Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part article about John Cosgrove's final meeting on the Fair Lawn Council. Part 1 here.
FAIR LAWN, NJ - John Cosgrove, who completed back-to-back four-year terms on the council, was the toast of the town on Dec. 17 when his council peers and community friends talked about his kindness, generosity and bipartisan civil manner.
While loved by his republican friends, Cosgrove received especially kind praise from democrats, who insisted, despite differences, he conducted himself in gentlemanly manner.
“You haven’t lived until you’ve been on a float dancing to Jingle Bell Rock with John Cosgrove,” Deputy Mayor Gail Rottenstrich said.
Councilwoman Cristina Cutrone said she viewed Cosgrove as a political opponent, that is until she began campaigning door to door.
“I only heard positive about him,” Cutrone said. “How caring, strong and dedicated he was. He was hard to run against. I hope to be half the public servant.”
Councilman Josh Reinitz said Cosgrove is one to “cross the aisle” to propose something because “he knows it’s what’s right for the town.”
Reinitz said Cosgrove was in true form at the Holiday Parade on Dec. 8 when borough officials met the town at the municipal building to begin the holiday season.
“I peeled off with my family, as did others, and the one person left handing out candy was John,” Reinitz said. “It epitomizes who he is. He is a man who builds a consensus.”
Councilwoman Rottenstrich said Cosgrove reminded her of George Bailey in the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“John Cosgrove is Fair Lawn’s George Bailey,” she said. “His kindness, his humor; he is the heart of Fair Lawn. We will miss him deeply on the council.”
Mayor Kurt Peluso said Cosgrove’s active generosity has raised 100’s of thousands of dollars for various causes in town, not to mention his lengthy volunteerism over 40 years.
“He changed the demeanor of the council,” Peluso said. “I remember attending one meeting with him when there was a huge fight between council members. John leaned over to me and said, ‘it’s not going to be like that anymore’. He was more into building each other up, that’s his legacy.”
The borough issued Cosgrove a plaque inscribed with “Mr. Fair Lawn” below his name. He received a robe, as well, as a gentle ribbing to relax in his retirement from the council.
Fellow volunteer on Fair Lawn Sunrise Rotary Maryanne Pettineo and new Access for All committee chair Sharon Bragin said there will be a bench in Memorial Park unveiled in Cosgrove’s honor in the spring.
Assemblywoman and former Fair Lawn mayor Lisa Swain said Cosgrove’s father and her father-in-law served the town together, “crossing the aisle to get things done.”
Assemblyman Chris Tully said Cosgrove “has always been about working together,” noting his “bi-partisanship.”
Fair Lawn Fire Chief Jake LaManna appreciated Cosgrove’s knowledge through his longtime involvement with the fire department. “You have a lot of knowledge, you’ve helped in the past, present and will help in the future the fire chiefs in this town.”
Others who may have different political views than Cosgrove pointed out his civility and willingness to work on “common sense” solutions.
Larisa Mendez Downes, president of Fair Lawn Moms Demand Action, said she was not sure how Cosgrove would receive her ideas, but he “immediately” put her at ease. “You’re a wonderfully descent human being,” she said.
Board of Education trustee Michael Rosenberg said he first met Cosgrove at a Rotary meeting. “There are not many I know who bring people together like John. You don’t just talk about it, you do it. You’re an incredible human. You don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk.”
Stella Lumberg, fellow Rotarian, said Cosgrove helped her feel empowered after she moved to Fair Lawn eight years ago. “You were kind no matter what.”
John Gil, head of the Fair Lawn Republicans, said he considered Cosgrove a mentor. “I’m honored to have been your running mate, you set the example.”
Marc Zharnest, head of the Fair Lawn Ambulance Corps and former councilman, said he appreciated Cosgrove’s “forward thinking,” and noted his energy while campaigning. “After we knocked on a few thousand doors, John said, at the four-hour mark, let’s keep going. He had a way of not leaving a stone unturned.”
Board of Education trustee Cindy Jo Quackenbush said she remembers Cosgrove during the fire conventions when they would “serve food together and have a great time.”
“I will never forget the night you swore us in,” she said, referring to her election to the Board of Education induction ceremony.
Ron Barbarulo, Board of Education president and plumber by trade, complimented John for “always being there to support the education of the children in this town.”
“Oh, and hey, how’s that hot water heater working for you,” Barbarulo said to a spray of laughter.
Councilman-elect, Kris Krause, said he had “heard a lot of stories about” Cosgrove.
And as he often does, Cosgrove inserted a quick-witted remark: “Don’t repeat them all.”
“I have huge shoes to attempt to fill,” Krause said.
And in his ‘Cosgrovian’ way, he said, “I wish you the best of luck.”