WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield Historical Society members and guests celebrated the organization's 50th anniversary Friday at Echo Lake Country Club.

Former New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean gave the keynote address.

Following a brief annual business meeting of members to elect officers, guests congregated in the lounge for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres before Westfield Historical Society President Nancy W. Priest launched the evening with a toast followed by an invocation by Gail Stock, a flag salute and the national anthem.

Sign Up for E-News

During the cocktail hour, Gov. Kean and his son, State Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr., mingled with guests.

"It's appropriate for a history major to be giving such an important speech," Sen. Kean said, referring to the fact that his father had earned his Masters in history from Columbia University after graduating from Princeton with a B.A. in history. "He even taught history," said Sen.Kean, adding that when his father was the Governor, "he really put New Jersey on the map."

"Our slogan, 'New Jersey and You .. .Perfect Together,' definitely benefited tourism but it was really designed to get New Jersey feeling good about itself again," Gov. Kean said.

"I hope you'll also think of Westfield Historical Society and New Jersey as 'perfect together'," Priest told Gov. Kean.

Bemoaning the "melting pot" theory of history, Gov. Kean said, "We seem to have lost our own history. We are not held together by ethnicity but by the American creed. We seem to have lost our own history.

"Our history is the bond that holds us together. We have to teach our children what it means to be an American, why we are different, why people came here from other countries to live according to the ideals expressed in early documents such as the Constitution, that matter in this country as a beacon of the ideals that we all try to emulate. The day we stop listening to history  and we can't talk to each other, is the day we fail."

Gov. Kean, a former teacher, closed by urging people to do more public service.

Although he turned 83 last month and it's been almost 30 years from his public service as Governor for eight years, Kean's energy level was in evidence when he couldn't stay for the meal because he had to rush to another commitment. Applause followed him from the exuberant crowd.

Nancy Jackson, secretary of the local Rotary club, was still applauding when she said, "He [he Governor] made me think of the inspiring words of George Santayana who famously said, 'Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.'"  On the other hand, she said, "The Westfield Historical Society's mission is to preserve, interpret and encourage interest in history. That's the message of this 50th anniversary dinner."

Awards were dispensed during the festive dinner. Board member Kris Luka presented the President's Award to Mary Orlando for her outstanding and extensive service to WHS. Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi also presented Mary Orlando with a service award.

Board member Germaine Trabert  presented Horace Corbin, publisher of The Westfield Leader, with the Trustee's Award.

Sherry Cronin, WHS vice-president, treasurer and trustee, presented several trustee and volunteer service awards to Glen Dumont, Christine Kamil, Jim McCabe (not present) and Sam Mahmoud, trustee emeritus. Julie Isbit also received a volunteer award from Cronin.

Special thanks were extended to the Annual Dinner Committee, co-chaired by Carol Tener and Joseph DiFrancesco. Others cited for their assistance on the evening gala: Dumont, Kris Luka, Michael Miller, Priest, Don Stahl and Germaine Trabert.  Marie Roeling was thanked for her photography, which accompanies this coverage. Thanks also went to Echo Lake's staff, headed by John Gomez.

To learn about regular WHS meetings or tours of the Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center, 314 Mountain Avenue, call 908-543-1794 or go online at www.westfieldhistoricalsociety.org.