BERKELEY – Recalling a public servant whose door was always open and who would drop what he was doing to help others, with a smile on his face, people in Berkeley mourned the loss of former mayor Robert Laird.
Laird, 82, passed away Nov. 25, with family at his side, his obituary read.
Laird wore many hats, including township committeeman, police commissioner, board of education member, and mayor. Many people knew him as the owner of Laird’s Pharmacy in Bayville.
He was the first person to open a pharmacy in the area, and his shop became a place for people to come in and talk, said Michael Hale, a long-time friend and his campaign manager. They got medical advice, as well as advice on anything else they needed help on.
“He was always very personable, and a very intelligent guy,” he said. Eventually, he showed an interest in politics.
“In those days, politics wasn’t a bloodsport. It was fun,” he said, noting that Laird, a Republican, would often share ideas with Democrats about how to make the town better.
Forty years ago, a campaign would be funded by individuals mailing $5 and $10 checks to the candidate, he said. He recalled a time when a local attorney sent $500, obviously seeking some kind of favor afterward. Laird voided the check and wrote back to the lawyer, thanking him but asking him to support him some other way. That was a testament to the kind of leader he was.
“He was a wealth of knowledge and a resource for me personally,” Mayor Carmen Amato said. “I considered Bob a friend.”
Amato praised the work that Laird had done for the township over the years.
“Berkeley lost a true community servant,” he said. “He will be sorely missed by his family and friends. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”
After Laird’s retirement, he wasn’t one to sit around. He joined the first aid squad and continued to host friends and family. He was known for entertaining big groups, and being quite the chef. He found plenty of ways to stay busy.
An example of how he was known to drop everything to help others, came from the historical society. Member Jerry Beer related that he was trying to find the date of a photograph of the rear of the Berkeley Plaza shopping center, taken from the Rogers Cemetery on Bell Street. Since Laird was one of the original tenants of that center, Beer said he looked him up about a month ago.
The two men didn’t know each other, but Laird was over Beer’s house within five minutes to help with the project. They proceeded to spend hours talking about the history of the area.
He was a true public servant, who could talk about anything, and usually in a humorous way, Hale said.
“You can’t run a town without people like him. We’re all going to miss him,” he said.