BAYONNE, NJ - Frank Perrucci, Sr. didn’t fully realize the impact he would make when he founded the Concerned Citizens of Bayonne in 1970.
According to his son, Frank, Jr., his father initially brought together a group of people to help him run for city council in the Third Ward.
“He fought valiantly and honestly, and lost in the runoff,” Frank, Jr. said, during the Nov. 26 dedication of a monument to the civic association in Kopinski Park.
After his unsuccessful election campaign Frank Sr. decided to found the civic association and the campaign slogan “I care, do you?” was transformed into the civic associations’ “We care, do you?"
While over its nearly 50-year history, the civic association relied on volunteers, Frank, Sr, and his wife, Jean, were seen as its standard-bearers.
The association focused on issues big and small, such as the growing problem in the early the 1970s of illicit drugs or petitioning the city to install needed traffic lights.
“We got it done, too,” Frank, Sr. said during an interview nine years ago when the association celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Although founded originally as a political organization, Frank, Sr. abandoned politics in the early 1990s when he came to realize that the association had become too important in the community to take sides in local elections.
“We had all kinds of people involved,” Frank, Sr. said. “We couldn’t support one over the other, so we became a non-profit organization.”
The association, however, did not abandon its civic responsibilities, holding voter drives as well as helping veterans and the elderly.
The group also sponsored local sports teams as Mayor Jimmy Davis recalled, noting how a PAL team sponsored by Davis beat one sponsored by Perrucci, giving the mayor bragging rights.
“I didn’t know Frank early on, but he became one of my closest friends in life after I got elected mayor in 2014,” Davis said.
Davis frequently went to dinner and lunch with Frank Sr., the mayor recalled.
Ex-PAL Director KT Torello said Frank Sr. loved the organization, and the kids in the program loved him. Beyond just raising money to help the team, Torello noted, Frank, Sr. took a sincere interest in the kids involved.
“He came to watch the kids play,” Torello said. “When Frank was in a wheelchair and couldn’t leave his home, the kids went to his house to sing Christmas carols for him.”
The association also sponsored a Little League team and a bocce team. It organized visits to the Veterans’ hospital in East Orange, a mini auction for local senior citizens, toy collections for the Marine Corps League. Over the years, it even sponsored Easter Bunny parties at Felician School for Exceptional Children in Lodi and the local Bayonne Community Day Nursery and the Bayonne Youth Center.
The group also helped organizations such as the AIDES Resource Foundation for Children, Bayonne Family YMCA, the Bayonne Fire Canteen, Bayonne Medical Center’s cancer treatment program, Deborah Heart and Lung Center for Children of the World, Simpson Baber Foundation for the Autistic, as well as a host of other charities – including the Jean and Frank Perrucci After School Acade3mic Achievement Program.
The association also founded continuing programs such as the $1,000 Frank P. Perrucci Scholarship for high school students living in Bayonne.
“I was always amazed at how many people showed up at our meetings,” Frank Sr. once said.
Although under Frank Sr.’s leadership, the association did many local things such as turkey drives, picnics, and holiday toy drives for the needy, it also served as a local advocacy group for a number of state and national issues such as opposing the dumping of trash in the oceans and opposing self-serve gas stations in New Jersey.
While the monument was dedicated to the association, it is hard to separate the man from what he founded, and Frank Sr. accomplished as much as individual as his association did.
Born in Brooklyn, Frank, Sr. moved to Bayonne at an early age.
“My father loved Bayonne,” Frank Jr. reflected.
Frank Sr. also loved his country, serving both in World War II for which he was decorated and in Korea.
He became a leading member of The Catholic War Veterans Post in Bayonne and for a time, he served as its commander, while his wife, Jean served as the president of its ladies’ auxiliary. But Frank Sr. also served in other veterans’ groups.
Although he never managed to serve in elected office, he did serve as a congressional aide, director of Community Development in Bayonne, and briefly, as acting mayor. He was deeply involved in labor unions as well as a host of other civic associations.
Frank Sr.’s death in December 2018, however, brought down the curtain on the civic association with its final act to find a fitting tribute to both Frank, Sr. and the association’s work.
Jean Perrucci was near tears with the unveiling of the monument.
Frank Sr. met Jean on his return from the war in Europe. He married in 1951.
“We did everything together,” Jean recalled prior to the monument’s unveiling. “That’s what is so hard about his not being here. When I do something, I keep thinking he ought to be here doing it with me, too.”
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