WESTFIELD, NJ — When Joe Nolan graduated from Holy Trinity High School in Westfield and headed to Seton Hall, he had his sights set on becoming a lawyer. A visit to the campus radio station changed everything. Now, more than 40 years later, he’s still on the air as a traffic reporter on CBS FM 101.1 with the Scott Shannon in the Morning show.

“I was looking for something to do one day and I walked into the radio station and that was it,” Nolan said. “The only reason I remember is because it was Dec. 7, 1976, and it was Pearl Harbor Day and they put me on the air almost immediately.” 

Nolan honed his skills at the campus radio station until he got his big break as a traffic reporter in 1979 with a new company called Shadow Traffic. From there he became a regular fixture in the metropolitan area news market as a television traffic reporter on WABC/Ch.7’s morning newscast and working with radio personality legends such as Shannon, Dan Ingram and Bob Grant. In addition, he branched off into sports as the Rutgers and Jets in-stadium announcer and has his own small business, New Jersey Internet radio, which provides play-by-play of high school sports all over the state.

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“I never thought that 38 years later I would still be doing traffic; I wanted to do what everyone else did, I wanted to be in sports, be a disc jockey, in news,” said Nolan. “I almost took a job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, back in the mid 80’s as the morning guy, but I hung around and stayed here and ended up working with a lot of great legends.”

When Union County’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins on Saturday, March 11, at 1 p.m., Nolan will lead the march of bagpipes and high school bands, local police and fire department units, veteran's groups and many more organizations through the center of Union. Sharing in the honor will be Nolan’s children, Bradley and Conor, and his daughter-in-law Michelle, along with his long-time girlfriend, Marianne Fitzgerald.

“It’s a tremendous honor anytime you that they pick you from a large group of people to do something as cool as this. It’s been a great ride so far,” Nolan said. “I’m really looking forward to the day. It’s going to be an awful lot of fun. Friends and family will be with us. The main part that really attracted me was the fact they are honoring Union County Catholic Schools.”

Nolan still lives in Westfield with Fitzgerald in what has turned out to be a Westfield love story. The two were actually high school sweethearts but went their separate ways after high school — both getting married to other people and raising families and each getting divorced — and they met up again by chance in the Jolly Trolley some 35 years later.

“Now we are back together. It’s a pretty cool story,” Nolan said.

Nolan had a heart attack three years ago. He credits the Westfield Police, Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad and Overlook Hospital with saving his life and allowing him to continue on, putting him in a position to do such things as become the grand marshal for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“There was a Westfield policeman here in about a minute and half,” said Nolan, as he became emotional telling the story, “and then about two minutes later the Westfield Rescue Squad got here and then a few minutes later the paramedics arrived and assessed what was happening and got me out of the house up to Overlook. From the time I hit the front door at Overlook Hospital to the time they had the stents in and completed and I was out of the operating room, it was 62 minutes. Absolutely amazing.”

A frequent contributor to TAPinto Westfield, Mike Cohen is the founder/director of Throwback Sports (a sports program for children of all abilities) and the sports editor of Education Update. Email him at throwbacksports@verizon.net