By Rick Malwitz
RUMSON – Charles S. Callman, who served the borough of Rumson in scores of capacities, including two stints as mayor, died Monday, July 30, at his home at the age of 95, with his family at his side.
“The borough was his hobby,’’ said his wife Lee Callman. “He just had this tremendous love for everything Rumson.
“He loved the people, especially those whose families lived here forever and ever – the police, the firemen, the first aid squad, the people who’d lived here their whole lives,’’ Lee Callman said.
In 1998, though he tried to talk the borough council out of it, the municipal courtroom at borough hall was named the Charles S. Callman Hall.
However, he was more familiar to many as Chillie Callman, a nickname he got as a boy, when a classmate had trouble pronouncing Charles.
Callman was born in 1917 in Bronxville, N.Y. His father, who earned degrees from Dartmouth College and MIT, taught him the value of education. Callman graduated from The Lawrenceville School and Princeton University.
During World War II he worked at a munitions factory on Long Island, and when he and his wife moved to their present home in 1986, he survived a scare that Lee Callman is able to laugh at today.
He discovered a suspicious shell in his belongings and called the police. Soon police and firemen arrived at his home and the shell was taken gingerly from the garage by workers in hazmat gear. “It was a dud,’’ Lee Callman said.
Alex Williamson, a television producer in Los Angeles, remembered the man he called “Uncle Chillie” as someone who “loved a joke and had a mind like a steel trap.”
Williamson said his father, the late George Wiliamson, considered Callman his mentor and best friend. The two were Princeton graduates and both worked in the financial industry.
Some of Williamson’s fondest childhood memories were of Callman giving him a ride in one of his red English convertible sports cars. “I’m riding in the car with the man who’s the mayor and my godfather, and
I feel so important.”
Alex’s mother, Gay Williamson, recalled how she and her husband George often traveled with the Callmans. “I can still picture Chillie and George in a sailboat in the Barbados making up limericks,” she said.
Callman retired as a vice president of Kidder, Peabody & Co. of New York. He established his first residence in Rumson in 1947, and helped shape not only the borough but the surrounding area.
He was an original member of the Two Rivers Council of Mayors that included mayors from Rumson and 11 surrounding communities.
Callman was elected to the council in 1958 and held the office until becoming mayor in 1962. He served his first term as mayor until 1967 and then served as chairman of the Rumson Planning Board from 1968 until Jan. 1, 1974, when he was again asked to rejoin the governing body as a councilman. He later served as mayor from 1989 until his retirement from public life in 2003.
During his second tenure as mayor, Ann Rossbach served on the Rumson-Fair Haven Board of Education.
“Whenever we, the board, and the mayor met, he was always asking questions about the students,” Rossbach said. “He always wanted to know about any issue, ‘Is it good for the children?’ He always wanted to know how an issue affected the taxpayer, but he was most interested in the students.”
Lee Callman likened her husband’s style in public life to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. She said that he had the same blunt and honest way of telling the truth.
In September 2003, the borough council adopted a “Resolution of Appreciation” to honor Callman. The resolution said his “record of public service speaks for itself. He is the most dedicated, extraordinary volunteer public servant in the history of the Borough. Chillie Callman’s dedication and love for Rumson and its residents are unequalled; his integrity, courageous leadership, intelligence, compassion and sense of humor have earned him the great respect and affection of his colleagues, the Borough employees, the volunteer Fire Department and First Aid Squad and the residents of Rumson…”
Callman was a past president of the Forrestdale School PTA and an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson. He was a member of the Rumson Zoning Board of Adjustment and a longtime member of the Borough Planning Board. He was the first chairman of the Rumson Conservation Commission and was also the chairman of the Municipal Public Service Coordinating Committee, which was formed years ago to represent Rumson and seven neighboring towns in public utility and transportation matters. Callman was also the first Rumson representative to the Navesink River Municipality Committee, which was created to safeguard the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers.
Callman was very proud to be an honorary member of the Rumson First Aid Squad and the Oceanic Hook and Ladder Fire Company.
He was a member of the Rumson Country Club, the Sea Bright Beach Club, the Sea Bright Lawn Tennis & Cricket Club, The Root Beer and Checkers Club, The Fat Men, the YMCA in Red Bank, the Rumson Ramp Club and the Pistol Club.
Chillie Callman was predeceased by his parents and his first wife Portia.
In addition to his wife, Callman is survived by his children, Patricia and Peter Morse, Charles S. “Chuck” Callman, Jr., Portia “Midge” Murphy, Amy Johnson Swanson and husband John, Elizabeth Ann “E.A.” Buck and husband Michael Norman, Raymond F. Johnson, III; and eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, at the Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad St. Red Bank. The funeral service will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, a.m. at St. George’s-by-the-River Church, 7 Lincoln Ave., Rumson. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made in his memory to the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson, the Rumson EMS or to St. George’s-by-the-River Church.