Former Democratic Mayor and state Assemblyman Daniel F. Newman was tough on the outside, but many this week remembered him for his compassion and kindness during his long political career.
“Danny was a very passionate person,” Ocean County Republican Chairman George R. Gilmore said. “He also had a big heart. A lot of people saw the tenacious side of Danny. On the outside he was a bear. On the inside, he had a big heart.”
Daniel Francis Newman, 73, died late in the afternoon on March 13 on a South Carolina highway. He and Barbara Jeane, his wife of 53 years, were driving to their vacation home in Florida when Newman was stricken with chest pains, his son, Daniel F. Newman Jr., said.
“He just started feeling a little funny,” Newman said. “By the time my mother came around to the passenger side, he was unconscious.”
Newman had a heart attack years ago when he was a state assemblyman. But he was recently cleared by his doctor, who had been treating him for a leg ailment, to make the trip, his son said.
The family is grateful to the assistance provided by the hospital his father was taken to, Newman said.
“She was down there by herself,” he said. “The hospital was wonderful.”
Newman and several other family members immediately left to make the 11-hour trip to bring his mother home he said.
“It’s obviously very rough for her,” Newman said. “They were married for 53 years. She’s hanging in there. It’s always good to have a big family. With six children, she’s had a lot of support along the way. But it’s never easy when it’s unexpected. They thought they were going to be spending three weeks in Florida.”
The two-term mayor and state assemblyman left behind a 45-year legacy of community service that will be hard to match. Newman also served on the Brick Board of Education, the Planning Board, the Board of Adjustment, the Ocean County Board of Elections and the Brick Township Municipal Authority. He was also a mainstay in the Ocean County Democratic Organization and the Brick Democratic Club. He helped found the Brick Pop Warner football program and was involved in the Brick Chamber of Commerce, the Ocean County Firemen’s Association, the Association of Vocational Boards of Education, the Boys Club and the Brick Little League.
But he considered his years as mayor, from 1983 through 1989, as the highlight of his career.
“Mayor is the best job anyone could have,” Newman said at his last meeting as a BTMUA commissioner in January 2004. “If you can’t get it done as mayor, you can’t get it done.”
“His love was Brick Township, more than anything,” his son said. “That was what he loved best, being mayor. All of that paled in comparison to him being mayor.”
Newman could be a tough boss, said former longtime township Business Administrator Scott MacFadden.
Newman hired MacFadden as assistant business administrator back in 1985.
The mayor was very concerned about his administration’s legacy, MacFadden said.
“He used to point at the wall land say, ‘Our marks are on the wall,’ ” MacFadden recalled. “He left a lot of marks on the wall. I was glad I was able to help him put some of those marks on.”
Newman was instrumental in helping to get Ocean Medical Center built, which was then known as Brick Hospital back in 1984, and the creation of the hospital support zone. He also pushed for the U.S. Veterans’ Clinic on Route 70. He made sure any unpaved roads in the township got paved, MacFadden said.
Many township parks and athletic fields, including the Pinewood Park Soccer Complex, went up during the Newman years, he said.
“That was a better time,” Democratic Municipal Chairman Michael Blandina said. “When you crossed party lines to get things done. These are the things we should be talking about. All the good things he did for Brick Township.”
One of Newman’s first tasks for MacFadden was to arrange the annual employees’ awards dinner. When the mayor got a look at the sparse guest list a few days later, he wasn’t happy, MacFadden said.
Newman took a few puffs on a cigarette.
“I’m looking at the registration for the employee awards dinner,” he told MacFadden. “I just want to let you know, I’m used to success.”
The mayor didn’t have much patience with people who came to meetings unprepared, MacFadden said.
“All of us were better for having worked for him,” he said. “He made you prepare. God help you if you came to a meeting unprepared.”
Both Gilmore and Republican Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said Newman was a respected political opponent.
“He was a worthy adversary,” Gilmore said. “He was a tough guy. And I’m saying that as a compliment. He believed very strongly in what he was fighting for. I think he’s going to be missed by a lot of people on both sides of the political spectrum.”
Newman put Acropolis on the Board of Adjustment back in 1988.
“You can always be adversaries, but you don’t want to be enemies,” Acropolis said. “You don’t always agree with them, but that doesn’t mean you do not respect what they’ve done for the town. He was obviously always a worthy opponent. He will always be the mayor.”
Family was everything to Newman. He was the father of six children and grandfather of nine.
“He was a great father,” his son said. “More than anybody could have been. He put his family first in almost anything he did.”
Danny Newman was waked on St. Patrick’s Day. Hundreds were expected to attend his funeral Mass at the Church of the Visitation on March 18.
“He was a voice, not only for the Democratic Party, but for Brick Township,” former Mayor Warren Wolf said. “Brick’s a town in mourning. “He was a great statesman.”
Newman leaves his wife, six children and their spouses, Richard and Jeannie Newman, Susan and Richard Morgan, Caryl Scherer, B.J. and Robert Stocker, Daniel Jr. and Romayne Newman, Donald and Janine Newman; nine grandchildren; his brother John Newman and wife Carol of Cape Coral, Fla.; a sister, Joan DelMaster of Wilmington Vermont, and many nieces and nephews.