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Remembering Big Bill Fahey

Jennifer Murphy

Thursday, January 24, 2013 • 8:05am

STANHOPE, NJ – “Each of us here tonight knows him in a different way,” explained former Stanhope Mayor Diana Kuncken at Shaky Jakes on Thursday, Jan. 23. “The amazing thing is that he did so many, many good things, yet stayed in the background.”

Brendan (Bill) Fahey passed away at 74 years of age, on Jan. 16.

Shaky Jakes owner Chuck Dietrich announced, “Bill told me, when I go, just have a party, so, this is it,” as the crowd toasted him. 

Fahey had been Director of Operations of Lord & Taylor Department Stores for many years, until he retired in his mid-50's.  He then owned several restaurants, at Bridgewater Mall, Menlo Park Mall, Woodbridge Mall, and in Danbury, Conn., as well as 17 race horses in Louisiana. With all of his experience in business, he gave back to the community, and to his friends.

Kuncken said, “He would help you with anything within his power to do so.”  

He was a member of the Stanhope Chamber of Commerce, and was involved with Springfest from the very beginning. Last summer, at his suggestion, a new phase began:  a pig roast for the fire department and the Stanhope/Netcong Ambulance Squad.  

“We would have a contest to see who could sell the most tickets," Kuncken said. "He would say, ‘Let’s get some money for these volunteers.’”

Originally from Rochester, Kuncken felt, “We were his family.”

The original resident of Stonegate Village, Fahey sat on the Board of the Association, along with Steve Fetics. 

“While on the board, he put a lot of things in place, committees and fiscal policies. Even when not on the board, he would still do things useful to the organization. For example, when they deregulated electricity, he contacted various providers and narrowed it down to two, then had them come and make a presentation to the board,” said Fetics.

Jack Leffingwell, owner of Budd Lake Car Wash fondly remembered Fahey. “He got me into the Chamber of Commerce. He had a lot of good advice, people were always asking for it.” 

Leffingwell got to know Fahy because they often ate at Bell’s Mansion, in Stanhope. Owner Jack Kaczynski, and Leffingwell became close friends with Fahey, as “He was our regular customer.” 

Fahey’s involvement with the community appeared endless. He was a member of the Stanhope Seniors, and would arrange a monthly “Lunch Bunch,” travelling to different restaurants. He was a Trustee of the Musconetcong Lake Committee Association, and was working to come up with a way to clean up the lake, remove the weeds, and dredge. He was active with Waterloo Village.

According to Bob Hathaway, Netcong Councilman, Fahey was a staunch Democrat.

“He was contributory to me getting a seat, and filling other democratic positions. He was quick to tell you what he thought, with no apologies.  None were needed, though, it was easy, in his presentation, to understand where he was coming from, he was a well educated man,” said Hathaway.  

He was an active member of the Sussex County Democrats Club.

“He was educating us,” said Kuncken.  

Nick Bielanowski agreed. “He was a good friend who came into our lives quickly, and left just as quickly. I was a councilman for four terms in Stanhope, he helped me in county politics.  I was president of the Stanhope Seniors when Brendan was a member, he helped me very much. I truly miss him. It is a great disappointment that we didn’t have five or ten more years ahead of us.  We could have done so much together.”

“Brendan was more than someone who lived in town. He was the lifeblood, but he did it quietly,” said George Graham, Stanhope Councilman. 

Many remembered  Fahey’s generosity and sense of humor. 

Chrys Levasseur recalled, “He used to tell us, if I ever drop dead in the bar, go for the left pocket. Use the cash, you can’t trace that.” 

Her husband Ricky recalled that Fahey usually carried a thick wad of cash in that pocket, bound by a rubber band. One day, he left it on the juke box, probably several thousand dollars.  Another friend, Joey Palumbo found it and asked him, “Is this yours?” and Fahey’s jaw dropped. Palumbo had free drinks for the rest of the night, and the next day, Fahey brought him a bottle of Scotch. 

“If it had been me that had found it, I would have returned only one dollar,” laughed Levasseur.“That’s how we would go at each other.” 

Levasseur recalled that Fahey “donated so much towards the kids, anything that had to do with kids.”

“When the school dropped the sports, because of the budget, he’d say ‘I’ll take care of that,’ but he never wanted any recognition. 

He donated to the Little League, the Spelling Bee, Math-athons, and the Whiffle Ball Tournament in Roxbury. He took care of everything for the whole team, but insisted on being silent about it,” said Levasseur.

Fahey was also caring, she said.  “Whenever we walked in, he’d ask right away, ‘How’s the family?’ He wanted to know about each and every member. Even on his deathbed, it was the same, ‘How’s the family?’” continued Levasseur.

Another friend, Bill Hamilton, recalled Fahey’s sense of humor.  “I’m the guy Bill loved to hate,” he said. “If three people were at the bar with me, he’d say, ‘Hi, Hi, Hi, Die!’  I’m a Republican. The only reason we voted was to cancel out each other’s vote.” 

Hamilton also spoke of his generosity. “If I had a big event one day, I’d ask, Bill, can you lend me $20?  I’d show up the next morning and he’d hand me a bag with $20,000 in it.  A few days later, I’d give it back. He did this half a dozen times.”

Several friends spoke of his hospitality.  “As soon as he saw you walk in, he’d buy you a drink. Before you could even get to the bar, the bartender would hand you a beer, saying ‘It’s from Bill.’  His favorite saying was “No Buy Backs.”

Bill McGraw, a neighbor at Stonegate, had this to say, “Bill did everything he possibly could to help.” 

McGraw has a special situation, his wife is blind. This presented an obvious problem, that of getting their daughter to school in a town without courtesy busing. Bill would not stop asking questions until he got a straight answer.  "He took it all the way to our State Senators, and the New Jersey Department of Education.”

McGraw’s 10-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, wrote this note of sympathy, which was shared by all present.  “Brendan was many things. He loved everything that ever came his way, but now he is in a better place. His great love wil forever help Stonegate. I, Kaitlyn McGraw, did not know him, but, I feel great sorrow. Hopefully, you all do too. Amen.”

Bill Thornton, Stanhope Councilman said, “Bill was a great guy.  His passing is a great loss to our community. He was an iconic figure here.”

 

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