Barbara Bennett served the Borough of Rutherford as the Director of Recreation for 25 years. She was the PTA President for Washington School & Union School, a volunteer and coach for Recreation Sports for all 3 seasons, a volunteer for the Multi-Cultural committee and an EMT Volunteer. Barbara was a member of the Elks Lodge in Rutherford & received the "Volunteer award of the Year", a member of the Garden Club and she was on the Green Team. Barbara was a runner up for "Miss Rutherford" but was always thought of as "Miss Rutherford" for her unselfish, never ending devotion and love for the Community of Rutherford.
Barbara's family would like to announce the Barbara Bennett Memorial Fund through BCB Bank in Rutherford. The fund will help all citizens of Rutherford by supporting the rejuvenation of parks and community areas/projects/citizens throughout the town.
Checks Payable to: Barbara Bennett Memorial Fund
Read community members' memories below...
Pictured: Mark O'Connor and Barbara Bennett
I met Barbara at my first volunteer event in Rutherford. It was a cleanup day and we were on Erie Avenue. I kept hearing this laugh down the way from me and after several times I asked those working next to me who is that laughing. The answer came back, "Oh that's Barbara".
I guess someone mentioned something to her because fifteen minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I turned around the person said "I heard you're looking for me". I didn't know what to think and then she said she was Barbara. We started talking and every time she laughed, I did as well. We became friends that day and nearly 20 years later we still were.
I think everyone knows that Barbara loved calling someone out for a Birthday especially when it wasn't their day. A few years ago it was my birthday at least 40 times over a two year period. At every event, every concert and every gathering I attended Barbara went out of her way to find the microphone and have all in attendance wish me a Happy Birthday.
Through all the years I made sure Barbara never knew my real birthday figuring if she did this when it wasn't what would she do on the actual day.
In 2016 I found out as another friend let her know that my birthday was that weekend. On that Saturday I was getting ready for a busy day of events in town. It was 7:30am I suddenly heard the "click" of what sounded like a megaphone. Then I heard the unmistakeable voice of Barbara shouting to my neighbors, "Good morning West Passaic Avenue. Does everyone know it's Mark O'Connor's birthday". Then as she drove off I could hear her laugh booming from the megaphone. I thought it was great and was pure Barbara.
Two hours later I was at another event in town when I heard the "click" of the megaphone and Barbara was asking, "Good morning Rutherford. Does everyone know it's Mark O'Connor's birthday today".
Three hours later I was at Diamond 4 at Memorial Field watching one of our Girls Softball games when from behind me I again heard the now familiar "click" and the booming voice saying "Good morning Diamond 4 does everyone know today is Mark O'Connor's Birthday" and she got the entire field to sing to me.
Later in the day I was at the Junior Woman's Ladybug Festival when again I heard the megaphone "click" and Barbara came out of hiding behind two friends and announced "Good afternoon Lincoln Park. Does everyone know it's Mark O'Connor's Birthday" and again got all in attendance to sing.
About 7pm I arrived back home and found my Mother-in-law looking out the window. I asked if everything was good and she told me, "I'm not sure. Some woman is outside yelling that it's your Birthday". I couldn't stop laughing.
I found out later from Barbara that it was her husband Jim driving her by the house. As they passed he would turn to her and say "lets do it again".
My birthday this year was the week after Barbara passed and I decided to take the day off. All day I kept hoping I would hear the "click" of the megaphone.
Barbara was truly a wonderful friend and she is missed.
Pictured: Janice Guzman, Maureen Bigley, and Barbara Bennett
Rest In Peace Barbara Bennett. I will miss your infectious laugh, your generous spirit and your love of the Recreation Department. It had been a pleasure working & learning from you this past year and you will truly be missed at Borough Hall. You have been a great friend as well as boss. My deepest sympathy to your family & friends. A true “Rutherfordian”. XOXO
Pictured: Barbara working hard with the Green Team
Since we are memorializing- I am in humble denial that my workmate and friend and truly one of a kind person has departed to the great beyond. While working for 3 years in the City Hall basement in the borough of Rutherford,NJ - I met 3 amazing women Maureen, Gerry and Barbara Bennett the ringleader. I have never ever met anyone like her. Smiling - laughing - joking -loving her kids- loving my kid- and everyone’s kids. Her joy and sparkle is the brightest I’ve ever seen! Ever! She was always the true Mayor of Rutherford,NJ. My heart is aching for her kids and grand babies that were and will still be loved from heaven. I imagined her always being here and in Rutherford/Mayberry where her love and joy has inspired so many generations! Too young. Too amazing. Reach out and remember your people. I’m reminded again a “Like” on Facebook will never replace a persons voice. I’m sorry you had to go Barbara.
Pictured: Brian Ersalesi, Barbara, Liz Gilmore, Carolyn Smith, Beth Toole, Linda Daniels and Mark O’Connor
Barbara Bennett dear friend, sweet neighbor, happiest soul of us all, who's laugh was the magic wand to sweep away any of our worries...how will we go on without you? You were the maker of all things fun, the dictionary picture defining loving wife and precious mother, a consiglieri to anyone fortunate enough to cross your path and an everlasting rock in the foundation of our community. I bet you never realized that much of our problems were excuses for us just to visit you in the basement. The joy you gave to your family, our borough and to all of us will ripple through eternity. God's speed and peace be with you.
Barbara you gave so much to so many!
You will be missed❣️
Thank you for all you did from all the recreation games you
Managed to actually assisting my worst nightmare when my daughter got side swept in a car and you were there to get her out and sent her to the hospital. DPW and so much more....
Pictured: Barbara Bennett
It’s nice to be a part of a town that has so many wonderful organizations and close knit people... well today was the funeral to one of Rutherford’s truly finest, kindest, funniest woman I’ve ever known! I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve know her since I’m younger.. she’s been such a wonderful contributor to our town, all of our lives and the kids lives! Every conversation we ever had was always great. She ALWAYS asked me about my kids and never forgets anyone’s name. She always rooted for me in all of my endeavors and life changes! I always saw her at all of the events and her infectious laugh and smile would brighten up any day or night! I’ll never forget our chats.. and I know you touched pretty much everyone else the same way. Even up until not so long ago.. you held yourself the same way, even though you were fighting a hard battle.. you asked about me first.. me??! One of a kind you were and the world lost a good one but I know so many will live on doing random acts of kindness in your honor and that alone makes your life a success!!! God bless you and your family friends and work friends! Your wake tribute, the amount of people who came to honor you and your funeral and procession shows how you were loved and admired. You deserve a great seat in heaven ❤️😇Barbara Bennett so keep fighting to make the world and heaven a better place! Rest comfortable 😍till we chat again. I know I’ll never forget you, your smile or laugh and everyone else feels the same.
Pictured: Steve Addeo, Barbara and Rick Hild
Barbara was the most up standing citizen we are truly graced to know ! When I first came into the Moore family it was different, but your Mom busted my chops until the very last day I saw her. I love her, respect her, and she has tought me in the most difficult time in my life to just have fun as much as you can and Thank God you can. She was a sister I never had! Barbara Moore Bennett was the best thing in ALL OUR LIVES NOW AND FOREVER!
Maria Moore (sister in law)
Pictured: Barbara at the Annual Egg Hunt
While I was in high school, I was a good friend of Keri’s, Mrs. Bennett’s daughter. I have many wonderful memories of Mrs. Bennett. My favorite story occurred during our senior year, my mom and I went looking at colleges with Keri, Mrs. Bennett, and our other friend and her mom. After taking the standard college tour at a university, the student guide asked if anyone had any questions. To the tour groups astonishment, Mrs. Bennett yells out, “How are the parties?” Every person on the tour turned and looked at her. Some shocked and others mortified. Mrs. Bennett just started laughing and we followed. I don’t remember if the guide ever answered her or not. It is only now that I realize that of all the questions a parent could have asked, hers was the most important. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how big the dorm room is, the dining options, or even the majors offered. Mrs. Bennett knew that making memories by socializing with friends and the moments you have enjoyed in your life are what truly matter in the end. She is one of the few people I’ve know who truly enjoyed every moment of her life. I will never forget her joie de vivre and the lesson she taught me that day.
Pictured: Barbara Bennett, Alexandra Tasev and Mark O'Connor
Barbara Bennett was one of the biggest supporters of local talent I knew. Whether there was a sports or music related event, Mrs. Bennett always tried her best to be there and cheer everyone on. The first time we spoke, Mrs. Bennett reached out to me after having seen me perform at the high school and asked if I would be interested in singing the national anthem for an upcoming sports event. She always found a way to include everyone, often merging music lovers with sports lovers, and as she stood on the side watching a game or performance, her eyes always lit up and smile always beamed, genuinely being proud of all that our community has accomplished. Her laugh, support, and wonderfully open heart will be dearly missed. Thank you, Mrs. Bennett, for making our community a more loving and inclusive one.
All the best,
I had the pleasure of working with Barbara over the years as a parent, a soccer and basketball coach and coordinator, lacrosse board member and Downhill Derby organizer. Every single time I met with her or spoke to her on the phone, she was super positive and supportive of whatever we were trying to do. When we first had the idea for the Downhill Derby, she was genuinely excited and did everything she could to help us make it a success. I will miss walking into the Rec office, seeing her smile and chatting about the latest events. And I know we will all miss her unwavering commitment to the kids of this town.
Pictured: Barbara watching Recreation Pre-School Graduates
I am not quite sure where to begin. Mrs. Bennett was a huge part of this town and will be truly missed. She volunteered as my t-ball coach and I remember nothing but smiles, encouragement, and the often surprised “look at that hit!” The Bennett’s would open their home for end of the season pool parties. There is a lot to be said about how she raised her children. On my first day of high school, I was lost and on the verge of tears and Keri kindly walked me to my class. To me, this was a huge deal and I will always be thankful for her kindness. The fact that I was able to introduce my own children, now active in the recreation program to my old coach speaks volumes to Mrs. Bennett’s dedication to this town and her love for family and sports. She will be truly missed.
Kerry Schmeding Goldsack
Pictured: Barbara handing out Trunk-or-Treat Trophies at the first Halloween Spooktacular in 2015
Barbara Bennett made people feel special and important. I was fortunate enough to know Barbara as a friend and as the Recreation Director. Barbara always made sure my children felt special. My kids know that Barbara loved them and supported them in all that they did in town.
I have always admired just how much Barbara has done for the people in Rutherford, both adults and children. She attended just about every event in town and knew just about everybody by name! To say she will be missed is an understatement, she will never be forgotten and I will always miss her ...her smile and her unforgettable laugh.
Pictured: Barbara with girls rec participants
I am writing to provide a few words in regards to amazing and beloved, Barbara Bennett. To keep it simple: The saying, "It takes a village (to raise a child)." is what stands out to me when I think of Mrs. Bennett. Mrs. Bennett was the kind of woman who made you feel seen, heard, and cared for, even if you barely knew her. Her tender-hearted and nurturing essence was something that truly helped to create the fond memories that I have of being a child who grew up in the great community that is Rutherford. Mrs. Bennett was one of a kind and will surely be missed, but never forgotten.
With heartfelt sympathy,
Pictured: Barbara with Betty Ersalesi and their Recreation Preschool class circa 1985
Where to begin with good memories about Mrs. Bennett? I've known her since I was a kid. She has been a part of my life literally forever. She, my mom, and Mrs. Joan Fallon were like the three musketeers of moms. You will get tons of emails about her laugh -- and how it was always the loudest and boldest and most filled with joy, so I won't talk about that. You'll get tons of emails about her kindness -- and how she was always volunteering for something because it was just the right thing to do. You'll get tons of emails about how she always sang 'Happy Birthday' over the PA - because (as she once told me) nobody is ever sad when they're singing 'Happy Birthday!" You'll get tons of emails about her jokes -- and how her motto was "the cheesier the better." For me, it was her selflessness. And her hugs! Her hugs were legendary for me. A full hug that made you feel loved from head to toe. And there was usually a little dance that went along with it while you hugged her. I can still feel it -- being hugged and danced around in the basement Rec office when I was just stopping by to drop off a form. She made everything count. Even the little things. Especially the little things.
Pictured: Barbara working with the Green Team at Katie's Corner
As a founding member of our Rutherford Green Team it was my privilege and pleasure to serve with this wonderful woman who may be the greatest volunteer I have ever met.
In 2009, shortly after the Green Team was formed we made a plan to remediate a vacant lot for a community garden & tree nursery. Barbara’s input and tireless efforts were vitally important to our successes. From the first day and for many years Barbara was there with us every week with her rake. & shovel & her laugh that I will never forget.
If you are lucky enough to have one of the hundreds of beautiful trees we grew in front of your home, or if you have ever enjoyed the beauty of Rutherford’s Community Teaching Garden please look up and thank this wonderful person who never failed to give of herself to create a better community.
Thank you Barbara. We will always remember.
Pictured: Barbara and Carolyn Smith
I imagined that we’d all be together celebrating at Barbara Bennett’s retirement party…someday. She loved her job as Rutherford Recreation Director so much – her funeral procession passed by Borough Hall and Memorial Park, where she spent so very much of her time.
Her Director of Recreation desk nameplate was with her at her wake. She truly cared. Mayor DeSalvo offered a joke about Barbara to lighten the mood so as to prevent everyone from losing it when he had to address Barbara’s passing at a recent Council meeting, but that attempt
didn’t keep tears out of that room. Barbara touched everyone.
She loved her position as Director of Rutherford’s Department of Recreation, for she always went above and beyond – adding special ‘Barbara touches’ – and she attended *everything.* Barbara was always smiling; she was so welcoming and friendly, always remembering names and asking about people’s families and how they were doing.
Barbara wanted everyone to be happy. She always had dishes of candy in the Rec Office for visitors to enjoy. She even brought candy to an occasional department heads meeting. She loved to celebrate birthdays by having everyone gathered sing, “Happy Birthday.” Rutherford
may be the only place in the world where one person could have multiple birthdays a year…because Barbara was known to celebrate some people’s birthdays over and over. She told me she did this because birthdays make people happy. She and her staff also decorated the Rec
Office for every holiday to spread cheer.
She had a unique and contagious laugh. Word is that neighbors could hear her laugh around the block. She loved to have fun and tried to make sure everyone was having a good time.
She was a proud grandmother! I remember that she was just elated when her grandchildren were born. I learned from her staff that she loved sea horses. Every time I see one, I think of her. When I became Rec Liaison, I was so impressed with everything that Barbara’s Rec Department did: sports programs, classes, every borough-sponsored event, preschool, Senior Citizen groups (Golden Agers and Guardsmen), Summer Day Camps, the Exceptional Individuals Program. And more! I was excited to create the Rec facebook page to share with people the good work that the Rec Department did under Barbara’s leadership, and shared all
that she did at every Council meeting. Her office was always bustling with activity and meetings regarding issues pertaining to coaches, Ladies Softball, Park Rangers, Training, etc.
Barbara liked to tell jokes (and sometimes solicited help in delivering those jokes) to people while they waited in lines for the Easter egg hunts to begin or while they were waiting on line for the hayrides at the Halloween Spooktacular. Barbara was so good with members of the Exceptional Individuals (differently-abled) program. She knew all the members’ names. She really cared about giving them fun things to do
each night they met. And, she even climbed inside a truck at our Farmers’ Market to get pumpkins that were donated for the members to decorate. Can you just picture it?
Barbara handled serving in one of the most difficult and demanding positions in the borough – and all that that entails – by sharing a smile with everyone. I know she is getting a big kick out of the overwhelming display of appreciation for her on social media.
Barbara helped make Rutherford’s 4 th of July celebrations special, from the early morning annual Baby Parade to musical entertainment and fireworks upon nightfall. I spent so much time with her at events that I don’t know if I could come up with a complete list of everything, but some of my favorite memories include the Summer Kick- off/Cruisin’ on the Ave, putting Easter eggs all over Tryon and Tamblyn, enjoying Summer
Concerts, Students in Government Day, Walks to School with the Mayor, serving food at the Exceptional Individuals Holiday Party and Bowling Banquet, and the Holiday Parade and Festival. Barbara was involved with the Mayor’s Family Bike Rides, 3rd grade bike rodeo, the
skating ‘rink,’ National Night Out, memorial sports awards programs, Arbor Day celebrations, Little League Opening Day, Senior Olympics, 5k runs, running trips to Broadway shows, etc.
Strange to say, but Barbara’s wake and funeral were beautiful with their special touches. Three things struck me that I heard at her funeral.
Her daughter came home from school one day and told Barbara that her classmate didn’t have a snack. From that day on, Barbara packed two snacks. That was so Barbara.
Her son shared that the best piece of advice he ever got was from a friend who lost a parent. His friend’s advice was to spend as much time with your parents as you can, because you don’t know how much time you have. Barbara’s son said that he would go over to his parents
house in the evenings just to hang out…because he loved being with them.
I’m sure Barbara would have considered that her greatest tribute.
Her daughter overheard a child at a Rutherford parade say to his mother while referring to Barbara, “she’s at everything.” Yes, she was. And Barbara was wonderful with children. Why she was taken at the young age of 60 is not for us to understand. My husband and I volunteered at the Food Pantry (located next to the Rec Dept in Borough Hall) after attending herwake. I couldn’t help but think that Barbara should be down the hall, for it was a Wednesday night, when the Rec department stayed open late. Apparently heaven needed to have more fun. Rutherford now has an angel looking over us. Thanks for the memories and keeping us
entertained, Barbara. You continue to make us smile.
By Carolyn Smith, Council Liaison to Rutherford Recreation Department 2015-2016
Pictured: Barbara and Family
My mom gave everything and more to her late mother after our Pop Pop passed 20 years ago. It was like Nanny got up to heaven and Pop Pop sent an S.O.S needing help from his favorite daughter and so she was called home.
She was a devoted wife who recently celebrated her 40th anniversary with her high school sweetheart Jimbo. A love that started when she stole his heart while hitchhiking to Dunkin Donuts with her friends. She was the only one to hop in the front seat.
She was the favorite and beloved sister to four brothers, Cliff, Dennis, Michael, and Nick. She had many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.
She was the most amazing mother or Madre as we called her. She provided us a life full of unconditional love. She wanted for nothing more than us to be happy! As children, she was the mom who would drive all the kids to lunch, the mom other kids would confide in, the mom who brought cut up orange slices to games, the mom who would let people stay over our house if they needed a place to stay for as long as they needed, the mom who would let us invite friends on vacation or day trips, and the list goes on and on. A few years ago, I submitted her name and profile to a National Award for Mom of the year...and she was selected to go to Washington for the award. She never went, but I'm grateful she knew how her sacrifices and love didn't go unnoticed. In her final week on this Earth, one day in the hospital, she was a little delirious from the medicines and she mumbled to me, "what does everyone want me to be their mom?" To which I of course answered, “Yes Mom they all wish you could be their mom. But we were the 3 lucky ones who have the honor of being your children.” We are the ones who will forever be proud to hold on to the legacy of being Barbara Bennett's children.
And in recent years, our children have been blessed to have my mom as their Nana. You could hear and see the joy on their faces as they yelled "NANA" when she walked into a room or park. The love that she showed them during the few years we have had together I know I will cherish for the rest of my life. She spoiled them not only with gifts, but with countless laughs and adventures in just a few short years. Her love and devotion to her grandkids will never be forgotten and I promise they will always remember her as the fun Nana, who loved Mickey, dessert, trips to the beach, and fun at the park with her angels. James, Jaxon, Molly and Karly will always remember the love you showered and spoiled them with. I wish she had many more years with them, but I know her smile will be shining down on them as they grow.
Barbara Bennett was a true inspiration on so many different levels. She went above and beyond in every aspect of her life. As a family member, friend, and employee, she was the best. There is no other way to describe her. The life of the party who gave her all to her family, friends and community. She will always be Miss Rutherford in my eyes. Not a day will go by that I won't think of you with a smile as I know is true for us all. Barbara may not be with us here today, but her spirit and enthusiasm for life and community will live on. I love you Madre. Thank you for being my role model, inspiration and the best friend and mom a person could ask for. Until we meet again!
Daughter Keri Bennett Romano
Pictured: Barbara and Family
I phoned a good friend I grew up with on Monday to thank him for two great pieces of advice. When you get a chance to eat at your wedding, stop and eat because that's the only 5 minutes you will have. The other was love your parents while they are still here. His mother also died from cancer and his reminder to not take them for granted has stuck with me ever since - I constantly stopped in to see mom even though she would kick me out and say go play with the boys.
Son Jimmy Bennett