Rosemary Byrne doesn’t like to be at the center of attention – unless it involves her family, of course.
But on Memorial Day, Mrs. Byrne had no choice. Hightstown Borough Mayor Lawrence Quattrone presented the lifelong resident with a special proclamation from the governing body.
“Oh, my,” Mrs. Byrne said as Mayor Quattrone greeted her and walked up the steps onto the porch of her home, proclamation in hand, following the East Windsor-Hightstown Memorial Day parade.
“This is a small proclamation and an appreciation for what Rosemary has done over the years,” said Mayor Quattrone, who has known Mrs. Byrne for many years. The Byrne children were often babysitters for his family.
The mayoral proclamation acknowledged Mrs. Byrne’s deep roots in Hightstown that go back 175 years. Her great-great-grandfather, John H. Ford, and later her husband, Robert Byrne, were Hightstown Borough Council members.
Military service also runs deep in Mrs. Byrne’s family, from Civil War veterans – her great-grandfather, John E. Ford, served in the Union Army – right through today. Several grandsons also have served – and are continuing to serve – in the U.S. military.
Mrs. Byrne has been a “big influence” on her children and grandchildren, said her grandson, Tom Conner. She is someone who is compassionate, who leads by example and does not preach, he said.
But back to Mayor Quattrone’s proclamation.
The proclamation noted that the 86-year-old Mrs. Byrne and her husband raised a family of 11 children. She has 74 grandchildren and 86 great-grandchildren, with several more great-grandchildren on the way.
It also pointed out that during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Byrne home on Stockton Street was known as the “pumpkin house,” for the pumpkins that she had her husband would give away to school children around Halloween.
Of her personal attributes, the proclamation said, “Rosemary’s family describes her as having a ‘no fear’ mentality which she demonstrates in the face of adversity, something we can all learn from.”
On behalf of the Hightstown Borough Council and the town’s residents, the mayor’s proclamation stated that “I offer sincere appreciation to Rosemary Byrne for his contributions to the Hightstown community.”
“I might be the mayor of Hightstown, but Rosemary is the mayor of Stockton Street,” Mayor Quattrone said, gently teasing Mrs. Byrne as he handed her the mayoral proclamation while her family – several dozen strong – cheered and applauded.
Mrs. Byrne accepted the proclamation and gave Mayor Quattrone a small hug.
“I did not expect the mayor (to stop by),” Mrs. Byrne said.
While her children, grandchildren and great-granchildren always watch the East Windsor-Hightstown Memorial Day parade from her front porch, Mayor Quattrone’s visit was unanticipated.
“This was a complete surprise. It was a nice surprise,” Mrs. Byrne said.
Family has always been important to her, she said. And while raising a large family has its challenges, it is something for which she is proud and thankful.
“My family is everything to me. There is a lot of love in this family. We are always there to help each other. It is the best thing that happened to me,” she said.
“I would do it all over again,” Mrs. Byrne said.