OAKLAND, NJ - Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced the introduction of his bipartisan bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 332 Ramapo Valley Road in Oakland, New Jersey, as the “Frank Leone Post Office.”
At the Oakland Senior Citizen Center on July 20, Gottheimer was joined by Frank's widow Ellen, their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, veterans from the American Legion Post 369 and across Bergen County, Oakland Mayor Linda Schwager and members of the Oakland Council, current Oakland Postmaster Stacy Valerius, former Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire, former Oakland Chamber of Commerce President Charlie Wright, and local first responders to take a huge step towards rightfully honoring this standout citizen.
Frank served our nation in the Navy during World War II as a flight deck crewman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge—a ship Frank’s father helped build. After returning, Frank moved to Oakland with his wife Ellen, where, in 1967, he was formally appointed Postmaster of the Oakland Post Office by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was the last presidentially appointed Postmaster in New Jersey.
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Frank served as Postmaster for 48 years, during which time he also served as the President of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, an active member of the American Legion Post 369 and the Franklin Lakes VFW, Oakland's Fire Chief, Director of Emergency Management, and Civil Defense Defender, a Deacon at the Ramapo Valley Baptist Church, and the National Vice President of the National Association of Postmasters.
The bill is the result of nearly four years of hard work by Frank’s family, friends, former colleagues, and local elected officials, including Oakland Mayor Linda Schwager and members of the Oakland Council. The bill is cosponsored by the New Jersey Delegation — Representatives Norcross, LoBiondo, MacArthur, Smith, Pallone, Lance, Sires, Pascrell, Payne, Frelinghuysen, and Watson Coleman.
“To me, there is no commitment more sacred than the one to those who have bravely served our nation. Today, I was proud to announce the introduction of my bipartisan legislation to officially rename the Oakland Post Office—located at 332 Ramapo Valley Road—in honor of one of these brave veterans, longtime Oakland resident, Postmaster, and Fire Chief Frank Leone,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I’m proud to celebrate this important step toward delivering Frank the recognition he deserves. North Jersey veterans deserve any assistance they need after valiantly serving their country. The last thing these veterans should have to face is red tape and bureaucratic roadblocks, so I want any North Jersey veteran, first responder, or active service member to contact my office. That’s why I’m here.”
“I have the joy of being Frank’s wife for 60 years. Truth be told, his funeral was on our 60th wedding anniversary,” said Ellen Leone. “I cannot think of any bigger honor for Frank than to have his name mentioned with Oakland in the same breath.”
|Congressman Gottheimer announces the introduction of the Frank Leone Post Office Act alongside Frank's widow Ellen, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and local veterans and first responders at the Oakland Senior Citizen Center|
Below: Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
As many of you know, together, Frank and Ellen were an “Oakland Institution.” Ellen still is, of course. And it’s not just me saying that—that’s an exact quote from those who knew this couple well.
This “Oakland Institution,” was married for nearly 60 years. Frank’s funeral was held on his and Ellen’s 60th wedding anniversary. Ellen had decided that since that was the day she and Frank began their life together -- that was the day she was going to say goodbye.
Back in 1954, the pair had moved to Oakland, right after getting married. They knew then that Oakland was the perfect town to settle down in and raise a family. It still is.
After that, for more than 30 years, Ellen taught Sunday school—first at the Cornerstone Christian Church in Wyckoff, and then at the Ramapo Valley Baptist Church, where she continues to be a member.
When problems with eyesight and other ailments convinced Ellen it was time to retire, her students literally would not let her go. After much begging, her fifth and sixth grade girls convinced Ellen to stay on for one more year. That’s how adored and treasured Ellen was and continues to be today by the entire community.
Of course, as so many others have described this morning, Ellen’s husband Frank wasn’t so bad either. Our Founding Father Thomas Jefferson once said, “Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself.”
Frank embodied this ethos throughout his entire life. He put his country and community first. Born in the Bronx in May 1927, Frank joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, heading off shortly before his high school graduation, leaving his mom Angelina to accept his diploma on his behalf.
In the Navy, Frank served as a flight deck crewman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge — a ship Frank’s father helped build, just incredible, where he spent years helping planes and his fellow servicemembers land safely when they returned from a mission.
Frank’s friends say he was always very modest about his military service. He never sought recognition for putting his life on the line for our flag.
After proudly serving our country, Frank returned to school, attending Fairleigh Dickinson and the Stevens Institute of Technology, where her studied in Electronic Engineering. Soon after, Frank went to work as an engineer for the Kidde company, one of America's largest manufacturer of smoke alarms and fire safety products.
Frank wasn’t done with his service.
While working at Kidde, Frank wanted to serve Oakland, and dove right into in local government, and, in 1963, was elected to the Oakland Borough Council.
In 1965, Frank took over management of the Oakland Post Office, and, in 1967, was formally
appointed Postmaster by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This is an incredible fact: Frank Leone was the last presidentially-appointed Postmaster in New Jersey. And he did so with such distinction. Frank served in that position for 48 years, under nine different U.S. presidents, before retiring in 2012.
While Postmaster, Frank was extremely supportive of local businesses, and a friendly and trusted resource to all. He loved people, and people loved him. When residents knocked on his office door, he would open it with a smile, and invite guests to come in for a cup of coffee.
The Leones’ home was like that too—the door was always open, the snacks were always out, the couch was always available for those that needed a place to stay -- short or long term -- and I know Ellen welcomed foster children into her home, too.
While serving as Postmaster, Frank somehow also found the time to serve as, and listen to this list: The Borough of Oakland’s Fire Chief, Director of Emergency Management, and Civil Defense Defender; An active member of the American Legion Post 369 and the Franklin Lakes VFW; President of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce; A dedicated supporter of the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge; Deacon of the Ramapo Valley Baptist Church; The National Vice President of the National Association of Postmasters.
And that was all before breakfast. Unsurprisingly, Frank was honored as a “Distinguished Citizen” by the Passaic Valley Council of Boy Scouts of America, and he remains the only declared “Lifetime Honorary Member” of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce.
And all of that’s just barely scratching the surface of Frank’s work and accomplishments. Everyone I’ve talked to has described Frank as a wonderful man who just gave and gave and gave. He embodies what Harry Truman once said of our great country, “America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job on hand.”
I know every single person here takes great pride in Frank’s legacy, which is why we’re here today—to honor that legacy. To honor Frank for his courage and tireless determination to do the job on hand.
For me, this is such an honor to help rightfully recognize such a standout citizen, a man who devoted himself to his community and to his country.
That’s truly why I’m here, too. To do my best to live up to giants in our community like Frank Leone -- to serve you—North Jersey families, and especially North Jersey veterans, and to honor our country.
Among my proudest moments in office are the opportunities to help the 32,000 Fifth District veterans I am honored to represent. I believe there is no commitment more sacred than the one our nation has made to those who serve and have served in the military.
And I believe there must never be anything partisan or political about standing by those who get our backs—and protect our freedom and way of life.
As I mentioned, every single person I’ve spoken to about Frank and the renaming of the post office said, “oh good, finally, we’ve been waiting for so long. Do you know what he did for us and for our community?”
That’s a huge testament to Frank’s decades of service to our community. But it’s also a testament to the need to stop bureaucracy from getting in the way of properly serving and honoring those who have served us. And since I’m surrounded by VFW members who knew Frank, please allow me to make a small plug.
North Jersey veterans deserve the best healthcare and any assistance they need after valiantly serving their country. The last thing these veterans should have to face is bureaucratic roadblocks.
But, in many cases, that’s exactly what happens. We’ve all read about or personally experienced the problems the Veterans Administration is facing: keeping our veterans waiting too long to get care, struggling to fill vacant positions.
To all the veterans and first responders here today—if you are facing an issue, I want you to contact my office. We can help with VA benefits, backpay, overdue service medals, you name it. That’s why we’re here to cut through the red tape and roll out the red carpet for you, our veterans.
And I’m proud that, since entering office, I have been able to help fight for our veterans.
My very first measure to become law in Congress was a bipartisan effort to help hire young, returning veterans for jobs helping their fellow veterans at the VA.
I’ve strongly supported efforts to provide critical resources to the VA, and I joined with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen to encourage the VA to provide in-person mental health services at the new CBOC in Newton. I was thrilled to help cut the ribbon on the new Newton CBOC in March of last year, and was overjoyed when, this April, the clinic added on-site mental health services to its list of offerings for local vets.
Also this year, I was able to help Fair Lawn resident and former Marine Corps Corporal Lance Pilant cut through the red tape and secure a home loan through the VA Home Loan Guarantee Program, so that he and his family could stay here in North Jersey.
I also had the honor of delivering long overdue service medals to World War II Veteran and Fair Lawn resident Corporal Gerald Platt, and to the widow of Teaneck World War II Veteran Master Sergeant William Witherspoon.
And, of course, I’m honored to be here today, having made that first critical step toward renaming the Oakland Post Office in Frank’s honor.
My grandfather, a World War II Captain, had this General Patton quote on his night table that he made me read every time I came into his room. General Patton said, “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” Very Oakland. Very Jersey.
Because of the tireless work of everyone here today, and the New Jersey delegation, we were able to get bureaucracy out of the way and take a huge step toward getting things done for a wonderful man who served his country.
Of course, this project’s not done yet, and I won’t quit until the Frank Leone Post Office Act passes and is sent to the President’s desk – and we get Frank’s name up on the building a few blocks from here.
And, in Congress, I will continue to make sure that—from education, to health care, to housing, to jobs—I always have the backs of our veterans and first responders. That I’m always fighting for you. Because you deserve it. You served our country. You made us the greatest country in the world. And I’ll never forget that our best days are ahead of us, because you served under this flag and because you risked your lives to look out for us.
So thank you, God bless you, God bless Frank Leone and his family, and may God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.