Remembering Judge Himelman

first_imgBy John Burton |RED BANK – Speaking with those who knew William Himelman, Red Bank’s long-serving Municipal Court judge who died last week, certain words keep coming up: “fair” being the most often repeated term, but also “tough” on the bench, and “decent” in his treatment of everyone he met while on the bench or in life.“I would say stability and civility,” were the words, said Mayor Pasquale Menna, recalling Himelman’s tenure on the bench here in the borough and in other municipalities over the years. “Those are the exact qualities you want in a judge.”“I’ve known him all my adult life and I respected him greatly,” said Menna, a lawyer, who earlier in his legal career worked as the prosecutor in Keansburg for about 12 years, while Himelman presided over the court.Himelman, 85, died on Jan. 25, after a relatively short battle with melanoma, according to his son, Daniel Himelman.Even at 85 and up until his illness prevented it, the elder Himelman had remained vital and active, going to the gym daily for up to two hours a day and playing golf multiple times a week, said his son.Himelman had been the longest serving Municipal Court judge in New Jersey, said Menna and former mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr., having sat on the bench in the borough from 1978 to 2017. He received unanimous approval for his reappointment from the Borough Council at the municipal reorganization meeting on Jan. 1.In addition to Red Bank, over the course of his career Himelman had been a judge in Little Silver as well as in Keansburg.“The death of a judge who has been a public servant for so very many years is a loss to all of us,” this week said Winnie Comfort, director of communications for the New Jersey Judiciary.“He always enjoyed it, acting in his capacity as a municipal judge,” Daniel recalled. “He loved working with all the men and women who work for the borough of Red Bank. He got to know all the borough police and borough workers.”“He was the best judge you could ask for. Very fair, just decent to everybody,” said Red Bank Police Chief Darren McConnell speaking of Himelman.McKenna said Himelman was “an incredible person in many ways.” McKenna said he was “a very astute businessman,” who with partners in his Tenco company had acquired considerable real estate holdings in the borough’s commercial district. “He was a great landlord, in that he always wanted to work with his tenants to keep the rents fair and keep the buildings occupied.”McKenna, a lawyer with a Red Bank practice, called Himelman “a great lawyer” and “a consummate professional.”Over the years McKenna found himself on the other side of Himelman in court cases. “He was one of the old school types,” McKenna remembered. “If he gave you his word you could take it to the bank.”Most profoundly for Red Bank, was his work on the bench. “He was tough but he was very fair,” McKenna said, “which is what made him such an exceptional judge.”That and “he was sensitive to real-life considerations,” for those who came before him in court, Menna said. “He understood them.”“He was understanding of people’s plights, as much as he could be,” Daniel said. Since his father’s passing, Daniel said he’s heard from people – some of whom the judge sentenced to jail – who offered kind words telling of how kind Himelman was.When Himelman considered retiring from the bench he offered to stay and agreed for a token $1 a year. This was at a time when Trenton eliminated state discretionary financial aid to municipalities – which was a real blow to Red Bank, Menna explained.Given Municipal Court judges can earn from the mid- $40,000s to upper $50,000 annually, “He saved the taxpayers of Red Bank hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Menna said. “It was a godsend.”“For him it was nice to be important but it was more important to be nice,” Daniel said of his father, remembering him as someone always willing to take time out to chat.“As busy as he was, as much as he had going on,” McConnell said, “he always had time to talk.” And, McConnell pointed out “He could talk you on literally any subject,” with football being a particularly favorite topic.“He just loved to talk and he was so down-to-earth. He could talk on any subject it seemed like,” offered Carl Colmorgen, who has been a volunteer in the Red Bank Municipal Court, working with Himelman for six years.“He always had a big smile on his face,” said Robert Koehler, as Himelman entered Koeher’s In-Between Café, English Plaza. He regularly had lunch at the restaurant, Koehler and his wife Ginny remembered, usually ordering his regular choice – scrambled eggs, “soft,” with salmon and cheddar cheese. “We all loved him. He was always so warm,” Ginny said.“We’re going to miss him terribly,” Koehler acknowledged.Himelman was born in Brooklyn, New York and move with his family to Belmar in 1935. He attended Asbury Park High School, where he played football.He attended Vanderbilt University, leaving his studies to serve in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War, becoming a second lieutenant. He completed his undergraduate studies at Albright College and then went to Rutgers Law School. He began his law practice in Red Bank in 1957.His wife of 60 years, Joan, died last May. Himelman is survived by his son, and daughter, Carla Campbell, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and their respective families, which include five grandchildren.last_img

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