Former Hackensack mayor Fred Cerbo
He spent his whole life in Hackensack and he never wanted to leave,” his son Richard said. “He cared about the town. He was civic-minded. A natural politician.”
An all-state high school baseball player, Cerbo signed a professional contract with the New York Giants organization. He pitched batting practice at the Polo Grounds before graduating and enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1943.
Cerbo served in the 35th infantry under General George Patton in France. After the war, he played minor league baseball. His contract was for “$8 or something.” Then Cerbo returned home to Hackensack for good.
He married his high school sweetheart Alice in 1947. The couple was married for 60 years before his wife died five years ago. Cerbo got a job at the post office.
“He was a letter carrier. A traditional letter carrier, with a pressed shirt and a hat. He looked like he was in the army,” Rich said. “He moved up to customer service and got to wear pedestrian clothes.”
Cerbo started his public service in the city council before being elected mayor in 1981.
“He ran against his best friend, Frank Zisa, and won on a recount because he got the highest number of votes,” said Rich. “After that Frank stopped talking to him for four years because of that but he just wanted to be mayor and help.”
Cerbo was a “likeable” guy and his dedication to the city was evident. Before being elected he was on the Board of Education and went to meetings of various other boards. He also helped with the Hackensack baseball program.
“During his tenure he had a lot of dealings with everyone from developers to unions to the public and he didn’t shy away from anything,” Rich explained. “He served his time and did things to help Hackensack like build parking garages and fix up the parks.”
After his time as mayor, Cerbo worked as a business consultant, putting to use his business degree from nearby Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Cerbo is survived by his two sons Fred Jr. and Richard and two brothers Angelo and Aldo.