It would be a daunting task to catalog the impact the Jacobson Brothers have had on Hoboken. But let’s start with Jim (Jake) and Michael, born and raised at 1140 Garden St.
From a sports perspective, the former was a cross country runner/coach and the latter a star football player/coach. Jim and Michael were both inducted into the New Jersey City University Sports Hall of Fame, possibly the only brother pair at the school.
Most of us in the late 1950s and ’60s knew about the three impact sports: baseball, basketball and football. But long distance running was not in our orbit until James Jacobson came on the scene.
He had various running routines (not jogging) from the top of the 14h Street Viaduct, passing Hostess, Lipton Tea, Todd Shipyard, and Bethlehem Steel, ending around American Can and Maxwell House Coffee. The regimen repeated itself over and over again.
In bad weather, he took himself to the YMCA, the strange circular indoor track where a mere three hundred laps would make you break a sweat. Jim was our uptown version of Forrest Gump, running and running.
His formal schooling started at St. Peter and Paul with his longtime friend Mike Granelli. Then he attended Demarest High School in Hoboken. He pursued his college years of higher education at Jersey City College in addition to a three year scholarship at Yeshiva University, finally finishing at St. Peter’s College. All three institutions bestowed upon Jake a number of degrees.
A little history of St. Peter’s University
The college admitted women in 1966. At the same time, a keen-sighted Jesuit senior saw the potential of a young professor. The college elder thought that Jake would be a perfect match for the females who would pursue a major in education and nursing. The impulse and instinct of assigning Jacobson was a solid idea.
He started The Reading Center, summer camps, Alternate Route Program, and expanded courses to undergraduate and graduates, elevating the school’s mission and vision. His partnership with the late Professor Caulfield placed the education track as a complement to the premier business school.
Along with his past record in education and sports, including The New Jersey City University Sports Hall of Fame, St. Peter’s and Demarest/ Hoboken High School Hall of Fame, and the teaching of over 8,000 students during his 50 years, winning the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in May 2002 was a significant achievement. This was an award from the Armenian Community in New York that signifies one who furthers the growth of ethnic America. Some past recipients have been Buzz Aldrin, Rosa Parks, Helen Hayes, Walter Cronkite, Carlos Montoya, Fareed Zakaria and Frank Sinatra.
Lastly, one cannot forget Jim’s military service, leaving the ranks of the Army as a sergeant.
Brother Michael, a Viking of Finnish decent (and there were times when we thought he was a real one) was a ferocious football player at Hoboken High School and Jersey City State College, where his reputation stuck.
Michael never met a fight he didn’t like. But over the years his shock-and-awe football ability simmered down into a more than proficient middle school math teacher at Brandt school in Hoboken, where he was mentored by Supervisor of Math Gerard Kiely.
Jacobson was matched with the most challenging middle schoolers by Principal Frank Spano, and over the years his reputation as an instructor exceeded his football feats. Mike’s latest joy, and one he beams about with humility, is his daughter’s completion of her doctoral studies, earning her Ed.D and giving birth to a new baby.
Brother Peter, the uptown version of a young Robert Redford or Bijorn Borg, could play football, basketball, football, shoot pool, play tennis and was a good boxer. Give Peter a ball and stick and he’d do wonders. He was also a fan of music and spent many hours screening records at the Campus Music Shop. He defined “cool” before the word was in vogue, so much so he decided not to play high school sports, before that was cool.
Robert, the youngest of the brothers, has been a Weehawken police officer for twenty-three years and served in the Marines. While he was stationed in Puerto Rico for a number of months, he survived a practice drill where a number in his unit lost their lives.
The Jacobsons were an essential part of the bonding process where people knew each other, didn’t glide past one another, and prompted the saying, “I was born and raised in Hoboken.”