His grandchildren called him Poppa Doc. His patients called him doctor. Rumson residents called him Mr. Mayor. He was Dr. Charles “Chuck” Paterno.
Because of his dedication to preserving open space and the part he played in acquiring Rumson’s Meadow Ridge Park, the Rumson Mayor and Council dedicated the soccer field of the park to Paterno on Saturday, aptly renaming it Paterno Soccer Field.
"Mayor Paterno showed great vision for the future of our recreation programs with the acquisition of the property now known as Meadow Ridge Park," the dedication plaque says. "... with our gratitude dedicated as Paterno Soccer Field 2012."
Paterno died in 2010, having earned the distinction of being the longest-running mayor in Rumson's history, from 1980 to 1989. The well-known area doctor, often remembered for his sense of humor, was also a staunch advocate for open space preservation and youth recreation.
So, present Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl and the Borough Council thought it befitting to dedicate the land that Paterno fought to preserve in his mayoral tenure in his name. They, with Paterno's wife, children and grandchildren present, did so on Saturday afternoon.
"My family and I would like to thank the mayor, John Ekdahl, and council for honoring my husband, Dr. Charles Paterno, with the dedication of the soccer field at Meadow Ridge Park," said Paterno's wife, Kathleen, better known as Kay, in a message to Patch. "He was a strong supporter of preserving open land and youth sports and recreation. It is nice to know the community will enjoy the use of Paterno Field and the park for many, many years."
At 90, when he died, in addition to his wife of 59 years, Paterno left behind nine children and 24 grandchildren. He had relocated to Vero Beach, but raised his family in Rumson, where he settled for most of his life.
Paterno had served in the Korean War as a captain in the U.S. Army. During his medical career, he was a general surgeon on staff at both Monmouth and Riverview medical centers. At Riverview, where he worked for 34 years, Paterno served as president of the medical board and director of surgery.
Remembered fondly for his community involvement not only as mayor, but as a council member and member of many community groups, Paterno's family expressed gratitude that he will forever be remembered in Rumson, where they were raised, with the new name of the soccer field.
"On behalf of my brothers and sisters, we would like to thank Dr. and Mrs. McGuire, Mr and Mrs. Keegan, Garry Sammon, Mayor Ekdahl and council for all their hard work on the dedication to our father," said Dr. Paterno's daughter, Mary Paterno Schmidt. "We are all so proud to see his hard work and dedication to sports, child and the community come to life. How special it will be to say 'The game is at the Paterno Soccer Field.'"