Weehawken Recreation director Barone to retire Reflects on many years of service to the township

Although he was a fine athlete during his high school days, first at the now-defunct St. Michael’s High School in Union City and later at Emerson after St. Michael’s closed its doors, Chuck Barone really didn’t have aspirations to become involved in recreation.

Barone was more interested in making a living on the other end of the athletic spectrum – namely sporting goods.

“I worked for Lou Rassner’s Sports Center in West New York for many years and got to know the business,” said Barone, who will officially retire as the director of the Weehawken Recreation Department on July 1. “I then opened my own business in Secaucus, called Stadium Sports Center and owned that for eight years.”

At that time in the 1970s and 80s, if you wanted to purchase a pair of sneakers, you could only do so at the neighborhood sporting goods stores.

“But then the outlets came out and the sneaker companies went into the bigger stores,” Barone said. “The business dipped and I ended up closing the store.”

At the age of 35, Barone, a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, didn’t know where to go. He was already a father of two and was residing in Weehawken.

“I wanted to become a cop, but I became a firefighter instead,” Barone said.

Fireman, coach

While working with the Weehawken Fire Department, Barone was approached by Turk Jordan, who at the time was the director of the Weehawken Recreation Department. Barone was already volunteering his time with Weehawken Recreation, teaching boxing and coaching basketball.

“I liked working with the kids,” Barone said. “I had a little background in boxing in the military, so that’s how I got involved.”

Soon after, Jordan asked Barone if he would become the president of the Weehawken Little League.

“The Little League was floundering and teams were falling apart,” Barone said. “Turk asked me to take over. So we made some changes and we started to build.”

Barone would eventually serve as the president of the Little League for 10 years and during his tenure, the township made the transformation from Little League to Bambino baseball (now known as Cal Ripken Baseball).

“We went from five teams overall to 10 teams in the minor leagues and 10 in the majors,” Barone said. “Our kids became competitive again in baseball.”

At the same time, Stanley Iacono, then the mayor of the township, recommended that Barone should become in charge of the township’s Parks Department.

“It was a department of one,” Barone said. “I worked in the back of Town Hall and turned a supply garage into an office. We eventually got more guys to work in the department, but when I started, it was only me.”

When Jordan stepped down in 1994, he recommended Barone to take over as the new director of recreation.

“I have to give Turk the credit for giving me the opportunity,” Barone said. “He had enough faith in me that I could do the job.”

Expanded the program

Ever since Barone took over the position, the Weehawken Recreation Department has been offering the widest variety of recreational programs in Hudson County. It’s not just about football, basketball and baseball in Weehawken. Barone has made sure of that.

“When I took over, our recreation brochure was one page, folded in half,” Barone said. “We offered the basic stuff at first, but I wanted to expand the program and try to offer something different to meet the needs of everyone.”

Under Barone’s leadership, the township started a full Junior Olympics program that allows the township’s elementary school students to compete in a variety of contests, complete with an Olympic setting.

“It was great to get that off the ground and now it’s been running for a few years,” Barone said.

Barone also instituted an archery program with the assistance of Roosevelt School physical education teacher Joe Perez, an avid archer like Barone. Barone said that both he and Perez love the sport.

“It’s been a perfect fit for us,” Barone said. “Kids didn’t need to have to handle a baseball or a basketball to become involved in archery. It started in the schools and has just taken off. We’ve even had requests for an adult program.”

Another program that Barone started and is proud of is the township’s cooking classes.

“I’m like a firehouse cook, so I love cooking,” Barone said. “I figured a lot of kids are home alone and should have the basics to learn to make something. The program just took off and it also became popular with the adults.”

Barone was also proud of introducing martial arts to the township’s toddlers in the Tiny Tots Tae Kwon Do classes.

“Parents couldn’t believe that their kids were being athletic at such an early age,” Barone said. “It’s now become a very popular program.”

However, all good things must come to an end. Barone is retiring both as a captain in the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue and as Weehawken’s recreation director, effective July 1.

He’s having major knee replacement surgery later this month, and he doesn’t know when he will recuperate. So his time running the recreation department is drawing to a close.

The township has already tabbed a three-person committee, namely Weehawken High School baseball coach Anthony Stratton, Recreation youth football coordinator Chris Verdon and Rob Ferullo, the son of the late Deputy Mayor and First Ward Councilman Lou Ferullo, to head the recreation department in Barone’s absence.

So it will take three people to do the job that Barone did on a part-time basis.

“I think I accomplished a lot,” Barone said. “I think we offered some of the best programs around and offered a lot for every age group. I feel like I made some great strides and offered some different programs.”

Barone credited the assistance he received over the years, people like Donald Jodice, Bill Kallert, Art Strandberg and Verdon helping to run the baseball program and Donna Daly coordinating other programs from the recreation office.

“I always had a good rapport with those people,” Barone said. “They made me look good. They were great people to work with and they were a huge help. I just hope that all that we accomplished over the years doesn’t get lost now.”

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or jhague@hudsonreporter.com


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group