Barbara Hollingsworth, the daughter of long-time Guttenberg public servant and former Mayor Robert Sabello, was asked last week how her father should best be remembered.
“There was a quality about him that you just don’t find,” Hollingsworth said of Sabello, who died Tuesday in the Veterans Nursing Home in Paramus at the age of 88 after a three-year illness.
“He was a straight shooter,” she said. “You knew where you stood with him. My father should be remembered for the quality of his loyalty. During his time, he saw three of his former councilmen run against him for mayor, but he was still loyal to everyone. That’s what I remember the most, the quality of his loyalty.”
Bob Sabello wasn’t just a Guttenberg resident. For the last four decades, he was Guttenberg, serving in a variety of positions and affiliations.
After receiving a Bronze Star for his service in World War II, Sabello came back to Guttenberg to begin his career as a public servant. For 26 years, he was a town councilman. For 13 years, he was the executive director of the Guttenberg Housing Authority, a time span where he pushed to have the town’s first senior citizen complex built and the town community center. For four years, Sabello served as the town clerk. For six years, Sabello served as a member of the New Jersey State Assembly as the representative for the 32nd District.
And for a total of three terms, two in the 1970s and the latest, at the age of 81, from 2000 through 2001, Sabello was the mayor of the town he loved so much.
“He really loved Guttenberg,” Hollingsworth said. “He took a lot of pride in Guttenberg. He never forgot where he came from.”
Hollingsworth said that even in her father’s final days, where his memory was gone and he recognized few people, he told people where he had to go.
“He kept saying that he had to get back to Guttenberg,” Hollingsworth said. “That he remembered.”
Bob Sabello was an old-school politician, down to the silk tie and matching handkerchief and big fedora. He would tell you exactly how he felt and never minced words. He was lovable and cantankerous, all at the same time. Came out of retirement
He came out of political retirement in 2000 to run for mayor, when outgoing mayor Peter LaVilla decided to run for Hudson County Executive.
“I knew it was a two-year proposition when I came in,” Sabello said in his final days of office in 2002. “And now, it’s time for me to head on my way out the door. I put my two years in and now, I’m going out. I mean, I’m 83 years old, so it’s about time. It has been a wonderful experience, serving the people of Guttenberg. But I figure I have to give more attention to my beautiful redhead [wife Audrey] and my children and grandchildren.”
While the position of mayor is only a part-time job in Guttenberg, Sabello was a dutiful mayor, at his desk every morning, handling the town’s business, answering calls of complaints and concerns.
Sabello was asked in his final days as mayor how he wanted to be recalled.
“I want to be remembered as being the one who always went for affordable housing for the people, whenever there was a chance,” Sabello said in January of 2002.
Sabello was the long-time baseball coach of the famed Guttenberg Build Better Boys Baseball club and won a series of Hudson County championships.
“He was always doing something for the kids,” his daughter Barbara recalled. “He loved the kids.”
So much so that the Guttenberg Little League field inside North Hudson Braddock Park was named after him a few years ago.
Some of Sabello’s political comrades paid tribute to him in his passing.
“Bob Sabello was a good man whose heart was always focused in Guttenberg,” North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco said. “He loved the people of the town and the community. He was very effective in what he did, and when he said something, people listened. He was an old-school politician who came from a very good family.”
“I always had a lot of respect for Bob Sabello,” Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna said. “He did a lot for the town and the town of Guttenberg should be proud that we had someone like Bob Sabello. I think his legacy is all he did for the Housing Authority. He helped a lot of people in the town, and his service to the town will never be forgotten.”
Sabello is survived by his wife, Audrey, who still resides in Guttenberg. The Sabellos also have three daughters, Barbara Hollingsworth, Charlotte Feurtado and Vanice Cudina, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Vanieri Funeral Home in North Bergen handled the funeral arrangements.
Sabello was asked what he planned to do with his life after leaving office in 2002.
“I’m going to stay here,” Sabello said. “I can’t go anywhere but Guttenberg. My health is fine. God willing, I’ll keep going. People know that this old bastard never stops.”
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com