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Longtime Councilman Reflects on Bloomfield's Evolution

Joseph Barry, who served seven terms on Bloomfield council, has best view in town

Former Township of Bloomfield administrator Joseph Barry was a "Depression-era baby," born in 1931. His has been a rich, rewarding life, and he has given back to his hometown of Bloomfield many times over, serving as a township councilman for seven terms over 19 and 1/2 years.

He now stays active by doing a lot of gardening in the rear of his Elm Street home, which was built in 1824 and sits right down the road from the historic Bloomfield Church on the Green. Barry and his wife of 57 years, Patricia, have eight children: Patsy, Joseph, Theodore, Nancy, Eileen, Jane, Kathleen and Betsy. The couple also has 26 grandchildren and a recently added first great-great grandchild, Barrett James Burke. 

What are you doing now? 

I keep relatively busy playing golf, and I keep up my half acre. That keeps me in good shape. I’m vice president of the Bloomfield Historical Society, trustee of the United Way of Bloomfield, and a lector and member of the Finance Committee of Sacred Heart Church. I also read a lot. 

Do you have the best view in Bloomfield with your view of the Bloomfield Church on the Green clock? 

I think very highly of the clock. It’s “our” clock. It used to chime every 15 minutes and now it only chimes on the hour. It was a constant presence in our house with all the windows open in the summertime.

What are the most significant changes in Bloomfield through the years?

In the 1930s and early 40s, in Brookdale - where I grew up - was mostly farms, woods, swamps and golf courses. The canal and towpath ran through our section of the Brookdale section. It was out in the country, now it’s wall-to-wall houses. Elmbrook and Broadacres golf courses are gone, along with farms, woods and swamps. In the south end of town, we had a heavy industrial base which provided ample blue-collar jobs. That base which numbered about 100 firms, is gone.

Your favorite memory of Bloomfield and Bloomfield High School?

Sophomore english with Mr. A. Dixie Crosby who wrote the (Bloomfield High School) Alma Mater, a great teacher and showman. The whole year was fun. If you want a specific event, I'd say it was the night Bloomfield beat Seton Hall for the Essex County Basketball Championship at Seton Hall in 1949.

If you don't restrict it to the BHS, I'd say the 1962 political campaign (when the Democratic ticket won election to the town council) and election as councilman.

If you had to change anything or do anything differently, what would it be?

I would spend more time with my children. 

Geoff Gove December 03, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Why only 5 questions? I would think our current council and town administrator would have dozens of questions for such a distinguished alumni. It's rare to find anyone with so much experience with our town who hasn't moved away.
Bambi K. Barry December 03, 2012 at 04:55 PM
He is a very well liked man, thoughtful and honest. Wonderful father, father-in-law and grandfather. Truely a gift to Bloomfield.
Karen Banda December 03, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I live in the Brookdale section now, having started out in the Watsessing section when my family moved to Bloomfield from Newark. How I wish I had seen this area back in the day, the way Mr. Barry described it. Mr. Barry had a hand in one of the more memorable experiences we had as a family when my mother agreed to take in a child from Northern Ireland through Mr. Barry's efforts with Project Children. It's 6 weeks we will never forget, nor will we ever forget Sonia who stayed with us along with all of the other children we came to know, all of whom are adults now with children of their own I'm sure. Mr. Barry has a wealth of experience. How nice if the current mayor and council would avail themselves of it. I don't seen Bloomfield as "evolving" so much as sliding down a slippery slope to a place I don't want to live.
Peggy (Barry) Horan December 04, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Peggy (Barry) Horan - As his little sister (and also a Bloomfield resident) I have been able to observe his love of his family and his love of his town. He has worked tirelessly in his retirement for his town and continues to do so. A man to admire, devoted husband, father, grandpa and new great grandfather, devoted brother and a wonderful role model for the younger generations.
Steve Sears December 04, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Thanks folks for the comments here. One of the nice things about the "Five Questions..." column is reminiscing about the past with the source. With Mr. Barry there was much to recall, and not all (unfortunately) could fit into this piece. He's a wonderful man, and has a wonderful wife and family. The piece was a pleasure to write. Steve

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