A familiar Hoboken voice, cantankerous and colorful, has been silenced.
Maurice J. DeGennaro, known by most as “Mo,” passed away peacefully on Friday, March 30, at Hoboken University Medical Center at the age of 71.
A regular speaker at the public microphone at City Council meetings, DeGennaro took a stand on a variety of municipal issues and never backed away from controversy. In 2008, he defended Councilwoman Beth Mason after she was criticized for suing the Hoboken Hospital Authority.
He joined with others in criticizing the city’s plan to locate a new municipal garage in a residential neighborhood after the first building was sold to a developer. His lawsuit against the city in 2008 alleging that the sale was illegal was later dismissed. And he was a caustic critic of the plan for NJ Transit to build a massive hi-rise development over the railyards at the south end of the city.
But he could be tender and appreciative too. In July 2010, after a health scare from double pneumonia dropped him into coma for 10 days and police officer Bret Globke used his emergency training to make sure he was okay, DeGennaro credited the policeman at a council meeting for saving his life.
“I’ve criticized the city on the budget and on everything else, but if it wasn’t for this guy, I wouldn’t be here,” he said, as he and his wife Janet presented a rhyming Achievement Award to Officer Globke.
A moment of silence was observed at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to acknowledge the passing of DeGennaro and other well-known Hoboken figures in recent weeks.
“On behalf of the council, thank you to the DeGennaro family,” Council President Ravi Bhalla said. “He will be sorely missed. When I was uninvolved in politics or less involved, I turned on the TV to watch a council meeting. One of the first people I saw was Mo… Whenever he got up to speak I listened very closely. He was a powerful speaker. Agree with him or disagree with him, he knew how to make his point and he knew how to make it well. I’ll miss him. The entire community will. I think we’re just blessed to have him in our lives for so many decades.”
A classic Hoboken life
A lifelong Hoboken resident, DeGennaro began his career as a longshoreman on the Hoboken waterfront, and after 35 years with the International Longshoreman’s Association he retired as a dock supervisor.
DeGennaro’s love for the city of Hoboken will be long remembered. He was a forerunner and a director in establishing two senior citizen buildings, Columbian Towers, 76 Bloomfield St., which he also managed as its director until the time of his passing, adding to that accomplishment with the construction of a second senior citizen building, Columbian Arms, at 517 Madison St.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Carlos Rodriguez, superintendent of Columbia Towers, told the gathering, “I’m here on behalf of his wife Janet, his family and friends, and myself, to say thank you. Thank you for all the years you all spent with him. He loved this city. Mo is and will always be Hoboken, through and through.” Afterward the chambers erupted in applause.
DeGennaro was a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus who held the title of Grand Knight, and a member of the Hoboken Elks Lodge for many years. His understanding of the city of Hoboken enabled him to become a consultant to former Mayor David Roberts as well as member of the Hoboken Planning Board.
An active contributor to the city’s political atmosphere, he was a proud member of the Steve Cappiello Civic Association.
He was predeceased by his parents, Patrick and Carmella DeGennaro, and a sister, Claire Revior.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years Janet; two sons, Robert Dato and his wife Katherine, and Thomas Dato and his companion Diane, and a sister, Genevieve Terry; his five grandchildren, Kelly, Kristen, Caroline, Thomas Jr., and Jeanette, and eight great-grandchildren.
Also surviving are a host of nieces and nephews.
A funeral mass was offered on Tuesday, April 3, at St. Ann’s R.C. Church, followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington. The Failla Memorial Home handled the arrangements.