Father’s Day Cookout named after late councilwoman

IRVINGTON, NJ — According to Omar Bilal Beasley, the Friends of Irvington Park have officially renamed the annual Father’s Day Cookout as the Sandy R. Jones Father’s Day Cookout and will host the event in the park on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 16.

“Father’s Day, Sunday, it will be the first annual Sandy R. Jones Father’s Day Cookout,” he said on Tuesday, May 21. “Sandy had a passion for this cookout. Every Father’s Day, she would always say that we’ve got to do something for the fathers. We’re going to be there on Father’s Day, from noon to 4 p.m., because we know that’s what Sandy would have wanted.”

Beasley said renaming the cookout in Jones’ honor is not the only thing being done to keep alive her memory, nor will it be the last thing in her honor he does.

“They just dedicated a room to her over at the Housing Authority,” he said. “They redecorated one of the community rooms and they dedicated it to Sandy.”

Beasley said he has mixed emotions when it comes to keeping Jones’ memory alive, along with those of his deceased father, D. Bilal Beasley, the former Municipal Council president, county freeholder and Team Irvington co-founder, and former Freeholder, Councilwoman and Team Irvington co-founder Lebby Jones, who died in January.

“I’m sad that they’re gone,” Beasley said. ‘But we’re doing things to keep their lives and legacies alive. Sandy was big on the prisoner re-entry program, because she knew that being a father is not easy and that’s also why she wanted to do our Father’s Day Cookouts, to honor them and show them that they are honored, respected and appreciated.”

Sandy Jones died unexpectedly on Thursday, March 21. Former Irvington Board of Education member Jamillah Beasley-McCleod was appointed to fill her vacant seat on the Municipal Council on Monday, April 22, and Omar Bilal Beasley and the Friends of Irvington Park and others have sworn to carry on her legacy of good works, community advocacy and public service.

“I loved Councilwoman Sandra Jones,” said East Ward Councilman Paul Inman on Tuesday, April 2. “She was very special to all of us. She loved our community, and her passion and commitment to improve the quality of life in Irvington didn’t go unnoticed. She will be missed. I will continue the work she started.”

Beasley said the Friends of Irvington Park is going to carry on without Jones and carry out her legacy, too.

“I’m still going to hold the annual Father’s Day Cookout, but it’s going to be changed to the Sandra R. Jones annual Cookout,” said Beasley on Tuesday, April 23. “I’m going to make a request to the county that we do something in the park to honor Sandy. As you know, Sandy lived and breathed the park, so I think it’s only right that we do something in the park in her memory.”

“Times change,” continued Beasley. “We have our own ideas, but the foundation stays the same.”

“Absolutely we’re going to carry on,” he added. “Sandy would want that. She loved the seniors and the park, but prisoner re-entry was her passion.”

Beasley said his father once told him “always take care of the babies and the seniors” and “service is the rent we pay for out time on Earth” and he sincerely believes what his father told him and taught him. He said that is a great legacy he wants to continue for as long as he can, in honor of his father, and for Lebby Jones, who also died earlier this year.

“Ken Gibson, the former Mayor of Newark, who recently died, and former Irvington Mayor Mike Steele, and all those guys opened the doors for my father, my father opened the doors for Sandy and Lebby, and now Tony has opened the door for Jamillah,” Beasley said. “We’re going to keep this legacy alive man. Those before us left their mark; now it’s time for us to leave our mark.”

Beasley said bringing people of all ages together to utilize the park and other public facilities in town is what the Friends of Irvington Park is still all about. He said he can’t wait until winter ends, so they can kick-off the slate of spring and summer programs, activities that he and Councilwoman Jones planned before her death.

“The Friends of Irvington Park are for the summer to come,” said Beasley on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and again on Tuesday, April 23. “Once that comes, we’re going to bust out. We’ve got so many programs and events planned for our youth and our seniors including a tennis tournament, basketball tournament, our annual Father’s Day Cookout, and much, much more. We’re also planning to do some talent shows here because we’ve got so many talented youth in this town that are just looking for an outlet and opportunity to show what they can do.”