PATERSON, NJ - 43 years to the day that then Mayor Pat Kramer welcomed President Gerald R. Ford to Paterson the four-time chief executive of the city was feted on his own accord and given what many believe is a long overdue honor.
On that day in 1976, under a cool drizzle, as Kramer would remind the crowd of well wishers that included local leaders from government, business, and the non-profit communities, as well as family members, Ford declared the Great Falls a national landmark, a designation that has, and will continue to, play a major part in the area’s rebirth.
With those same majestic falls as a backdrop, this time under bright, sunny skies, the road that brings thousands of visitors to the area annually was officially renamed Lawrence “Pat” Kramer Way.
Kramer, as history has recorded and several speakers reminded, was instrumental in lobbying for the designation, and, along with his beloved wife, Mary Ellen, worked tirelessly to preserve the history and beauty of Paterson’s crown jewel. The park adjacent to the falls, named in Mary Ellen’s honor, was given a $1.95 million renovation in 2015.
Kramer served as Paterson’s chief executive for four terms from 1967-1971 and 1975-1982. The youngest mayor elected in the city’s history, Kramer was responsible for spearheading vital construction during his tenure, including public and municipal buildings, two fire houses, and School No. 9. However, both family members and colleagues said that what they remembered most about the legendary public servant was his loyalty, integrity, and care for anyone and everyone.
Prior to the ceremony, Kim Kramer-Gallagher, one of two of Kramer’s daughters, offered warm remembrances of her father’s time running the city.
“I was five years old when my dad became mayor,” Kramer-Gallagher recalled. “I have so many happy memories of both my mother and father. Back then, my father had a vision for this area. He knew that it would impact the future. When I grew up in Paterson, I saw it as wonderful. My father was always full of life.”
Kim’s brother, Kip Kramer, also spoke highly of his dad and expressed gratitude during his brief speech.
“I want to that everyone on behalf of the Kramer family,” Kip stated. “Thank you for coming out today and caring about Paterson.”
Leonard Zax, President of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson which has been instrumental in the resurgence of the Great Falls as a tourist area, volunteered to work on Kramer’s 1966 campaign as a student at Paterson’s Eastside High School, he recalled.
“As mayor, Pat recruited very talented younger professionals to work in City Hall,” Zax told the audience before offering a litany of Kramer’s personnel accomplishments. “He made a high school teacher named Bill Pascrell the DPW Director. He got Frank Blesso to move from Connecticut, to Paterson, to work on redevelopment. Pat appointed African Americans and recent immigrants to key positions and that was path breaking back then.”
“And, at the urging of Mary Ellen, Pat focused on the historic heart of the city, the place we are right now,” Zax continued.
”Professionalism and progress, integrity and inspiration, family, friends, that is the Mayor Pat Kramer way. Pat Kramer truly made a difference. To see his legacy....look around.”
Congressman Bill Pascrell, who also once served as mayor, and will be honored himself later this month when the Paterson Fire Department’s Headquarters is renamed in his honor, congratulated Kramer for doing a “fantastic” job during his time at the helm of the city.
“Pat Kramer was a person of character and values. Paterson never had a mayor with as much integrity as Pat,” Pascrell said.
Recognizing the historical significance of the day, not just for the visit of President Ford, but also for the actions of U.S. military men in 1944, Kramer encouraged the audience to remember those who gave their lives on D-Day, exactly 75 years ago.
Offering his own reflections of welcoming Ford to Paterson Kramer focused not on the pomp and circumstance but rather a simple, and humorous, down-to-earth anecdote.
“It was raining when President Ford came to speak at the falls,” Kramer said. “After the event, we took him home to our house on 38th Street. He went upstairs to change into some dry clothes. Our dog growled at him. I said to our dog, “You’ve never done this before, please don’t bite the president!”
With the speeches over, and a number of accolades delivered, including from Paterson’s state legislative delegation, the Paterson Rotary Club, the National Park Service, and the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC), Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott led the pipes and drums in a stirring performance of the iconic Marines’ Hymn before attendees, with Sayegh, Pascrell, and Paterson City Council President Maritza Davila at the front, walked the short distance to the corner of Spruce Street and the McBride Extension.
Kramer, with Davilla and his two successors in tow, climbed onto the lift of a work truck before being hoisted to covered sign.
A cheering crowd gave Kramer one more round of applause, the unveiling serving as a fitting punctuation mark in honor of the man who served Paterson with his heart and soul.
“For his passion for Paterson, his integrity, and his leadership, Mayor Pat Kramer has been a mentor and a friend,” Mayor Andre Saeygh told TAPinto Paterson after the event. “We stand at the Great Falls because of the work of a great man.”
“Pat Kramer deserves every bit of this celebration and honor, as well as our renewed commitment to continue the work he started.”
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