The Chatham Township Historical Society completed a project that started nearly a year ago to design, procure and install a memorial headstone at Fair Mount Cemetery to recognize the unmarked gravesite of Madame Hranousch Bey and her husband Sidky.
The dedication ceremony was a private gathering for family and invited guests on Sunday afternoon, September 20th.
The Society reached out to the great-grandchildren of the Bey's last year and offered to have a headstone designed and installed at Fair Mount to recognize the achievements of two notable Turkish people who arrived in the United States in 1897. Sidky became a diplomat and Hranousch was multi-lingual and trained as a mezzo-soprano opera singer. Their life together at the beginning of the 20th Century put them in the middle of Washington's social life.
As the Society project moved ahead, news reached the Turkish Consulate General office in New York City. Sidky Bey had been the Consul General in New York early in his diplomatic career. The Turkish Consulate graciously made a donation to the Historical Society in recognition of the Society's efforts to recognize two people born in Turkey who came to the United States and made significant contributions during their lifetimes.
Following their diplomatic service in Washington, their story brought them to Chatham Township in 1915, and they purchased a 30-acre farm on River Road. Through a combination of events, Madame Bey established a boxing training camp there in the 1920s that would become the home to professional boxers who trained there for decades. Sidky passed away in 1937, and Madame Bey died in 1942. Their son, Rustem Bey, became the first Police Chief of Chatham Township.
Local author and historian, Gene Pantalone, chronicled her fascinating story in his 2016 book, "Madame Bey's: Home to Boxing Legends."
Martha Wells, president of the Chatham Township Historical Society, welcomed the family, members of the Consulate General office in New York, local officials and trustees of the Historical Society.
Recognized were Township Mayor Mike Kelly; Morris County Freeholder Tayfun Selen; Consul General Reyhan Ozgur; Madame Bey's great-grandchildren Tom Smart and Linda Hennessey; Gene Pantalone and Henry Hascup, President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.
Working with the Smart and Hennessey families, and heading up the Society's project team were co-chairmen Trustees Bert Abbazia and Tom Salvas, and Society President Martha Wells and VIce President Pat Wells.
Through Tom Smart's efforts to find out more of his heritage, he worked closely with Dr. Isil Acehan, a noted scholar in Washington DC who is currently based at George Mason University, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies.
Dr, Acehan is producing a documentary about Madame Bey. The headstone design was coordinated by Smart, and the granite stone was imported from India with the finishing craftsmanship done by Pelaggi Monuments in Dover, New Jersey.
After 78 years, Madame Bey will be inducted this year into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.