By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – Chet and Flo Apy have shown that home is where you give your heart and your effort.
Since 1960 the Apys have called the borough – specifically their Rivers Edge Drive residence – home. But for the couple that raised three sons there, home is not just where you go after a long day of work or spend your weekends chatting with neighbors and working on the lawn. It’s a place where you dedicate your life to for the betterment of your community.
“It gets to the old values,” said the 81-year-old Chet, “and it strengthens the community and that’s what’s important – your community and your family.”
While Chet and his wife Flo, 82, have decided to relocate to neighboring Red Bank, Little Silver is where they have offered their experience, time and effort on a number of fronts over the years. They have given their all to the borough and the Two River area.
Their service to the community recently was recognized by Little Silver. Mayor Robert Neff Jr. and the borough council presented a proclamation to the couple during its May 20 council meeting.
“It was our way of showing appreciation for all they’ve done,” said Neff who encouraged them “to visit often and to stay involved.”
Chet, a retired lawyer, was a Little Silver borough councilman, had served as borough attorney and won two terms in the state Assembly as a Republican in the late 1960s-early ‘70s, eventually getting reapportioned out of his seat. He was then appointed to the bench, as a judge for Worker’s Compensation Court, where he worked until retiring in 2004.
Flo was on the Little Silver Board of Education for years, serving many of them as its president, and then going on to join the Red Bank Regional Board of Education.
Raising three sons and having worked for the college entrance examination board in New York City – where they lived when the couple first married – Flo said her work in education “just seemed like a natural thing for me to do.”
Earlier in her life, Flo was active in the Civil Rights Movement during the ‘60s, working with her church and attending the Washington, D.C., march in 1963 that is remembered for Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech.
Her involvement with civil rights was in response to the segregation she witnessed as a college student in Virginia, as well as what she saw in Monmouth County as a child and young woman, she has said.
Along with his official work, Chet later began working with other residents to lobby local officials to be more aggressive in preserving the Parker Family Homestead, established in 1665 and deeded to the town. He felt not enough was being done for what he saw as a true historic treasure for the area.
He continues his work on the Parker board of directors and serves on the committee looking at long-range preservation.
That property, and its history, represents the history of America, as well as the Rumson peninsula, he said.
“What they (settlers) had here was all the ingredients to have a good life,” in this part of the new world, Chet said.
Rosemary Brewer, a Parker Homestead board member, said Chet’s work with the board has been invaluable. “I don’t know where we would be without him,” Brewer said.
Brewer, who is also an environmental commission member, noted Chet’s strong and vocal effort trying to prevent the approval of a large-scale senior housing development proposed for property near the train station. Apy and others opposed the project because of its size and scope on the property, much of which was deemed environmentally sensitive.
“He is outspoken, but that’s what you need. He’s not afraid to tell them what it is,” Brewer said.
“You have to be a nag, you have to persevere,” Chet recommended as a strategy.
Longtime friend, legal and political colleague John O. Bennett III said that Chet’s continuing to stay involved shouldn’t be a problem for him.
“Chet just keeps right on going,” Bennett said. “He continues in a lifetime of public service.”
Bennett, borough attorney, Monmouth County Republican chairman and longtime borough resident, credits the Apys for his own involvement.
With a career in the fields of politics and law, Bennett said, “My career in both respects started with the Apys.”
Flo was something of a mentor to Bennett when he first ran for elected office – the Little Silver Board of Education – when he was 27. Bennett also worked as a legislative aide for Chet during his time in the Assembly, and then went to work with Chet’s law firm, Abramoff, Apy and O’Hern, in Red Bank. Bennett called both Apy and the late Daniel J. O’Hern, the former Red Bank mayor who went on to serve on the state’s Supreme Court, “giants.”
“They were an old-time firm that knew how to practice law,” Bennett said. “They were great teachers to get me started.”
Bennett said the Apys represent “the value of public service and the rewards of public service.”
Earlier this month, the Apys moved into The Atrium at Navesink Harbor, a senior residential community in Red Bank.
Before they were born, the Apys’ parents were neighbors in Red Bank, living in what is now Les Gertrude Apartments on Broad Street. Chet’s family relocated to Oakes Road in Little Silver; Flo’s family moved to Glen Ridge but later returned to Red Bank.
A couple of years after they got married, they moved to a small garage apartment in Red Bank before settling in on Rivers Edge Drive.
“I’m a clamdigger,” Chet said.
“I sailed this river,” he said. “I grew up here and why would anyone want to live anywhere else?”
Flo’s assessment? “He doesn’t like change,” she said.
Chet, ever the hometown booster, noted, “You can move out of the town but you can’t leave it behind.”