WEST ORANGE, NJ – Former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne and the New Jersey Hall of Fame Mobile Museum paid a visit to Washington Elementary School on June 12, bringing not only New Jersey history but West Orange history to the students.
The New Jersey Hall of Fame Mobile Museum is part of a state initiative to provide a historical experience highlighting famous New Jersey residents that impacted the world around them. The vehicle travels around the state offering an interactive educational experience for visitors.
Students walked through the museum and used the interactive features highlighting the inductees in the NJ Hall of Fame. Byrne was inducted in 2011.
“We’re thrilled to have Governor Byrne here again,” said Washington Principal Marie DeMaio. “The Governor was here in 1995 to help us celebrate our 100th Anniversary… Washington has a very special place in his heart.”
“The West Orange School district is grateful to Gov. Byrne for visiting with our Washington students,” said Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky. “His presence is a very powerful thing for our students that brings them the opportunity to meet him and experience New Jersey history.”
Byrne, now 91, grew up in West Orange and attended Washington Elementary School as a child.
“I remember there was a squirrel that used to come to our classroom window every morning,” he told the students. “I always worried about the squirrel and if he would be ok, especially in the winter.”
Students asked Byrne about his two terms as governor (1974-1982) and what his favorite part of being governor was. “Box seats at Giants Stadium,” he said with a laugh. “Actually, my favorite part was meeting other people that really cared and were interested in the betterment of our state.”
Byrne shared what he felt were his greatest accomplishments with the students. “When I came into office, there were tax problems to solve,” he said. “I was not the most popular governor because I created a state income tax, but it was necessary. No one thinks it’s a bad idea now.”
“New Jersey is the greatest state in the country,” Byrne concluded. “Washington School will always be part of my life and I’m happy to be here to share that part of my life with all of you.”