Over the nearly 30-year period that he served as a public servant to the township of Weehawken, Lou Ferullo became nearly a fixture at Weehawken Stadium.
Ferullo, who died in 2003 during his service as the township’s 1st Ward councilman and deputy mayor, was forever perched against the stadium’s concession stand wall with a container of black coffee from a nearby diner and a cigarette in his hand. Ferullo was a mainstay more than any ball or bat, more than any other single individual.
Ferullo’s widow, Raye, said last week, “We celebrated many of our anniversaries at Weehawken Stadium with a hot dog as our dinner.”
So when the time came to give Weehawken Stadium a necessary sprucing, with a brand new state-of-the-art FieldTurf surface to replace the barren patch of dirt that stood there for ages, it was only fitting that the field should be renamed.
As of last Saturday, it is now the Louis A. Ferullo Memorial Field at Weehawken Stadium.
‘A day of celebration’
The township came out with full pomp and circumstance Saturday morning. It was also the opening day for the township’s Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth baseball leagues and the ever-growing girls’ softball program.
Ferullo had served Weehawken in several capacities, including the last 12 years of his life as an elected official, but more importantly, as a long-time supporter of recreation and a long-time coach.
“We made lifelong friends here in Weehawken, a place with a small-town flavor with a New York swagger,” Raye Ferullo said. “Of all the things Lou did, recreation was always his favorite. I think Lou is looking down today and wondering why everyone is making such a big fuss about him. But this field is for you, Lou.”
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said that the late Ferullo taught him a lot about sports.
“This is not a day of sorrow, but rather a day of celebration for his family, his friends and for the entire community.” – Mayor Richard Turner
Added Turner: “This is not a day of sorrow, but rather a day of celebration for his family, his friends, and for the entire community.”
Stadium has long history
Weehawken Stadium was built at the same time the Lincoln Tunnel was constructed in 1937. Over the years, the location has endured a series of transformations, but always remained a natural grass – or mostly dirt – facility.
“We would put down new sod in the spring and got the grass to grow,” Turner said. “But by the time October came around, it was mud again.”
The facility is used readily by both the Weehawken High School athletic teams as well as the township’s recreation programs. The heavy traffic took its toll on the grass. Sure enough, when the football and soccer seasons were in full bloom in the fall, the place was a mess.
Turner said that the township looked at the possibility of installing an artificial turf surface in the past, but the price tag was just too steep.
But with the economy in a downspin, the time was right for the improvements. Once estimated at $1.5 million, Weehawken spent, with some state and federal assistance as well, only $850,000.
“I always joked with Turner that my husband wanted a dome,” Raye Ferullo said. “I guess this will have to do. But it’s really beautiful and fantastic.”
‘It’s a fabulous tribute’
Raye Ferullo, who works as the secretary for the athletic department in the high school, said that the tribute was one that her late husband would have enjoyed.
“Forever, everyone will remember Lou,” Ferullo said. “It’s a fabulous tribute. I know he wouldn’t have believed this. It was such a shock to see how beautiful it really is.”
“The Mets have a new stadium, the Yankees have a new stadium and now Weehawken has one.” – Rob Ferullo
Ferullo’s two sons were also in attendance – and both still play roles in the township. Louis works for the township’s public safety department, while younger brother Rob is one of the recreation directors.
“It’s perfect,” Rob Ferullo said. “This year, the Mets have a new stadium, the Yankees have a new stadium and now Weehawken has one. I can’t put it any better than, ‘It’s perfect.’ I know Dad wouldn’t have been happy for himself about this, but he would have been definitely happy for the kids of Weehawken. It’s the most visible athletic field in the world, with all the traffic that goes into New York through the [Lincoln] Tunnel.”
Added Rob Ferullo: “It’s funny, because I keep looking over to that spot and think he’s going to be there. If I had to come up with a way to honor him, it couldn’t be better than this. It’s a real fitting tribute to the guy. I just wish he could have been here. He would have loved it.”
Louis Ferullo echoed his brother’s sentiments.
“He would love to see all the kids in uniform, marching in,” Louis Ferullo said. “He was the one who started girls’ softball in 1979, and look how much it’s grown. He would have loved to see all the boys and girls here. I’m really touched they honored Dad in this way.”
“He had this quiet, unassuming presence, yet he was always there,” Rob Ferullo said. “He considered the people of Weehawken to be his extended family.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.