specialist.
She has helped to coordinate various different projects including : Operation DVD, a Bake for Hope bake sale (breast cancer fundraising event) , arranging to bring Christmas meals and Santa to local needy families every Christmas as well as helping to design and build the company parade float for the Montclair 4th of July Parade. The “There’s No Place Like Home”) theme was awarded 3rd place in the Parade Float competition in 2012.
Barbara is very active the community. She was inducted as a member of the Immaculate Conception High School Hall of Fame in 2011. She is I.C.H.S. Blue Lion Club, Club Secretary, and the Immaculate Conception High School Montclair Alumni and parents group supporting athletics; organize and runs football concessions. ICHS Annual Walt Connell Golf Tournament committee, Eddie Mal Association member since 2002. Barbara has been a member of the One Hundred Club of Montclair since 2009, Board of Trustees. She is a 2002 Celtic Sisters of West Orange member and a 12 Miles West Theater committee member since 2002-2009. She has been a St. Baldrick’s volunteer since 2008 and a “Shavee in 2009”. Barbara also volunteers for the Zimms’s Fund and chairs the Montclair 4th of July Parade Fundraising Committee. Most recently, Barbara was a committee member for “Restore the Shore” fundraising event to restore the Jersey Shore after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Barbara is honored to represent her Irish heritage as Deputy Grand Marshal of the West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade and looks forward to sharing her love and enthusiasm for the homeland of her ancestors!
Deputy Grand Marshal ~ Michael Merwin
Mike Merwin was born in Kittery, Maine on May 30, 1956 at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. His father Francis Merwin and mother Barbara moved to Orange, then West Orange, in 1967. The Merwins lived on Watchung Avenue. Mike attended Edison Junior High and graduated from West Orange Mountain High School in 1974.
Mike worked at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange until 1984 when he became a postal worker in the Orange/West Orange Post Office. In 1988 he joined the West Orange Fire Department where he received numerous commendations and awards. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1999 and retired in 2011. Mike is currently working at the Star Tavern and The Harrison Avenue Tavern.
Mike married Debra DeSandis of West Orange in 1988. Together they bought their first home on Forest Hill Road in West Orange where they lived until 1996. They are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, Samantha and Ashley. Mike's heritage began in Ireland where his great grandfather George Washington Compton was born and raised until he emigrated to the United Sates. He met his wife, Mike's great grandmother Elizabeth Daly. Together they moved to Chatham and raised their family. Mike's grandparents, Frank and Margaret Merwin, lived in Orange raising eleven children.
Mike marched in his first West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1987 as an aid to Deputy Grand Marshal George Quigley and has marched in every parade since, mostly with the West Orange Fire Department. In 2000, Mike was Chief of Staff to Grand Marshal Darren Dangler and has worked closely with Darren and his wife Mel on Parade Day for the last twenty years at the annual charity fundraiser at Dangler Funeral Home. This event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the West Orange PAL.
Mike is a member of the West Orange Elks, the Essex County Shillelaghs, the Essex County Emerald Society and a fourth degree member of the West Orange Knights of the Columbus. In 2011, Mike was inducted into the Colgate Field Oldtimers Hall of Fame.