History and Trivia

10 legends of Bergen County

By BergenCounty.com staff    

These 10 Bergen County Legends - ranging from an Indian chief to a Hollywood actor - were selected by the Bergen County Historical Society. They were among a list of 56 people nominated by the public and a 17-member society committee; the 10 who made the final cut had to win votes from at least 12 of the 17 committee members, according to Kevin Wright, a former historical society president who also served on the committee. The historical society plans to add people to the list in coming years.

The 10 legends were highlighted at a special "Bergen 350 Gala" in October 2014 to observe New Jersey’s 350th anniversary and mark Bergen County’s place in it.
 

 

Wally Schirra was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and the fifth American in space. He was he only astronaut to have flow in the Mercury (one man), Gemini (two man), and Apollo (three man) programs, logging more than 295 hours in space. Before joining NASA, Schirra - a Naval Academy graduate - was a fighter pilot in Korea and retired with the rank of captain. After his Apollo flight, he joined Walter Cronkite in reporting the seven moon landing missions. Born Walter Marty Schirra Jr. in Hackensack, he lived in Oradell for 18 years and graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood. Schirra died on May 3, 2007, in La Jolla, Calif. at age 84.
AP Photo/NASA
Wally Schirra was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and the fifth American in space. He was he only astronaut to have flow in the Mercury (one man), Gemini (two man), and Apollo (three man) programs, logging more than 295 hours in space. Before joining NASA, Schirra - a Naval Academy graduate - was a fighter pilot in Korea and retired with the rank of captain. After his Apollo flight, he joined Walter Cronkite in reporting the seven moon landing missions. Born Walter Marty Schirra Jr. in Hackensack, he lived in Oradell for 18 years and graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood. Schirra died on May 3, 2007, in La Jolla, Calif. at age 84.
Bob McGrath is known to millions of children and their parents as Bob of Sesame Street, the award-winning children’s television program. McGrath, an original member of the cast, has been on the show since its debut in 1969. He is also a successful author and recording artist, and has performed in thousands of pops, educational and holiday concerts including performances with the New Jersey Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic. Born as Robert Emmett McGraw in Illinois in 1932, McGrath and his wife, Ann, have lived in Teaneck since 1960, where they raised their five children.
Don Smith/the record
Bob McGrath is known to millions of children and their parents as Bob of Sesame Street, the award-winning children’s television program. McGrath, an original member of the cast, has been on the show since its debut in 1969. He is also a successful author and recording artist, and has performed in thousands of pops, educational and holiday concerts including performances with the New Jersey Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic. Born as Robert Emmett McGraw in Illinois in 1932, McGrath and his wife, Ann, have lived in Teaneck since 1960, where they raised their five children.
Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton built a house in Tenafly in 1868, which became a gathering place for leading reformers attracted to the cause of social and economic equality for women. With Susan B. Anthony and Matilda J. Gage, she accomplished some of her most important work in Bergen County, including the first volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage. On Nov. 2, 1880, she boarded a carriage with Susan B. Anthony and unsuccessfully attempted to cast her ballot at a nearby hotel. She left Tenafly in 1882 but returned to “the comforts of home” in 1885. She sold her home in 1887 and died in New York City in 1902, at age 86.
The record
Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton built a house in Tenafly in 1868, which became a gathering place for leading reformers attracted to the cause of social and economic equality for women. With Susan B. Anthony and Matilda J. Gage, she accomplished some of her most important work in Bergen County, including the first volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage. On Nov. 2, 1880, she boarded a carriage with Susan B. Anthony and unsuccessfully attempted to cast her ballot at a nearby hotel. She left Tenafly in 1882 but returned to “the comforts of home” in 1885. She sold her home in 1887 and died in New York City in 1902, at age 86.
Born in Waukesha, Wis., in 1915, Les Paul created his first solid-body electric guitar while still a teenager. While developing his signature jazz-style of playing, he adopted the stage name of Les Paul in 1934. An accomplished radio performer, he moved from Chicago to New York. Drafted in 1943, he performed with Armed Forces Radio. A successful recording artist with his wife, Mary Ford, he moved to Mahwah in 1952, the same year that Gibson introduced the gold-top Les Paul solid-body electric guitar. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Recognized for innovative work in multi-track recording, he was a Grammy Award winner and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005. Paul died in 2009 at age 94.
AP Photo
Born in Waukesha, Wis., in 1915, Les Paul created his first solid-body electric guitar while still a teenager. While developing his signature jazz-style of playing, he adopted the stage name of Les Paul in 1934. An accomplished radio performer, he moved from Chicago to New York. Drafted in 1943, he performed with Armed Forces Radio. A successful recording artist with his wife, Mary Ford, he moved to Mahwah in 1952, the same year that Gibson introduced the gold-top Les Paul solid-body electric guitar. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Recognized for innovative work in multi-track recording, he was a Grammy Award winner and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005. Paul died in 2009 at age 94.
Born in New Brunswick in 1886, poet Joyce Kilmer purchased a house lot in Cragmere from the Mahwah Company in 1911. He and his bride, Aline Murray, moved into the one finished room in their new home in May 1912. Inspired by “the little hills they call the Ramapos,” Kilmer wrote his most famous verse, Trees, in 1913, at his Cragmere residence. He commuted daily to his office at The New York Times, where he wrote feature stories until enlisting for military service with the Fighting 69th Regiment in World War I. A sniper’s bullet killed him during the Second Battle of Marne in 1918, at age 31. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre.
the record
Born in New Brunswick in 1886, poet Joyce Kilmer purchased a house lot in Cragmere from the Mahwah Company in 1911. He and his bride, Aline Murray, moved into the one finished room in their new home in May 1912. Inspired by “the little hills they call the Ramapos,” Kilmer wrote his most famous verse, Trees, in 1913, at his Cragmere residence. He commuted daily to his office at The New York Times, where he wrote feature stories until enlisting for military service with the Fighting 69th Regiment in World War I. A sniper’s bullet killed him during the Second Battle of Marne in 1918, at age 31. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Mary Higgins Clark, an international best-selling author of mystery and suspense novels, has sold more than 80 million copies of her books in the United States alone. Born Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins in the Bronx, N.Y., the family moved to Bergen County in 1958, where she has lived ever since. Her husband, Warren Clark, died in 1964, and she supported their five children by writing short stories and radio scripts. Her first suspense novel, Where are the Children?, was published in 1979 and is currently in its 75th edition. She had written more than 30 novels, including several with her author daughter Carol. Clark lives in Saddle River with her husband, John Conheeney, who she married in 1996.
(201) magazine
Mary Higgins Clark, an international best-selling author of mystery and suspense novels, has sold more than 80 million copies of her books in the United States alone. Born Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins in the Bronx, N.Y., the family moved to Bergen County in 1958, where she has lived ever since. Her husband, Warren Clark, died in 1964, and she supported their five children by writing short stories and radio scripts. Her first suspense novel, Where are the Children?, was published in 1979 and is currently in its 75th edition. She had written more than 30 novels, including several with her author daughter Carol. Clark lives in Saddle River with her husband, John Conheeney, who she married in 1996.
Born in Union City in 1883, John Borg rose from his first job while still a teenager as a $4-a-week messenger on Wall Street to founding his own brokerage firm at age 25. A charter member of the New York Curb Market Association, he pioneered development of the private banking business. Moving to Hackensack in 1919, he was one of eight investors in the floundering Evening Record. Borg changed the newspaper’s name to the Bergen Evening Record in 1923, and became sole owner in 1930. He vigorously pursued a "cleanup" campaign in Bergen County politics, despite receiving kidnap and death threats. Borg served three terms on the Port Authority; was a board member of Hackensack Hospital (as it was known then) and was active in the Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army, and Bergen County Historical Society. He died in 1956.
The record
Born in Union City in 1883, John Borg rose from his first job while still a teenager as a $4-a-week messenger on Wall Street to founding his own brokerage firm at age 25. A charter member of the New York Curb Market Association, he pioneered development of the private banking business. Moving to Hackensack in 1919, he was one of eight investors in the floundering Evening Record. Borg changed the newspaper’s name to the Bergen Evening Record in 1923, and became sole owner in 1930. He vigorously pursued a "cleanup" campaign in Bergen County politics, despite receiving kidnap and death threats. Borg served three terms on the Port Authority; was a board member of Hackensack Hospital (as it was known then) and was active in the Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army, and Bergen County Historical Society. He died in 1956.
Bill Parcells is one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, and a 2013 inductee into the Football Hall of Fame. He is the only coach to lead four different teams to the playoffs and is known for his ability to turn around losing teams. Born in Englewood as Duane Charles Parcells, he grew up in Hasbrouck Heights and moved to Oradell before his sophomore year. Parcells graduated from River Dell Regional High School in 1959, where he excelled in football, baseball and basketball, and met his long-time mentor, coach Mickey Corcoran. He adopted the name “Bill” in high school, after being frequently mistaken for another Bill.
AP Photo
Bill Parcells is one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, and a 2013 inductee into the Football Hall of Fame. He is the only coach to lead four different teams to the playoffs and is known for his ability to turn around losing teams. Born in Englewood as Duane Charles Parcells, he grew up in Hasbrouck Heights and moved to Oradell before his sophomore year. Parcells graduated from River Dell Regional High School in 1959, where he excelled in football, baseball and basketball, and met his long-time mentor, coach Mickey Corcoran. He adopted the name “Bill” in high school, after being frequently mistaken for another Bill.
Tradition holds that Oratam or Oratany was born about 1577. He became chief of Hackinkasacky after the Dutch massacred 80 native men, women and children at Pavonia (Jersey City) in 1643. Oratam possibly resided near Fort Lee Road and Oratam Terrace in Leonia when he negotiated a truce in April 1643. His name appears in Dutch records between 1643 and 1664. He conveyed the land now comprising Ridgefield Park, Teaneck and Bogota, as far north as Fort Lee Road, to Captain Edward Grove in 1664. He died in 1666 shortly after approving the sale of land where Newark now stands. Interpreter Sarah Kiersted received confirmation of Oratam’s gift of 2,260 acres, lying between the Hackensack River and Overpeck Creek, in 1669.
The record
Tradition holds that Oratam or Oratany was born about 1577. He became chief of Hackinkasacky after the Dutch massacred 80 native men, women and children at Pavonia (Jersey City) in 1643. Oratam possibly resided near Fort Lee Road and Oratam Terrace in Leonia when he negotiated a truce in April 1643. His name appears in Dutch records between 1643 and 1664. He conveyed the land now comprising Ridgefield Park, Teaneck and Bogota, as far north as Fort Lee Road, to Captain Edward Grove in 1664. He died in 1666 shortly after approving the sale of land where Newark now stands. Interpreter Sarah Kiersted received confirmation of Oratam’s gift of 2,260 acres, lying between the Hackensack River and Overpeck Creek, in 1669.
James Gandolfini, an Emmy Award-winning actor, was best known for his role as a mobster boss in the HBO hit The Sopranos. He was also a character actor in more than 25 movies and appeared on Broadway. Born in Westwood as James Joseph Gandolfini Jr., he grew up in Park Ridge and graduated from the high school there and Rutgers University. Gandolfini died in Italy after suffering a heart attack in June 2013, at age 51. He has been nominated for induction into the 2014 class of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
AP Photo/HBO
James Gandolfini, an Emmy Award-winning actor, was best known for his role as a mobster boss in the HBO hit The Sopranos. He was also a character actor in more than 25 movies and appeared on Broadway. Born in Westwood as James Joseph Gandolfini Jr., he grew up in Park Ridge and graduated from the high school there and Rutgers University. Gandolfini died in Italy after suffering a heart attack in June 2013, at age 51. He has been nominated for induction into the 2014 class of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Have comments or suggestions on this story? Click here to email us.
Terms & Conditions/Privacy Policy © 2014 North Jersey Media Group