Remembering Joe Deery, a stalwart supporter of West Milford

WEST MILFORD. He was a hard-working guy who learned a lot along the way.

| 06 Jul 2022 | 12:00

Surviving in the stressed economy of the 1930s was difficult for most families, but somehow as they managed to meet their challenges and sacrifices, they grew strong and able to move on with their lives. Joe Deery, one of eight children born to a family living in Mooresville, was one of those survivors.

Born on Aug. 13, 1936, to James Deery and Ann Renz Deery, Joe was their first child to be born. A sensitive boy, he realized early in life that his parents needed money and had to work very hard to get it. He wanted to help and found a job delivering newspapers. He was up before sunrise each morning to do his route and brought home some money to help pay the bills.

Joe also found a job as a check-out boy at an Acme Supermarket. He continued to always be ambitious, dedicated to helping his parents as much as he could. A lifelong patriot, he had great pride in having served in the United States Navy from 1954 to 1958. He was a Class A radioman, serving at the communications station in Washington, D.C. Sea adventures brought him to the Caribbean, Greenland and other places.

Education was always important to Joe and his intense study earned him a double bachelor of science degree in chemistry and electrical engineering at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, Penn. He became a calibration engineer with General Electric Company. Joe was a systems engineer with RCA and worked on the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Program. He became vice president of sales for Nicolet Scientific and sales manager at Ballentine Labs, Noise Unlimited and LeCroy.

As time went on, Joe married, and he and his wife and three children – Patricia, Christine and Joe Jr. — had a home at Farm Crest Acres in the Oak Ridge section of the Township of West Milford. With the experiences he had in sales he thought that, with the many businesses that were in the greater Passaic, Morris and Sussex counties, there was a need and market for an advertising publication – to be distributed free of charge to anyone interested in reading it.

AIM Community News

HIs new publication featured only ads at first. Joe’s friends at St. Joseph Church, where he served as an usher, encouraged him and told him how much they liked the publication. Former West Milford Councilman Peter Gillen, who was one of them, started giving him political campaign press releases and Joe printed them. This went over well, and soon fire companies and other groups wanted dates about their events printed. So these were added too.

Soon it became more than the little publication could handle. After a time, Joe started AIM Community News, a tabloid-sized newspaper that eventually had West Milford and Jefferson Twp. editions.

In the beginning, when Joe started the original publication in the house at Farm Crest Acres, daughter Christine was a West Milford High School student. She thought the idea of her dad starting a newspaper was cool and she wanted to be part of the action. She started collating the papers in the living room. Although never really having detention, she would go to where it was held after school to find kids to help collate the newspapers. She brought cupcakes to interest those in detention to help her get the job at hand done.

In the 1980s, after school, Christine hand-delivered “AIM Action Ads” to the flags of mailboxes throughout the township. She traveled around in the family station wagon, affectionately known as “The Red Machine.” Not yet an expert driver, she remembers putting a few scrapes on the fenders. Once, when her friend Pam Bogert was on the road with her delivering the newspapers, there was a fire in “The Red Machine.”

Her dad’s travel tales influenced Christine, who became a flight attendant for American Airlines. She continues doing that job she loves so much; she eventually married a man named Phil Page and moved to Ashville, North Carolina.

Joe’s daughter Patty also worked to put out AIM Community News for much of the 20 years it was published in various offices. One location was between the convenience store and original shopping center in Oak Ridge, and was demolished for a new location. For a time, the paper was housed at the original United Methodist Church building and still later at a business building on Route 23 near the Cross Road intersection. There was a branch office in the Aiello building in Hewitt, too. Patty and her husband Marc now live in Illinois.

Joe’s wife, Sally Alvarez Deery, and her daughter Victoria Alverez, worked in advertising and production of the paper for many years. Joe continued working on the paper until his retirement in 2005. AIM has since been absorbed by the North Jersey Media Group, which is now owned by the Gannett Company.

West Milford’s Biggest Fan

Joe was a strong community leader. In West Milford and Jefferson townships he originated Pride Day events, which were held before the “Autumn Lights” celebrations were started, to celebrate the date when the town’s first traffic light was installed. Pride Day celebrations in West Milford ended abruptly when a businessman led protests against it, saying it disrupted the usual business day.

Joe also met with former Passaic County Freeholder Richard DuHaime to try to save the historic New City community houses, but the effort was unsuccessful and the houses on watershed property were demolished by the City of Newark.

Deery organized the Flags and Ribbons Parade as well, to honor those in the military, and worked on the celebration event to honor West Milford Olympian Donna Weinbrecht when she returned from the 1992 Winter Olympics in France with a gold medal in freestyle skiing. If that wasn’t enough, he also produced a nightly half-hour West Milford news broadcast on television station WTKR out of Warwick, NY, during the 1980s and early 1990s.

When Joe was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease, Joe’s wife and her daughter, Victoria, along with other family members, cared for him at home at Highland Lakes in Vernon Township until he passed on February 16, 2022.