Joe Bolger - Athlete, Scholar, Educator, Administrator


Joe Bolger, 1939-First Row Center with Ball


For those who were around the Bayshore in the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Joe Bolger was best known as the first Superintendent of Schools for the Keansburg school system. For those around for most of the 1960s Joe Bolger was best known as principal of the Highlands Elementary School. And for those back in the 1950s, Joe Bolger was best known as a teacher, coach and athletic director at Red Bank Catholic High School.

But the long time Highlands resident made headlines for himself long before his professional career took center stage. He was president of his eighth grade graduation class in elementary school and was best known as Arnie Truex’s Middletown winning baseball team captain during his high school years at Leonardo High School.

Joe Bolger was a high school athlete who made All-State’s second team as a pitcher, and was known as Jolting Joe in high school football when he led Middletown’s team to its first unbeaten season as team captain.


There was the time, back in 1938, when Joe had an injury and sports fans anguished over whether he would be able to play. It was Marc Krohn, the Middletown physician who ruled that yes indeed, Bolger’s injury would not keep him off the field. The young feisty athlete went on to score three touchdowns, making him the leading scholastic scorer in New Jersey.

After high school, Joe went on to serve in the Army during World War II with the Army’s 98th division, earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Seton Hall University, and a doctorate degree from East Coast University. He also taught at Long Branch high School before coming back to the town where he was raised to serve as principal at the Highlands school.

Bolger also engaged in Highlands politics for several years, and was one of the few elected officials to serve under both forms of government, bi-partisan in 1956, then for another three years beginning in 1959 after the Borough switched to a non-partisan form of government.


In his years on council, he always served with Mayor Neil Guiney, the only mayor to have served under both government forms. But others on council with Bolger also are names that have gone down in local history, Alexander Bahrs, Matt Horan, John Newton, Bob Diebold, Duke Black and Sonny Vaughan.

Joe and Jean, the former Jane Rich, raised their three sons and two daughters in their home on Chestnut St. next to where Joe himself had grown up.

It will be 30 years this February 6, since Joe Bolger, who had retired nine years before, died at home. He left a legacy not only as a scholar, an athlete, an educator, a coach in several sports, a veteran and active member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, but also as a referee for several Football Leagues and the Leonardo Field Club for both high school and professional teams in football, basketball and baseball.

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