A portion of West 19th Street between Ave. C and Broadway was renamed Edith Ferrell Way on April 18. Ferrell died on Feb. 8, 2020, just days after her 70th birthday.
In February of this year, the city council passed a resolution renaming that portion of West 19th Street after Ferrell. The Flournoy Gethers VFW Post #7470 is on that part of the street, where she was Auxiliary President.
At the ceremony on April 18, officials, family, and friends spoke prior to the unveiling of the new street sign.
A local icon
Ferrell was born in Halifax County, Virginia, moving to Bayonne after her marriage to Jerry Ferrell.
For more than a decade, she served as the Auxiliary President of Flournoy Gethers VFW Post #7470. During her tenure, she arranged numerous activities for the disabled, lunches for seniors, and assisted citizens with various celebrations and memorials.
Ferrell’s leadership of the auxiliary and her support enabled the post to maintain its membership in the Bayonne Veterans Community.
In 2019, Ferrell was selected to be the Grand Marshall for the Memorial Day Parade. She was the first African American woman and the third woman to be chosen in the history of Bayonne.
Ferrell served as a board member for the local chapter of the NAACP, Vice Chairperson of the Bayonne Housing Authority, Committee Member of the Bayonne City Democratic Organization, and member of the Jersey City Black Caucus. She was a former trustee of the Bayonne Board of Education, and past President of the Bayonne Community Day Care Nursery.
Mayor James Davis said a few words, and Ferrell’s son Courtney was presented with a a framed copy of the city council resolution renaming the street.
“Edith was a personal friend of mine,” Davis said. “The one thing that was constant about Edith was that she cared about everyone, about her community of Bayonne, and more than anything, she cared about our veterans.”
Davis continued: “Whatever we are facing, we can come together as one by just looking at our veterans. They stood next to each other and put each other’s hands in each other’s arms to fight for each other to give us our freedom. And that’s what Edith was all about.”
City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski joined council members Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace, Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, and City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez at the ceremony.
“Everyone who knew Edith, loved Edith,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “She always had a smile and always was willing to roll her sleeves up and do the work, not just come up with the idea. She never said no to anyone. Anything you asked her for, you’d get it. This is a well deserved honor for her, and I’m proud to be a part of it. Edith will be missed. We thank her for all she did for the residents of Bayonne, and all our veterans especially.”
Board of Education Trustee David “Doc” Watson said, “I used to do jazz stuff at the post. She was in my ear then: ‘You’ve got to get into Bayonne politics.’ I’m like Edie, leave me alone. But she would ask, and unfortunately I didn’t listen. At her funeral, I played, and I could still hear Edie in my head. So at her funeral, I promised her I would get into Bayonne politics. So thanks to Sharon and the city council, I did get involved in one of the rent control boards. Now, I am the first African-American elected to the Bayonne Board of Education. Now a lot of people could take that credit for helping me, but Edie, she was the one for many years who asked me to do stuff, and I’m so happy I did.”
Watson, who was supposed to be the musical component for the ceremony, ended on a joke.
“She was also a jokester: my sound system’s not working,” he said. “I guess she’s trying to tell me: ‘Dave, its not about you, its about me.’ So I’m going to leave my saxophone over there. All of you have heard me play enough, let’s just give a heartfelt applause for Edie.”
Her memory lives on
Ferrell was honored by a framed joint resolution by Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, and State Senator Sandra Cunningham.
“She was more than a friend, she was family,” Chiaravalloti said. “She was a woman who always put others before herself. No matter what she was going through, what sort of physical pain she was in, what struggles she was dealing with, she was always looking out for her neighbor. Her loss was a great loss to me personally. I wish every day that we have a thousand Ediths, someone who would put others before themselves.”
He continued: “There was no one more passionate. One of the things I loved about her the most was that she suffered no fools. Every once in a while, she would purse her lips, give you a smirk, and you knew you were in a little bit of trouble. But that’s what we loved about Edith.”
“Every time I came in contact with her, she always showed me love and appreciation,” said McKnight. “Every event that I saw her at, she embraced me and she blessed me with some gems. So to Bayonne, to all her family and all of her friends, Edith leaves a lasting legacy for all of us. So that every time you had a great moment with her, or she got on you, you take that. And you have her memory live on with all of you.”
“The naming of this street is just one of the many things we can do each every day,” McKnight said. “These veterans need some help. They need to make sure their place stays open. So I told them I’m going to help them. They are veterans, and they should not have to apply for any grants. We should be pouring into them. Edith, I was meant to be here, because if you were here, you would make sure they get the help they need.”
Keeping VFW Post #7470 afloat
“It would be hard for me to let everybody understand everything Edith did for the post,” said VFW Commander Barry Jones. “We had a time when nothing was happening. We probably would have folded if Edith didn’t keep everything going.”
He continued: “It was my pleasure to work with her for the last 15 to 20 years. I said work with her, even though I was the commander, I was working for her. I would say what I want to do, and she would tell me what I could do. She made sure that anything the post needed, the post got. If we needed services from outside the VFW or the veterans community, she would find a way to get it from someone else. In the last five or ten years, I realized that Edith was not just working for the post. Then I find out all the other community things that she was doing and that just made it more amazing that one person could have that much energy to be involved with so many things.”
“I never heard anyone speak badly about Edith,” Jones said. “If you look around and see the different types of groups that are represented, you get a good idea of the type of person Edith was and the type of influence she had in the world. Having a street named after her is the type of honor she deserves.”
“It’s been over a year since she left us,” said close friend Diane Sondy. “I miss our long chats. I miss her sense of humor. And especially, I miss her point of view. She was a force of nature. It is gratifying that the city she loved so much is giving back to her with this enduring tribute.”
“Edith, I loved you. I did everything I could for you. God bless you,” added another friend, Theresa Topolski.
‘A reflection of her life’
“Now the block becomes her,” said Courtney, Ferrell’s son. “It’s a long time coming. This is a reflection of her life. I could give you a long history from the ’70s to 2020. Until the day she died she was working diligently in the hospital to make a comeback.”
Courtney recalled convincing Edith to stay in Bayonne when she pondered moving to Guam to open a travel agency or hotel. He said she wanted to make money to buy land here.
“I had to talk her out of it,” Courtney said. “If I hadn’t talked her out of it, we might not see this glorious day we are having today.”
He continued: “The block will always be her. I can never do as much as she’s done. But it’s going to be wonderful to to visit home and to be able to walk down a block named after my mother.”
Courtney unveiled the sign, and Rev. Dorothy Patterson of Wallace Temple AME Zion Church offered a prayer.
“So many people who are gathered here today who have gotten involved in and are involved in this community now is because of Edith,” Patterson said. “Edith was one of those individuals who stood on principal. She didn’t have her own personal agenda. It wasn’t about politics, it wasn’t about power.”
She gave thanks for Ferrell and for more community leaders like her: “Those individuals who would embrace and encourage, those who come and stand for equality and social justice, those who are not ashamed to stand in the gap, even if they have to stand alone.”
“What a role model she was for every single person that’s here,” Patterson said, noting the diversity of the crowd. “She touched each and every one of us.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.