By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It would have been easy for Daniel J. O’Hern to leave Red Bank and move on to almost anywhere he wanted, his son, Dan O’Hern Jr., said Sunday afternoon to some 30 people on the corner of Shrewsbury and Locust avenues.
The elder man’s resume was impressive, to say the least: Fordham University and Harvard Law School graduate, Korean War veteran, borough councilman and mayor, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice.
“With that pedigree, he could’ve punched his own ticket. But he didn’t do that. He came back to Red Bank,” O’Hern Jr. said. “My father never, ever, ever forgot where he came from. He embraced this town with all of his heart.”
In return for his love and service to Red Bank, borough officials dedicated Locust Avenue the street he grew up on to him, ceremonially renaming it Justice O’Hern Way.
“It was important, since his roots are on this street,” said Mayor Pasquale Menna. “We thought in our way we could give back, in perpetuity, to him.”
Menna said O’Hern was a champion of equality in Red Bank, giving a voice to those without one, and a well-respected figure. O’Hern Jr. said his father was one of the most respected in Red Bank’s history. Certainly, he was one of the most endeared, according to Menna.
“We loved him. He loved us,” Menna said.
With friends and family there to see the dedication, eyes welled up and smiles spread as they looked up at the new, white street sign on the corner dedicated to O’Hern, who passed away in April.
O’Hern Jr. said if his modest father had been there, he’d be pleasantly embarrassed at the notion of a street named after him and the turnout the ceremony drew. But for such a dedicated and accomplished Red Bank native, O’Hern Jr. said he more than deserved the honor.
“He certainly got his roots into this town, and those roots went deep,” O’Hern Jr. said. “It’s our hope that his memory and legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of Red Bankers forever.”
Councilman Ed Zipprich assured him, as he pointed up to the fresh, new street sign, that it’s likely.
“There it is,” he said. “And it will live on.”