|Marian Fenwick photographed on a site visit during her final stint on the|
Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Commission, February 2010
I first met Marian - who passed away Monday, June 8, 2015, after a brief hospital stay just a week short of her 85th birthday - after my very first meeting as a member of the Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Commission in 2006. Sitting in the audience that evening, she arose immediately after adjournment and came right up to me demanding to know what qualified me to sit on that commission. She was very amused upon hearing my boast that I had been a Hillsborough resident for 13 years. She was 40 years ahead of me, having moved to Hillsborough as a newlywed from Cranbury in 1953. I think I spent the next nine years trying to convince her of my love for Hillsborough and Hillsborough's history.
|Marian Fenwick, seated left, with members and officials |
of the 1971 Hillsborough Twp. Board of Education.
Mrs. Fenwick served on the school board
during the construction of the high school which opened in 1969.
We got to know each other better through our mutual interest in the change of government movement that took place in 2006 and 2007, and in the subsequent Charter Study Commission of which Marian's son, the late George Fenwick, was a member. For most Hillsborough voters, changing the form of government was a novel, if not ultimately well-received, notion. For Marian, who was a resident during the first vote to change government forms back in August 1953 - also defeated - this was old news.
|In 1969, Marian Fenwick became the first woman elected to the township committee,|
and was chosen as the first female mayor in January 1972.
In 2007, during my first run for the school board, I was surprised and delighted to arrive at a campaign meeting one evening to find her already there ready to get to work. With Hillsborough's first woman mayor on our side, we were sure to sweep to victory. I soon found out that Marian's term on the township committee, 1970-1972, overlapped with one of her two terms on the school board, making her the only township official to serve concurrently in the posts - a practice that was eventually outlawed.
When the polls closed on election night in 2007, and it appeared that I was hanging on to victory by a slim 13 vote margin, Marian encouraged me to be present when the provisional ballots were counted later in the week. I found out later that she had lost her first bid for the school board as a write-in candidate 42 years previously by 39 votes - an outcome that she contested due to "voting irregularities".
|3 January 1972 Courier News|
One of Marian's proudest moments in her public life was to have been an elected official during Hillsborough's bicentennial celebration in May 1971. For Marian, the preservation of the history of Hillsborough was of the utmost importance - she had no use for longtime residents who couldn't tell you where Clover Hill was located, or on which corner you could have found Woods Tavern. She was a founding member of the Hillsborough Historical Society, and later the Friends of the Van der Veer - Harris House - a non-profit working with Somerset County to restore the notable 18th-century township-owned house on Route 206.
|The Van der Veer - Harris house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008|
|Marian, center, with the designers of the Woods Tavern commemorative plaque, |
township officials, and longtime residents, July 2011
In more recent years, as Marian's ability to get around easily began to diminish, we became "phone pals". At some point a few years ago, my kids took to calling her my "other mother" - as in "your other mother called again and left another message". I think she liked that moniker! Like a mom, if I didn't call her back for a few days, she knew something was wrong. And she was always there to answer questions about Hillsborough history for my blog - or just to satisfy my curiosity.
A spiritual person who believed in a hereafter - in some form - there is no doubt that Marian is reading this right now. So just let me say this: Marian, I deeply regret not returning your phone call a couple of weeks ago, and therefore missing the fact that you were hospitalized. And I know what you're thinking: I still have a lot to learn.