A Very Happy Birthday

Former Atlantic Highlands Mayor Helen Marchetti is celebrating her 97trh birthday today (April 7) at Care One at King James Care Center where she has been a resident for the past month. This is a copy of a story I wrote about the former Mayor and native of the borough for the Two River Times in 1994.

Helen Marchetti sits in her comfortable, well-appointed front room looking out windows to the church parking lot across the street. Four little youngers are riding their bicycles around the blacktop, chasing each other, laughing, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

“Just look at that, isn’t that terrific?” she enthuses to house-guests. “I’ll tell you, this is just perfect, this is my entertainment.”

It doesn’t take much to let you know one of Helen’s priorities in life, Children.

She loves them.

All kinds, all sizes, all temperaments. “They believe, they’re happy with whatever you do for them, they’re so much fun,” she explains.

The scene switches to the Atlantic Highlands Nursing Home, where Helen is assistant administrator, a post she’s held for the last 27 years. An elderly lady is patiently waiting in the day room for an aide to help her out to the spacious yard under the trees. “Oh, here dear,” let me help you,” Helen booms in her deep voice and ready known to all who hear her.

After she assists the resident, she bends down to give her a hug, a word of encouragement and one of those infectious Marchetti smiles.

“The old folks, aren’t they wonderful?” she beams.

It doesn’t take much to let you know another of Helen’s priorities in life. Seniors. Particularly seniors who need help. She loves them. All kinds, all sizes, all temperaments. “They believe, they’re happy with whatever you do for them. They’s so much fun.”

The two scenarios pretty well size up Helen Marchetti’s joie de vivre, the folks that are most important to her.

But, lest she hurt anyone’s feelings, Helen quickly points out, “all those people in between, they’re fine, too.”

So it’s established. Helen Marchetti – former mayor, councilwoman, recreation commissioner, former planning board member, Historical Society president, Board of Education member and president, Fire Auxiliary member, former Yacht Club Auxiliary presidents, former County Board of Health member, municipal political leader…is a people person.

The record definitely shows she’s involved whenever there’s’ a need to help people. All kinds. All sizes, all temperaments.

But less you think it’s only people who hold Helen’s attention, switch the subject to her hometown Atlantic Highlands, It’s like opening a flood gate.

“There’s no place like it,” she beams, “I mean, were else can you have so much so much history, so much beauty so much conveniences, so much home. And so many wonderful people?”

There’s that word again. People. It’s Helen’s driving force.

This vibrant attractive fastidiously neat professional she goes to the beauty parlor two mornings a week and has her nails manicured once a week…have been having a love affair with the human race since her parents instilled in her a warm affection for humanity. The lesson came almost from the day she was born in the upstairs bedroom of the home where and her husband Pete, sill live.

Her dad, the late William Mount, had a milk delivery route in the borough and knew everybody in town. His family has lived in the borough longer then it has been a borough, and more generations than anyone can remember. Her mom, the late Anna Mount, was of Irish descent and also from a long time well known Atlantic Highlands family.

Helen and her brother Jack, who died in 1980. Were 'always brought up to help everybody we could, whenever we could, never to intentionally hurt anyone, and appreciate the town where we grew up.” They were lessons Helen never forgot.

It was also the reason why she went into politics. “I didn’t like what was happening to my town, I didn’t like the direction it was taking, so I had to do something about it,” she explains casually, but with enough determination in her voice that you know she means business. So she served on the Board of Education for six years in the early 70s.

Then she got her feet wet in the political pool when former Mayor Dick Stryker named her to a vacancy on the Borough Council and served in that capacity for three years. Then, in the 80s, still not satisfied with how the town was progressing, she became the borough’s first and only woman mayor, serving until 1987.

A staunch Democrat, she boasts about the open-mindedness of the Mount family. The same years she was serving as this borough’s Democratic mayor, her brother Jack was serving as Toms River’s Republican mayor. “We might have had two different ways of looking at things, but we always got the job done,” she laughs.

Helen is proud of the fact that “I tried to do my best, I never intentionally hurt anyone and I always had the overall good of the town at heart” when making her decisions as mayor. Such devotion can be costly as well. Through her years on the governing body, Helen never dipped into the petty cash fund provided for all mayors to pay for tickets, transportation, and related municipal expenses, preferring to assume all the costs herself. “For what this town has given me in happiness and wonderful people, it’s a small price to pay in repayment,” she explains.

“Besides, it’s all part of the job.:

Even the couples she married during her tenure couldn’t give her any recompense for her labors. “I always refused to take anything; just the joy of marrying a couple is more than enough payment.” The former mayor even went as far as to invite couples who were planning borough hall ceremonies to be married in her historic home, or in the small but elegant garden surrounding it.

Residents of the borough and longtime friends from around the state plan on honoring Helen for her years of service to the community. A testimonial dinner will be held Oct.2 at the Shore Casino to give people an opportunity to show their own appreciation for the myriad of deeds she’s done for untold thousands of people.

Always ready for a party, Helen says she feels honored and proud her friends are insisting on the testimonial to her. But, she commiserates, “there are so many others who have done so much more, who are so much more deserving. There are people who have given so much to this town and to others.”

It’s that word again. Helen’s passion. Helen’s drive. Helen’s love.



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